My wife and I once received a huge compliment. A close friend told us, “You fight better than any couple I know!” That might not sound like a good thing until you realize all married couples fight, and most of them do it poorly. So many marriages end in divorce because spouses do not know how to fight with each other. It is a crucial marriage survival skill and couples need to learn to do it well.
Stop Being Right
In order to fight well, you must stop trying to be right. Fighting to be right makes you defend yourself and attack your spouse. It makes you stubborn, argumentative, and unwilling to listen. It causes hurt feelings, bitterness, and resentment. It puts distance between you and your spouse by turning them into your enemy rather than your ally.
Start Being Reconciled
In order to fight well, you must start trying to be reconciled. Fighting to be reconciled helps you and your spouse work together instead of against each other. It makes you humble, understanding, and willing to listen. It restores your fellowship, strengthens your relationship, and contributes to its long-term health and stability.
Here are some practical ways my wife and I have learned to fight toward reconciliation:
- Don’t accuse. Start by focusing on yourself. Rather than saying, “You did this!” or “You said that!”, say something like, “I feel this way because…” or “It seems to me that…” Find a way to begin the conversation without blaming each other.
- Watch your tone. Be careful how you speak to each other; your tone can escalate or alleviate your spouse’s anger. Husbands should be considerate and gentle, and wives should be respectful and submissive.
- Be fair. Avoid universal language like, “You always!” or “You never!” Don’t bring up past arguments or attack each other’s character. Focus on the issue at hand.
- Apologize sincerely. Take responsibility for your actions and apologize to each other. Say, “I’m sorry or making you feel _____ by saying/doing _____. Will you forgive me?” A heartfelt apology can eliminate a lot of hostility.
- Forgive immediately. Don’t hold grudges against each other. When your spouse apologizes, resolve to not hold this issue against them any longer.
- Compromise. Accept that you won’t always get what you want and be content with a peaceful marriage. Consider what it is important to each other and find a solution that makes both of you happy.
- Stay up late. Take the Bible’s advice to “not let the sun go down on your anger” seriously. Disagreements are more difficult to resolve the longer they persist, so don’t go to bed until you work things out.
Don’t Be Afraid
Many married couples seem afraid of fighting and try to avoid it. But fighting with your spouse is normal, and learning to fight well only heals and strengthens your marriage. First, it improves your communication by helping you talk and listen to each other without feeling threatened or becoming angry. Second, it leads to less fighting by helping you settle matters quickly and not take things personally. After awhile, you will even begin to notice how stuff you used to fight about isn’t a big deal anymore!
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