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. It’s a crucial marriage survival skill that couples need to learn.
Stop Being Right
In order to fight well, 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 distances you from your spouse by making them an enemy instead of an ally.
Start Being Reconciled
In order to fight well, 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’s how my wife and I 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; 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’s 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.” 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 couples try to avoid fighting. But fighting with your spouse is normal, and learning to fight well only strengthens your marriage. It actually leads to less fighting by helping you settle matters quickly and not take things personally. After awhile, stuff you used to fight about won’t even seem like a big deal anymore!
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