All couples fight. Healthy couples fight fair. Unhealthy couples fight for personal victory while healthy couples fight for their marriage and resolution. Before I got married I used to think that conflict was an absolute no in a marriage. Oh, how naïve of me! It was in our first year of marriage that my husband and I contended over an epic battle of…laundry. I mean, who likes to fold clothes or fight with their spouse?! Since then, we have grown to work through conflict towards a solution we both can agree on. Below are 3 ways to fight fair in your marriage.
“Don’t fight each other. Fight for the marriage you both long to have.”Craig Groeschel
Benefits of Fighting Fair
Dr. John Gottman, a marriage specialist and researcher, found compelling findings that relationship success is based not on whether you fight (because all couples do fight), but on how you fight (Groeschel, 2014). Studies have also found that when couples avoid conflict or end up fighting dirty, they miss the opportunity to improve the relationship.
There are benefits of fighting fair in a relationship such as showing that you both care, strengthening your bond, and learning more about one another. Ultimately, effective communication should be at the core of every spat (Plumptre, 2021). Even more, if you are a Christ follower, then you should look to inspiration from God’s Word, particularly in James 1:19-20, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Below are some tips on how to fight fair (adapted from Craig Groeschel’s Fighting Fair):
3 Ways to Fight Fair in Your Marriage
1. Quick to Listen
The first way to fight fair in your marriage is to be quick to listen. This is challenging because often times we let things escalate quickly without focusing on what our spouse is actually saying in an argument. Listening takes getting rid of the distractions, appearing fully engaged, present, and maintaining good eye contact. Our non-verbal body language is so important and goes beyond the words we ever will use.
Feedback and clarification are great techniques to use to reinforce your listening skills. Phrases such as, “Dear, what I hear you saying is_____. What does that mean?” Or, “Can you give me an example of_____?” Even if you were to get it wrong, your spouse can know where you stand and appreciate that you cared enough to try (Lewandowski, 2021).
2. Slow to Speak
Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” When couples fight dirty, they are not slow to speak…they are quick to speak what’s on their minds! So before we say anything, let’s learn to keep our mouths shut. Here are a few things not to say during a brew: never call names, never bring up the past, never use words like “never” or “always,” and never threaten divorce (Groeschel, 2014).
“Love keeps no record of wrongs.”1 Corinthians 13:5
This is an opportunity to reflect and think carefully how we can most lovingly communicate what needs to be said in the right time. Sometimes, things do not need to be said in the moment. Other times, things don’t need to be said at all. Moreover, we can allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us on what the best words are for that situation and the best timing for those words.
3. Slow to Anger
Another way to fight fair in your marriage is to be slow to anger. Ephesians 4: 26-27 NRSV states, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” Anger is an emotion and a prompted feeling. If you can begin to catch what begins to bother you and make you feel those emotions, it can be very beneficial in the long-run.
One practical method to implement is establishing cool-off periods before trying to resolve anger (For Your Marriage). This time of allowing anger to dissolve can help a spouse have more clarity of thought and keep the conflict more focused. All in all, after the cool off period, come back to resolve the issue, always work it out, and don’t go to bed angry.
These are a few God-centered ways we can use to fight fair in our marriages. Remember that your spouse is not the enemy. There is a real opponent, the devil that is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy marriages and we must come together with our spouses and fight with our spouse, not against them. The ultimate way to fight fair is to pray with your spouse and draw on God’s strength to help work things out.