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Monday, February 3, 2014

How to Fight With your Spouse

No, it's not pistols at twenty paces.

When you're sharing life with someone, you're going to disagree from time to time.

When your disagreements are on points that are important to one or both of you, you're going to argue.

And when you argue, sooner or later - it'll escalate to a fight.

It would be wonderful if all disagreements could be settled amicably, with well-reasoned dialogue and acceptance of an ultimately agreed-on solution. That's something for which to strive, and a lot better than the alternative.

Ann Landers (remember her?) once wrote that a marriage in which the partners didn't occasional fight would be as dull as dishwater.  I beg to differ; fighting requires the erection of defenses against the closest person in your life, and those defenses can become habitual. Very easily.

Fighting also leaves scars. Someone gets hurt, and those hurts are remembered. This isn't a Hallmark world, in which we all kiss and make up. We remember when someone we trusted delivered a rapier thrust into an area we'd left vulnerable.

We remember the shock and the hurt, and the feeling that we were fools not to have seen it coming.

Fighting's not good. It does happen, so how do we mitigate the damage it'll do?

First, is it really worth it? Many, if not most arguments are over trivia that take on importance like a snowball becomes an avalanche. Marriages are ended because of things like a coat being slung over the back of a chair, or a dented car door.

These arguments accelerate because of pride - because no one wants to back down. If this happens to you sometimes, don't feel bad - that's how WW1 started.

Step back, when you feel the red mist start to descend, and ask yourself, is this the hill to die on?

Next, pick up a Bible. This sounds silly, but it's really hard to be uncivil when you're holding God's Word in your hands. Don't use Scripture to 'prove' you're right. That's not what the Bible's in your hands for.

Use a talking stick. The person who';s holding the stick gets to talk, and can't be interrupted.

Fight in public. The front porch is fine, or the lawn. An audience inhibits bad language and worse behavior. And no, the kids, in the house, don't count, because many parents are only too happy to fight in front of the kids.

Fights end at sunset. Inviolate rule, "do not let the sun go down on your wrath". And not, it's not 'bedtime', it's sunset. The argument ends there, and you resolve the issue. Granted, there are things that can't be fully resolved at a deadline - but these are fewer than you might think.

Most of what we fight about is the trivia of life, and it can be resolved summarily. Look at the last hting you argued about...

Oops. Can't completely remember? Is the point proven?

Finally - and this isn't strictly part of the 'argument' process...

Maintain a physically affectionate relationship. I can't overstate the importance of this. It';s easy to become emotionally distant from someone with whom you're already physically distant, and arguments only widen the gulf.

Hold hands, hug, kiss, and, yes, have sex regularly. It's part of the glue that bonds a marriage; that kind of physical familiarity makes it that much harder to hold onto destructive anger.

What do you think? Anthing you'd like to add?


  1. Great thoughts... especially asking the question is it really worth it? Most times... no, it just isn't :)

    1. Absolutely right. So often we navigate the rapids, and then capsize the canoe in the calm shallows!

  2. Oh, I totally agree, its wise to pick your battles. There are some things that have to be addressed--in an argument if it comes to that--but more often than not, it something little we could let go of. Great post, Andrew!

    1. Thanks!

      You're right - battles are sometimes necessary, but so often they seem to happen for their own sake, and acquire a momentum and scope totally out of proportion to their relative importance.

      It happens to every couple, I think. But with a bit of intentionality, maybe the frequency and severity might be reduced?