Katie and I recently spoke at MOPS group on the topic of how to fight well. Yesterday, I shared 7 reasons why we don’t communicate with our spouse well. Today, I want to share 7 ways to fight well.
Before diving in, let me address something I hear from couples from time to time. They’ll look at me with pride and say, “We never fight.” My response to that, “You are either lying to me or you are lying to each other.” Every couple fights. Put any 2 people in a relationship and friction will happen at some point. Couples who “don’t fight” are ones who never say anything that would cause a fight and they slowly move apart. If a couple says this, that is a red flag and in my opinion, has begun the ticking clock on their divorce.
That being said, if you do argue (and you should argue or have “passionate debates”) here are 7 ways to do it well.
- Listen. This may seem obvious, but most people are terrible listeners with their spouse. Most of the time, people stand there getting their response ready instead of listening to what is being said. This comes from our desire to win and be right, instead of to understand.
- Fight for oneness. In your vows, you talk about oneness. The pastor probably read a passage about oneness in your wedding. Yet, when we talk about two becoming one, we mostly think in terms of physical intimacy and sex. This comes from the desire to win. Oneness doesn’t mean losing, but it does mean making a decision that is the best for your marriage and your family. Sometimes that is going with your idea, your spouse’s or a totally different one. When you finish a fight, ask, “Are we more connected and one because of that or less?”
- Give grace. We give grace to everyone, children, friends, parents, neighbors, but often struggle to give it to our spouse. We expect heaps of grace from them, but are very hard on them. Give them the grace you want from them. Celebrate small wins. Celebrate when they move in the right direction.
- Understand how your spouse communicates best. Most marriages are a pairing of opposites. Extrovert marries an introvert. Verbal processor marries a mental processor. Both are important, both are needed. While this can create frustration, it is also healthy. Be a student of your spouse. Know how they best communicate. If they need space, give it. If they want to talk everything out, do it. If you do put off a conversation, schedule when it will happen, don’t just let it hang out there.
- No secrets. Secrets destroy relationships. This doesn’t mean you tell everything about your past, how many sexual partners you had and everything you did. But it does mean you are open and willing to talk about everything your spouse wants to talk about. You need to be wise in this, but no secrets. Your spouse should know you better than anyone else.
- Understand what you are fighting about. Katie and I made the point in a sermon that often you are angry at something from your past that something in your present reminded you of. When you are fighting, do you know what you are really fighting about? Is your reaction on part with the situation or is it overblown?
- Connect physically, even when you don’t feel like it. Katie made this point yesterday and it is spot on. Often, after a fight (especially if it isn’t resolved) the last thing you want to do is connect physically. Having sex has a way of healing your hurts and emotions and bringing oneness. This doesn’t mean to use sex as a weapon or be abusive, but sometimes this can be helpful. Also, try arguing naked and see what happens.