My husband (Gray) and I (Shelly) have been married for 40 years now and I can almost promise you that at some point today we will have a disagreement. Sometimes these disagreements are resolved within minutes with just a small amount of effort. Other times the conflict festers and we know that a conversation needs to be had between us. Neither of us necessarily are excited about the upcoming event, but we have learned that when completed in a healthy manner, we will be closer than we were prior to the quarrel. This knowledge has come over time and with maturity. It has allowed us to not ignore or put off dealing with the issue that lies between us.
Learning to fight fair will look a little different for each couple, but all of us need to take the time prior to an argument, to set the boundaries that we will both agree on. I would recommend that you even write these out and sign them. By doing this you are making yourself accountable to the promises you have made to one another.
Some of the guidelines that Gray and I use are as follows: 1. Stay on topic, do not drag other events into this one. For this conversation, only deal with the issue at hand. 2. No yelling. 3. Give grace. Remember our perception in that moment, is our reality (our truth) in that moment. 4. Allow each person to speak without interruption. 5. No name calling. 6. Omit “universal quantifiers”. Words such as “never” and “always”. These restrict possibilities to feel, see or hear a different viewpoint. They place our spouse in a box, not allowing them the freedom to change or grow. 7. Remember we are on the same team. In the grand scheme of things, we both want the same things.
Something that has to be established is our identity in Christ. (II Corinthians 5:17) Understanding how God made us (His image bearers) and why He made us (to reflect His image here on earth) (Genesis 1:26-27, Romans 8:29), will compel us to live out the life Christ has shown us through His word. This leads to the importance of being in His word, and in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us. The inward work that we must do only comes through walking in an ongoing relationship with God.
Understanding that we are each made uniquely by God, with different personalities, backgrounds and giftings, will allow us to begin to embrace the differences within our spouse. How boring this life would be if we were all exactly the same. Some of our differences can at times be irritating to the other, this may indicate that they have an area that needs growth, other times it may mean that we need to grow in an area. We must remember that God created our spouse in their mothers womb (Psalms 139:13) and He has given us our spouse to compliment us, not complete us, only He can do that. Our spouse is our perfect provision, given to us from God Himself.
Life Or Death
Proverbs 18:21 and James 3:9-10 tell us that we have the power of life and death in our tongue. Sometimes we forget that scripture applies to our marriage relationship. This means that we are doing one of two things, speaking life, or speaking death. We like to say that we are making deposits or withdrawals. Overall, we should be mindful of the things we say concerning our spouse. Are we depositing into our marriage (speaking life) or are we making withdrawals (speaking death). This applies to the words that are spoken to each other while we are in a disagreement.
Do Not Delay
Resolving conflict might not be easy, but it is worth the difficult conversations to live a life of vulnerability and openness with our spouse. Sweeping issues under the carpet builds walls between us. The longer we let things build up, the taller the walls are and harder they are to tear down. Dealing with conflict as it arises can maintain and even increase intimacy.
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