7 Ways to Fight Well in Your Marriage

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Katie and I spoke at Pantano MOPS yesterday 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.

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How to Fight Well in a Marriage

In honor of preaching on the topic of marriage at Revolution this past Saturday and this coming Saturday, I thought I’d repost some of the more helpful things I’ve written on the topics of marriage, dating, sexuality, roles, communication and others topics related to marriage.

Many couples have no idea how to fight. Every couple does it, in fact, when a couple says “We never fight.” What they are saying is, “We don’t have an honest relationship.” So, don’t believe the myth that there is a some couple out there that does not fight. The couples that are healthy are the ones who learn how to fight in a constructive way that moves them forward.

Here are 16 ways to fight (taken from The Book of Romance):

  1. Never speak rashly. Choose your words carefully. Choose how you say things very carefully. Often, how we say something does more damage than what we say.
  2. Never confront your spouse publicly. I am blown away by how some couples will tear each other down in front of other people. If you are upset with your spouse, no one else needs to know about it or be involved. No one wants to listen to you fight. This will destroy your marriage very quickly.
  3. Never confront your spouse in your children’s presence. This is tough to do because stuff comes up. It is best to fight away from your kids as it can really tear at their confidence in your marriage and create uncertainty in their minds. If you do fight in front of your kids (and some couples want to in an effort to show their kids how to fight) make sure you make up in front of your kids, let them see and know the resolution and talk with them about it. Don’t just assume they know you made up.
  4. Never use your kids in the conflict. A fight between a couple is just that, between a couple. Your kids, friends, parents don’t need to take a side, they don’t even need to be a part of it. Turning your kids against your spouse is disastrous for your marriage, family and for your kids.
  5. Never say “never” or “always.” Even if it feels like always, no one does something all the time. No matter how you make it seem that way in your head. This is very accusatory and will make the other person defensive. Don’t believe me? Try it. They will do everything in their power to think of the one time when they didn’t do it, and then what? Instead, use “When this happens, I feel ___________.” You have just said the same thing without putting them on defense.
  6. Never resort to name calling. If you can’t fight without calling each other names, don’t fight. That will not accomplish anything. The point of every fight is to have resolution, to finish. To finish, you need to push towards that, name calling pushes against that.
  7. Never get historical. The past is the past. Especially if it is something you have talked through, one of you has apologized and you have resolution on that issue. Let it go. It no longer is allowed to be brought up.
  8. Never stomp out of the room or leave. This will tell your spouse, “You should be afraid that I may leave at any minute.” This does not create confidence to fight well. To fight well, both spouses need to know that the other will stay there and finish.
  9. Never raise your voice in anger. Kids listen better when we are calm, our spouses are the same way. When we raise our voice, we go on offensive. It is like talking to someone in another language, they don’t understand us better just because we are talking louder.
  10. Never bring family members into the discussion unless they are a direct part of the problem being addressed. This is the same as #4. Your mother is not going to help the discussion with your spouse. It is between you and your spouse and you need to learn how to work it out.
  11. Never win through reasoning or logic and never out-argue. The goal is a fight is not to win. The point is resolution, a way forward.
  12. Never be condescending. This is the same as #5. The point is not to talk down to someone or put them on defense. Being right does not endear you to your spouse.
  13. Never demean. Do not put your spouse down, ever. Couples do this so often in public it blows me away. We need to be building up our spouses.
  14. Never accuse your spouse with “you” statements. It might be their fault, but that isn’t going to help the situation, you pointing it out. Telling them “You caused this” is not going to all of a sudden make the argument make sense. They already know. Remember the point of a fight, resolution.
  15. Never allow an argument to begin if both of you are overly tired, if one of you is under the influence of chemicals, or if one of you is physically ill. Don’t fight at night, you can’t think clearly and seek resolution if you are drunk, tired, sick.
  16. Never touch your spouse in a harmful manner. You are not a man because you can scare a woman or knock her around. Seriously. If your husband is hitting you, call the cops. If you are hitting your wife. Stop. Or, go and fight a man, someone who will hit back. Seriously.

Posts on Marriage & Relationships

Over the last month during our I Want a New Marriage series I have been doing a lot of writing on marriage, dating, sex and relationships. Below are all of the posts in the order that they appeared on the blog.

  1. 15 Ways to Destroy Your Marriage
  2. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  3. Book Recommendations for Dealing with Baggage, Hurt and Relational Pain
  4. How You Know You are Slacking Off
  5. Book Recommendations for Dealing with Porn, Sexual Addiction, and Adultery
  6. What is the 30 Day Sex Challenge?
  7. Boundaries in Dating & Marriage
  8. Adultery Ladder
  9. “When we Get Married, He/She Will _______”
  10. Spiritual Warfare, 30 Day Sex Challenge, & You
  11. 16 Ways Not to Fight
  12. Book Recommendations for Dealing with Questions about Divorce and Remarriage
  13. Is Love a Choice or a Feeling (And Why it Matters)
  14. Looking for Love
  15. How a Wife Handles Her Husband’s Sexual Addiction
  16. Book Recommendations for Dealing with Emotional & Physical Needs
  17. Her Needs: Affection
  18. Her Needs: Conversation
  19. Her Needs: Honesty & Openness
  20. Her Needs: Financial Support
  21. Her Needs: Family Commitment
  22. Book Recomendations for Roles, Male Headship & Submission
  23. Why Male Headship Does Not Work in Homes (The Misreadings of Ephesians 5)
  24. 25 Ways to be a Servant-Leader
  25. Recommended Resources from I Want a New Marriage Series
  26. His Needs, Her Needs

30 Day Sex Challenge: Day 15 (Married Guide)

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Everyday, I’ll be posting the 30 day sex challenge guides, both married and singles. Here is day 15:

How well do you fight or handle conflict?

How did your parents handle their conflicts?

What traits from your parents did you bring to your marriage?

Read Song of Songs 2:8 – 3:5.

Journal your answers to these questions, any thoughts from the passage and what you are praying for.

Saturday Night Mind Dump…

  • Good night tonight
  • Tough topic to talk about:  Divorce
  • Divorce is something that has touched all of us on some level and is not an easy topic to talk through
  • Too many churches do not give a full answer and they treat it as the unpardonable sin and a lot of damage is done
  • Tonight was tough, because Jesus says tough things about divorce, but there is also the hope of the gospel
  • I hope that came through
  • If you missed tonight, you can listen to it here
  • If you have some questions after tonight and are looking for some resources on God’s view of marriage and divorce, here are some books that are worth checking out
  • Here is a great article written by Mark Driscoll and the elders at Mars Hill Church on the topic of divorce and remarriage. This is incredibly thorough and lays out what we talked about tonight
  • Coming up on one week of the 30 day sex challenge, it has been quite an experience so far
  • If you haven’t decided to take on the challenge, now is the time
  • The band nailed the song “Fighting” by Yellowcard
  • Love that I pastor a church that is willing to play a Yellowcard song and to use redeem culture to share the gospel
  • The next 2 weeks at Revolution are can’t miss weeks
  • We will lay out what I consider the 2 most important things when it comes to marriage
  • If you get these 2 things, you will go a long way in your marriage
  • Katie this week has been blogging a lot from a woman’s perspective about how to handle a husband who is struggling with porn and how to understand a man’s sexuality and how it is different and how that impacts a wife
  • If you haven’t checked them out, you can check them out here
  • Got to connect with a number of new people from Revolution this week, love all the new people we’ve had over the last 2 months and how they are sticking
  • We had 7 first time families/individuals tonight
  • That never gets old
  • This week is a week of transitions in our house
  • Ashton is starting to stand on his own
  • Gavin started potty training and is getting close to being done
  • Got to make a fire in our firepit this week, love that smell and sitting out under the stars around the fire
  • I am just blown away by what God is doing right now at our church and that I get to be a part of it
  • So excited about our friends coming next week
  • Who are you bringing?
  • It is going to be an eye opening night, one that will not be forgotten
  • We have some awesome creative elements, with a cool surprise cover song
  • See you at Revolution!

16 Ways not to Fight

Many couples have no idea how to fight. Every couple does it, in fact, when a couple says “We never fight.” What they are saying is, “We don’t have an honest relationship.” So, don’t believe the myth that there is a some couple out there that does not fight. The couples that are healthy are the ones who learn how to fight in a constructive way that moves them forward.

Here are 16 ways to fight (taken from The Book of Romance):

  1. Never speak rashly. Choose your words carefully. Choose how you say things very carefully. Often, how we say something does more damage than what we say.
  2. Never confront your spouse publicly. I am blown away by how some couples will tear each other down in front of other people. If you are upset with your spouse, no one else needs to know about it or be involved. No one wants to listen to you fight. This will destroy your marriage very quickly.
  3. Never confront your spouse in your children’s presence. This is tough to do because stuff comes up. It is best to fight away from your kids as it can really tear at their confidence in your marriage and create uncertainty in their minds. If you do fight in front of your kids (and some couples want to in an effort to show their kids how to fight) make sure you make up in front of your kids, let them see and know the resolution and talk with them about it. Don’t just assume they know you made up.
  4. Never use your kids in the conflict. A fight between a couple is just that, between a couple. Your kids, friends, parents don’t need to take a side, they don’t even need to be a part of it. Turning your kids against your spouse is disastrous for your marriage, family and for your kids.
  5. Never say “never” or “always.” Even if it feels like always, no one does something all the time. No matter how you make it seem that way in your head. This is very accusatory and will make the other person defensive. Don’t believe me? Try it. They will do everything in their power to think of the one time when they didn’t do it, and then what? Instead, use “When this happens, I feel ___________.” You have just said the same thing without putting them on defense.
  6. Never resort to name calling. If you can’t fight without calling each other names, don’t fight. That will not accomplish anything. The point of every fight is to have resolution, to finish. To finish, you need to push towards that, name calling pushes against that.
  7. Never get historical. The past is the past. Especially if it is something you have talked through, one of you has apologized and you have resolution on that issue. Let it go. It no longer is allowed to be brought up.
  8. Never stomp out of the room or leave. This will tell your spouse, “You should be afraid that I may leave at any minute.” This does not create confidence to fight well. To fight well, both spouses need to know that the other will stay there and finish.
  9. Never raise your voice in anger. Kids listen better when we are calm, our spouses are the same way. When we raise our voice, we go on offensive. It is like talking to someone in another language, they don’t understand us better just because we are talking louder.
  10. Never bring family members into the discussion unless they are a direct part of the problem being addressed. This is the same as #4. Your mother is not going to help the discussion with your spouse. It is between you and your spouse and you need to learn how to work it out.
  11. Never win through reasoning or logic and never out-argue. The goal is a fight is not to win. The point is resolution, a way forward.
  12. Never be condescending. This is the same as #5. The point is not to talk down to someone or put them on defense. Being right does not endear you to your spouse.
  13. Never demean. Do not put your spouse down, ever. Couples do this so often in public it blows me away. We need to be building up our spouses.
  14. Never accuse your spouse with “you” statements. It might be their fault, but that isn’t going to help the situation, you pointing it out. Telling them “You caused this” is not going to all of a sudden make the argument make sense. They already know. Remember the point of a fight, resolution.
  15. Never allow an argument to begin if both of you are overly tired, if one of you is under the influence of chemicals, or if one of you is physically ill. Don’t fight at night, you can’t think clearly and seek resolution if you are drunk, tired, sick.
  16. Never touch your spouse in a harmful manner. You are not a man because you can scare a woman or knock her around. Seriously. If your husband is hitting you, call the cops. If you are hitting your wife. Stop. Or, go and fight a man, someone who will hit back. Seriously.