Want a Better Marriage? Learn to Fight Fair
Even the healthiest marriages have disagreements. We can disagree without being disagreeable. We can argue without assassinating. When we are in a conflict situation, we need to establish ground rules. There are certain verbal phrases that are off limits, no matter how upset and angry we are.
Here are 7 rules for a fair fight:
1) Never compare. When we are in the middle of a conflict, we should never say, "Why can't you be like...Joe’s wife or Sue’s husband?" Or even worse, "You're just like… fill in the blank.”
A penalty flag should be thrown every time we utter those words. It's unfair to compare.
2) Never condemn. We shouldn’t use absolutes. "You always..." "You never..." "It's all your fault!" "You should be ashamed." Condemning does not work.
Jesus says, "I didn't come to condemn the world but to save it." We can’t change people by labeling or condemning. Some people claim, “Well, I just tell it like it is.” Don't tell it like it is; tell it like it could be.
3) Never command. We shouldn’t try to end an argument by force.
I had a couple come to me for counseling one time. The husband says to me, “Tell her everything would be just fine if she would submit and obey.” I thought to myself, “Have I ever had such a stupid man in my office?” Couldn’t think of one. They got divorced pretty quickly after that.
If you are forceful and command your spouse to obey you really don’t have a marriage, it’s something else. Never command.
4) Never challenge. We shouldn’t threaten people. "You just try that and see what happens!" It's kind of like, "I dare you!"
Typically in marriage, threats come in three areas: money, sex, and divorce. The Bible instructs us not to use any of these as a weapon against our mates. Never challenge.
5) Never condescend. We shouldn’t belittle our spouse. We especially shouldn’t belittle their feelings. “You’re crazy.” “Don’t be a baby.” “You’re a wuss.” “You’re a wimp.” “What’s wrong with you?” “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Never condescend.
6) Never contradict. We shouldn’t contradict everything they say. “It took me fifteen minutes to find my keys.” “Really, 15 minutes. I don’t think it took 15 minutes. Maybe 5 but not 15.” This will drive people crazy.
7) Never confuse. Some people are brilliant at confusing. They know how to bring up unrelated issues. When they are loosing a particular point and they know it, they quickly switch tracks to someplace from left field.
When we are dealing with conflict, we should stick with the issue. It's very important we keep thinking, "What's the issue here? What are we really dealing with?”
If we apply these seven rules for fighting fair, I think it will help us to follow this verse that says "Do not use harmful words in talking."
Ephesians 4:29 "Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."