How to Fight Fair

10 rules for getting good at what we all do

Fighting is one of the ways we resolve marital conflicts. Here are ten guidelines to help you do it in a healthy way.

1. Face your fear of confrontation.

Do you cringe at the thought of confrontation? Due to past experiences, you may perceive any conflict or confrontation as an emotionally crushing experience. You may believe, If we clash, I'll be judged, or worse, rejected.

Pastor Luke Perry, a licensed marriage counselor, notes that a fear-based mentality is the root of this perception. "Spouses who think this way are caught in a cycle of self-condemnation," he says. "This is often due to a lack of acceptance while growing up. When this fear controls a person, confrontation can be very painful."

Overcoming this fear starts with understanding that confronting your spouse is an act of love. According to 1 John 4:18, perfect love casts out all fear. It may be helpful to write down a list of the benefits that will result when the hurtful issue is resolved. This will keep you focused on the reasons for talking about the situation. Refer to it when either you or your spouse becomes defensive. Shining a positive light on a delicate confrontation will help keep peace between you.

2. Discuss the conflict as soon as possible.

The old proverb, "time heals all wounds" does not apply to conflicts in marriage. But the modern-day saying, "timing is everything" does. When an irritating issue is unresolved, it builds emotional distance between you and your spouse. And just like a splinter, the issue gets under your skin and continues to fester until it is dealt with. When your spouse's behavior bothers you, make a decision to confront your mate as soon as possible. If the issue needs your undivided attention, choose a time when no one else is around—even if you have to ask for a few minutes alone together.

3. State exactly what is bothering you.

Donna was upset. She had repeatedly asked Frank to pick up his clothes. But, once again, she stared down at his dirty socks lying on the bedroom floor.

I shouldn't make such a big deal out of it, she thought. After all, I'm the one who's home all day.

Justifying an irritating action or hoping an issue will just go away doesn't work. Hiding the pain that you feel today will only resurface in the form of sarcasm, criticism, or anger later. When you choose to overlook a potential conflict, you allow resentment to build, while inviting strife and division to take up residence. It also means that you are giving your mate permission to continue his or her bothersome behavior.

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Arguments; Conflict; Conflict resolution; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Summer, 2001
Posted September 30, 2008

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