Pursue empathy. Pray for the ability to accurately see the world from your spouse’s perspective so you can understand each other well and act with empathy toward each other.

Figure out what you’re really fighting about. If you focus simply on the surface issues that provoke conflicts between you, you’ll waste time and energy, but if you dig deeper to discover the root issues of your conflicts, you can make progress resolving the issues that are actually at the core of your conflicts. Two fundamental issues drive most fights between couples: perceived threat and perceived neglect. You can feel threatened when you perceive your spouse as being: critical, judgmental, controlling, demanding, or attacking. You can feel threatened when you perceive your spouse as being: uncaring, uncommitted, neglectful, selfish, or disengaged. Once you identify the real root issue of each conflict, you can approach it productively.

Determine whether or not issues are truly worth fighting over. Choose your battles carefully. Reflect on the issues that are currently causing tension in your relationship, and ask yourself honestly about each one: “How important is this issue to me?” Decide if each issue is really worth fighting through with your spouse, or if it’s something that’s best to just let go.

Choose the best time to fight about issues that matter. You won’t make much progress resolving issues if you fight about them at the wrong time (when either or you is hungry, tired, in pain, emotionally charged, or in a hurry), or when one of you hasn’t had enough time to adequately think about the issues involved. So carefully consider whether or not you’re ready to discuss the issues that concern you; if not, wait until you’re able to give the discussions your best attention. 

Control angry impulses. Out-of-control anger during arguments can destroy your marriage. Realize that, no matter how angry you may feel about something, you do have the power to discipline yourself to respond constructively rather than destructively. The key is training your mind to respond wisely to situations that make you angry. Rather than just reacting, stop to calm yourself and reflect on the situation. Don’t make any negative assumptions about your spouse or his or her motives; intentionally believe the best until you can gather all the information you need to accurately assess each situation.

Follow rules designed to help you manage arguments well. Freely and regularly share your thoughts and feelings with each other rather than withholding information from each other. Rate the depth of your disagreements. When necessary, agree to disagree. Apologize when you regret hurting each other. Use the “XYZ formula” (“In situation X, when you do Y, I feel Z”) to communicate clearly about issues. Avoid cruelty during your arguments; aim to be as kind as possible. Take a time-out if you need one. Try to read your spouse’s mind as much as possible. Pray for your spouse.

Figure out your “fight type.” That’s how your personality influences your approach to conflict. How much do you tend to express your desires? How flexible are you in meeting your spouse’s desires? During arguments, is your behavior mostly competitive, collaborative, cautious, or conciliatory? Once you understand this, you can accentuate or moderate certain aspects of your personality to be more productive during conflict.

Seek healing for unresolved childhood pain that is affecting your marriage now. No matter how good your childhood was, you’re bound to have some unresolved pain from it that affects all of your current relationships. Ask God to help you identify that pain and heal you from it so you can approach marriage conflicts from as healthy a perspective as possible.