Learn to Fight Right in Your Marriage
- Friday, May 29, 2009
A fresh perspective…
In our five years of marriage, Ryan and I––both hardheaded by nature––have had our fair share of squabbles. Our arguments are usually forgotten soon after they’re over, but one stands out in my mind.
I don’t remember what started the fight, but I do remember that it lasted late into the night, and at some point it included a heated discussion of the contents in our bathroom closet. The only reason I remember this meaningless detail is because of one little line I spouted: "It’s not my job to buy your shampoo!" Only I interjected another word into the sentence––an adjective describing the shampoo. I’m embarrassed to reveal the word, and I doubt it would get printed if I did. But I mention this slip (okay, exasperated thrust) of the tongue because it crossed an unspoken line in our marriage.
Until this point, Ryan and I had not used harsh language in our arguments. Sure, we raised our voices and got excited, but never had we elevated an argument enough to add new vocabulary words to the mix.
I wish I could say that I apologized and repented and that was the first and last time severe words crept into our fights. That, however, would be a lie. Instead, by speaking with contempt toward Ryan, I essentially gave him permission to return the favor. I introduced a new weapon to our argument arsenal. It wasn’t a weapon we used often, but if the conversation got heated enough, verbal daggers would fly in both directions.
I think we rationalized in our mind that the words added emphasis to our emotion. Oh, we reserved them for really emphatic points. They were never spoken as name-calling. Indeed, they usually were pointed at inanimate objects: time, money, laundry. But, the words hurt as though they were aimed straight at each other.
I remember a few times when Ryan chose a well-placed word, I responded with hurt and frustration. "Please don’t talk like that to me." Unfortunately, I also remember digging in the ammo bag and pulling out a zinger of my own.
We have married friends who provide a picture of what happens if you continue to build up an arsenal of harsh words. It’s not pretty. Not only do they curse, call names, and accuse, but they do it all in front of other people. I’d like to think Ryan and I are above that, but I’m ashamed to admit that we were headed in the same direction for a while.
I’m not sure when we were convicted of our war crimes, but I do know that the ugly fighting stopped after we made a conscious decision to tame our tongues. Sure, we still get riled up at times, but now we argue with an underlying respect for each other. When we have a disagreement, I know that eventually, we’ll both give in a little and it will all be over.
Until then, we both steer clear of sarcasm, yelling, name-calling, and ugly words. Though we’re both stubborn, we each try to really listen to and put ourselves in the shoes of the other. And we’ve found that God’s Word is so wise when it says, "A soft answer turns away wrath." By resisting the urge to dig in and swing hard, we can shorten our arguments, save us both a lot of stress, and leave more time for making up…and shampoo shopping.
A seasoned perspective…
My husband and I are so different when it comes to our fighting styles. I was an award-winning debater in high school so I tend to rather enjoy a brisk argument. I see it as clearing the air, fixing something that’s "broken" and making sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. When I pick a fight, it’s usually with purpose, but sometimes with a little too much passion.
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