Ken, on the other hand, is more of a peacemaker. He’s willing to let sleeping dogs lie and just hope they won’t wake us up barking and growling later on. When we were first married it frustrated me to the nth degree that Ken’s way of dealing with conflict was to just leave the room or, if it was a really big fight, the house.

How could we make sure we wouldn’t be rehashing the same issues again and again if we never talked things out? Fortunately, as we’ve grown spiritually, we’ve both matured a bit in the fighting department. I’ve learned to not pick a fight at the drop of a hat—or the drop of a pair of muddy shoes on my freshly mopped kitchen floor. Grrr. Ken’s learned to stay put until we reach some sort of resolution.

After an especially brief skirmish a few weeks ago, I hugged my husband and told him, "I really like the way we fight these days. We get in there, get down to business and get out." I credit our "Raney Rules of Engagement" with making our fights productive instead of destructive.

These rules have helped us to "fight right" in our marital arguments and come away from a conflict more in love with each other than we were going into it:

• Never hit below the belt (and learn where your spouse’s "belt" is)

• Pick the right time and place for your arguments

• Learn the fine art of compromise

• Never walk out on an argument, except by mutual agreement

• Kick the word D-I-V-O-R-C-E out of your marriage vocabulary

• End every argument with apologies, prayer, and a hug

God has been gracious and after thirty-two years of marriage, we’ve found we argue less and less. But we’re still human, and I doubt we’ll ever completely outgrow the need for an air-clearing discussion once in a while. After all, a good fight gives us a great excuse to kiss and make up!

Discussion:

1. Read Proverbs 15:1,2

2. What does the Bible have to say about arguing? Read: Psalm 37:8; Proverbs 17:27; Proverbs 21:23; Ecclesiastes 3:7

3. What "war crimes" are you guilty of in your marriage? Blaming? Sarcasm? Name-calling? Shutting down? Harsh language? Yelling? Threatening?

4. How can you disarm yourself of those weapons and begin building up your spouse and your marriage?

5. Is it always wrong to argue? Does "fighting" have any place in marriage? Read Ephesians 4:23-32. Try reading this passage in several different translations.

6. Have you consciously set rules in place to help you fight more productively? If not, discuss with your spouse what guidelines you each would like to see in your marital arguments.

Originally published November 16, 2006.


Deborah Raney is at work on her nineteenth novel. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel for Excellence in Media, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her newest series, the Hanover Falls Novels, will release from Howard/Simon & Schuster. She and her husband, Ken Raney, have been married for 35 years. They have four children, two little grandsons, and enjoy small- town life in Kansas. Visit Deborah's website at http://www.deborahraney.com.

Tobi Layton is a fifth grade teacher and freelance writer in southeast Missouri. Tobi has been married for eight years to Ryan Layton, a high school biology teacher. Tobi and Ryan are involved with the high school and junior high youth groups at their church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The Laytons have two sons.

Tobi Layton is the daughter of Ken and Deborah Raney. The Raneys and the Laytons share an August 11 wedding anniversary.