Disagreements are sure to happen in a marriage, but they do not have to lead to hurtful arguments.
Here are some suggestions to help resolve conflicts with your spouse:
1. Sincerely commit your lives to Jesus Christ as Lord.
2. Consider the marriage a life-long commitment, just as Christ is eternally committed to His bride, the Church.
3. Agree to always listen to each other’s feelings, even if you disagree with the appropriateness of those feelings.
4. Commit yourselves to both honesty and acceptance.
5. Determine to attempt to love each other unconditionally, with each partner assuming 100 percent of the responsibility for resolving marital conflicts (the 50/50 concept seldom works).
6. Consider all the factors in a conflict before bringing it up with your mate.
7. Confess any personal sin in the conflict to Christ before confronting your mate.
8. Limit the conflict to the here and now – never bring up past failures, since all past failures should have already been forgiven.
9. Eliminate the following phrases from your vocabulary:
– “You never” or “You always”
– “I can’t” (always substitute “I won’t”)
– “I’ll try” (usually means “I’ll make a half-hearted effort but won’t quite succeed”)
– “You should” or “You shouldn’t” (these are parent-to-child statements).
10. Limit the discussion to the one issue that is the center of the conflict.
11. Focus on that issue rather than attacking each other.
12. Ask your mate if he would like some time to think about the conflict before discussing it (but never put it off past bedtime – see Eph. 4:26).
13. Each mate should use “I feel …” messages, expressing his response to whatever words or behavior aroused the conflict. For example, “I feel angry toward you for coming home late for supper without calling me first” is an adult-to-adult message, whereas “You should always call me when you’re going to be late for supper” is a parent-to-child message. A parent-to-child message will cause the mate to become defensive.
14. Never say anything derogatory about your mate’s personality. Proverbs 11:12 tells us that he who despises (belittles) his neighbor lacks sense.
15. Even though your mate won’t always be correct, consider your mate an instrument of God, working in your life. Proverbs 12:1 says, He who hates reproof is stupid.
16. Never counterattack, even if your mate does not follow these guidelines.
17. Don’t tell your mate why you think he or she does what he does (unless he asks you), but rather stick to how you feel about what he does.
18. Don’t try to read your mate’s mind. If you’re not sure what he meant by something he said, ask him to clarify it.
19. Commit yourselves to follow the instructions carefully in the “Dealing with Anger Biblically” section of this chapter. This will help you avoid depression, which results in increased irritability and increased martial conflicts.
20. Be honest about your true emotions, but keep them under control. Proverbs 29:11 says, A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back. Proverbs 15:18 says, A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention.
21. Remember that the resolution of the conflict is what important, not who wins or loses is. If the conflict is resolved, you both win. You’re on the same team, not opposing, competing teams.
22. Agree with each other on what topics are “out of bounds” because they are too hurtful or have already been discussed (for example, in-laws, continued obesity, and so on).
23. Pray about each conflict before discussing it with your mate.
24. Commit yourselves to carefully learn and practice these 24 guidelines for “fighting fair” in marriage and agree with each other to call “foul” whenever one of you accidentally or purposefully breaks one of these guidelines. (You may choose to agree on a dollar fine for each violation!)