The first rule of Married Fight Club is: You don’t talk about Married Fight Club. The second rule of Married Fight Club is: Who am I kidding, we definitely need to talk about it.
If you’re married and in ministry there’s one thing as certain as the setting sun—you will fight with your spouse. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” I’m not saying you’ll have a massive knock-down-drag-out bout every day—if you’re lucky those only come every once in a long while—but you will deal with small to medium-sized conflicts on a regular basis. This is truth.
Here’s what you need to know first: You are normal. Also, having an argument with your spouse does not disqualify you for ministry or leadership.
When you stick two sinners under the same roof there’s bound to be conflict. As Christians, God is always working in us and there should be growth, but we’re a far cry from perfection and that means stuff is going to go down.
Whether it’s a tiny dinnertime conflict—like the day I criticized my wife for her cooking and she declared it “Make Your Own Sandwich Day”—or something much, much deeper that deals with your relationship, finances, fidelity or emotional needs—these 10 do’s and don’ts will help you avoid unnecessary conflict and deal with the necessary fights with a little wisdom and discernment.
5 Conflict Don’ts
1. DON’T Fight in the Car
Seriously, this is one of the most conflict-intense zones. Why? Because you’re not looking eye-to-eye and it’s the perfect setup for misunderstanding and increasing tension. Fighting in the car is like pouring gasoline on the argument. And gasoline is expensive.
2. DON’T Talk About Divorce
I get it. You’re ticked off. You want to go there, but don’t. This word should be like Voldermort—it’s the name we do not speak of.
3. DON’T Use “Always” and “Never”
These words label your spouse as a serial offender and push the conflict to another level. Strike these words from your marriage language and you’ll be better for it.
4. DON’T Go to Bed Angry
This is hard, but critical. This concept comes from a passage in Ephesians 4: 27,28: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry… and do not give the devil a foothold. It’s the last part that’s a little freaky. Going to bed angry gives Satan a place to establish his presence in your life. In other words, there’s a lot at stake when you hold onto your anger for a long period of time.
5. DON’T Bring Up the Past
It’s tempting. When you’re married you’ve got all the dirt, but it goes both ways. There are times when we need to work through past events, for sure, but don’t bring up the past as a weapon—because when you do, both of you get hit by the shrapnel.
5 Conflict Do’s
1. DO Listen and Clarify Meaning
Most of our conflicts emerge because we misunderstand each other’s feelings. Learn to listen—even when you feel like you’re being accused—and try to clarify their message by repeating what you hear. Unless it’s a profanity-laced tirade—because that would be silly.
2. DO Validate Each Other’s Feelings
There are times when you will both interpret events in a completely different way and that’s OK. Don’t disregard your spouse’s emotions just because they don’t match yours. Affirm them, even if you don’t understand. AND THERE WILL BE TIMES YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!
3. DO Own Your Own Faults
Claim your own mistakes and ask for forgiveness. This speaks louder than anything. Don’t shortchange your relationship by being stubborn and refusing to acknowledge the fact that you are not perfect—because the secret is already out.
4. DO Plan on Giving 100, Not 50 Percent
No matter what culture says, marriage is not a 50-50 relationship. In other words, God wants you to fulfill 100% of your God-given role in the marriage no matter what percent your spouse is giving to the relationship. We’re not called to wait on each other to match weak efforts—we’re called to give ourselves fully to the call God has placed on us within this relationship.
5. DO Pray Together
This sounds simple, I know. You’re in ministry and you know the power of prayer! If you can get into the habit of praying together through your conflicts something supernatural happens—it changes your perspective from horizontal conflict to vertical worship. Never underestimate the power of prayer in your marriage—especially with conflict.
What would you add to the list?