The Rules of War: Five Ways of Fighting Fair
I remember being in 7th grade Home Economics, sitting in the front row. I don’t remember why we were talking about marriage. (Most 7th grade boys don’t take a Home Economics course unless they’re forced to.) One thing that I haven’t forgotten, however, was my teacher proudly stating, “My husband and I have been married for 40 years and we have only had one fight!”
I do remember smirking, now that I think about it. Unfortunately for me, she caught it.
“What, Mr. Westbrook, do you find funny?”
I don’t think I told her the truth, but I do remember thinking to myself, I don’t know if not fighting is a good thing. Where does all of that anger go?
Nine years later, I can definitely say that my wife and I have had our share of conflict. We’ve had some bickers, skirmishes, and meltdowns. But a couple of things never change: that stubborn reality called humanity and that God-infusion called grace.
Here are five “rules of war” that my wife and I have applied that have resulted in making up and letting go:
1.) Your goal must be reconciliation. Many couples fight and they don’t have a game plan. They simply want to erupt and vent their emotions. But if both of them are erupting, where is there room for a cool-down? You’re a married, covenanted, madly in love (no pun intended) couple! This is where the heart of the matters must lie: determine in your hearts that every conflict has a resolution.
2.) Be respectful. Never name call and abstain from raising your voice. Passion and malice are two different things, but shouting to prove your point only casts aside the Fruit of the Spirit known as self-control, which is graciously endowed to believers in Jesus. (Galatians 5:22-23) Couples who are determined to win the argument may wound the soul of their spouse.
3.) Don’t fight unless you have time. Early in our marriage, we had a horrible habit of engaging in conflict when one of us was on our way to work or pulling into the church parking lot on Sunday morning. Seriously! If you and your spouse are pressed for time, with no hope of a resolution, all that is going to be accomplished is resentment.
4.) Know when to take a walk. We all get angry. Many people do not know when to call a timeout, but doing this will allow you to bring it to the Lord, search your heart, and come together again with a more hopeful resolution. It may sound something like this:
“Honey, we’re not getting anywhere with this. Let’s take a break and clear our heads. We’ll come back together after the Lord has had time to intervene.”
I can’t recount the exact number of times that “taking a walk” has postured my heart for a marital revival!
5.) Make a mess, clean it up. Humble yourself and apologize. You were probably both wrong, but you can only control yourself. Many times after a fight, my wife and I have identified where we wounded one another. When that happens, seek to restore what was damaged in the fight.
Second Corinthians 5:18-20 tells how we are co-laborers with Him in the ministry of reconciliation! He no longer holds records of our sins, in Christ. In this great partnership of grace, extend abundant mercy to your spouse. Your task in this beautiful ministry of reconciliation is to administer reconciliation!
This list is not exhaustive. What have your experiences been? What “rules” would you add?