How to Fight in Marriage

Look, I’m gonna be honest and please don’t hate me, but Jonathan and I rarely fight. I think I can count on one hand the number of times we have really “fought,” and that is simply amazing for over 7 years of marriage.

So, now that I sound like the biggest marriage-bragger-snob-lady-ever, let me also say that I know that we are a rarity and more often than not, most couples argue on occasion. And sometimes, just sometimes, a good fight is necessary in marriage.

I also admit, that when Jonathan and I do have a battle royale, we have rules. That’s right. There are rules of engagement, which have become the parameters for our “fighting.”

Rules for fighting help, and can prevent scuffles from turning into winner-takes-all-death-matches. Here’s how we fight. First up…

1. No screaming, yelling, or biting. Okay, the biting goes without saying. It should anyway. But, if you’re like me and your first instinct to is to get loud then take heed. Screaming elevates. That’s it. It doesn’t make your point more clear. It doesn’t win. It doesn’t even tie. It escalates the situation and it looks ugly. And if like me, that’s all well and good, but you still need help, read on…

2. No name calling. When in a wedded war, you are never, ever, allowed to call your spouse a name. Ever. Unless it is “sugar,” or “sugar-daddy,” or “sugar bear.” You get the idea–something sweet.

3. You cannot judge intentions. This was introduced to me by my husband. When he was growing up, his parents instructed him and his brother that they could never judge intentions. Example: “You meant to knock over my Lego tower of awesomeness!” Nope. Can’t do it. We can only judge actions. I can say to Jon, “My feelings were hurt when you didn’t call me.” But NEVER: “You meant to hurt my feelings by not calling.” Speak to actions, not intentions. So huge!

4. Pray. There is some crazy statistic (that I heard once but could never find again) that 80% of conversations will end on the same note in which they began. So, if we can (assuming the hot-blooded, passionate, loud-mouthed wife hasn’t hijacked the fight) we start our argument/disagreement with prayer. It sets the tone and makes all the difference.

5. Pray again. Oh, and finish up that bad-boy with some prayer too. Sandwich effect. Never hurts, only helps.

6. Touch each other. I really, really, really dislike this one, but holy bananas does it work. ‘Cause when I’m ticked, the last thing I want is to snuggle. But, when you are touching each other–holding hands or placing a hand on a knee–it is really, really, really difficult to stay mad. Your level of hostility or frustration immediately decreases. We picked up this little gem in pre-marriage prep class. You’re welcome.

7. No “record of wrongs” allowed. Remember in 1Corinthians 13 where Paul talks about love and says that “[love] keeps no record of wrongs.” Be fair and honoring in this. Don’t bring up old offenses or past hurts. Stay on topic and really let go of the past.

8. Listen. Don’t be the guy (or chick) who, in their mind, is simply running through their own response and preparing a retort–thereby ignoring everything your wonderful spouse s telling you. Just listen.

Okay, so that’s what I got. Let me say too, that when Jonathan and I are quick to follow and stick to these “rules” our arguments are diffused much easier and faster than were we too go to fisticuffs on our own.

What would you add to the list? How do you fight? Fair, meekly, loudly, often, infrequently? Any advice?

18 thoughts on “How to Fight in Marriage”

  1. I don’t know what I’d add to the list but I am glad that things like this are available. I wish in my marriage I knew these tips. I just went by what I learned growing up and they were not helpful. I broke a lot of the rules you mentioned. I was young and we both were not Christians. I am divorced. I do want to marry again though :) Thanks for the tips!

    My married friend said that from marriage counseling she learned that during fights, the couple aren’t even supposed to threaten divorce. To the younger me, that was a helpful tip.

  2. These are all great rules! I would add the rule that you should never threaten divorce. My husband and I have rarely fought over 22 yrs. of marriage, but that was always something we agreed upon from the beginning.

  3. I’m not married yet but I can see how these rules would be helpful (I’m a bit of a shouter too!) so I’m going to bookmark them in case I ever do get married. Thanks! ;)

  4. Nicole-love these rules! Especially #3… very wise. I also ditto what Dawn mentioned above in her comment- the D word is never mentioned in our home. Chad and I just hit 5 years and though we have had some tense moments, we know that life is short. He is also military so another deployment and time apart awaits us- so is fighting really worth it? We think not-time is precious!

  5. After 32 years I can vouch for the helpfulness of parameters. The one that I would add that has been helpful for my marriage would be Eph 4:26b Do not let the sun go down on your anger we applied the principle by vowing to resolve the issue (or it least the anger in the issue before going to bed. The results has been a few long nights but many better mornings.

  6. I really like some of those. My Husby and I tend to just bicker a lot but when we fall out, he usually shouts and I go silent and analytical. Might borrow some of your tips.

  7. This is great Nicole! I love your rules of engagement for fighting. Starting by not yelling and including prayer, touching and listening. All excellent! I would add, avoid using terms like “always” and “never.” And also, no mention of the D word- divorce at any time.
    Thanks Nicole!

  8. Great article! I especially like the “touching” rule. i could use more work on the “praying before rule tho!!! These life skills would be so valuable taught in youth groups and Jr high groups- to prepare young people not only for successful marriage- but for successful friendships throughout their lives. Jeff and I have been married 29 years- and we have learned to “fight” fair. (Most the time!) We don’t argue much either. But when we do- there are a couple of things we strive do that didn’t make your list. (We are Not perfect fighters- but strive to be better!) We practice these especially if the rules of engagement were compromised! We try to Never go to sleep angry. Not that we have resolved the issue in its entirety- but there is no room in the bed for anger. #2 and most importantly, we PRACTICE quick repentance. We each strive to be the first one to apologize. Not to say we are sorry for the disagreement, necessarily, but that we are sorry when that disagreement brings hurt or pain or misunderstanding to our spouse. We own up to OUR STUFF. Winning is a shallow victory if the price is your loved one’s self worth, confidence, or emotional well being. So we practice apologizing quickly for the things that hurt our spouse and we agree to take the other person’s opinion into consideration. That is NOT always easy- but things of great value are worth the great sacrifice. When we humble ourselves like that- it truly takes the sting and steam out of the argument. We must die to self in order to live in Christ. it’s a good way to practice 1Co 13. And remember- it is when we humble ourselves before God and repent and seek His face that we have intimacy with Him!

  9. These are all great. We find touching and “sandwich” praying especially helpful.

    I would add: Assume your spouse means well, and try to interpret his actions/speech from that perspective. Remember that you’re on the same side.

  10. 4. Pray.
    Psa_58:6 Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD.
    Psa_112:10 The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.
    Psa_124:6 Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.
    5. Pray again.
    Exo_10:17 Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
    6. Touch each other.
    We touched each other during one of our “discussions” and broke a dinning chair, the flower pot, and the rear door.
    8. Listen.
    This is usually what started our fights. One of us FINALLY listened to the other.

    Okay, ONLY kidding; although our fights were legend in our families and church. Our marriage lasted 35 years and four days until cancer took her.

    New marriage is much more peaceful and respectful.

    I do appreciate your rules.

  11. Awesome list.

    This is not an additon, but just a way to acheive #3 and #8: practice “active listening”, which is making sure you understand what he or she is saying by re-phrasing what you just heard. We all have filters created by our unique thinking process, our past, our assumptions and our preferences. One word might have two different connotations to two different people. There have been many “big fights” that have been averted because one of us makes sure we understand what the other person is saying. I have also had an argument with a friend once and in the middle of it, realized that we were saying the same thing but using slightly different words.

    The “no record of wrongs” is soo good. To be perfectly honest, I can only remember the cause of three of our arguements in 15 years. It is either and indication that I will be spending my final years in an alzheimer’s unit or God’s grace in wiping my memory clear to help me accomplish that feat.

  12. Not to brag either, but my hubby and I rarely fight as well and it is truly a blessing this is one of the things we both prayed for before we got married. But when we do I can be honest to say I usually don’t fight fair meaning I do get loud at times. And I have broken a couple of the rules u mentioned. All the rules you listed is great! What we have used in the past is the the prayer part and it truly works wonders, also praying for each other is paramount, the fight doesn’t last too long after that. I also agree with the D word is not to be mentioned or an option, and as someone else also mentioned, don’t let the sun go down on your anger.

  13. Love those rules, and agree with all of them. I’m the same with touching… don’t want it while fighting, but I bet it would really help! Well these give me something to look forward to when we have our next fight! ;)

  14. We do all of these things. The one really big no-no for us is we never utter the words “divorce.” Ever. Period. We don’t even really joke about it. We’ve only had a couple big fights, but there is never yelling–we keep each other accountable to that one, too. You shouldn’t yell at people you love especially. We have disagreements probably once a week, but we just talk it out. This mostly works because my husband is pretty logical and level-headed in most arguments…I’m not always so much.

  15. These are great! My wife and I are a lot like y’all. We don’t ever really “fight” and we’ll be celebrating our 7th anniversary this Spring.

    Thanks for sharing the tips. I was nodding my head in agreement while reading this. I shared it on Twitter and my wife RT’d it. :)

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