The key to having a good fight that ends in reconciliation rather than a bad fight that ends in bitterness is to learn to fight as friends and not enemies. The following rules of engagement are offered to help you fight to the glory of God and the good of your marriage.
First, you have to decide if your spouse has committed a sin. If so, you have to decide whether or not you are going to say something. Should you just overlook it, pray for your spouse, or just wait for a more opportune time to speak with him or her? We can become so frustrated with the sin of our spouses that we deal with the right issue in the wrong way or at the wrong time, which can only make matters worse.
Second, decide how you want to deal with the conflict. People respond to conflict with a “fight, flight, or fright” instinct. Fight mode creates a harsh startup to a conflict, which quickly escalates when someone accepts and heightens the conflict in an effort to bully, punish, and/or “defeat” his or her spouse. Those of us who choose flight respond by wanting to retreat, withdraw, and avoid the conflict. Some people experience fright, where they simply freeze, have a hard time thinking on their feet, and get stuck. Knowing how you and your spouse respond to conflict will help you know how to lovingly engage each other when frustrated.
Third, do not fight when either of you has any substances in you, such as alcohol, that alter your emotional state.
Fourth, before you fight, stop to pray, asking God to be in the midst of your fight, controlling your tongue, and helping you fight for the marriage by attacking the problem and not the person.
Fifth, do not use fighting with your spouse as your release valve or lightning rod. A release valve is something that relieves pressure from the stresses of life. Ideally, this would be a physical exercise or a relaxing activity with your hands. A lightning rod is a person you choose to just listen to you, thereby grounding out the storm of fury in your life so that no one gets hurt. A lightning rod does not seek to comfort or counsel as much as he or she simply listens and lets you get all the frustration out. If life has you frustrated, you will be tempted to use a good fight with your spouse as your release valve or lightning rod. Do not do this. Find something else to do to relieve your stress productively, and a godly friend of the same gender to listen and ground out your storms, especially storms with your spouse.
Sixth, sometimes a couple simply cannot come to an agreement on an important issue, and it affects their oneness and unity, possibly including their sexuality. In such circumstances humble servants need to ask whether or not the issue is really worth holding their ground on, or if in love with a clear conscience they can defer to their spouses. And, if they think the issue is important enough to retain their contrary position, they need to seek outside authority. The couple needs to agree on a godly authority (for example, a pastor or biblical counselor) to whom they will each present their case, allowing that mediator to make a decision for them that they will then submit to. As we stated earlier, this should be a very rare occurrence involving a neutral, godly person who is not a close friend or relative. In short, when all else fails, get a referee and let him make the call.
What do you need to repent of to your spouse? What do you need to forgive your spouse for? Are you bitter against your spouse in any way? How can you have more God-glorifying fights?
Note: this blog is adapted from the Driscoll’s book Real Marriage