By Greg Vaughn
Rule 6: Stick to One subject
If you are on feel on the defense during a fight, it can be easy for you to switch subjects or flip the tables on your spouse. When we feel defensive, the flight or fight instinct can kick in. If you do not run, then you feel the need to go on the attack. One must fight these feelings and allow our selves to be humbled and in a vulnerable state. If the goal of a fight is resolution and behavioral change, then we must keep it to one subject. By sticking to one subject you can limit the scope of the argument and keep to the facts. This will also lessen the emotional involvement and allow the both of you to be objective. By having more than one subject, you will not come to a happy end in your fight. It is easy for us in the heat of anger to bring up things in the past. We can easily say that everything is ok, yet keep a running list of past wrongs. This only serves to weaken your relationship with both your spouse but also with God. It will continually feed the fight and allow it to rage on with no end in sight.
Rule 7: No “Fishing” Leave the past alone
It is important to leave previous fights alone. If one continually brings up past fights, one will begin to feel that they have not been forgiven. It may be a cliché, but it is true we must learn to forgive and forget. How would you feel if someone continually reminded of your past infractions? Does Satan not do this enough to you? He is called the Great Accuser, after all.
If we turn over past issues and hurt to God, He will help you get past the past. For example, Joseph was able to move on beyond his time in Egypt. In Genesis he says:
Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
Fishing refers to our ability to bait people into anger or bringing up a past issue. My wife and I think of “fishing” as poking at our triggers. For example if my wife wants me to do the dishes more, I might say “but you’re the one that ate all the ice cream” If you feel that there are unresolved issues left over from previous incidences, now is not the time to bring it up. Wait until another time, when you both are calm, to bring up unresolved issues.
Rule 8: Be mature
13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way Romans 14:13
This becomes a stumbling block for her.
“Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it” (Hebrews 12:15 Amplified Bible)
One should not seek out to make your spouse angrier by pushing their buttons. If you know something that will bug them, refrain from doing it. The same goes when you roll your eyes or give a dirty look (As well as name calling, cursing, noises/sounds or using a mocking tone).
Instead of focusing on the issue, you will spur their anger and cause them to struggle with your lack of interest and disrespect. This is an immature way to deal with a disagreement. Remember that we must focus on the goal of reconciliation with our spouse.
Rule 9: Share, Don’t Accuse
This has been the biggest thing to help our communication. By using a statement such as “When you did this, it made me feel ____” It has allowed us to share how we feel in response to an action by our spouse. It allows us to validate our emotions with not putting the blame on the other person. When my wife tells me she feels hurt by my actions, I can see the repercussions of my actions and not feel blamed for them. Both partners may need to say this to each other. Many times there is a chain reaction that leads to many hurt feelings. By following this statement you can reconstruct how you got tot that point.
One needs to realize that feelings are not invalid. For example: If you were to find out that during a routine exam, your child had an inoperable disease and would die soon. You mostly likely would feel angry, sad, and despondent. Later that day, you receive a call from your doctor that says the files were mixed up and that your child is fine. Does this invalidate your feelings of sadness, since the tests were wrong? No, the feelings are still valid, the actions of the doctor were wrong.
When you say I feel something, it must be followed by a feeling. Saying “I feel like you are being a jerk” is not an appropriate use of this tool. You can reword it to say “When you react that way, I feel disrespected”. What is the difference? The first is stooping to your spouse’s level; the second is a more righteous way of stating your feelings.
If you are having a hard time indentifying an emotion, you can resort to the list of the five base emotions. Many psychologists agree that most if not all emotions stem from one of these five base emotions. They are mad, sad, glad, embarrassed and fearful.
Rule 10: Mutual Respect
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
When one is fighting it is easy to throw out the rules of listening. Your spouse may bring up things that you feel is incorrect and needs an immediate correction. So you begin to formulate what you are going to say in response, instead of giving them your complete attention. This can lead your spouse to believe you are not listening and that you do not care about their feelings or them. This scripture calls us to be patient in affliction. Another cliché that proves true is it does not matter who is right but who is righteous. This scripture calls us to be devoted to each other. This includes the times when you are fighting. It is very disrespectful to your spouse if you are not making eye contact, or if you are distracted.
In the heat of the moment it is easy for us to try to manipulate the fight into our favor. We do this by belittling the other, dismissing their feelings or try to change the situation into our favor. We can begin to interrupt the other or put words into their mouth. For me, I key on certain words, so I believe that is what my spouse has said. It is easy for me to think she said something that just was not said, because I was not fully engaged in listening.
Rule 11: Time and Place Matter
Be cognizant of your surroundings. The mall may not be the best place to have a heated discussion. I know for my self, I like to take care of things right then and there. Yet your spouse may need to cry or go pray. It is ok to hold off on discussing things until you are in a better location, or time.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 states “a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak”
By working on the little things we have mentioned my hope is that there the big things are diminished. At the end of our fights, we always state the decision or direction, or what caused the argument, (not allowing it to continue) and tell each what we will try to work on so that this doesn’t happen again. For example “I will try not to jump to conclusions when you ask me to do the dishes. This allows both of you to come away with want you want each other to work on, or even better start with your self.
Disagreements are a natural course of being married. Each of are two individual with their own opinions, feelings and experiences. By following these rules, the hope is that your fights will lead to a more open and fair communication style. Please do not be afraid to fight. By avoiding fighting about the small stuff, you will only let things simmer and then you will fight about the big things. I hope this has shown you that the word fight does not need to have a bad connotation and that one can have a fight, get what they want and still have a harmonious relationship at the end.