Mark it down: all couples sometimes fight.
If it makes you feel better to hedge, make that “All couples sometimes have serious and somewhat warm discussions.” That is nothing but normal, and may even be healthy—vastly healthier than the immature, toxic, and completely unfair “I’m clamming up,” passive aggressive, silent approach no one should get away with.
I got this outline years ago from friend and colleague Lyndon Latham. I’m not sure where he got it, but there’s a boatload of wisdom here. Here are Ten Rules for a Good Clean Fight:
1) Before we begin, we must both agree that the time is right (Jeremiah 6:14; Psalm 141:3). Early in the morning or late at night are probably bad times. And why mess up a good meal?
2) We will remember that our only aim is deeper understanding (James 1:19-20). Remember that you love one another. Take turns speaking but mostly, listen! Your mate may just need to blow off some steam. (And if you know you’re wrong, just admit it. But if you’re always right, you’re likely the “wrongest” of all.)
3) We will check our weapons often to be sure they are not deadly (Matthew 5:21-22a; James 3:6). Phasers should be set to “stun” and not “kill.” You know your mate, weaknesses included, better than anyone else. You can hurt your mate more than anyone else if you so choose. Don’t!
4) We will stick to the issue (Proverbs 10:19). No exhaustive lists of each other’s faults. And never in a fight use the words “always” or “never.” They are always unfair and untrue. Use “I feel” statements rather than “You” statements.
5) We will lower our voices one notch instead of raising them two (Proverbs 15:1). A shouter deserves to lose.
6) We will never discuss or reveal private matters in public (Proverbs 10:8). Duh!
7) We will never involve the children in the battle (Proverbs 10:12). NEVER fight in front of the kids or enlist their aid.
8) We will never resort to violence (Proverbs 29:11). Anger properly vented is not bad, but violence is absolutely off-limits.
9) We will discuss an armistice whenever either partner calls “halt” (Ephesians 4:26). Listen! When your mate signals, “Time out,” stop. Some discussions will take longer than one session. One couple’s signal is: “Let’s refer this to the committee.”
10) When we have come to terms, we will put the issue away until we both agree that it needs more discussion (Matthew 5:9). Some things you can agree on quickly. Some things you will never agree on. Don’t back your mate into a corner and force agreement where there is none. If you’re the more forceful spouse, this means you especially need to avoid the former temptation and take care of, rather than manipulate, your mate.
Let the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) and the Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13) be your constant guides.
For the full Ten Rule text, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at email@example.com