We’ve all done it. You’re fighting with your spouse, you’re frustrated and angry, and maybe even losing the battle. Out of your mouth comes a reminder of something your spouse did or said five or ten years ago and of which she/he has already repented. The second it slips out of your mouth, you know you’ve crossed the line. You either melt, back tracking with profuse apology, or you emphasize it with a glare because you’re too angry to stop even though you know you’ve crossed the line. Ooops!
Bringing up old grievances does not make a fair fight. If I am truly sorry for something I did, repent, and do my best to right the wrong, I shouldn’t have it thrown in my face years down the line—and it’s a two-way street. Fighting fair means fighting about what is on the table right here and now.
Obviously, we shouldn’t bicker and argue at all, but realistically, I don’t know of a single married couple that doesn’t occasionally argue. Violence is never an option. If it happens once, get help—now. Don’t wait for a round two.
Pick your battles. Do you really want to scream and yell all the time about whether the dirty clothes make it to the hamper? Gentle reminders with a smile go a long way to ease tension. There are some things your spouse is never going to get right—no matter how many years you are married. Some of those things you just have to learn to endure, and others are important enough to do battle. The little irritating things that drive you crazy now may very well end up to be the things you miss when he/she is gone.
For instance, every morning for the last 37 1/2 years, my husband has left a little glob of toothpaste on the bathroom sink. When we first got married, I wore contact lenses. I would lean over the sink to look in the mirror in the morning to put in my contacts and end up with toothpaste on my blouse. Gentle reminders just didn’t seem to work. I don’t think he even knows how he does this. As irritating as this was to me, it never hit the top of the “things worth fighting about” list. It was simply easier to develop the habit of grabbing a piece of toilet paper and cleaning up the glob of toothpaste every morning before starting my routine. If my husband were to die today, the first thing I would miss is the glob of toothpaste. I’m sure I would be a total basket case tomorrow morning if glob cleaning was suddenly not a part of my morning.
There’s an old saying, “Never go to bed mad.” Ignore that! I don’t care how many people tell you that, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. We are all tired at the end of the day. A lot of arguments start because we are tired. Torturing yourself and your spouse by staying awake trying to resolve something is just nonsense. Go to bed, get some sleep, and I guarantee that 90 percent of what you thought was earth shattering last night will be no big deal in the morning. It might even be laughable.
Name calling is just unacceptable. You married this wonderful person who you obviously love, so don’t botch it up by degrading that love and taking a stab at your partner’s self-esteem. Bite your tongue until it bleeds, but be kind. Marriage revolves around kind, unselfish people.
Don’t argue until you are blue in the face. There is a time to agree to disagree—at least until you both have time to cool off, think about it, and calmly discuss. Sometimes a cooling off period is all that is needed to bring new perspective to the issue.
Talking mean about your spouse to others is not appropriate. Your spouse should be your best friend, and best friends don’t betray each other. Loyalty is imperative to a good marriage. If you have something to say, say it to your spouse; not the neighborhood, a coworker, a friend, or the person sitting next to you at church.
Fighting in front of children—now there’s a can of worms. Most people would say that it is terribly wrong to fight in front of your children. I would say that it is wrong to have super ugly fights in front of your children; have those in private. However, if you never argue in front of your children, they grow up thinking that married people don’t argue. Then when they get married, they are sorely disillusioned. Children need to see that couples argue, but that they can resolve their issues. You don’t want them to get married and feel like a failure at the first argument. Let your children see you apologize to each other.
My husband does this thing when he knows I’m still too mad to talk, but it’s time to make up. If we are in the car, he’ll just point at some interesting thing and change the subject. If we are at home, he’ll walk through the room and start a conversation about something totally off the top of his head. If we are in bed, he’ll give me a few minutes to stew, and then he’ll reach over and put his hand on my arm or on my hip. It lets me know that he knows I’m still angry, but the argument has to cease at least until we are both cooled off.
There are times when couples need to address very serious issues that can’t be settled in a 10-minute argument. If there is a real problem, set aside a quiet time away from the children to discuss the issue—and begin with a prayer. I wish we had discovered this a long time before we did. When you are of one mind and one heart, and you have heavenly help, it is a whole lot easier to succeed.
I don’t want to totally ruin your day thinking about fighting with your spouse, so I’d like to end by saying that marriage really is worth it. While bickering does happen, try to remember that we should strive for Christ-like love. Let us oft speak kind words to each other.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.