Julie and I fight. There is no way around it. We have been married for 12 years, and still find ourselves arguing over the silliest things. I know Christian circles assume that fighting in marriage isn’t healthy. But I don’t see it that way. The more I live and experience life, the more I believe that fighting is a normal path to find relational bliss.
John Gottman is an American psychological researcher and clinician who did extensive work over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability. John studied so many marriages over his decades of research, that he could watch a married couple fight for five minutes and tell that couple whether they were going to make it or not.
How could an outsider watch a couple for five minutes and be able to tell whether the couple was going to survive or not? It wasn’t whether or not they fought, it was HOW they fought that was the key. I believe that fighting is normal, and necessary. But HOW you fight is even more important. The purpose of fighting in any relationship should be to find reconciliation. Let’s be clear though, and point out that reconciliation takes both parties full engagement.
Reconciliation= apology + forgiveness + agreed upon change acted out.
And isn’t it true that we almost always need to apologize AND forgive in most disagreements or misunderstandings because we each play a part in the chaos. If you seek reconciliation, you can navigate the toughest of situations, and truly find marital bliss on the other end. Even if that point of tension takes years to navigate through.
Over the years I have grown to see that I need to be less of a faultfinder and more of a table setter. While there are plenty of times Julie and I drive each other crazy, I don’t need to point out every mistake. I don’t need to teach her. I don’t need scream at her. I don’t need to do a lot of things in our fights, but for many years I did. What has worked for me in recent years is communicating to her what specific action is bothering me, how it makes me feel, and then give her space.
Space is the key ingredient for her. While the amount of space and time will be different from couple to couple, our marriage works best on quick confrontation (once we are not fully tangled in anger), clear communication using more “I” than “you,” and space to think and pray once everything has been brought to light. Some might respond and quote Ephesians 4:26-27, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” And yes, there is wisdom in that, we don’t always solve everything “before the sun goes down” every night. Some things are just bigger than one day. We did not get to fight the way we do now on accident. We have worked on many communication techniques over the years and seen professional counsel dozens of times over the years. We strive to learn each passing year how to fight and disagree with more love, grace, and effectiveness. Because of all of this, I can confidently give her space after we have discussed some hard issues.
I know that if I give her space, she will passionately seek the Lord. To me, it is the sexiest thing about her. Now, don’t get me wrong, I find her highly attractive. But this trait is by far the most amazing thing about her. Proverbs 31:30 states, Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 1:7 previously states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
See, I know Julie fears the Lord. I have seen this common denominator for over 15 years of being with her. And I know if I give her space, she will seek the Lord, and come back to me in our moments of tension with more humility, love, and grace than I could have ever “talked her into.” It is not my job to change her, that work is for the Lord. It is my job to love her, to listen to her, and to share all of me with her.