Our Relationship with our Spouses – Fighting Fair

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012


All married couples have arguments, or rather fights. How you fight is the key to whether or not you will have a successful, long term marriage. This Father’s Team topic will help you discover/learn this critical marital skill.


1. We’ll need to discuss the importance of fighting. Rather than avoiding conflict in marriage, we must embrace healthy conflict as a way to enjoy and love our spouse. Avoiding or denying the inevitable mix-ups of marriage only postpones having to really deal with them and grow through them.

2. Then we’ll see that resolving conflict is a balancing act. By purposefully holding back honest communication, the silent partner in marriage can stunt the growth of the relationship. The opposite characteristic – being the overly dominant spouse – also has its pitfalls. By finding appropriate balance between these extremes, we create a better marriage. More importantly, these characteristics often carry over into our relationship with God.

3. Lastly, we need to examine the role of emotional and sexual intimacy in marriage. We honor God when we consistently resolve marital conflict without letting it build into resentment. Sexual intimacy, then, stems from emotional safety in marriage.

Here are some suggested principles to guide you through the process of fighting fair:

· Emotions are nothing to avoid or be afraid of. Emotions just are. God gave them to us. Let’s celebrate them in all their messiness, complexity, joy and pain.

· Emotions are signposts that help you navigate the journey of marriage. Embrace the emotional expressions of your spouse and look for the message behind the words. What does your spouse’s anger mean about their current experience and satisfaction in marriage? Learn from these.

· You make a better marriage when you work through conflict and honestly confront emotions.

Here are some things to think about:

· Maybe you’re the spouse using words to tip the balance of power in your favor. You trample on your spouse’s feelings, self-esteem and dignity with every hurtful verbal exchange. Maybe you find yourself rationalizing your communication style by saying, “She needed to hear that,” or, “I know the truth hurts, but somebody has to tell her.” If this is you, I’d caution that there are very rare, limited cases when a married individual should take this stance of being marital judge and jury.

· Find balance in your style of managing marital conflict. Silence hurts. So does verbally lashing out. Neither is a healthy way to resolve conflict in your marriage. In extremes, both styles of resolving conflict are futile relational power-grabs. If you’re the quiet one, learn from your blabber-mouth spouse. If you’re the talker that shoots verbal darts non-stop, learn from your tight-lipped spouse. Stop doing things the way you’ve always done them, and begin looking for different results.

· Most importantly, though, don’t focus solely on the balance of power in your marriage. Focus on the balance of power between you and your Maker. Balance this scale, and the rest tends to take care of itself. Are you talking with God? Or are you the silent partner?

Here is a checklist of items to consider:

1. Don’t let little things that bother you build up until one of you explodes the issue into a large fight. That’s not fighting fair in your marriage.

2. If you are angry about something and don’t try to talk about it with your spouse within 48 hours, let it go. Otherwise, you are not fighting fair.

3. If your spouse doesn’t want to discuss the matter, set an appointment within the next 24 hours to have your fair fight. It is okay to go to bed angry. You need your sleep. Just make sure that the issue is addressed the next day.

4. Fighting fair means you know what the issue is. Then, both of you stick to the subject.

5. Keep your fight between the two of you. Don’t bring in third parties like your mother-in-law, his best friend, or your children.

6. Fighting fair means you don’t bring up past history.

7. Fighting fair means no name calling. Even endearing terms and pet names can be hurtful when you are using a sarcastic tone.

8. Be careful how you use humor. Laughter is good, but teasing can be misinterpreted and can be hurtful.

9. Listen to one another fully while you fight. This includes watching body language. Look at one another while you speak.

10. Don’t interrupt during your fight.

11. Fighting fair means you don’t blame one another make accusations.

12. Try to use ‘I’ sentences instead of ‘you’ sentences.

13. Be open to asking for forgiveness and being willing to forgive.

Bible Readings

1. Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.

2. Ecclesiastes 3:7

A time to rend, and a time to sew: a time to be silent and a time to speak.

3. Ephesians 4:25-26

Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun set on your anger.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1638

“From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament.”

Small Group Questions

1. Examine your last ‘fight’ with your spouse – what role did you play – aggressor or silent?

2. This is not the first time we have talked this topic – what steps have you put into place to ‘fight fair’?

Recommended Resources

Focus on the Family – http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/communication_and_conflict/fighting_fair.aspx

About.com – Marriage – http://marriage.about.com/cs/conflictandanger/ht/fightfair.htm


1. This week would be a good time to have a discussion with your spouse about how you fight.

2. Think about addressing this as you are ‘developing’ your children in the way you and your spouse interact


Rich Delcore

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