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Fighting Fair

Principles in a Fair Fight.


Some call them fights, or conflicts, disagreements, or discussions. We might all have different names, but they play a major role in the integrity of a marriage relationship. For some spouses, it’s a way of life. For others, it’s a word they refuse to entertain.

We all bring different perspectives and biases to how we react to marital conflict. There’s not necessarily any one right way to handle and resolve conflict – but, be assured that there are some mindsets, behaviors and attitudes you should avoid in this area of your marriage.

Here are some guidelines on how to make conflict constructive rather than destructive in you marriage, family, and life in general.



  • 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. However remember losing control of our emotions can have serious consequences.  Make certain that during the conversation you constantly temper your words by thinking, “How would Christ handle this”?  Remember in his life God’s son experienced the full range of human emotion, “yet did not sin”!
  • 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 emotions.
  • You make a better marriage when you work through conflict and honestly confront emotions. Men it may not sound macho, but our ability to cry with our wives and to better understand her pain may lead to increased intimacy in other areas of your relationship.



A complaint addresses only the specific action at which your partner has failed. A criticism is global. It attacks the matefs character or personality. Here is an example:

  • Complaint: “There is no gas in the car. I’m aggravated that you didn’t fill it up like you said you would.”

  • Criticism: “You never remember anything! You can’t be counted on for your word!”

CONTEMPT       Disgust, sarcasm, eye rolling, mocking

Contempt is composed of a set of behaviors that communicate disgust. It includes, but is not limited to: sneering, sarcasm, namecalling, eye rolling, mockery, hostile humor and condescension.

  • It is primarily transmitted through non-verbal behaviors.

  • It does not move toward reconciliation and inevitably increases the conflict.

  • It is always disrespectful.

Research shows couples that display contempt for each other suffer more illnesses and diseases than respectful couples.

DEFENSIVENESS      Not me, you. No response for self

These behaviors convey the message, “The problem is not me. It’s you.”

  • From this position you imply that, because your partner threw the first stone, they are responsible for the entire conflict.

  • You avoid taking responsibility for your own behavior by pointing to something they did prior to their complaint about you.

  • You do not acknowledge that which is true in what they are saying about your behavior.

STONEWALLING       Tunes out and shuts down. 85% men

In relationships where intense arguments break out suddenly, and where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, and where more contempt leads to more defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. This is the beginning of stonewalling.

  • The stonewaller acts as if he (research indicates that 85% of stonewallers in marriages are husbands) couldn’t care less about what the partner is saying or doing.

  • He (sometimes she) turns away from conflict and from the relationship.

  • Any form of disengagement can be stonewalling.




          …Everyone should be quick to listen. Ja 1:19

Engaged in text conversation, watching TV, working on something, and our spouse comes in and says something. If your like me you find yourself just half listening.

          A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own           opinions. Prov 18:2

Two tips that will help you engage in meaningful conversation:

  1. I understand why you would feel this way. Or I’m trying to understand, not followed with any rebuttal.

  2. Repeat back what the person says. (So you believe………., or you feel I’m…..)



          Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak. Ja 1:19

Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble. Prov 21:23 NLT

Two questions to ask:

  • Should it be said?

  • Should it be said now?

Some things are better to discuss in non-conflict times.

Tips to guarding your words!

  • Never call names.

  • Never raise your voice.

  • Never get historical.

  • Never say never or always.

  • Never threaten divorce.

  • Never quote your preacher during a fight.


          … Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become  angryJa 1:19

          “In your anger do not sin“: Do not let the sun go down while you are still   angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. Eph 4:26-27