Like every couple we have had a disagreement or two. We don’t yell at each other or slam doors. I have never been kicked out of the bedroom to sleep on the couch. But, we have had our moments.
Every couple will “fight”. I am convinced that if there is never a disagreement that causes a little work then the couple is probably not being fully honest with each other.
Since fighting is inevitable, learning to fight well is important.
We were probably in our first month of marriage when our first “fight” happened. I don’t remember exactly what lit the fuse or even what the ultimate issue was but I know it had to do with a sandwich. Yep. That’s right. A sandwich. It was Shelley’s sandwich. I think I was trying to make lunch for us and she didn’t want a sandwich.
I know what you are thinking, “are you being serious?” I am.
There was obviously something else going on because no one acts like she was acting over lunch meat.
I remember walking into our room and there was Shelley demanding to NOT have a sandwich. It was CRAZY and strange.
I had no clue what was going on but she was making me mad. I was confused. It was such a bizarre moment that I could not get my mind around so I snapped. I turned to walk out of the room and punched the door as hard as I could. “I’ll show you a sandwich!” Punching doors doesn’t really accomplish much other than a hurt hand and a door that now needs repairing.
I went to the kitchen. Sat down and ate my sandwich alone.
A few moments later I walked back to our room to find Shelley sitting in the closet floor crying…over a sandwich and a wall punching husband.
Within minutes of talking it out and realizing that sandwiches are not really that important, we were laughing.
It is amazing the wide variety of things that can and will cause conflict in marriage. Hopefully as the years go by we will fight over fewer things but also more important things.
There are many great things that have been said about how to handle conflict in marriage but here are some of the big things I am learning.
1) We need to be “OK” with having conflict. It is normal. To act like conflict will not happen in marriage is fooling ourselves. The reality of life is that we can be selfish and marriage can bring out the most selfish parts of us. We are also just different people. We think differently, have different personalities, different expectations and even different values. (See She likes Her Coffee With Cream)
If we can be “ok” with having good conflict then we can have a marriage that is always getting better. We would hate to admit this, but all of us need to be confronted from time to time about things in our lives. We are imperfect and our spouse can play a huge part in helping us grow even if it means a little conflict.
2) We need to know how we fight when we are at our worst. There is fighting at your best, which is the kind of fighting that is trying to arrive at resolution. Then there is fighting at your worst, which is fighting for victory. It is important to understand how you think and act when you are at your worst so that you can do everything possible to avoid it.
When I am fighting to win, I know that I have the ability to calmly and coldly say just the right thing that will hurt Shelley deeply. I also know that I have the ability to say things in such a way that it makes it impossible for her to win. It is ugly. I don’t like it. It does no good. I want to avoid that kind of fighting.
3) We need to know how to have a healthy first response. When emotions are flying or we are caught off guard at the beginning of a conflict, it is easy for one of us to respond badly. This can be really difficult depending on your personality but is important in having a “good” fight. The wrong first response can send you down the wrong path fast and create more unnecessary conflict.
If Shelley confronts me with something, I know that I need to give her some kind of response to let her know that I hear what she is saying. But, I also know that I need to be slow and careful with my words so that I don’t say things I will regret.
4) When she starts to cry I need to shut up. I believe that it is my responsibility to lead Shelley as the forgiver and as the one who asks for forgiveness. Whichever one of those applies to moment, I need to make the first move.
When she shuts down or starts to cry then I know I have pushed too far. It is at that point that I need stop and ask for forgiveness.
I don’t want this to sound like we have figured it out and that every conflict is a magical moment. It is not. Neither of us are big fans of conflict so we will have times where we try to ignore it or deal with it in an unhealthy way. We are not perfect.
Hopefully our fights are over more important things than sandwiches. And, for the record, she did end up eating a sandwich for lunch that day.