How to Fight Fair in Your Marriage

By Chip Ingram

Are you a turtle or a shark?

When it comes to conflict in relationships, is your inclination to withdraw or is it to attack? If you want to learn how to “fight fair” in your marriage, you need to know your conflict communication style!

Because there will be conflict! In fact, the Bible teaches us that conflict is normal. It is also an opportunity for growth.

The Bible also makes it clear that conflict must be diffused, or it will destroy.

So are you a turtle or a shark? Are you more likely to clam up, give the cold shoulder? Maybe even run to diversions, like alcohol or shopping. Your conflict communication style is like a turtle and your goal is avoid a conflict.

By contrast, do you jump in and start making waves, bringing up arguments and counterarguments? Do you play the mind-reading game, or use logic to come out ahead? If this is your conflict communication style, you’re a shark and your goal is to win.

Take Heart!

Remember, the presence of conflict in your marriage is not the sign of failure. Sometimes it comes from honest differences of belief or perspectives or style. Yes, of course, it sometimes it comes from selfishness, and we need to face that. But recall what Jesus said in John 16:33.

“I’ve told you these things so that you may have peace in me. In this world, you’ll have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.”

“You will have trouble.” In a fallen world, you’re going to have conflict with your mate and conflict with fellow workers and conflict with neighbors and conflict with your kids. We don’t need to deny it, hide it or run from it. We need to take heart and let the peace of Christ rule our thoughts and actions.

D.I.F.F.U.S.E. the Fight

So how do we “fight fair”? Remember I said conflict must be diffused, or it will destroy? By diffuse I didn’t mean make light of it. To diffuse is to spread it out so that it doesn’t blow up. We need to take the following steps, listed as the acronym D.I.F.F.U.S.E.  I encourage you to practice them. Get really good at them!

  • DIFFUSE. Define the problem on your own, before you try to withdraw from or attack your partner. Pray, write, and think about it.
  • INITIATE time to talk. Make sure it’s the right time for your partner, not just your preference.
  • FOCUS on the problem, not the person. Don’t bring up personality, parents, or the past. Describe how you perceive the problem.
  • FEEL your spouse’s pain as if it’s your own. Understand where they’ve coming from, and be an agent of grace.
  • UNCOVER the root symptoms. Whatever the argument is, there is an underlying issue you need to deal. Things like money, loyalty, goals, roles, sex, and power.
  • SET things right between you. “Confess your sins to one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
  • ESTABLISH a plan to address the issues. Write it down, and put goals on the calendar!

Remember, nothing will change unless you change something. With the wisdom, grace, and peace of Christ, you can D.I.F.F.U.S.E. your conflicts, learn to “fight fair,” and strengthen your marriage!

For more information on this topic, take a look at Chip’s series Marriage that Works, or Unstuck: Overcoming the Pain of Your Past.

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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