Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Healthy Fighting?

There are those who say that fighting is a healthy part of a marriage. While I definitely can’t put myself in the same camp as them, I do recognize that disagreement is part and parcel of any relationship, even marriage. A couple who never has disagreements is usually a couple who is avoiding talking about anything that might be a touchy subject for one or the other.

Fighting, in and of itself is destructive. If you don’t believe me, just look at war. War is totally destructive; the process of fighting a war is all about destroying things and destroying lives. That’s the problem I have with fighting in marriage, it also destroys lives.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think there is a healthy way of dealing with problems and disagreements. However, there is one major essential difference between dealing with problems and disagreements in a healthy way and doing so by fighting. That difference is whose side you are on.

In a fight, it’s my side against your side. I attack you and you attack me. Whoever is the strongest smartest or has the biggest guns wins. That’s not healthy in marriage. In that type of fighting, somebody’s going to get hurt. In fact, there’s a really good chance that both are going to get hurt.

The healthy way to deal with those problems is for the two of you to attack the problem together. That way, you’re on the same team. Recognize that the problem is there, and find a way to defeat it. Both should be shooting their guns at the problem, not at each other; and stay focused on shooting at the problem until you get the victory. Whatever you do, don’t let yourselves start taking potshots at each other, that’s not going to solve the problem.

Attacking the problem together is about finding a solution together. Maybe the problem is caused by one person, but that doesn’t mean that the solution is for them to change. It could be that the other one makes some sort of accommodation, so that the problem is taken care of.

For example, maybe there is a problem with not spending enough time together. This is a common complaint for women. Okay, so the classic way of dealing with this is whining, complaining, nagging and manipulating. That all leads to a fight, in which she’s yelling at him for not spending time with her and he’s yelling at her for being a miserable to be around. But the root of the problem in this case is that he’s spending all of his time at the store he’s trying to get off the ground and not making time for her.

Okay, he needs to make a change, but maybe he doesn’t see his need to change. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a solution. Another solution could be for her to become involved in some part of what he is doing at the store, so that they are doing that activity together. That solves the problem, even if it is in an unconventional way.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not even coming close to saying that if your wife has a problem with how you are doing something that you should tell her to make some change to accommodate you. What I’m saying is that the best solution might involve her making a change to accommodate you.

Going back to our example; if the couple sat down together, with the attitude of “we have a problem” instead of “I have a problem with you” then they’ve set the stage for resolving it together. But, the moment that accusations start, the chance of peaceful accommodation ends. So, the key in making this work is to eliminate accusations from the discussion.

Without the accusations, it’s much easier to look for a solution. However, when the accusations start flying, then it’s all about “every man for himself.” The instinct for self-preservation takes over, the fangs and claws come out and all out warfare begins.

We have to realize that disagreement is going to happen, but that the it’s much better to forestall that disagreement by dealing with the problem, before anyone gets hurt. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath…” How do we do that? By dealing with the problem while it is still small, before it can get to be a big problem, before open warfare begins.

Besides, its’ much more fun to make up, when there wasn’t a fight to make up for. 

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