May 172016 3 Responses

How to Keep a Small Fight Small

The difference between healthy marriages and unhealthy marriages is not the volume of conflict, but the intensity of each encounter. Two couples can squabble over the same issue. The first couple experiences the disagreement, confronts the issue, and within a short period of time it is as though the conflict never occurred. The second couple can face the same tension, but that frustration explodes in intensity, and years later one spouse can still remember the painful fight.

Why can the same issue be a minor blip on the radar of one couple and be a major explosion within the relationship for another couple?

The difference is meekness. (See: The First Step to Solving a Marital Problem)

Healthy couples operate with meekness which cushions the relationship in the midst of tense moments.

Meekness is a word which was used with great regularity until the last century. As the divorce rate has exploded, the use of the word “meek” has greatly declined. It’s a symbolic illustration of what is wrong with marriage. As meekness becomes foreign to us, conflict becomes common.

Tension is certain to arise within a relationship. Disagreements are had. Conflicting opinions are held. Wrongs are done. Conflict within a relationship cannot (and should not) be avoided.

Yet it must be handled properly. While no one fights perfectly, healthy couples handle conflict in a restrained way. They fight within boundaries. They communicate with guardrails. They become more thoughtful when the tensions rise.

Restraint causes a couple to:

  • Stay on topic
  • Refuse to make the issue personal
  • Choose words wisely
  • Seek to solve the issue rather than win the argument
  • Work to understand as much as to be understood
  • Admit mistakes
  • Apologize
  • Overly communicate love and affection

Restraint is an example of meekness.

Meekness is not weakness. Pride has such an elevated standing in our culture that we often assume meekness is a negative quality. We confuse it with being weak, but meekness implies strength. Restraint assumes strength. It is power under control. It is strength which humbly submits itself.

Whenever a healthy couple experiences conflict, their frustration doesn’t trump their wedding vows. They promised to love one another and even in the midst of disagreement, they continue to love. They submit their desire to be right on an issue to the greater purpose of being in the right with one another.

This doesn’t mean they avoid a topic. If anything, meekness actually causes a couple to have more tension because meekness cannot remain quiet when a problem arises. It doesn’t allow someone to be passive aggressive or manipulative. Meekness causes a spouse to speak, but it greatly influences how they speak. (See: 6 Comments Mistakes When Fighting)

They may have the ability to have a sharp tongue, but in the moment their tongue is restrained.

They may have the wit to win any argument, but they restrict their minds from being used improperly.

They may have information which could hurt the other, but they view that information as off limits.

Love restrains us. It keeps us from using our strength for the disservice of our spouses. My strength should forever be used for the benefit of my spouse, never for her detriment. Meekness keeps my strength under control.

Unhealthy couples aren’t meek. Whenever an argument appears, they do whatever it takes to win. A continual game of one ups-manship is played as each spouse tries to injure the other even more. A wife’s tone is improper so the husband speaks louder. As he begins to yell, his wife’s words become more personal. As she attacks him, he becomes angrier. His anger enrages her. Both partners negatively feed off of one another as the tension rises.

What begins as a tension about a specific issue, quickly grows into a fight over a variety of topics. Multiple issues are brought up as every past hurt or mistake is used as a weapon to injure the other. It’s not unusual for a fight to grow to such an extent that the couple forgets what caused the original disagreement. All they know is how bad they hurt and how much they desire for the other to feel the same pain.

In unhealthy couples, neither spouse ever lessens the tension. Every action escalates the emotions. Because of this, little fights become major. Small disagreements threaten the relationship. And fighting becomes unbearable.

For this reason, some couples stop fighting. They can’t take it. Issues are ignored. Words go unspoken. Hearts are hidden. It’s understandable, but unfortunate. (See: The Warning Sign of a Bad Marriage You Might Miss)

Other couples continue to fight. Each disagreement runs the risk of being the last, but they don’t know how to stop. Every scenario has the potential to cause a major explosion.

Meanwhile, healthy couples experience the same conflict about similar issues, but they gently navigate them without any lasting negative impact on their relationship.

The primary difference is the presence of meekness. They learn the skills necessary to stay under control, to fight wisely, and to love even when they disagree.

If the tension rises, they step out of the specific issue and reiterate the big picture–how much they love one another.

If someone’s tone is wrong, they recognize the danger and soften their words.

If another issue is brought up, they acknowledge that is another discussion for another time, but they come back to the original topic which began the conflict.

If a personal attack is made, they call the attack “out of bounds” and remind one another what is acceptable and unacceptable in the midst of disagreement.

If they are unable to fight as they should, they take a timeout, but always come back and finish the conversation.

Because they fight in a restrained way, the argument always stays within its proper context. A small fight stays small. A little disagreement doesn’t hurt the relationship.

10 Reasons Small Fights Become Big

If small fights often become big fights in your relationship, consider:

1. Do you move from the topic at hand to some other issue–often a past conflict?

2. Do you attack one another rather than the issue?

3. Do you try to win the argument at all costs?

4. Do you say whatever comes to mind rather than restraining your words?

5. Do you retaliate when you feel your spouse has hurt you?

6. Do you threaten actions like divorce or violence?

7. Do you belittle your partner and disrespect them?

8. Do you talk at your spouse more than you listen to them?

9. Do you blame your spouse and refuse to take any personal responsibility for the situation?

10. Do you storm in and out of conversations without explanation?

If you answered yes to any of these, it shows an absence of meekness.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

 

3 Responses to How to Keep a Small Fight Small
  1. Katherine Reply

    Very well said, Pastor. If we can operate with meekness in any tense situation, the glory goes to God!

  2. […] 1. Everything is personal. Pride is an elevated view of self. When pride enters an individual, every... kevinathompson.com/10-warning-signs-pride-marriage
  3. […] Stay on topic. Many times pressure builds as we move away from the issue at hand and bring up old ar... kevinathompson.com/in-marriage-beware-of-the-jiggler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.