How to Fight the Good Fight

Some of my favorite movies (much to my wife’s dismay) are “The Matrix” trilogy of movies. They never get old to me. I can watch them over and over and still find new thing in them that I didn’t see before.

This happened a while back when I was watching “The Matrix Reloaded (2003). In this movie, the hero (Neo) has been summoned by someone who is supposedly on Neo’s side…Seraph. But when Neo gets there, Seraph begins to fight with him. When the fight is over, Neo asks Seraph why, and Seraph replies, “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”

That is a great line, and so true. You find out a lot about someone when you fight with them. You find out there perspective and what’s important to them. You find out out their level of self-esteem and security. You find out whether they handle difficulties by avoiding, attacking, or adjusting.

In marriage, fighting is never fun. So most of us try to either avoid a fight or overpower it so as to end the fight as quickly as possible. But, believe it or not, fighting can be productive rather than destructive. It can be a means of building you up, rather than tearing you down.

Just so we’re clear here…we’re not talking about fighting that is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive. We’re talking about typical fighting that revolves around a difference of opinion, wants, or needs.

Here are a few things you can do that will help make fighting work for the two of you, without feeling like one of you needs to sleep on the couch:

  • Attack the problem, not the people. Fighting goes south, because we make it about the person were fighting with more than the problem we’re fighting over. When the two of you attack the problem, rather than one another, you get further. With the exceptions of abusiveness, addictions and abandonment, focus on fixing problems, not people.
  • Understand your spouse before trying to get them to understand you. In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey puts it this way…”Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The Bible says, “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13 NIV). And my parents use to tell me, “You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.”
  • Celebrate differences, rather than criticize them. How quickly we forget that the differences that frustrate us and drive us crazy are the very differences that attracted us in the beginning. Those differences attracted us, because we lack those things, so the more you combine and accommodate each other’s differences, the better solutions you will find to address your fight.
  • Curb your speech more than your spouse. Think before you speak. Count to ten (or fifty) before you respond. Ask yourself, “If my child were married, would I want their spouse to say to them what I’m getting ready to say to my spouse?” The Bible talks tells us our tongue can do great damage, and warns us…“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.” (1 Peter 3:10 NIV) Sticks and stones can break our bones, but words can also hurt us.
  • Collaborate, rather than compete. Marital fights are often about two people who are competing to get their way. All they have are a “his solution” and a “her solution;” meaning one spouse will win and the other will lose. Throw out the “his” and “her” solution” and work on other solutions that will help you both get more of what you want.

As I said, no one likes to fight with their spouse. But if it’s going to happen (and it will), then following the suggestions above will help your fights work for you, rather than against you.

Which of the above suggestions do you most need to work on? Make it your goal to work on this in the coming weeks. And if you’re really brave, show this post to your spouse and ask them which one they think you need to work on. This may start another fight, but it will give you the chance to practice what you’ve learned!

Copyright ©2017 Bret Legg

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