I don't know one single couple that's never had a fight. If you are that couple...if you really exist, I would love to meet you, shake your hand, and ask, "What is your secret?!? Do tell!" When you're with someone in a marriage relationship where you live together, raise children together, take care of your home together, etc. confrontation will come up.
Not being surprised that you and your spouse may disagree on something is the first step in fighting fair. If you get offended every time you don't agree on something, you'll start off on the wrong foot. I know in my marriage there have been many times when an argument got out of hand...yelling, huffing and puffing, storming off, personal attacks, etc. Many of those childish reactions stemmed from an expectation that it was wrong to disagree to begin with. That's just not realistic, and it's a standard that will put pressure on a marriage causing even more disagreements.
My parents set an awesome example for my sisters and I in fighting fair. I'm so thankful! Here are some of the things they've taught me:
1. When you're fighting with your spouse don't attack them personally or who they are, attack the issue.
Here's an example: If Jeremiah kept leaving the toilet seat up (which he doesn't, I'm one blessed woman!), instead of me saying, "Jeremiah, you're so lazy! Why can't you put the toilet seat down?!?" I should say, "Jeremiah, I know it's probably not intentional, but it bothers me and sometimes causes an issue when you don't put the toilet seat back down. Would you mind working on that?"
The way you approach your spouse in a disagreement can be the deciding factor in how your argument will turn out.
2. Don't fight in public.
Recently I was in the Wal-mart parking lot and witnessed a married couple having a very heated argument while standing at their trunk, parked right by the front door. What a sight to behold. It was so awkward and embarrassing for me. I can't imagine how they felt when they realized what happened. When you feel an argument coming on, have enough respect for your spouse (and yourself) to wait until you can discuss it privately. Also, be careful not to argue in front of your children. I know my parents were awesome about this. I can only remember a couple of times when I saw them disagree in front of me, and even then they were respectful of each other. It was just enough to set an example of what respectful disagreements look like. Always keep a united front in front of your children, otherwise they will take complete advantage of you!
3. Know when to stop.
If it's 2 in the morning and you're still arguing about something, STOP. Go to sleep. Finish it later. Arguing while you're exhausted will never solve anything. There have been times when Jeremiah and I have fought until we have fallen asleep. That was ridiculous! Ha! There have been other times when we've fought before bed, decided to stop, hugged, kissed, went to sleep, and then discussed it the next day after we were well rested and thinking straight. I much rather experience the later.
Proverbs 12:18 tells us, "Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise."
It's so important to have enough self-control (it's a fruit of the Spirit that God has already deposited inside of you!) while arguing that you maintain respect, boundaries, and love for your spouse. Disagreements will happen, but they don't have to control your emotions and reactions. You can disagree without being disagreeable. Ask God for wisdom in how to handle confrontations; He'll happily give it to you!
*Find a list with links to the other posts in this series here.*