Let’s get this started off right: every couple fights. It doesn’t matter if you’re dating or married, or if you’ve been together six months or sixteen years. Arguments happen, and fights ensue. Guaranteed.
If you’re saying to yourself that you don’t fight as a couple, I’ll bet that one of you is suppressing feelings, resenting the other person, or that there’s something else much deeper going on. Or you’re just lying. The truth is it’s normal and healthy for couples to fight.
The problem isn’t with fighting. The issue is how we fight.
Here are three things I remind my wife and myself of all the time, and I’d love to pass these along to you.
1. You’re on the same team.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes getting back to the basics is exactly what’s needed. Like an NBA player practicing free-throws, it’s the simple things that can mean the most.
If you’re honest, there are days when your spouse feels like your greatest enemy. If you want to be mad at them, you can make that happen. It doesn’t matter if their motives are pure and their heart is apologetic. They can be sincerely sweet and clean up the kitchen, but when the battle is raging, there will be blood (hopefully not literally).
The problem lies within your own heart, though. Instead of choosing trust and trying to meet them at least halfway, you decide you’d rather puff up your pride and hold on to the one minuscule detail of the fight that gives you the upper hand.
Remember, the two of you are on the same team! You didn’t sign up to do life with your enemy. You signed up to partner, carry out the Gospel, and build a legacy with the one person you love the most. Don’t forget that!
2. You better check yourself, before you wreck yourself.
Odds are, you have some expectations within your marriage that are unrealistic. If they aren’t held in check, things can get ugly quickly. Sure they’ll change from season to season as life goes on, but unrealistic expectations are inevitable.
For my family and the season we’re in, I constantly have to check my expectations. If not, my wife who stays at home with our two kids – both under two years of age – will never have the chance to truly succeed.
Have you ever interacted with a two-year-old? Have you ever slept for an average of four to five hours a night for six months straight? There’s no way she’ll have our house cleaned spotless with food on the table every day when I get home from work. That’s not realistic! I have to leave my expectations at the door.
What does this look like for you? Where are you expecting unrealistic things from your spouse? It could be the common tasks of keeping the house in order. Maybe it’s about finances or the time spent with your in-laws on the weekends. Or possibly… dare I mention… it could be expectations around your sex life.
Whatever it is for you, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Or your marriage.
3. You’re not a mind reader, and neither is your spouse.
Guess what? If you’re not talking about what’s going in your heart and mind, your spouse will never know. Crazy, right?
Of course not! What’s crazy is that we can sometimes live in this rut without realizing it. If we would simply share what’s going on within us, it would lead to health and connection.
Stop holding on to your feelings. Stop pushing down what needs to come out. The greatest way to build intimacy is by sharing what’s truly on your heart.
And while we’re on the subject, be open to your spouse if they’re the one that comes to you with their thoughts and feelings. Don’t be selfish or short if they’re wanting to let you in on what’s stirring within their soul. You would want to be received in a loving, accepting, and understanding manner, so do the same for your spouse.
Here’s the deal. We have a real enemy. He’s smart and has a game plan. His goal is to destroy individuals and slow down the Church. The best way to do that is through marriages.
Remember: he is your enemy, not your spouse. You’ve heard Ephesians 6 before, but don’t let its truth become numb:
“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:11-12, NLT)
Stay on mission together. Stay united in the Holy Spirit as one. An aligned couple will thrive and live an effective life for the Kingdom of God.