By Scott Morefield, Contributing Writer
Show me a married couple who says they *never* argue and I’ll show you a married couple either lying through their teeth or one that’s about a month or two (at most) from a sudden and tragic divorce that one or the other partner ‘never saw coming.’
The fact is, like it or not (and most of us don’t!), arguing is a part of marriage. And when you think about it rationally, it makes perfect sense. Two completely different people, with completely different sets of life experiences, from two completely different planets (Venus and Mars, don’t ya know!?), now living under the same roof, sharing the same bedroom, sleeping in the same bed… now if that doesn’t lead to the occasional heated exchange (of the bad sort!), I don’t know what would!
This might sound a little wacky, but think of life like a giant pressure cooker. The heat source is the stress that comes at us from every direction: our jobs, our kids and the unlimited (but worth it) stressors that come with raising them, our finances, things around the house that need fixing, vehicles in constant need of repair, and a thousand other little things that occupy our minds from day to day. We’re inside, rolling along for the ride, but once that pressure cooker starts really cooking we’re in trouble.
We’re in this pressure cooker, but we don’t want to be cooked.
So we look for ways to let off our steam, to relieve the pressure. Some people turn to destructive sins like pornography, drunkenness, drugs, and the like. Others turn to ‘lesser’ vices like spending too much time at work, on hobbies, or excessive alternate realities (video games, etc.). The reality is, however, that those of us to whom God has bestowed the wonderful honor and privilege of a marriage partner have a special blessing – the same blessing the Bible says Adam received when God made Eve – a helpmeet.
Now of course, spouse or no, God is enough to help anyone overcome any trial and temptation life has to offer. But a true, God-given spouse, friend, confidant, and partner is indeed one of life’s greatest blessings. A helpmeet to help us bear our burdens – to clean the house, to do the dishes, to repair things that break, to mow the yard, to fix the car (or, in my case, to take it to be fixed by someone who knows what they are doing), to provide for the family, to teach the children, to HELP us do the countless things that need to be done. We raise the next generation, we accomplish the un-accomplishable, with our helpmeets by our side.
Yet, once we move from the dating stage to marriage it finally hits us that our similar tastes in restaurants, milkshakes and movies, stuff that seemed so cute and ‘meant to be’ during the ‘infatuation’ stage of the relationship when everything was roses and dancing pink elephants, doesn’t necessarily translate to the weightier issues that have to do with actually running a household. It can be a rude awakening and, when kids arrive, ruder still.
So, although it is certainly necessary for everyone to let off some steam from the pressure cooker of life (to keep it from exploding!), it’s important to do so in a positive, constructive way. I firmly believe that when couples learn not to avoid arguments, but to embrace them and argue in a positive, constructive, non-threatening way, it can be a long-term de-stressor that will not only help deal with life’s hard times, but can help foster healthy marriages as well.
This involves teamwork, communication, commitment, and a spirit of love. It’s true that a couple can argue too much. We shouldn’t walk around with chips on our shoulders, always looking for a fight. We should exercise grace in dealing with our spouses, giving each other the benefit of the doubt. But when genuine concerns arise we should, guided by a spirit of prayerfulness and humility, seek to resolve those concerns with our spouse. Don’t let hurt and resentfulness fester, and don’t ever let the words, “it’s not worth it” enter your thoughts. By taking this attitude, you are saying your marriage isn’t worth it.
My wife and I firmly believe that one of the things that makes our marriage work so well is that, although we certainly engage in our share of arguing, we know, we genuinely KNOW, that when things ‘seem’ good between us, they really are good. Between us, our hearts are always bare. There is no room in our marriage for hidden hurt, for wounds that aren’t allowed to heal. That’s the kind of peace of mind that money can’t buy, the kind that helps you sleep like a baby at night beside someone you trust with something much more precious than your life… your heart.
If you have trouble (we all do from time to time!) with arguing excessively, incorrectly, or not enough, it’s worth the effort to prayerfully study the issue. There are plenty of books out there on how Christian couples can ‘fight’ constructively. But the bottom line is we all need to let off some steam now and then. Let off steam engaging in constructive arguing when necessary, and that’ll help you let off even more steam in other, much more enjoyable ways!
Note from Jason & Jami: One of our all time favorite resources on conflict and conflict resolution is The Peacemaker. We highly recommend this book to every believer but it is a bit thick to get through. A companion book that is a quicker read and deals with managing conflict in the home is Peacemaking for Families. These books are full of practical advice that is firmly rooted in a foundation of Scripture.
“Basic conflict-resolution skills found in Scripture can help you change your home from a battle zone to a love nest. Distinguishing between positive and negative conflict resolution, Peacemaking for Familiesintroduces the reader to valuable principles such as “The Peacemaker’s Pledge,” the “Seven A’s of Forgiveness,” and the “PAUSE Principle of Negotiation.” Real-life stories and case studies help the reader to acquire the skills needed to create a true “peacemaking family.”
We highly recommend you get these books if you struggle with conflict in your family – even if you don’t see it as a major problem, all families and marriages can learn how to work through issues in a more Biblical manner!