When the relationship is at peace, it can be heaven on earth; when it’s not, it can be a living hell. Here are 10 ways to minimize fights in marriage and love.
It seems all of us know the couple who is always fighting. Or maybe even a few of them. I went on a bit of a movie kick again recently, rewatching some oldies but goodies, and pretty much every movie or TV show with a relationship between a man and a woman in it, you’re guaranteed to see them not getting along. It’s often used to comedic effect and often very successfully. “What’s with men and the Godfather?” – good ol classic from You’ve Got Mail comes to mind.
But if relational strain and marital fights are constant and sustained in your life, it’s not all that funny at all.
John Burns rightly says that relationships will either be the greatest source of joy in your life, or the greatest source of pain.
My wife and I recently went away for a weekend and we had a really, really good time. It reminded me of the blessing that a peaceful relationship really is. We’ve definitely had to work for it (and will continue to need to do so), but we definitely enjoy the reward of a stable and strong relationship.
But it’s not that way for everyone, and in truth, all of us can have points in our relationships where we’re ready to throw in the towel, or something very very sharp at the perceived source of our frustrations. I know we’ve had our share of frustrations over the years for sure.
So I had a think about how we’ve been able to minimize fights in marriage and love, and much of the advice that’s helped us has come from proven sources that have in turn helped many others. I thought that might be worth sharing for those who want to strengthen their marriage, or are really hitting the wall and feeling like they’re not getting anywhere with the one they love.
Here are 10 ways to minimize fights in marriage and love.
#1: Ignore everything (bad idea)
Okay, this should go without saying that if you’re never ever disagreeing on anything, you’re probably in as much trouble as the people who disagree on everything.
If you don’t ever discuss important issues, if you don’t mention it when you get your feelings hurt, if you dance around the way you really feel for your whole relationship, of course you’re never going to fight about anything.
Marriage is about two becoming one. Sometimes it’s like a dance, sometimes it’s more like a car crash. One Hebrew proverb says that as iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another. Have you ever seen ironing sharpening iron? It’s messy, it’s very hot (temperature wise), and there’s shards of each piece constantly flying off.
That’s what marriage and unity is actually like. So of course there’s got to be an element of healthy discussion in order to be strong together.
This one is of course, not recommended, but worth calling out as sometimes people fall into this one as a coping mechanism for how they’re feeling.
#2: Dual temperature aircon in the car
I own a Toyota Aurion which I purchased well before I got married. It has dual temperature control, and at the time, I never thought much of it. I thought oh cool that’s a nice little novelty that one side of the car can be a completely different temperature to the other.
Little did I know that this single thing has been an absolute lifesaver in our relationship. Like most men and women, we are rarely the same temperature for long. This feature was obviously invented by a married person who needs one side to be 20 degrees and the other to be 28 (we won’t say which side).
I wonder what other ways that we can instill the principle of this dual temperature control in our relationships. Maybe it’s literally yes think about getting a car with it so you don’t fight about your body temperature all the time. Or maybe it’s thinking about how can you make allowances for both of your preferences and needs in your relationship. Sometimes it doesn’t take all that much to ensure that you’ve set up an environment for both of you to be happy and comfortable.
Get practical! If it’s always an issue, what can you do so it stops being one?
#3: Keeping the love tanks full
I know that I’ve been short and cranky when I’ve felt like my love tank has been empty. That’s true in any relationship or situation in my life really. I can remember one time in particular last year when my Unnecessary Sarcasm dial was turned up to 13 out of 10, and it was because I was feeling strained in a few different areas.
Dr Gary Chapman in the Five Love Languages series of books talks about the importance of keeping each other’s love tank full. When our tanks are depleted, that’s when the sharp, biting, angry and constantly hostile attitudes and comments come flying out. He talks about this quite a bit in the book Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Got Married.
If you or your partner are constantly at each other’s throats, think about what you or they aren’t getting. Keeping each of you topped up full of love, affection and appreciation is a great way to stave off and minimize fights in marriage.
#4: Fighting fair
This is a simple one, but we all need Rules of Engagement when it comes to conflict. Like the real world established the Geneva Convention, so too we must define what is acceptable and unacceptable in times of conflict…
…and we need to establish it well before the fight. Certain topics, certain insults, certain triggers are going to cause way more trouble than they’re worth. Plus they’re almost always unnecessary and almost always used to trigger additional anger for no real benefit. Have you set up the ground rules for how you and your spouse are allowed to fight?
#5: Ensuring your foundation is the same
Scripture talks about an often uncomfortable topic about being “unequally yolked”. In essence, the New Testament teaches that we shouldn’t be actively seeking out relationships where the core of our entire life is different. Obviously if it is, you’ll see all sorts of drama and frustration, because the centre of how you make all your decisions isn’t aligned.
Fortunately we share a common faith, but even that doesn’t necessarily mean our foundation has been the same on everything. Through regularly talking about topics we realise we haven’t talked about before, we have been able to keep our foundation the same, or at least find out where the boundaries are.
It’s really hard to build a house when you have shifting or differing foundations. In fact Scripture also tells us that a house divided can’t stand. You don’t need to look too much further than the people in your own life to realise how accurate that statement is.
#6: Accepting you’re not going to resolve some things… maybe ever
The couple who took us through our pre-marriage counselling (what a beautiful couple they are indeed, truly two of the best people I’ve ever known) introduced us to The Gottman Institute. I’m a big fan of stats and research when it comes to living well and finding truth, and fortunately John and Julie Gottman have their fingers on the pulse of what’s really happening out there.
Something they have discovered in their research is that 69% of issues in a relationship either never get resolved, or remain perpetual. While we definitely don’t differ on that high a percentage (or maybe we do?), it is certainly true that in our marriage and in the marriages around us that there are just some things you’ll never agree on.
I was amazed when I heard this. How can people actually enjoy married life if there’s so much that will just never go away?
Easily – accept it. Accept how much we are united, and also accept and celebrate where we are different.
No wonder couples yell and scream when they have the expectation that they have to agree on everything. That their wife has to be on the same page every single time as them. When their husband absolutely has to see this the same way so they can feel validated.
You have to work out if what you’re fighting about is a deal breaker, or one you can both agree that you’ve spoken your piece on, and move on.
#7: Remembering you’re on the same team
Regarding the United States election a few years ago, celebrity Tom Hanks said that the left wing and the right wing need to realise they’re both part of the same plane. In a similar vein, the late great Zig Ziglar (yes I’m a huge Ziglar fan) brilliantly said that “Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side”.
I absolutely love that thought. We’re a team. Look at any team – sporting, business, financial, organisational, volunteering, whatever. We have to work together to build, we can’t be poised to tear each other down.
If I don’t believe you’re on my team and you don’t believe I’m on yours, we could never, ever build anything worthwhile.
Have you given up on the team that is your relationship? Fight for her, not against her.
#8: Outsource certain decisions
I have been seeing a really solid financial planner for a number of years, and fortunately we’ve continued seeing them into our married years as well. One thing that’s been really great about this is that when it comes to a number of topics around our money, the “right” decision has been made outside of our relationship, and as such, there is much less to debate or fight about when it comes to our decisions around money.
Are there any decisions that you and your spouse can outsource? Agreeing to commit to the decisions and advice set out by a trusted source can mean that we don’t have to blame the other person for what’s been decided.
#9: Have a strong support network as a couple and as individuals
This is one of the greatest tools I’ve seen help anyone and everyone with almost anything in their life. The right support makes all the difference.
Many of us entertain too many Timon and Pumbaa friendships. That is, people who never challenge us, never question us, never spur us on to do better, and never ensure safety or wisdom in our relationships. It’s also true that many of us expect too much from our spouse or only a few friends. This is dangerous and setting our relationships up for great failure when inevitably the person you love can’t meet every need in your life.
Strong support is found in great numbers. A building that is held up on sticks will never endure as well as one with multiple solid brick or concrete supports. Plan fail for a lack of counsel, but with a multitude of counsellors they succeed.
#10: Choose to stay amazed
Pastor John Burns says this in every single relationship talk he has ever given, and it’s been the source of so much joy in my own marriage and in the marriages of others. We can choose to stay bitter, we can choose to Tall Poppy and get intimidated, we can choose to get upset about every minor thing and to take each other for granted, to maximize rather than minimize fights in marriage and love.
Instead, love, real love, not just from a spark, is a choice, and a continued choice. Not just to love you, but to continue to be inspired and amazed by you.
To stay amazed.
It’s amazing how beautiful your wife is and how much more beautiful she becomes when you continue to choose to see it. When you love her like Ephesians challenges us to.
The Song of Songs paints a beautiful picture of two people enamored with each other, and who choose to continue to be enamored. Their words are generous, they are open with their hearts and their bodies, they are committed and consistent and continually uplifting. That’s how love grows. By continually feeding it.
What are you feeding your relationship? What voices are you allowing into your marriage? Whose opinion is dictating your view of your husband or wife? What issues are you choosing to hold on to and refusing to forgive?
The world of the generous gets larger and larger.
There are many other ways to minimize fights in marriage and love – giving each other the right amount of space, understanding personalities and preferences, all sorts of stuff. But I’ve found these ones to be particularly helpful.
How about you? What are ways you’ve found helpful to minimize fights in marriage and relationships?