Nothing kills your sex life and hurts your relationship like fighting. It is imperative for the health and continuation of your relationship to learn to resolve conflict peacefully. I always tell my relationship and sexual coaching clients to go home and rent two movies and study them: THE BREAKUP and WAR OF THE ROSES. It is another example of art illustrating and imitating life. Now there is no such thing as a couple who are going to agree on everything. The key to a good relationship is being able to resolve those differences without hurting each other and inflicting damage on the relationship. Learning to resolve differences peacefully is one of the keys to having a good relationship and great sex life.
QUESTION: Are you combative or collaborative?
Do you want to win the fight or resolve the problem?
ATTACK THE PROBLEM, NOT YOUR PARTNER! Ask, “In what way can we solve this problem?”
When you attack your spouse, they tend to want to counter attack which only escalates the problem. Instead of accusing your partner, Make the problem and its solution mutual rather than a contest and argument.
Resolve Differences Quickly
Let not the sun go down on your wrath. Ephesians 4:26 This passage from the Bible is obvious and requires no interpretation. It is a simple command to resolve differences quickly. The reason for this should be obvious. You know when you and your spouse are fighting, the mood is toxic. It stresses and damages the relationship. There is another reason: your children sense the tenseness or worse yet see you fighting. It scares them and they have no way to resolve it, make it better or the ability to get away from it. This is literally torture for your children. It upsets their digestion, their sleep, and their emotional well being. Fighting in front of children is never okay. If you really need to have a fight, find a way to get the children somewhere else where they don’t witness it.
There is a syndrome called Fight or Flight Syndrome. This is a coping system in people and animals. Men tend to feel it more profoundly because of the testosterone in their systems and because nature gives them a strong “protector instinct”. What happens when you feel stressed and threatened, the body releases massive amounts of adrenaline in your body. The purpose of this adrenaline is a simple survival mechanism. The idea is that you can use the adrenaline to run away from your opponent or predator faster than they can chase you and catch you. The other option is that you have so much adrenaline in you that you are able to successfully fight off an enemy or predator. The body is designed to be releasing and dissipating this adrenaline by either fighting or fleeing in a very short period of time. When you do neither, it creates a tremendous amount of stress in you that is not good for the body. It is internalized. Imagine having the need to urinate or sneeze and you can’t do it and you are stuck. It is a miserable feeling. In fact this kind of unrelieved stress is one of the main causes of heart disease and heart attack. When you internalize this stress rather than venting it through fighting or fleeing, you do a lot damage to the body and the relationship. Many times violence can ensue especially with men. This is why the Bible is so clear and unequivocal about resolving conflict and resolving it quickly. Here is another scripture verse to back that notion up:
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother (friend, wife, husband, other relative) has anything against you; Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Mathew 5:23-24
In other words it is so important to resolve the problem immediately because of how an argument can fester and get out of hand that Christ commands that you leave church in the middle of the service to go and reconcile the problem.
LOSE YOUR TEMPER
People will often say that they lost their temper. In fact, they used their temper. Couples often use anger to control and manipulate each other, usually one is stronger than the other and bullies their partner with their anger. Men because of their superior strength tend to use that strength to bully the wife and sometimes hit the wife. This is unhealthy for the relationship and is inexcusable according to the following biblical passages:
Likewise you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. I Peter 3:7
God gave us men superior strength so as to use it to protect our wives and family, not use it against her. Men note the message at the end of the verse; if you misuse your strength against your wife, God will not answer or heed your prayers. That is a powerful warning that is not nearly emphasized enough in churches or Sunday schools today. There is far too much violence against women. I believe that the disrespect and violence against women by men is in large part responsible for the rise of feminism in this country. While feminism has in this writer’s opinion swung entirely too far the other way, one should not dismiss the feminist notions as completely without merit. There were and are legitimate causes for anger on the part of women. The Christian response to some of these concerns was another movement called: Promise Keepers. It is a Christian men’s organization whose principle tenants are that we as men need to be better husbands, fathers and Christian leaders.
Here are scriptures relating to anger especially notable to men.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath. Psalm 37:8
A wrathful man stirs up strife; but he that is slow to anger appeases strife. Proverbs 15:18
Women you also have a responsibility to keep a happy and peaceful home. There are numerous commands in the Bible regulating your conduct with your spouse as well. The following verse is representative of those commands.
The contentions of a wife are like a continual dripping. Proverbs 19:13 In other words like a continual dripping faucet.
We can all agree that men should not physically beat on women. Many times as indicated in the above biblical passages, women don’t have a problem beating verbally on men. The problem is, not only does it hurt your relationship but is very problematic for the husband for a number of reasons. By verbally beating on the husband, you cause the fight or flight syndrome to turn on and gives him tremendous unresolved stress. When the argument goes on, it makes it worse for the man and he gets more and more stressed to where he can explode and hit the wife. Your children are also stressed in this way. They feel the stress of that same Fight or Flight Syndrome and they are powerless to do anything about it. Continued stress of this type can cause heart disease and heart attack.
So the Bible is pretty explicit that hasty anger is not good for relationships and that anger needs to be controlled. Anger is not to be used to beat someone with or to get our own way by manipulating and intimidating them. However the Bible does not say that you can’t get angry. You can get angry, but you have to control the anger:
Be angry and sin not. Ephesians 4:26
So you see that anger is a human emotion, but you must control it, not use it as a weapon but express it so as to resolve the problem. Often when a person gets angry, they start yelling and raising their voice. This is simply a ploy to try and scare someone or attempt to manipulate someone. This is not an appropriate use or expression of anger. Screaming is an equal opportunity sin by both men and women. It also causes the Fight or Flight Syndrome that was previously spoken about. Invariably when one person yells, then the other person responds in kind which simply escalates the argument and gets it to the point where people are out of control. Here is what the Bible says about that:
A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
So how do you keep peace with your spouse when there is anger over an issue. The key is to keep emotion out of it. The first rule when your partner is angry about something is to SHUT-UP AND LISTEN. You let them get everything out that is bothering them. Now the temptation here is to interrupt them and correct them over an issue that you feel like they are unjustly accusing you of. False accusations are not that abnormal as people tend to over-reach when they are angry. You wait until they are completely done before you try and correct them. The key is that you want the spouse to get out all of their frustrations. If you interrupt them, it just makes them madder. You keep quiet until they are done. Once you feel like they are done, you ask them if they are done. Sometimes, they are just taking a breath and re-grouping their thoughts. If they have more to say, listen. If it is a lot, take notes on what they are complaining about so you don’t forget or try to interrupt them to tell them you can’t remember everything that they said. Once they assure you that they are done, then you ask them if it would be okay for you to repeat back the main points of their argument so that you are sure that you understand and don’t want to forget anything. Usually they will be tickled to do that. Once you have re-stated the case, ask them if this is everything that they talked about. Once they have agreed that you have all of their points. You then go to the next step. The next step is to ask them: “in what way can I fix this and make it right? There is nothing to argue about with this point. They will usually have an idea on what you can do to make it right and they will tell you. You can then go back and correct what you feel like they unfairly accused you of. You avoid sarcasm and raising your voice, you simply quietly state that you disagree with the point that you feel like they unjustly accused you of. Now if what they are asking for is unreasonable, you counter offer and suggest that you feel like that what they are asking for is too much but you are willing to counter offer a solution. You then can begin negotiating the solution to the problem. If you can take the anger and attacks out of the argument and make it about problem solving, it is much easier to resolve.
AVOID THE “YOU DO IT TOO” RESPONSE
You need to address the complaint of your spouse and deal with it responsibly instead of trying to say they do the same thing or something else similar. Once that the conflict is resolved to your mate’s satisfaction, then if you have complaints ask to take your turn at voicing your complaints.
There is a good way to negotiate. You can say: “alright on a scale of 1-10 how do you rate this?” If your partner says for them it is an 8 and for you it is only a 4, you agree to give them their way. Again this is just about problem solving rather than attacking each other. You can always propose an alternative solution. In assessing the degree of the problem, you have to be honest. You can’t just claim it is a 10 all of the time. You have to honestly rate the severity of the problem as well as the spouse has to rate it honestly. Make allowances for whoever has the bigger problem. This is peaceful productive problem solving.
AGREE TO DISAGREE
There are times that you are just diametrically opposed to their proposed solution and the two of you can’t reach an agreement. You could start beating on each other emotionally or you could “agree to disagree”. There is nothing wrong with that. In this way, no one is wrong, you are both convinced that you are both right but neither party will concede. Just agree to disagree.
FLIPPING A COIN TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM
If negotiating has not worked and the person is still adamant that they want a solution the Bible has a solution: “The lot causes contentions to cease and parts the mighty.” Proverbs 18:18.
When getting to a solution is imperative and neither side will budge then the only peaceful solution is to settle it by a flip of the coin. Casting lots was a dice game, but a modern day corollary would be a flip of the coin to settle the issue. You both have to agree and stick by it.
And Jesus said: Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. Mathew 5:9 Due to the sinful nature of man, we have a natural predilection to fight among ourselves. Being a peacemaker contributes positively to society at large and families in particular. Will you endeavor to be a peacemaker in your own home? And a further biblical note:
If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18 You can’t make anyone do right, but you can control how you react and what you put into the relationship. Are you doing everything that you can in your relationship to live peaceably with your spouse?
DEALING WITH A SPOUSE WHO WON’T STOP YELLING
If you are faced with a partner that yells and gets verbally abusive and won’t be calmed down and this is habitual, you have to make a change. You can’t force the person to behave appropriately. What you can do is to remove yourself form the situation. You simply go get your keys and get in the car and leave for several hours. Don’t answer your cell phone or texts from the person demanding that you come back. After several hours, you come back home and tell the person that you will talk if they are willing to talk to you without verbally abusing you and yelling at you. If they start in again, you simply leave again and stay overnight somewhere if necessary. It is not likely that you will have to do this more than 3 times and the person will realize that you are no longer going to put up with the abuse. If you don’t take a stand and make it stick, the abusive person will continue the abuse.
The Ten Commandments for Fair Fighting
1. Never argue in front of the children, it harms and scares them.
2. Don’t ever hit your spouse.
3. Don’t call your spouse names or use insulting or demeaning language to them, it is abusive.
4. Don’t attempt to get your way by bullying your spouse.
5. Don’t withhold sex to get your way.
6. Do not scream at your spouse.
7. Do not interrupt, it is disrespectful, listen until they are done.
8. Do not take revenge for perceived hurts.
9. Develop a peacemaking attitude with questions like: How can we resolve this?
10. Don’t give people the “silent treatment”. It is revenge and it is emotionally abusive.
I have re-written an old nursery rhyme to a more appropriate meaning:
Sticks and stones can only break your bones, but words can wound a spirit, break a heart or kill a relationship.
When you can’t resolve the problems between the two of you then seek out the services of a mediator, or a relationship coach.
Or just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org