By: Pastor Scott Brodd
Taken from his sermon When Sinners Collide
(This is the second of two articles written on how to fight well with your spouse. If you haven't read the first one, check it out here).
Here are 7 methods, or 7 steps to fighting well; when you find yourself in the ring, follow these methods, all of which are pulled from various passages of scripture and common wisdom.
1) Pray, Confess & Repent
No, this isn't a follow up book to Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love, this is the first step in fighting well with your spouse. When the first punches are thrown in a marital conflict, you’ve broken both horizontal and vertical relationships. Step away and take some time restore the vertical first, and start by praying strategically. Invite God to convict you of your own sin.
Ps. 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me...”
Trust me, He’ll find some and when he does we must confess our sin to God.
1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Not only do we confess, hopefully we will be so grieved by our own sin that we’re led to repent from it.
2 Cor. 7:9-10 – “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief... For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret,”
Ask God to provide you the grace not to transgress Him in that specific way.
Now, once we have the vertical relationship restored, we must then move to the horizontal. However, if the wounds of the fight are still fresh, you ought to keep in mind method two and...
2) Cool Off
One of the worst times to try to resolve a conflict is in the midst of heated rage or raised voices. If you cannot speak to your spouse with your inside voice, then take some time to step away and cool down. The other night, my wife called me out on something I shouldn’t have done, and she was right to do so. I immediately wanted to yell at her and defend myself, but instead I actually remained quiet, left her presence for 10 minutes and thought through things. I then came back and was able to have a normal conversation with her about it, owning up to what I did. If you can’t talk peaceably to your spouse when fighting, call a timeout and take some time to yourself. However, you don’t want to take two long, so...
3) Don’t Let it Fester
Some of the worst smells in the world come from dumpsters in the summer... trash that has been sitting out and baking, festering in the hot sun... no body wants to go near it. If there is conflict festering in your marriage, nobody is going to want to come near you... you’ll both be avoided like a smelly dumpster. A good rule of thumb for this comes from...
Eph. 4:26 – “do not let the sun go down on your anger” – Don’t go to bed angry.
Try to keep a conflict with your spouse within one day. Let’s be sure to understand this principle though: it says don’t let the sun go down on your anger, not your conflict. If you cannot resolve the conflict before going to bed, at least work through your anger, establish a mutually agreed upon truce, and go to bed. Now, when you finally are in a place where you can talk peaceably...
4) Own Up
This is where I, in humility, confess my sin to my spouse. “Baby, I should not have reacted in anger and thrown a chair out of the window.”
Confess your own sin, and don’t call out your spouse’s sin.Remember, we take the log out of our own eye first. Our confessions should end with the words, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” Those words won’t taste sweet coming out of your mouth, but it is totally worth it. Hopefully, as the Holy Spirit works in confession, your spouse will be convicted of their part as well. And when they do begin to confess...
5) Listen Up
Don’t start nagging them, don’t be the Holy Spirit for them, and don’t point out their flaws... just listen.
James 1:19 – “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”
Listen to your spouse, and when you’ve heard them out, no matter how convicted they might seem, if they’ve asked for forgiveness...
Col. 3:13 - “[bear] with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, [forgive] each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
Ask that God would allow you to forgive them, and say the words, “I forgive you.” Now, once things are forgiven, there should be peace in the relationship. However, sometimes we can cut our spouses so deep that they need some time, which is the last method.
7) Give Time
For example, just this past week I made a statement about something that was worrying me and asked Kaitlin her opinion. She began to speak, but for some strange reason, I picked up my phone and started diddly dallying. I didn’t hear a word she said. She saw me and said, “you didn’t hear a word I just said did you.” I looked up like a deer in head lights, threw my phone on the table and tried to make nothing of it. But I had really sinned against my wife; I neglected her, ignored her, devalued her wisdom and input. So I realized that immediately and asked for forgiveness. She said, “I forgive you.” I then asked, “Ok, tell me what you said,” but she couldn’t. I thought she was just being immature, but it was really because the pain from what I had done was still there. She just needed some time to heal. So, even though grace has been shown and forgiveness given, give some time to heal as well.
So, I believe these are 7 biblical & wise methods any of us can use the restore relationships broken by conflict.