How to Fight Fairly
© Oct 1996 Alan S.L. Wong
How to Fight Fairly
CONFLICT in marriage is inevitable. The question is how do we
resolve conflicts. I have learned that we can fight fairly or
unfairly. If we choose to fight fairly, we often gain a better
understanding and appreciation of one another.
When I am emotionally hurt, many things would be going through
my mind ... I am angry; I feel like yelling. The most scary
scenario is when thoughts of giving up on the relationship enter my
mind ... why bother? I am not going to care anymore! Marriage is a
commitment for a lifetime. We cannot give up. We must be willing to
talk things over.
I found that it is helpful to have a predetermined plan of
action because it hard to think logically and biblically when you
- I always try to crystallise my feelings and hurts.
What is really troubling me?
- Decide whether you need to confront. Can I overlook the offence?
If I keep on feeling the hurt, I know I have to confront.
Yes, we should not depend on feelings but we cannot deny our
feelings. God has created us human [with feelings] so we should be
free to be human. However, feelings should not control our
- Then I would mentally rehearse how I would say what I want to
say to my wife. I use this format, "I felt [emotion] when you did
[or did not] ..."
- Don't judge. It is unwise to draw conclusions about your
spouse's motivation and character based on her action.
- I am not God (c.f. Rom. 14:4a). I can never know another
person's internal motivation.
- Moreover, a single incident is not necessarily a reflection of
a person's character.
- Matt. 7:1 also reminds us, "Do not judge lest you be judged.
For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard
of measure, it will be measured to you." Whenever I tend to be
judgmental, I would ask myself, "Am I guilty of the very thing I am
accusing my wife?" What have I done to contribute to the
- Choose a good time when both of you have sufficient time to
talk and a place where you would not be interrupted. For us, it is
usually late at night after the children are asleep and in the
privacy of our bedroom.
- Now I say what I plan to say.
This is not as easy as it sounds. Confrontation is opening up
one's heart, sharing one's deepest thoughts and feelings. What if,
she thinks less of me? In Gen. 2:25, Adam and Eve were both naked
but were not ashamed suggesting that they were not hiding anything
and were at ease with one another.
This task of "opening up" is made easier because my wife would
listen attentively. Feelings are neither right nor wrong.
Acknowledge your spouse's feelings.
- I will give my wife the opportunity to respond to my
Listening helps me to understand her perspective of the problem.
Sometimes it is a misreading of her actions or words and at other
times, it is unspoken expectation.
It is important that the spouse (who is being confronted)
does not bring up past grievances as a defence or
counter-attack. To do so, would complicate the process because
now there are more than one issue in your hands to resolve.
One way to prevent past grievances from surfacing is to keep
short accounts (c.f. Matt. 5:23-24). If both parties are committed
to confronting each other whenever there is an offence then there
would be no past grievances!
- Finally, forgive and forget. Express commitment to and
affection for one another.
Let no unwholesome word|
proceed from your mouth,
but only such a word as is good for edification
according to the need of the moment,
that it may give grace to those who hear.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
by whom you were sealed
for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and wrath
and anger and clamor
and slander be put away from you,
along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, tender-hearted,
forgiving each other,
just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.