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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 are upset.

  1. I always try to crystallise my feelings and hurts. What is really troubling me?

  2. 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 lives.

  3. 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] ..."

  4. Don't judge. It is unwise to draw conclusions about your spouse's motivation and character based on her action.

    1. I am not God (c.f. Rom. 14:4a). I can never know another person's internal motivation.

    2. Moreover, a single incident is not necessarily a reflection of a person's character.

    3. 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 problem?

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. I will give my wife the opportunity to respond to my grievance.

      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!

    3. Finally, forgive and forget. Express commitment to and affection for one another.