Fighting Fair in Marriage

by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD

© 2001-2017 by MaryAnn Diorio, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be copied, in whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without the written permission of Dr. Mary Ann Diorio. Copies may, however, be forwarded by email or printed out for personal use. All copies must be forwarded or printed out in their entirety with the copyright notice included. Thank you for your cooperation.

Every relationship has its moments of conflict. This is especially true in marriage. That first argument after the wedding day comes as quite an upsetting surprise to many couples. Often they fear it marks the beginning of the downfall of the marriage. On the contrary, however, that first fight can be a wonderful opportunity for learning to resolve conflict wisely and healthfully.

Here are some proven tips that will help you to handle not only that first disagreement with your spouse but also every disagreement thereafter.

1. Realize that conflict will occur in any relationship. Conflict is simply a poor response to the difference of opinions that inevitably occur between two people. For instance, the husband may insist on a very strict approach in disciplining the children, while the wife may be more lenient. Unless an agreement is reached about the method of discipline, conflict will result.

2. Realize that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. As my wonderful husband of nearly 32 years sometimes says, “If both spouses thought exactly alike, one of them would not be necessary.” While conflict results from poor responses to differing opinions, it can also be a warning signal of a deeper problem that exists in one or both parties in the relationship, such as unresolved anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness. If this is the case, it is important to determine the root cause of these problems and to resolve them.

3. Determine that you will not permit conflict to remain unresolved. The Bible, God’s instruction manual for life, warns us not to let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26). Instead, we are to resolve it before going to sleep. This has been the practice in our home both between my husband and myself and between us and our children. This practice alone has done much to contribute to the success of our family life.

4. Focus only on the issue at hand. All too often, couples allow themselves to get so upset that they forget why they disagreed in the first place. They begin dredging up past offenses and hurling accusations at one another that get them nowhere except into worse conflict. Doing this only compounds the problem and does nothing toward resolving the current conflict. When disagreeing with your spouse, stick to the issue.

5. Don’t insist on being right. Being right is not the important thing. Being loving is. The Bible tells us that love does not insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5). Deferring to another is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. Ask yourself: Would I rather be right, or would I rather be happy?

Relationships, especially the marriage relationship, are too important to allow conflict to destroy them. Studies show that the most successful relationships are those in which both parties put the well-being of the other person above one’s own well-being. Decide today to resolve conflicts with love and a genuine concern for the well-being of your spouse. That’s a small price to pay for a great marriage.

Copyright 2001-2017 by MaryAnn Diorio, Ph.D. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied, printed, or published in any way whatsoever, or by any means, without the written permission of Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. Thank you for your cooperation.


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