It may come as a surprise when readers see the smiling faces on Instagram or Facebook, but our family doesn’t always get along. My wife and I have been known to argue, and there have been those occasional moments when the kids get into a verbal battle. We aren’t perfect.
Fights and arguments are part of life. Even a family that enjoys being together (like ours does) doesn’t always like each other every moment of every day.
What makes it work is when you lay some ground rules for how you fight–or disagree, if the word fight causes you to think of a bout of fisticuffs or a street brawl. When you agree on how to disagree, you’ll help each other and your kids deal with those moments as they come. (Because they will come.)
After a particularly ugly fight early in our marriage, Robyn and I agreed on some rules for how we would fight from then on. Here are a few of them.
+ Don’t Get In the Car. This may not work if your fight starts in the car, but one thing we learned after that really ugly fight was that we should never get in the car and drive away mad. One reason is because you may damage the car (ahem, I don’t know this from personal experience, ahem), and another is because if you drive mad you drive crazy, and you don’t want to get in a car accident while you’re angry at each other. You don’t want your last words to be your angriest words, do you?
+ Learn Each Other’s Styles–and Respect Them. I like to talk through an argument, Robyn likes to process. Because of that, I have often made our fights longer than they needed to be because I wanted her to talk while she wanted to process. This only made things worse, and it wasn’t until recently–nearly 17 years of marriage later–that I think I’ve finally respected that difference. It makes a world of difference, and keeps the fights shorter than they used to be.
+ Don’t Fight to Win. You don’t get a medal for winning a fight with your spouse. What you get is hurt and resentment. Arguments in marriage aren’t about defeating your partner, but finding a suitable compromise that is the wisest choice for you both and for your family. You don’t win when your partner is hurt by your victory–you both win when you find ways to work together toward a good solution.
+ It’s Okay to Fight In Front of the Kids. Some parents never argue in front of their kids. They don’t want to let the kids see the ugly side of marriage. But if you’re fighting with the rules, agreeing to work together, not trying to win, it’s okay if you don’t always agree in front of the kids. They need to see you argue–because they need to see that a healthy response to a disagreement can be found. You model for them how to respond in their own fights, and if they never see you fight ever, they won’t see how you solve it when tensions rise.
There are a few more: don’t throw things, admit you’re wrong if you are, avoid swear words, and if you are both yellers, be careful how much arguing you do with the windows open. Yes, it’s tongue in cheek, but knowing how to fight and still go to bed loving each other and not angry is not only what God wants for your marriage, it helps your kids see how to handle it when their tension moments come along.
What are your rules for those tension moments in your marriage or family? Share them in the comments below!