Everybody argues. Everybody.
Didn’t close the garage? Made an inappropriate joke? Wasted money? Didn’t show appreciation? Had a bad day and want to take it out on somebody? There are many reasons, but how can you argue rightly with your spouse?
Before we jump into the topic of arguing with your spouse, let me acknowledge that you and I don’t know each other. Maybe we’re similar. Or we might be very different. Honestly, I am a knucklehead, and my wife is a Saint because of all the grace she shows me.
So how should I argue with my spouse? It all starts with grace. And grace in the middle. With grace at the end. As a Christian, I have been redeemed by grace.
Jesus told me to show grace to those who curse me and take my stuff (Luke 6:29- 30). I am called to serve them and put their needs and wants before my own. Academically, that’s a difficult idea to grasp when thinking about people who hate me. To act on Jesus’ command is even more difficult.
But how difficult is it to grasp with someone I love? That woman who made me mad and is now grating my nerves by slurping coffee and noisily munching toast–if Christ called me to serve those who persecute me, I should also serve those who love me.
That’s all helicopter-high, top-down strategy though, isn’t it? Of course I know that I’m supposed to show grace, but how? It takes intentional decisions to show grace.
Pray. Seek guidance for the correct words, and ask for a right heart. After teaching everyone how to pray, Jesus says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14, NIV)
Breathe. Take a minute to take a deep breath. I tried yoga for fitness for about 15 minutes one time. It wasn’t for me, but the focused breathing was the best part and really helped me to relax. In any potentially stressful situation, I breathe deeply—in through my nose and out through my mouth.
Acknowledge the relationship. My marriage is the most important earthly relationship I have. She is the person I chose, for better or worse, till death do us part. Our relationship is greater than the current drama over which we are arguing. It’s important I remind her of that in bad times, not just good times.
Remove the plank. What gigantic issues of mine are causing problems? I should address those before nitpicking her. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42, NIV)
Don’t sleep on it. In our marriage, we try to resolve issues before bed. (Full disclosure: Sometimes we don’t because I’m stubborn.) It’s the healthy choice. It’s a principle we find in the Bible; “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26, NASB). Additionally, it’s difficult sharing covers when I’m angry.
Listen. I’m bad about this. I’ll be preparing my next angry diatribe instead of hearing the words she’s trying to communicate. Or I’ll cut her off mid-sentence. Or worst, I’ll just shut down and stop listening. None of that is healthy and none of that helps me show grace in an argument. Remember the old expression, “You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.”
Forgive. I shouldn’t use this incident as ammo for a fight in the future. I shouldn’t talk to my friends about it. I shouldn’t relive the hurt by dwelling on it, long after the argument has ended. Come up with a game plan. How can we prevent this from happening in the future? Grace and forgiveness are vital in any dispute with my wife, but we need a solution to prevent the same problem from happening again.
Disagreements aren’t fun. But anger is a real, God-given emotion, and there are times when issues need to be addressed. And it’s important to address them correctly—immediately and with grace.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23- 24, NIV)
Any other tips for handling arguments in a marriage? Start a conversation with your friends by sharing one of these photos:
Disclaimer: This post is intended to address run-of-the-mill arguments that occur in a marriage. If your relationship with your spouse is more difficult, or if your spouse is verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive toward you, we’d urge you to seek outside counsel from your pastor or a Christian counselor.