Honestly, conflict is an inevitable part of life. Because we are imperfect people trying to do life together in relationships, we aren't always going to see things eye-to-eye. Offenses WILL happen. Misunderstandings WILL occur and sometimes, arguments WILL erupt. It's just a fact of living in a fallen world order. Ignoring this truth will only allow things to fester until greater damage is done. So, what should we be doing?
A good marriage (or any type of relationship) is about being committed to resolving conflict. It's about reconciliation and rebuilding. Every home renovation requires both deconstruction -- tearing things out -- and reconstruction -- putting new things in. The same holds true for healthy relationships.
Most fights in any intimate relationship are unfair and can cause irreparable damage. When we resort to using worldly tactics, whether physical or verbal, the intent is to win at all cost. The damage, both direct and collateral, can be costly. Relationships end, children are traumatized, extended families are broken, and it can even indirectly affect our jobs, churches, and friendships.
So, let's get into these keys to a fair fight. I am indebted to Chuck Swindoll for this list. It is from his book, Strike the Original Match. The intent is to show how to fight fairly according to the scriptures so that you can come through those battles stronger and more committed in your relationship. The biblical passage for this list is found in Ephesians 4:25-32.
1) KEEP IT HONEST. v. 25 This has to be the most basic rule for disagreements with people that we love. In the Greek, there are two verb tenses. One is used to describe a punctiliar event -- something done once at a particular point in time. The other is used continuing action, literally day after day. The first is used in this verse. Putting away lying is something that should be done once and for all time. When we do that, we will speak honestly, respectfully and truthfully even in the tough times.
2) KEEP IT CONTROLLED. v. 26 Anger is not forbidden in the scriptures. Instead, we're told to be angry and not sin. What worldly things cause us to sin when we're angry? Pride, revenge, self-pity, and lying are just a few. When we yield to those things, we can crush a loved one and do great harm to the relationship. See also Proverbs 16:31 James 1:19
3) KEEP IT TIMELY. vv. 26-27 Paul is telling us two things here. The first is that we should never let our anger build day after day, night after night. When we do that, we give the devil an opportunity to sow seeds of bitterness, resentment, and contempt until one day, we explode over some frivolous affront and the damage is done. The second is that there is a proper time to work things out and that time is when both parties agree to a time and a place. There are occasions when emotion runs high and brain function (particularly as it relates to the use of the tongue) is slowed. Sometimes, we do need to "sleep on it." Let the emotions cool and set an appointment for a less volatile, controlled conversation.
4) KEEP IT POSITIVE. v. 28 In any fight, we all want to get in our "swings." Though he uses the act of stealing as an example here, what I want you to see is that right after he addresses the negative, he comes back with a positive solution. When you condemn without offering correction, criticize without consoling, identify problems without proposing solutions, it can crush the spirit. So even if you 'take a swing,' follow it up with a positive.
5) KEEP IT TACTFUL. v. 29 Instead of using angry language, outdoor voices, and pushing hot buttons, "Let no unwholesome language come out of your mouths . . ." When we live by this verse, it helps us to develop a teachable spirit toward one another. Tactfulness becomes a bond, an assurance, each to the other, that even though we disagree, we will attack the issue and NOT each other. It means that we trust each other with our feelings and we trust each other to be able to take constructive criticism.
6) KEEP IT PRIVATE. v. 31 We shouldn't fight in public. We should never publicly embarrass the people we love the most. And we should never resort to that subtle, spirit-killing sarcasm or offensive criticism. When there is a need to fight, keep it where it belongs, between the two of you. NOT on Facebook, not with your circle of friends, not with your families of origin. Between the two of you.
See Matthew 18:15-20
7) KEEP A CLEAN SLATE. v. 32 When the fight is done, clean up the mess. The tools for clean-up involve simply being kind and tender-hearted towards one another. It is an act of grace that wipes the mental slate clean. Don't continue to bring up past transgressions and use them as weapons.
And one more little tidbit. Admit it when you're wrong. Seek forgiveness when needed. When you've lost the fight, stop fighting. Be a good loser. The words, "I was wrong," "You are right," and I'm sorry" can preempt a battle and prevent further damage. Pray for one another and trust God to bring the healing.