The past few weeks, we have been looking at how to ‘protect’ our marriage partnership. We must protect our partnership from unhealthy relationships that can steal our joy. We must protect our partnership by creating boundaries to help us manage our daily lives. Today we will look at a third way to protect our marriages, which is how to fight well.
In my backyard garden, it took me a while to learn how to prune. At first, I couldn’t believe that cutting-off a healthy branch would help my plants grow. I also couldn’t see the wisdom in cutting-off some of the fruit early, while they were small, because I thought it would mean less fruit. But I was wrong. I learned that when I pruned my plants, they grew more healthy and strong. I learned that when I remove some of the fruit, there is more energy and nutrition for the remaining fruit to grow bigger and stronger.
Marriage is like a garden. Just as we ‘protect’ a garden by learning how to properly prune it, we also must learn how to properly ‘prune’ in our marriage partnership. I liken ‘good pruning’ to ‘proper fighting’.
Yes, fighting is a part of marriage. It’s even a healthy part of marriage! Unfortunately, many couples do not know how to fight well. Instead of fighting to solve a problem and grow their relationship, they fight to hurt their partner or win an argument. However, when done well and with love, fighting can help our marriages become stronger and more joyful.
Here are four tips for you and your partner to be better fighters.
1. Most important, your partner is not the problem, the problem is the problem. Don’t try to ‘fix your partner’, rather focus on solving the problem. Of course we all need to grow and mature, but in the midst of a difficult time is not the ‘right time’ to work on our personal issues. Focus on the problem. Once that has been overcome, we are in a better place to work on personal issues.
2. When you fight, keep your goals in mind. Achieving your goal is important, winning a fight is not. For example, in my garden, when I wanted bigger, more delicious watermelons, I could not believe that pruning some from the vine would achieve my goal. Cutting off fruit was counter-intuitive to me. But the end result was that I had bigger, delicious watermelons. In your marriage, when a fight happens, take a step back and remember your goals, then as a team, use the fight to help you achieve them.
3. Don’t use words that will injure your partner. The goal is to solve the problem, not hurt your partner. For example, in my marriage, I often tried to win fights by not talking to my wife. When we had a fight, I knew I could make her angrier by not talking to her. But the only outcome was that we both got angrier and quieter, and the problem still remained. Since learning that injuring my wife is not a solution, we are much better at fighting and solving problems.
4. Remember to respect your partner. Your partner is not your enemy. It is amazing how we say things to our partners that we would never say to a co-worker or acquaintance. Why is that? In the midst of a fight it is okay to be angry or emotional, but don’t take it out on your partner. They are not your enemy, they are your PARTNER.
Maybe these tips don’t make sense, but consider this. A day or two after a fight, most couples can’t remember what they were fighting about. They only know that they are still angry and hurt. The goal of fighting is to ‘prune a problem’ so that you can experience a more joyful and healthy marriage. Sometimes problems cause pain. Don’t add to the pain by improper fighting.
Learn to fight well and your marriage will flourish!
Next: Enjoying the harvest