What if We Fight All the Time?

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Dear Barbara. “What if we fight all the time? It seems like that’s all we ever do anymore: nitpick about everything, look for the worst in each other, and are ready to duke it out daily. What can we do?”

Friend,

You’re not alone. A few days ago on September 2, Dennis and I celebrated our 44th anniversary!

While I know that makes us sound ancient and possibly unrelatable, we still disagree, nitpick like you said, and experience disappointment with one another because we are different. Though we have many shared values in our relationship, not all of our values are identical. Conflict can easily result from clashing values.

Every couple who has walked the aisle and said, “I do,” has done so with assumptions about their life together that almost always lead to some level of disappointment. One writer said, “He thinks his bride is wonderful and hopes she will never change; she thinks her groom will happily make some changes for her. Both discover disappointment instead.” So true isn’t it?

My daughter Rebecca, like all of our married kids, has experienced this clash of values hundreds of times in her ten years of marriage. One situation that took a long time to resolve involved bedtimes for their kids.  Rebecca wanted the kids to go to bed early to get a good night’s rest and be ready for the next day. Jake, though, arrived home in the evening after a long day of work and out of a sincere desire to still make time for his kids, he wanted to keep them up to wrestle and play and get his dad time in.

After months of repetitive arguments and frequent conversations, Rebecca and Jake began to discover underlying values that were at work in their choices. For Rebecca, it wasn’t just about keeping a schedule; she also desired one on one time with Jake and she wanted some alone time for herself.

Jake, in turn, began to understand the repercussions keeping the kids up late had on Rebecca the following day. He got up early and headed to work but left grouchy tired kids behind that Rebecca had to deal with for the day.

Neither spouse was wrong. Neither desired outcome was wrong. After seemingly endless conversations over what felt like a major disagreement at the time, they both acknowledged one another’s needs and preferences and found a way to compromise.

By listening to Jake’s desire to invest well in his children even during the workweek, Rebecca learned that there are nights to just let the playing and rough housing and staying up late happen. When one was willing to give a little, the other was willing to give a little, too.

Communication is essential in every marriage, especially if you feel you are fighting all the time. Healthy fighting isn’t fun; it’s so much wrestling through the arguments over and over with the shared and understood purpose to decide what’s best for your family. It takes a lot of time, a lot of discussion, a lot of listening to get there and none of those are easy, but it’s always worth it in the end.

The goal in marriage is onenesss, which isn’t found without conflict. Nor does oneness happen as quickly as we’d like. It also doesn’t always mean 100% agreement on everything. Endless conversations and a teachable heart are the pathway to the unity we desired when we first said our vows.

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For Dennis and me, we hoped that we’d finally get to a place where we agreed on everything. I thought that was what happened after this many married years, but we are still fundamentally two very different people who approach life from two unique vantage points…and that’s good. It’s what makes marriage healthy. It’s what keeps us praying for our hearts to be in line with God’s heart so that our different values don’t become something we insist on selfishly.

We experienced a similar kid-focused conflict as Rebecca and Jake, and a thousand others besides, by the way. When one of our children was a teenager, Dennis wanted to be firmer in discipline than I, but after many conversations he gave in and agreed to follow my mother’s heart to empathize in this particular situation. Complicating the parenting challenges for you, as it did for us, is the need to parent each child with some unique approaches; it’s never a one size fits all formula.

How you raise your children will be fraught with disagreements from cradle to college. That’s why praying for the Holy Spirit’s clear leading is so important! There may not be a right or wrong way, but there is a way that God has designed with your family’s best in mind.

So remember the goal. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about coming to a place of oneness, a place of as much agreement as you can find. Table the other parts of the conversation that still need to be sorted through and agree to move forward on what you are united on.

Here’s a practical, valuable secret weapon for resolving conflicts.

When our kids became teenagers, Dennis and I started scheduling an every Sunday night date night that became a meeting of the Rainey family corporate officers. When the kids were little we had conversation time after the kids were in bed, but teens stay up as late or later than Mom and Dad so we were desperate for one-on-one conversations.

Our few hours away each week wasn’t romantic whispering in each other’s ears; it was a business meeting. Even though no flowers were involved, these dates spoke so much value to me as a wife and mom. Dennis recognized my need to talk about all I was experiencing at home. I felt appreciated and heard, which I rarely felt from my kids.

My kind husband would listen to me talk and talk and talk every week, and he’d commit to help me work through our family issues together. That was where he began to grow even more in understanding my load with the kids and where I began to appreciate his responsibility to lead well that he took seriously.  All the interruptions of daily life make husband-wife talking a challenge, but having a regular date each week gave me hope that I could not just finish sentences but get perspective from my partner, my best friend and the one who was committed to doing life with me.

The only way you can hope to understand how each other feels and what each other values is to engage in constant conversation. The more you can break away the more you can talk, the more you can grow together.

No matter what you’re fighting about, if it feels relentless and ongoing it’s time to take action. If you can’t do a date night every week, then find another way to invest in your marriage. Dear friends of ours made a commitment early in their marriage to do something to invest in their relationship every year. They either read a book, went to a conference, or participated in a marriage study. Would one of these ideas work for you?

Once you stop investing in your marriage, it starts unraveling. So don’t stop. Find a way that fits for you to commit to investing again.

Get a babysitter. Go on a date night. Head to a Weekend to Remember for a weekend away. Sometimes it feels impossible. Sometimes it feels like too much work.

Sometimes it feels like how can you?

But the real question is how can you not?

You promised you would. Your spouse is counting on you. Your kids are counting on you. It’s time to start working to like each other again and moving forward.

We’re here to help.

 

If you have a question about marriage or parenting that you’d like help on, let me know in the comments below. All of my Dear Barbara posts come from real readers like you! I’d love to hear from you and am here to help you be the wife and mom God has called you to be. 

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16 thoughts on “What if We Fight All the Time?”

  1. MELCA ALCONERA

    I hope there’ll be a Weekend to Remember here in the Philippines.

    Thank you so much for all the write ups. It really helps me to keep fighting for my marriage even if its hard.

  2. Hi Everyone who commented: I was in the same situation as quite a few of you. My marriage was on the rocks and looking like we would not make it. I actually moved out for a couple of weeks. It was a wake up call to my husband, we talked during that time apart, he decided it would be good for us to attend a Weekend To Remember! What a turning point in our marriage! That was 5 years ago and I have to say God has moved in our marriage through the Weekend To Remember. It is so awesome, we make it a point to attend every year now for renewal! WE LOVE IT AND HAVE FALLEN DEEPER IN LOVE! God really uses these events to help couples.
    Thank you Jesus!
    Blessings to each and every one!

  3. Thank you for this article. I’ve been married 22 years. This year has been by far the hardest. I thought it got easier as time progressed. NOT SO!!! Your article encourages me to continue to stand and find ways to continue learning and loving through the various ages and stages of life.

  4. I have gone through the the same cycle of fighting that is being mentioned, and it left me bitter and lonely. I was so tired of it, I prayed and cried out to God to intervene. I reinvited Him into our marriage. For a month, with an accountability partner, I made it a point to do something nice for my husband daily without expectation from him to notice (could be simple as giving him a longer hug than normal or making him a better meal). This was the way God showed me how to fight for our marriage by dieing to myself and submit my will to Him out of obedience. The result was pretty amazing and was totally God. My heart changed for my husband and helped me to stop nitpicking and appreciate him. It wasn’t immediate but is improving even 6months later. The power is in submission. Although so hard, it’s the order of God and as we obey, it unleashes His power to work in us.

  5. I have been married for 9 mos. my husband started out reading the Bible and becoming the leader of the house then suddenly we got into a disagreement which left him not wanting to read his Bible anymore. It has been a week now and all he wants to do is watch tv and doesn’t understand how that makes me feel by him putting TV before me. We may have a two sentence conversation at time but nothing to really resolve the issue. I feel like I’m drowning here but I felt like I heard God say “stand”. I just pray that God will give me the strength to do that without me crumbling. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you

  6. My husband and I have been married for eight years during which time we lost each of our parents and started new careers. He has also suffered with rheumatoid arthritis, spinal stenosis and had 3 discs removed in his neck a year ago. He suffers from chronic pain and takes opioids, sometimes with alcohol to help it work faster. This combination results in a lot of anger on his part and verbal abuse towards me. He has now indicated he has some depression related to his constant pain, but refuses to be medicated for it. We are constantly arguing and my dogs run and hide when he comes home from work in anticipation of it.

    The challenge to our marriage is significant and he feels as if I am blaming him for all of our issues. I have purchased your video series but he just cannot seem to make the time to watch them with me. I send him articles, but he won’t read them. Despite all of this, he says that I am the best thing to ever happen to him. I don’t want to end the marriage, but it is taking a huge toll on me.

    I am at my wits end and don’t know what to do or how to cope, much less where to begin. I look forward to your thoughts, prayers and suggestions.

    K

  7. I am confused. It sounds like you are saying continual fighting is good and healthy as a way to work towards a solution. However, we never get to a solution. We just have the same argument year in and out. It’s killing our marriage not making it better. We are at giving up point since we can’t live in peace.

    1. Rosa,

      I would agree that continual fighting without resolution can be very frustrating. Without knowing what your disagreement
      is about makes it a bit difficult to comment. However, it sounds like you
      may need to go to counseling and have another person help you work through
      this. You can contact Focus on the Family for a local referral if interested. Their website is http://www.focusonthefamily.com. They do offer a one-time free consultation, as well.

      I would also suggest attending a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember
      conference where you will gain invaluable tools to build your marriage, including a session on communication. Go to http://www.familylife.com for dates/locations.

      In addition, here is a link to a FamilyLife Today broadcast on conflict
      management in marriage:
      http://familylifetoday.com/series/successfully-managing-conflict-in-marriage/

      I pray that these resources will bring you encouragement to continue fighting for your marriage.

      Blessings,
      Bev

  8. I truly needed this article. It spoke volumes to me as I am going through the same situation. My husband and I have been married 27 years this December. These past two years have been the hardest for us, but praise the Lord as we continue to submit to God all our cares, He has been faithful towards us. We are talking more and listening more to each other, and know we are still a work in progress. But we do so desire to have a Weekend to Remember happen in our small island of Guam in the South Pacific. This is our prayer! Thank you Babara!

  9. It’s our 25 year. I often feel disappointed and maybe last in my husbands life. I can’t blame him. We rarely have a good connection and time together. And when we do- we can’t work thru conflict in a healthy way. He’s pretty self consumed and it all feels out of balance. We are in counseling but it’s a pretty empty and frustrating time for us. I actually called an attorney this week – not knowing how long I can go on like this.
    Don’t see how God is working

    1. Carol,

      I’m deeply sorry for the hurt you may be going through right now in your marriage. You’re definitely not alone. Every marriage goes through storms. It’s in these moments when we really don’t feel like clinging onto God and His promises. But tough seasons in marriage is exactly when you need to turn to God and ask Him to help you endure. God is for your marriage and He truly sees your pain. I don’t think it’s by accident that you came to this blog. I want to encourage you to attend A Weekend to Remember with your husband. Family Life Today is all about God’s plan for marriage and God has done amazing things through their ministry for couples who didn’t see anyway out. I prayed for you and your husband. Keep fighting.

  10. I am “fighting” for my marriage. My husband says he is done and wants a divorce but I refuse to give up on us. We will be married 6 years on Oct. 9. I am trusting God to restore our marriage and to build up Godly character in us. My husband doesn’t attend church and I know he believes but I am not sure if he is Saved. Please pray for us and that God will continue to give me grace and wisdom to be the wife he has called me to be.

    Trusting in Him!

    1. I’m sorry for you. Keeping fighting for your marriage. Keep praying. Keep asking God to rescue. And if you haven’t been to a Weekend to Remember recently I’d strongly suggest you find a way to get to one. You can find more info at familylife.com.
      May God answer your prayers and rescue your marriage!

  11. Hahahaha! Miss B, I loved the part where you said you appreciated those date nights with Mr. D because you got to finish your sentences….. ? So true! We are trying to get back in the groove of regular date nights bc even now with 2 teens, I still like o finish a sentence every now and then.

  12. I Thought that was good sound advice. Marriage is tough for one main reason we all think our way is best, but it is God’s way of molding us into His image. It’s worth the pain!

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