So, my husband and I decided before we got married that we would confront fighting in our marriage. The result is that we rarely ever fight. This does not mean we do not disagree, but for the most part, our disagreements happen without the fighting.
First, let me distinguish between not fighting and not confronting issues. I still address the issues behind my anger. It is very unhealthy to bottle up issues, especially in a marriage, where things can snowball so fast. However, I do NOT express my anger by fighting or yelling.
So while I am angry, there is a root cause of my anger I need to address, and I do. But there is no excuse for yelling, saying nasty comments, becoming sarcastic, or stomping around slamming doors. There isn’t even an excuse for speaking disrespectfully. These things do not resolve the issue at hand, and even if they do, in the end they cause more turmoil and resentment in your marriage.
So how do you keep from blowing up? Especially when you are so angry you can barely suppress it?! Here are some tips that help me to keep from expressing my anger:
1) I asked my husband to say “please be sweet” when he feels I am being snappy or talking in anger (or even disrespectfully). As I have asked him to simply say those few words, I feel like when he says them it is actually me confronting myself. I don’t want to be a snappy and icky wife. I want to be sweet. This helps me to at least start to grasp for control.
2) We discussed early on that we both need to overcome our need to “win” the fight. It is so natural for us to get defensive when the other attacks, but rather we need to be the one to calm the other.
3) If we feel ourselves losing control, we walk away. I usually go into our room, close the door, and play my viola. Getting out of the emotion helps me to deal with the issues behind the emotion later. I usually only let 30 minutes or so pass though. If I wait too long, I don't want to deal with it at all.
4) After my feelings are under control, we talk. We figure out a solution to the issues and express them to each other openly. This means in the end both of us have to be open to saying “sorry”.
All though this, I usually pray for God to help my get control of myself.
This has done WONDERS for our marriage, as we still deal with our issues, and then usually much quicker and without the hurt caused by irrational behavior. We see other couples bicker and I can’t help but be thankful that both of us discussed this early on, making an agreement to be “fight free”.
Conflict is a natural part of marriage, however, fighting does not need to be. I am not some expert at this, and it is something I still struggle with, but I have found myself much more humble as a result of our work to stop fighting. The old cliché of “the first step is admitting there is a problem” is so true. The first step is realizing that fighting is a result of our sinful human nature, and we need to overcome it!