Part 1: What Do You Want?
Are you tired of arguing with your spouse?
Sick of hearing your wife complain?
Frustrated with your husband for never changing?
Does it feel like all you do is fight? Even when you try to do something different, it spirals out of control into the familiar fighting stances, ending in defeat for both of you?
Take heart; there is hope for change.
Let’s start with a question: What do you want?
It’s probably easy for you to answer that, you may just need permission to be unfiltered- candid- about your answers.
Go gut-level, be honest, lay it all out there on the table. (You’ll write these down for your call to action at the end of this post).
Most likely the things you want are not things you have. Perhaps it is something that feels just out of reach?
For example: there’s a wall in between our kitchen and dining room. I hate this wall. I’ve wanted it out from the moment I first stepped into our house. I have a mental list of all the reasons why tearing out the wall would make life better for our family.
My husband supports the idea, but it’s not a priority for him. And so, the wall has remained there for 5 years and counting. It gets hinted at and discussed from time to time, but when it comes down to doing something about it, nothing changes.
We have fought about how and when to remove the wall many times; never fully getting on the same page.
Sometimes we hang on to a desire so strongly that it affects us in inexplicable, out of proportion, extreme ways.
What do you want that your spouse does not? Is there anything they’re past the point of refusing, that’s not even up for discussion anymore?
What is the untouchable subject that seats itself between you and your spouse- like a wall- so that you can no longer reach each other? Even if it’s quiet, you both know it’s there- underlying your casual conversations, standing amidst your daily activity.
We all know what it feels like when discord is present in our marriage.
It’s an uproar of the heart. You’re fighting more (or stonewalling more- a different way to fight), disagreements abound, and conflict is the norm.
Even in the quiet, there isn’t true peace.
What is the source of our fighting?
If we want to stop the fighting in our home, we need to know the source of it.
James 4:1-2 tells us what it is: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
Simply put, the source of our fights is our own selfishness!
We read this verse and know the truth of it, but don’t consider the cost of demanding our desire. We focus on it, knowing that obtaining it will make us happy. We worship it like an idol until it divides us from our spouse and our marriage suffers.
Until we acknowledge that our own selfishness is the source of most fighting, we will continue blaming our spouse and continue to fight, never taking responsibility for our own part in the battle.
“Keeping the peace”
Are there things on your list of answers to the question “What do you want?” that you’ve hinted at for years to your spouse, but have never really come right out and directly said it?
Maybe you plead with God about it over and over again, but fail to mention it to your husband/wife?
Instead, you let the unmet expectation fester.
You convince yourself: I’m doing a GREAT job not demanding my way. I’ll just stay quiet; it’s better for everyone. By learning to hold my tongue, I’ve kept the peace and avoided a fight. Victory!
Temporarily, sure, there may be a small victory.
And yes, there are times when the Holy Spirit may nudge your heart, prompting you to STOP TALKING. If He does, then stop! Just don’t say it.
But setting your desire aside and staying quiet is not what we’re asked to do.
Think about it:
We push a desire deep down and think no one can see it but us. We stone face our emotions to our spouse, so they think everything is fine, but we visit our desire often, and dwell on it in our quiet moments.
It tries to break out at the most inopportune times, so we shove it back down. We hold onto it, not ready to let go.
Eventually, our hidden desires will come out, and fighting and resentment usually accompanies them when they do. (If you struggle with resentment, check out How Do I Stop Resenting My Spouse? Part 1 and Part 2.)
So, I ask again:
What do you want? What are you doing to try and get it?
If you’re unsure on what your wants and desires are, perhaps a clarifying question may help: What was the last thing you and your spouse fought about?
Was it an on-going issue?
Was it something tangible or intangible?
While the source of all fighting is the same, the manner in which we fight differs.
Check out the following three categories of fighting that can occur within your home. To which one can you most relate?
3 Categories of Fighting
At the start of our marriage, I mastered the art of minefield fighting. Like gunpowder in a cannon that gets shoved down deeper and deeper, my desires seemed dormant… until a small spark would ignite the powder and…
Look out! An explosion you never thought possible would erupt from this otherwise laid-back lady as my husband stood in the aftermath; an expression of confusion and slight shock etched on his face.
Those were not my finest moments. Can you relate?
The explosive material in our hearts can sit for years untouched. Is your marriage quietly waiting for the next spark, the next eruption?
Enemy Lines Fighting:
Perhaps your marriage is like two enemy lines, each with cannons aligned, aimed at each other. Neither you nor your spouse have any problem lighting the fuses, sending wrath and anger flying.
When you’re together, heated words, seething tempers and slamming doors escort you as you pick up any ammunition you can find to use against your spouse. Worse yet, you try to get others to join the fight against your spouse (mom, sister, best friend, etc.).
Children witness your marriage battle and think, If THAT’S marriage, no thank you.
Maybe your marital-fighting type is somewhere in the middle. This is the kind of fighting that looks polite, but the heart-truth underneath is just as ugly as the minefield and enemy lines fighting.
You know the conversations you have with your spouse, daily, logistical conversations about what time the kids need to be picked up from school? Has the car payment been made? Can you run this errand for me?
Do those conversations ever carry defensive undertones? Nothing overtly mean or outright hurtful, but maybe had a tinge of bitterness, resentment, score-keeping mentality of why do I always have to do everything?
Conversations lacking in tenderness, thankfulness, loving tones, or kind goodbyes; strictly business conversations are just one example of civil fighting.
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
Whatever your fights look like, the way to STOP fighting is always the same: your spouse must change.
Oof. Not so much. I know it’s my bent to think that way, how about you?
The truth is, no matter what your spouse does (even if they’re clearly in sin), you must be the one to stop the cycle of fighting.
Will you be the first one to extend grace and forgiveness? (For more information about how to forgive in your marriage, check this post.)
If you want the fighting to stop and peace in your marriage, start with these steps:
Be honest with yourself and identify the kind of fights you’re having- minefield, enemy lines, or civil?
Get out a pen and paper. Write this question at the top: What is it that I want? Make two columns: Tangible wants- desires that you can touch or see and Intangible wants- heart desires, wishes. Fill in the columns, then place the paper in your Bible where you will refer to it every day.
Pray about your list for a few days. Ask God to reveal your own heart to you. Be bold. Be 100% gut-level honest in your answers.
After a few days, take your list, and separate its desires into three categories: Biblical desires- something you specifically see in Scripture (for example, a wife wanting her husband to lead), back up your desire with scripture. Desires that are not Biblically mandated, but also aren’t necessarily wrong (like our wall being removed from between the dining room and kitchen). Sinful desires that are clearly wrong from a Biblical standpoint (for example, demanding “down time” at the expense of others).
Ask yourself, Am I willing to change DESPITE what my spouse chooses to do? Am I willing to see what God’s Word has to say about ME and MY heart?
Check it out
You’re ready for change. You want the cycle of fighting to cease.
You’ve identified your marital-fighting style and listed your wants.
What’s next? Communication techniques? How to fight fair?
Now it’s time to look at who the real enemy is, and understand the game plans to fight War One and War Two.
Learn more in part two of I’m Sick of Fighting With my Spouse! How Do We STOP?!
Listen to the corresponding podcasts for this post: