I'm Sick of Fighting with My Spouse! Should We Just Agree to Disagree?(Part 4)
Five Fighting Question and Answers
Question #1: Agree to disagree: is it okay?
Believe it or not, my husband and I just had this conversation a few weeks ago. Ironically enough, we really had trouble agreeing on whether it is okay to agree to disagree…
Most of us would agree that on the big issues, we should be united; we need to agree.
But what about the “little” things?
For example: My husband cuts his own hair. I even caught him standing outside our van, using the back window as a mirror, pulling hair between his fingers, and cutting while looking at his reflection. I mean, I appreciate this because it saves money.
Occasionally, I just wish he would go to a barber.
This truly is a little thing. More of an annoyance, really.
But it can quickly turn to something bigger without us even realizing it.
Think of something about which you and your spouse have agreed to disagree.
No matter how big or small the issue, are there any feelings of resentment surrounding it? (If you struggle with resentment toward your spouse, check out How Do I Stop Resenting My Spouse? Part 1.)
Do you feel like you’re not being heard or respected?
Is there a small part of you that wants and is waiting for your spouse to change?
Hard feelings- no matter how small- turn to bitterness. Bitterness takes root. We hold a grudge, trying to delay the pain that will inevitably come.
Think about it: has there ever been a positive result of agreeing to disagree? Can you use Scripture to defend that stance?
What may look positive really isn’t. You’re going to keep disagreeing until one of you gets what you want, and the other? The other stuffs their desire down deep along with any other unmet wishes, where it will grow and cause division.
You may find temporary peace, but at the cost of what? Long-term unity.
So, what do we do when we come to an issue on which we can’t seem to agree?
First, get to the heart of the matter. Whatever the issue, we need to understand what is at the deepest root of it. Is it selfishness? Is it something Biblical that we should be doing but have neglected? Or is it something we should NOT be doing because Scripture says so? OR is it just a personal preference? Once you get to the heart of the matter, you will know the next steps...
Second, Confess and seek forgiveness for your selfishness. (Do you ever wonder why forgiving your spouse is so important? Click HERE to learn what happens when we don't forgive.)
Obey the Lord’s instruction- actively love or repent and turn away from your sin- either way, follow HIM. If it’s a personal preference, see it for just that- a personal preference- not a sin against the Lord. Nowhere in His Word does He say Thou shalt go to a barber for the cutting of thine hair.
Third, search Scriptures for guidance. Commit these two verses to memory:
Philippians 2:3-4 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.
Look up these verses and be encouraged to first obey the Lord, not your desires.
Question #2: In our marriage, we’re constantly at odds over sex or lack of time together. What advice do you have?
Sex and time.
Typically, husbands want more sex, women want more quality time. The two are intrinsically linked! And it can become a sinful cycle of seeking to have our desires met if we are both running on empty.
It’s like this: Wife wants more quality time with Husband; connection through intimate conversation leads to feeling heard, supported, and understood. This creates in her the desire for physical intimacy. But Husband is more interested in connecting through physical touch. Sexual intimacy with his Wife creates in him the desire to pursue her more, investing in more quality time.
Wife doesn’t get sufficient quality time.
Wife withholds sexual intimacy because she doesn’t feel emotionally connected to Husband.
Husband doesn’t feel connected to Wife due to lack of physical intimacy.
Husband withholds investment in quality time and pursuit.
The cycle always begins with #1 or #3: Husband and/or Wife are running on empty.
How do we stop the cycle of fighting over sex and time?
1 Corinthians 7:5 says Do not deprive each other of sexual relations unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Do not deprive each other. The same can be said for quality time. Do not deprive each other!
Take inventory of your heart. Ask yourself: Why do I feel the need to withhold giving what my spouse so desperately needs? Then confess, repent, seek forgiveness, and give generously (For help on giving generously to your spouse, click HERE.)
Together, take a practical look at your schedules.
Write down everything that’s consumed your time for the last 2-3 weeks.
Highlight the priorities (God-honoring)- which ones are the “must stays”?
Which ones are easy to “cut” from the list? (Social media scrolling, Netflix binging)
Pray together about what remains on the list. Keep in mind that if your marriage hasn’t been a priority, some of the things on that list- even if they’re good (church ministry, Bible study with the girls)- may need to be cut, at least temporarily. Your marriage takes precedence.
Do not stay divided over sex and time. Come together so that Satan doesn’t have a foothold. He seeks to isolate and separate; fight him in your unity.
If you and your spouse are stuck in a sinful cycle of keeping score and withholding what the other needs, YOU must be the one to stop the cycle. To love the most when your spouse deserves it the least. And that means loving generously in the ways they desperately need.
(Check out this post for more information: Is Your Marriage Stuck?)
Question #3: I want to stay home with the kids; my husband is pushing me to work. How do we get on the same page?
This is a big divider for many marriages.
While God’s Word doesn’t specifically answer the question “Should I be a stay-at-home mom?”, it does tell us to be united- one flesh. (Remember that whole “agree to disagree” thing? It just doesn’t work.)
How do we get on the same page when it comes to whether Mama should stay home with the kids?
Husbands, list the reasons you want your wife to work. Wives, list the reasons you believe your husband wants you to work.
Sit down together and discuss. Wives, cross off anything on your list that doesn’t match what is on his. Look at the remaining reasons and have a conversation that seeks to understand his concerns.
Decide that this issue will NOT be something that stands between the two of you, but that you will work on together to conquer the problem.
Pause for a moment. (We'll move to the next point in just a moment.)
Most husbands who resist their wife's shift from working mom to stay-at-home mom do so because they have one of two concerns:
Their wife’s mental well-being: God does mention the importance of gathering with fellow believers in Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25). Most jobs offer a community that helps prevent isolation which can cause depression.
The much more common issue is concern for his family’s financial well-being: How will moving from two salaries to one salary affect the family?
Put a pin in the financial concern. It is a big, valid apprehension; one that deserves investigation into further. We'll get there... but first, let’s return to the next point from the list above…
Wives, make a list of reasons why you want to stay home. It is important that you be brutally honest with yourself. Do you truly believe it’s what God has deemed best for your family, OR are you trying to escape something? (If it’s the latter, you must deal with those issues head-on from a Biblical perspective.)
Support your list of reasons with Scriptural references.
Sit down together, read the listed reasons and passages, and pray about the next step forward.
Here’s where we come back to finances, because even if money isn’t a primary concern, taking that big pay cut will require adjustments for the family.
Financially, can we swing it?
If money is the primary concern for Mama to stay home, we need to reprioritize what we think we need. Look for ways to “trim the fat.”
First, assess your spending. Look back at the last six months and categorize how you’ve spent your money (i.e., childcare, groceries, gas, dining out, gym membership, cable TV, utilities, etc.). Build a budget based on the information you’ve gathered.
Seeing where your money has gone over the last half year will open your eyes to where/when you overspend. Observing things in black and white puts you and your spouse on the same page. It will be very clear where your priorities lie and what needs to change.
Next, build a budget based on your husband’s salary alone. DO THIS TOGETHER!
When we see God’s provision as sufficient, our spending as excessive, and we remedy the difference, then the numbers (new budget) will work.
For example, let’s say you have 2 kids. Do they have to have their own rooms, or could you move to a smaller house? Is cable TV paramount to living life abundantly? What about your weekly meal out with friends or daily dose of Starbucks?
OR perhaps you need to continue working for a season to help pay off a milestone debt?
Or pray for changes to your husband’s career: a raise, supplemental income?
If God wants it to happen, HE will make it happen!
Let HIM lead, we need only to follow.
(For more guidance and information on financial issues, check out: Finding Freedom in Financial Unity.)
Question #4: Which way is best: fighting in private or fighting in front of the kids?
Well, there is a difference between a tough conversation and an all-out fight.
Let’s begin with...
Some tough conversations need to happen in private because the topics are difficult for your children to process or understand.
However, as kids mature, we need to realize they understand more than we give them credit for. For example, a conversation with your spouse about how money is being spent/budgeted shows your children that you are trying to manage finances in a God-honoring way.
Handled Biblically, letting your kids see you striving for godliness as you work through difficult conversations together is just another way of discipling them.
Initially it makes sense to isolate our kids from our fights and disagreements.
But really, their presence provides two things:
1. Accountability for our actions.
We will stop and think:
Am I being God-honoring to my spouse right now?
Am I being hypocritical? Do my kids see me at church worshiping the Lord, then using the same mouth to curse my spouse?
Fighting in private enables us to say and do things that are not God-honoring. We try to keep up a façade: “Mom and Dad are a-okay!” The lifespan of such a façade is short-lived and translucent; our kids will see right through it.
Remember, sin loves isolation. It seeks the dark. But all sin will be brought to light. Our kids will know our true feelings and attitude toward our spouse.
2. An example of how to handle fights in a Godly way
The “public” setting of your family room is very relevant to handling marital fights. Many kids today lack the Biblical wisdom and social abilities to solve disagreements in a Godly way. You have 18 years with them in your care; for you to teach and them to learn.
Will you teach them just to say the easy stuff? Will they learn how best to sweep uncomfortable topics under the rug to avoid confrontation?
Or will you and your spouse equip them with examples of how to disagree and still fight for unity in marriage, instead of ending the marriage when it doesn’t meet their expectations?
(If you are considering divorce, please check out I Want a Divorce [Part 1] or My Marriage is OVER [Part 1]. There IS hope!)
Question #5: I want to talk with my spouse about things that are bothering me, but I do NOT want it to lead to a fight! How do I start the conversation?
First, you must determine if the thing that’s bothering you is something that conflicts with your own personal preference, or if what’s bothering you is a sin against the Lord.
If it is...
Something conflicting with your own personal preference
It's not wrong to have personal preferences AND to express them to your spouse.
But be warned: you should expect a fight if you intend to demand your desires be met and your preferences pleased.
Express your preferences
Hold them loosely as wishes, NOT demands
Have a conversation- sometimes just being heard is all you need
If it is...
A sin against the Lord
It’s tougher when what’s bothering you is a sin issue- in your spouse’s life, your own life, or in your lives together.
Write down what you believe the issues to be.
Write down any Bible verses, passages, and/or stories which show the issue as a sin issue, and write down potential solutions.
Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Consider when the best time is to have the conversation.
When you do have the conversation, lay out the facts. “This is what I notice, this is what God’s Word says about it. What do you think? Do you agree that it’s a problem? Do you concur that God’s Word is the authority?”
If your spouse is receptive- great! If not, bring in one or two trusted individuals to help evaluate the situation, helping you to clearly see answers to questions like: Do I have accurate facts? Are my motives pure? Is my pursuit of God in this matter being clouded by my personal interests?
Take time to read Matthew 18:15-20; (it’s what the instruction in this section is based upon).
While these kinds of conversations are difficult, and often ones in which we don’t want to engage, they are the ones we most need to have.
Don’t shy away from a difficult discussion.
Lean in and trust the Lord.
Check it out
For more guidance on how to stop fighting with your spouse, check out Parts One, Two and Three in this series: I’m Sick of Fighting with My Spouse! How Do We STOP?!
For information on how to fight fair, check out 8 Guidelines for Fighting Fair.
OR, listen to the corresponding podcasts:
How to Stop the Fighting Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3