Somewhere along the way, a little lie snuck its way into Christian culture, whispering that couples who are truly following God simply won’t fight. That a Christ-centered marriage means an always peaceful marriage. That good, church-going husbands and wives should not encounter discord.
The truth? It is absolutely OK to argue within a Christian marriage. And in fact, not only is it OK, but it’s actually good–when fair, mature, and under the right circumstances.
Here are three reasons why fighting is not only OK, but also fruitful.
It’s OK because fighting well allows us to live under realistic expectations. We’re human; conflict is inevitable. God created each of us with distinct personalities and preferences. We come into a marriage with unique backgrounds that inherently shape our perceptions of the world. To live under a standard of “we don’t fight” is to live under an absolutely unattainable standard. While arguing will look different for each couple (some personalities are explosive and have to duke it out; others fight with a bit more composure), the bottom line is that discord is part of humanity, and therefore will sometimes be part of marriage. That reality should never induce shame or guilt. Setting ourselves up for realistic expectations (“yes, we will sometimes fight”) is healthy.
It’s OK because fighting well brings the tough stuff to the surface. When conflict is brushed under the rug and opposing viewpoints are squandered, we stifle the emotion. Stifled emotion and frustration only becomes resentment. Those clash points don’t go away on their own. They grow and morph when left unacknowledged, and postponing the fight only means it will come out in an unexpected way and with much more bitterness attached. Don’t delay the arguments.
It’s OK because fighting well breathes life and depth into all facets of a marriage. The process of reconciliation mirrors the nature of God himself: fighting for good in the face of brokenness and consistently making the dead new again. Arguing through an issue can be a healthy avenue toward shared resolution and renewed perspective. Not only does it lead to resiliency in a marriage and teach us more about our spouse, but it also fosters an emotional safety that inevitably breeds intimacy and safety in the sexual and spiritual facets of a marriage, as well.
Saying that fighting in a faith-based marriage is OK (and it is OK!) should never be justification for nit-picking and arguing all the time. It’s not rationale for an all-out shouting match when you feel disappointed or frustrated. The fruitful kind of fighting–fighting that is mature, fair, and under the right circumstances–is a topic all in itself (actually, it’s a topic we’ve written many a book and seminar on!), and one that we’ll blog more on another time.
For now, know that acknowledging conflict head-on is healthy. Faith and fighting can indeed coexist in a marriage.