Getting angry is natural. When you’re married to someone, you often have plenty of shared things to get angry over. There are things like housekeeping –you both use the same space, so how can you view it so differently? Add in shared finances, time, loved ones, goals, and two entirely unique personalities and you’ll easily find conflicts arising.
That’s alright. Jesus was angry sometimes, and He never sinned. Verses like “be angry, and do not sin” convey that we are not wrong for having feelings, but we are responsible for handling our emotions in Godly ways (Ephesians 4:26). Arguments that reflect Christ’s character are healthy for relationships, including marriages. It is possible and righteous to argue with each other as a team that is unified in Christ instead of picking sides.
Build each other up
Generally, people get married because they love each other. Yet, in the course of an argument, couples often treat each other in truly unloving ways. Whether name-calling or accusing, when couples tear each other down, each spouse build themselves up in pride and foolishness rather than concerning themselves with the welfare of their spouse. Choosing to be constructive in conflict requires that we think about the good of our spouse before we say things out loud that can be damaging (Philippians 2:3).
A great way to be sure that your purpose in fighting isn’t destructive is to make sure that the reason you are drawing battle lines is not for your own sake. Seeking revenge, manipulation, control, or to compensate for insecurity are all examples of seeking to tear someone else down for your benefit.
Fight for a reason
Sometimes, couples fight about foolish things. Some arguments, however, are worthwhile and can help us to grow in our love for Christ and each other. For example, exhorting one another, speaking the truth to each other when deceit would be easier, or holding one another accountable can all factor into an argument and be highly valuable to God and to our marriages.
But there are also arguments, as well as fight tactics, full of folly. Debating over nuances or petty mistakes are examples of allowing emotion to senselessly master us and our relationships. The Lord provides a good reason to fight: for unity, for His glory, and in order to grow into the Lord (Ephesians 4). This is our common goal as Christ’s followers- we should work towards it even in conflict.
Respect the ground rules
We all have a personal history with anger. For some of us, leaving the room during an argument escalates anger unnecessarily. In other’s lives, taking a ten minute walk alone can truly bring clarity. Work out with your spouse ground rules for marital spats so that you can treat each other respectfully in conflict. There are some rules that are commonsense, like never hitting one another, and others that will be more tailored to your relationship and personal needs.
Putting another person first in this way is an active choice that God desires. It also helps us not to think too highly of ourselves as we find that it takes to effort to treat our loved ones respectfully. Further, respecting ground rules in fights will help to prevent certain damages and also remind you in the heat of the moment that you do love your spouse. You are on the same team. You are both on God’s team.
Remember that God is the authority
Anger, when it is not presented to the Lord openly, can easily escalate into actions blinded from the truth. When our emotions blind us, we lose sight of the One who watches and hears everything. Instead of recognizing that He is the authority over all, we act as if we have to make things happen and look out for ourselves. We begin to falsely regard even our loved ones as enemies when we take up this attitude.
When a fight is brewing, it is crucial that each spouse examine their own hearts. Questions like “is my anger righteous?” can make all the difference in how we approach those we love about our feelings. These questions must be asked before the coach, Christ. He will not lead us into temptation or sin, but will unite us as a team seeking Himself, even when the going gets tough (1 Corinthians 10:13).