Fighting Fair


Phat and I recently attended a marriage conference: The Intimate Mystery.  Dan Allender, author of  The Wounded Heart, was the speaker for the three sessions.  Allender speaks in a conversational style, yet each word carries such depth of meaning.  As closely as I paid attention, I knew I would need the accompanying book to remember all he covered.

Last night I read this:

“A marriage is only as good as a couple’s ability to fight.  A husband and wife who fail to fight are not alive and honest.  Every now and then an older man or woman tells me they have been married for fifty or more years and have never spoken a cross word or had an unpleasant discussion.  I don’t believe a word they’ve said, though I don’t doubt their sincerity.

Somewhere in the marriage a decision was made to be pleasant and avoid conflict at all costs.  It isn’t that unpleasant conversations or cross words didn’t occur, they simply remained subvocal, hidden under the surface.  To claim there was never a failure of love — of omission and commission — is tantamount to saying they’ve never sinned.  Such a lie is blasphemous.

The fact is we will sin against each other, inevitably.  The result of any failure will be hurt and division.  It is crucial for us to grapple with the one sure need of every marriage: forgiveness.  The process of asking and gifting forgiveness has to do with speech — or how we dialogue when we are hurt.  Therefore the command to “weave” or to join together has to do with how we communicate, especially in moments of conflict that will likely require one or both to seek forgiveness.”

These paragraphs brought to mind an earlier time in our marriage.  Phat and I had been married for three years and were at the start of our time in seminary.  We had gone to dinner with another couple, friends we knew in college when we were all single.  After much discussion about being married, we tried to explain that we never fight, feeling rather proud of the fact.  The response: laughter…in our faces…laughter!

Well, needless to say, we were indignant that they wouldn’t believe us.  The comment was made that we obviously were not sharing our true feelings.  Yet, we felt we were being kind and gentle with one another…that was our desire.  But were we being real?

The Smiths (let’s call them) were quick to admit their ability to fight.  It seemed so unspiritual to us, and not at all what God would want in our marriage.  And, we may not have been entirely wrong, considering The Smiths did not last much longer.  However, now I see that we were living at two extremes.  As Allender puts it, The Phats had chosen to live in the DMZ (demiliatarized zone) while The Smiths chose the gory grounds of warfare.

Fighting fair.  Can it be done?

Allender moves on to explain “good” vs. “bad” talk, and what is “redeeming” talk:

Good talk explores reality.
Good talk honors differences.
Good talk pursues intimate truth.

Bad talk hides.
Bad talk blames.
Bad talk distorts.

Redeeming talk, however, acknowledges that God is an intimate player in our moment.

Do you recognize that God is in the midst of all your communication?
Do you fight?
Do you fight fair?

do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Ephesians 4:26-27

11 responses »

  1. This is good Michelle. I’m not married but I do think it applies to all our relationships, obviously marriage being the most important, but how we respond to all people in our lives when we are hurt. I assume you read Ann Voskamp’s blog, I don’t know if you ever saw this post, I sent it on to my married friends and family, I thought it was so good, and its a lesson I’m trying to learn just for relationships in general and how to approach things in a godly way: … Love & blessings:)

  2. Great post and on time too. R and I are learning how to fight fair but it’s been a process. We call this process as looking at our disagreements as “growth opportunities” and as “improving the relationship” rather than proving a point. There is still much work to be done but praise God He is not through with us yet.

    I think I’ve come to a point of realizing like you said that it’s not the presence of fighting that indicates a troubled marriage but an absence of forgiveness for it makes sense that two very different people are bound to have disagreements frequently on their marriage journey.

    Thanks for this. Continuing to pray for you and Phat.

  3. Thank you for the link, Rain. I love her writing, and that post is definitely saying much the same. I think you’re right about this applying to all relationships. At first I thought people would only see it in light of marriage, but communication is key. Allender makes the point that God loves words…He named His Son Word. 🙂

    Hey, Gch! I’m learning (after 27 years of marriage) not to hide feelings! For the sake of peace, I’ve chosen to deny lots of things. I think the blinders are off now! I can begin to see how God wants us to grow within marriage by bringing two very different people together and making us one…it definitely is an “intimate mystery.”

  4. Speaking from my vast experince with marriage, zero, love can be the easy part, respect can take some working on.

    Speaking from my four failed relationships the word “mystery” clearly covers my understanding of how it works. 🙂

    For a good talk both parties need to be willing to listen, that is where the respect comes in.

  5. “to be willing to listen”

    You said it, Ed! I find many, many people have no idea how to listen. And yes, it is the essence of respect.

  6. This is the title for this coming Sunday’s message. I wonder if Pastor George is a Dan Allender reader? I think I’ve read some of his stuff on relationships.

    Found it. A small book titled Encouragement, The Key to Caring by Larry Crabb and Dan Allender.

  7. Oh, that one sounds good. I need to get it. (I can use all the help I can get!) The one I was reading has the same name as the seminar we attended: The Intimate Mystery.

    Thanks, Ric.
    (should have that picture to you soon…LOTS going on here…sigh)

  8. Hey, Michelle, I’ve been tied up taking care of some important matters, and so have not been on-line much ~ at least not here at WP. Just dropped in to see what I’ve missed, and… YESSS!!! What an excellent quotation you’ve shared from Dan A.! You’re so on-target: Many people think all of this applies *only* to marriage, but in reality, as your friend “Rain” confirmed, this applies to *all* relationships. And as your buddy “Gch” (not sure how to pronounce that!) said so wisely,

    “It’s not the *presence of fighting* that indicates a troubled marriage but an *absence of forgiveness*…” YES!

    As Dan A. writes, it is such a *lie* when couples (in particular) say that we’ve-never-fought-a-day-in-our-lives thing… (Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that over the years, and as a single person who wants to be “good at forgiveness”, have often wondered if each of those couples are *really* under the same roof!)

    You & your “PhT” and God’s amazing rescue operations are in my prayers & thoughts, Michelle! All of these things (as our brother/Paul phrased it so beautifully) have simply “fallen out to the *furtherance* of the Gospel”! Yep! He is *so* wonderfully sovereign & fabulously skilled that He can *even* weave the black threads into amazingly beautiful designs across the tapestries of our lives… Who can NOT worship a God like that? Love you! Thanking Him for you & for His work in your lives!

  9. “He can *even* weave the black threads into amazingly beautiful designs across the tapestries of our lives…”

    Amen, Gracie!!! He can use all our pain, our sufferings, to create masterful tapestries. I’m holding onto that image today…thanks!

    I’m glad to see you again. I’ve not been around much either…maybe things will settle down soon…for us both. 😉 God bless you!

  10. Learning to “fight fair” is a great thing. We didn’t fight for years, but I can’t say that anymore. LOL

  11. LOL (Just rereading this…sorry I didn’t answer, Heidi.) It’s good you’re learning to fight. I hope it’s a redeeming time for you both.

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