How Fighting Can Help Your Marriage

By Greg Smalley
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Healthy conflict can facilitate communication, understanding, trust and respect if we choose to manage our differences and disagreements in nourishing ways.

There are few things in life as disheartening as unhealthy conflict with your spouse. But conflict doesn’t have to destroy relationships. Healthy conflict can be a doorway to deeper intimacy. It can facilitate communication, understanding, trust and respect if we choose to manage our differences and disagreements in nourishing ways. I hope you’ll realize that healthy conflict is a way to discover your spouse’s most important feelings and needs.

When was the last time you were able to have a productive, Christ-like conversation in the middle of an argument with your spouse? That doesn’t happen, right? In the middle of a fight, when you’re frustrated, hurt or upset, your heart closes. Understand that when your heart is closed, you’re likely to react in unloving ways (anger, withdrawal, sarcasm, defensiveness, etc.).

A closed heart is the reason it’s practically impossible to have a healthy, kindhearted conversation with your spouse in the middle of an argument. So, how do you move from unhealthy conflict to healthy conflict?

Instead of trying to force your way through a conversation, do what Jesus himself recommended: “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). The key to moving from unhealthy conflict to healthy conflict is to first get the log out of your own eye so that instead of simply reacting, you can thoughtfully respond to your spouse in a productive, Christ-like way.

This is how to open your heart and “fight” your way to a better marriage:

Call a timeout. Separate for a brief time to allow your emotions to settle.

Verbalize to your spouse that you will be back to talk when your heart is open.

Name what you are feeling (I feel . . . unloved, disrespected, worthless, controlled, unimportant, etc.) and notice how it calms you. Do this during your timeout.

Pray. Ask God to reveal what is true about your feelings and what is true about your spouse.

Tapping into the power of healthy conflict is a matter of opening the door to your heart.

Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg Smalley. Used by permission.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the Vice President of Marriage at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as President of the …

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.