Rules of Warfare

So…I intended to talk about decision-making and rules for when you argue in one post, but that last one ran a bit long, so I broke them up.

Leah and I have been very fortunate in how rarely we fight, but one of the reasons is that we have rules we live by that govern our conflict:

1. Either of us can call a 24-hour ceasefire, provided a decision isn’t required in that time, during which the other person can not bring it up. This time is to be used for prayer, seeking counsel from trusted friends, and to cool down.
2. We will not use name-calling, absolutes (such as “always” or “never”), sarcastic “I love you”s, threats of divorce, regret at knowing or marrying each other, ultimatums, or other manipulative phrases (“If you really loved me…”). If this happens, we automatically pause the fight for two hours, unless a decision is required within that time.
3. We’ll never argue in front of our kids and correction of each other, if possible, is to be done behind closed doors.
4. Finally, when we apologized to each other, we don’t use the word “but” to try to pass off some of the blame for our actions. It is an honest, straight-up apology.

We also have several guidelines for dealing with conflict. These are less strict than the rules, but are still worthwhile to follow:

1. We tackle problems together. It’s not us against each other; it’s us against the problem. When we attack the problem and not each other, we can keep calmer and be more creative. It also helps us to compromise because it’s not her position against mine so that I have to defend mine and get locked in; it’s a brainstorming session to find the best solution as a team.
2. We pray and seek our own fault in an argument. It’s easy to point fingers, but there has never, to my knowledge, been a fight in which only one person is wrong. Seeking our own fault helps us be more humble and see the other person’s side of things. When we do this, it’s easier to apologize to each other and get back to the issue at hand.
3. We keep fights to one room and never in the bedroom. We don’t want the bedroom to be a place of bad memories. For us, we’ve chosen the laundry room, just because we’re rarely in there.
4. We judge the behavior, not the person. This is one of the most important ones because when people fight, they have a tendency to villainize the other person. Suddenly, their motives not just in the fight, but overall, are wrong and they’re undoubtedly against us on a personal level. Remembering the truth, especially about your spouse, will help get rid of this anger, which is really based on fear.
5. Try to pull out the facts of the argument, then review them when we’re calmer. It’s rare that either side in an argument tells nothing but lies. A lot may be exaggeration, but when you’ve gone apart for a while to calm down, realize what the facts of the case are. Going by them and not by emotions helps resolve arguments much more quickly.
6. We can agree to disagree, except on:
A. Major theological issues, such as whether Jesus is the Son of God. Minor points, such as whether Job was a real character or an allegorical one, are not worth arguing about.
B. Timing of, number of, and major points in raising children.

Finally, most things in life are really not worth the stress and tension of an argument, let alone a fight. When a person has a strong reaction, it’s usually because there’s something else going on or because the issue at hand recalls an old hangup they’re struggling with. Gently pry at the root cause if someone has an unusual reaction to what you’re doing. That, combined with a humble heart, will lead to a lot more peace at home.

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