“Love at First Fight”
“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?”
James 4:1 (NLT)
I loved my husband, Carey, desperately when we first got married … and it shocked me that we would ever have conflict in our marriage.
We’d been best friends for a year before we ever dated. However, living with someone 24/7 brought out sides of him I’d never seen. It also brought out sides of me I’d never seen. I became self-protective, insecure and jealous.
Marriage quickly became a crucible. I realized I had a choice: Either allow God to forgive and free me from my quickly accumulating sins, or continue to be selfish and petty.
Some days, I chose the latter. Other days, I chose the former.
And I became painfully aware of the truth found in James 4:1, which reminds us that the “quarrels and fights” among us “come from the evil desires at war within.”
I wanted Jesus to have all of me … and I wanted to have a lengthy, healthy marriage. I knew there were no guarantees except that I--with God’s help--could change my own behavior.
In the process, here are three things I learned about fighting fair:
- Don’t disengage. My past had taught me to stuff emotions and run from conflict. These were not healthy patterns at all, and Carey encouraged me to stick around when we argued, instead of leaving the room or running from issues we needed to resolve. Wow, that was a painful--but necessary--part of growing up. (Admittedly, this took years and lots of hard work. My tendency is still to “shut down” at times when things get tense. But I’m getting better.)
- Don’t overreact. In the beginning of our marriage, I often let the way Carey said things send me into a tizzy. Instead of dealing with conflict in emotional, irrational ways, I had to learn to take a deep breath and carefully listen to Carey’s words--not just his tone or presentation.
- Do find a happy medium. In the first few years of marriage, Carey wanted to hash things out for as long as it took to come to an agreement--even if our argument lasted for hours! But I wanted to talk about our conflict and then think about it separately … only coming back together when we had cooled down and found some sort of clarity. After a few years of butting heads over our differences, we found a compromise that worked. We agreed never to go to bed when we were angry, but we also agreed to “table” certain discussions until later, if I became too fatigued or distraught to continue.
Marriage is not always easy, but it was never supposed to be. The rough patches in marriage remind us how much we need to lean into God. As my husband tells our kids when they’re doing their homework, “Hard is not bad. Hard means you’re learning something.”
Difficulties and disagreements in our relationships can be outlets to show our mate “who’s boss.” Yet if we lean into the Lord, they can become opportunities for us to surrender to God’s guidance and build bridges to a deeper relationship with our spouse.
Father, we don’t want to run away from each other or from You, but our desires fight and war within us, and we are tempted to hurt each other. We often choose self-protection over selflessness. Move us from greed to gratitude. Lead us from spite to spiritual union. We need Your help every hour of every day. Continue Your transforming work in us, and sanctify our marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ephesians 4:26-27, “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (NLT)
Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)