Fighting Fair in Marriage
This article first appeared in Faith Filled Family Magazine December, 2016 issue
God uses the broken. I must humbly admit that prior to beginning this piece of writing my husband and I had the most senseless fight. We potentially broke every practical law and respectable etiquette for maintaining peace and Christian virtue within the home.
I am no expert on marriage and hope in saying this to free myself of any illusion of being some "Pinterest perfect" wife. It may often be difficult for many Christians to admit their challenges within marriage. Perhaps there is this self-imposed pressure to live as if everything is super and wonderful, as if we are perpetually joyful, lest someone judge and ask “what is so different about you Christians then?” Our pride can take a back seat when we remember that we are a people of the cross. “They will know we are Christians by our love” (John 13:35). This love is not perfect, because we ourselves are clearly not perfect, but we seek and strive to be perfected through Jesus Christ.
It is through the continual returning to the love of God that enables those married in faith to carry out the difficult task of loving with virtue despite challenging disagreements. There is something incredibly humbling and purifying about marriage. It is here we are met with an imperfect person that we have chosen as our partner, only to then have our own imperfections ooze to the surface.
The tensions undoubtedly arise and the disagreements pour in demanding compromise and sacrifice. In these times there is also great temptation and trial. There are fighting times. To pretend these moments do not exist is to deny the very important work required for two becoming one flesh. To neglect this work is incredibly harmful to the marriage also. It is a lifelong work made much easier with the aid of our Lord. Arguably, it is only with God’s grace that we can begin to pursue the path to married love in the way that God has willed for us.
How does one fight fair? Can there truly be such a thing? Often in the heat of disagreement and intense arguments, all fairness seems to be thrown out the window. Logically we can tell ourselves that we should not say hurtful things or put another down, and yet these occasions can still arise.
If disagreements are to be handled without offense then there must be time given to discern when the appropriate moment is to discuss differences and to approach it more level headed.
To disagree in a healthy way takes great work and a solid foundation. As a newlywed, I see that the arguments arising with my husband in these early seasons of our marriage stem from a sense of ignorance about one another. Learning to respect one’s limitations and understanding what these are is a learning curve filled with growing pains.
We can fight fair when we approach issues without seeking to trespass the other person’s boundaries or offend what we know to be their sensitivities. It is often also sacrificing our selfish need to “solve” matters instantaneously and give the other the time they may require to mentally and emotionally sort through what is challenging them. Fighting fair essentially takes great self-awareness, and self-awareness is matured through prayer and an authentic relationship with the Lord.
If we continually seek to foster a relationship with the Lord and work toward living with virtue then we will surely be better equipped to handle the challenging times within married life. This is not always an instantaneous remedy as quite often the rashness of emotion can take precedent to the serenity we acquire from prayer, but it is so vital to continually seek Christ throughout our trials and desire to begin again. By taking the time to pray and reflect we can calm our emotions and ensure the aid of our Heavenly Father who is the glue that holds the married union strongly together.
The severity of disagreement within marriage can vary. Sometimes they are about trivial things that will resolve with further communication and time, while other arguments and tensions about more serious matters can present themselves and be more difficult to overcome. In these times of continuous disagreement it is imperative to keep communication open. It may often be necessary to consult a third party to help the situation also. There are many good Christian counselors available to help.
Ultimately we must strive in marriage to respect our spouses’ differences and to respect one another through the good times and the bad times. Learning to disagree well takes practice and patience. Learning to love as Christ teaches us takes great virtue. Married love with all of it’s joy and moments of sorrow reminds us of our call as Christians.
I close this by sharing the second reading from my own wedding day. It humbles me and affirms me in the call of married love. In the fighting times let us turn to the Word of God. At the end of writing this piece, I already forget what my husband and I were fighting about in the first place.
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)
Catherine Spada is a Public Middle School educator and is currently loving her new role as a full-time mom. She enjoys giving presentations and sharing the beauty of the faith. Catherine resides outside of Toronto with her husband and beautiful baby girl. Feel free to contact her with any questions/comments or requests for speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing all of the readers at Faith Filled Family a most blessed Christmas season. May the light and peace of our Lord remain with youand yours always. Thank you for your prayerful reading. God bless you and keep you well in 2017!!