Fighting and conflict within marriage is an unfortunate reality that many couples face. Even in the best of relationships, disagreements and arguments can occur. As Christians, it’s important that we handle marital conflicts in a biblical way that honors God and strengthens our marriage.
- Conflict is inevitable, but fighting is a choice. As Christians, we are called to resolve disputes peacefully.
- Husbands and wives should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger when in conflict. Focus on understanding your spouse’s perspective.
- Harsh words and insults have no place in a Christian marriage. Speak gently and kindly even when disagreeing.
- Forgiveness and reconciliation should happen quickly. Don’t let anger take root in your heart.
- Seek counsel from spiritually mature Christians or Christian marriage counselors if needed.
- Pray together and keep God at the center of your marriage, even during times of conflict.
What the Bible Says About Marital Conflict
The Bible acknowledges that disagreements and misunderstandings will occur in marriage. Paul writes, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33). Loving and respecting your spouse is a biblical command, but it’s not always easy! Even happily married couples will encounter differences of opinion and miscommunications along the way.
When conflict arises, how we handle it makes all the difference. The Bible offers much wisdom on how husbands and wives should manage disagreements in a God-honoring way. Here are some key principles:
Be Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19)
When a marital conflict arises, our natural human reaction is often to immediately defend ourselves. However, it’s important that both the husband and wife first take time to listen carefully to the other’s perspective. Seek to understand where your spouse is coming from before stating your own view.
Proverbs 18:13 warns us that “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Don’t be quick to respond back with your own rebuttal. Be quick to listen, slow to speak up in your own defense.
Manage Your Anger Appropriately
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8)
Anger is a natural human emotion, but the Bible clearly instructs us not to let it control us or lead us into sin. When you and your spouse are at odds, don’t allow anger to explode out in harsh insults or hurtful words. This type of destructive communication can leave emotional scars.
If you feel anger swelling up inside, take a timeout to cool down and collect your thoughts before continuing the conversation. Pray and ask God to soften your heart and help you manage anger appropriately. As James 1:20 reminds us, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Be Kind and Gentle Even When Disagreeing
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)
It can be easy to become harsh, sarcastic or verbally abusive when arguing with your spouse. But God’s Word instructs us to watch our tone and keep our words gentle and gracious, even in disagreement.
Raise your concerns calmly without resorting to hurtful jabs. Speak in a loving manner as you would want to be spoken to. Season your words with salt – add grace to the conversation, not escalating anger.
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
When tensions rise in marriage, it’s important not to let anger simmer in your heart day after day. Bitterness and resentment can take root, giving the enemy a foothold in your relationship.
Instead, God instructs us to quickly settle matters before the “sun goes down.” Resolve the issue promptly through talking it out, praying together, and extending forgiveness to each other. Don’t drag conflicts on for days or weeks. Reconcile quickly and don’t give room for bitterness.
Forgive One Another
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
Forgiveness is essential for restoring peace after arguments in marriage. Just as Christ has forgiven us, we must choose to forgive our spouse when they offend us.
Forgiveness may not happen instantly. Deep hurts may take time to heal. But we must continually extend grace and make the decision not to hold offenses against our spouse. We release the right to bring it up in future disputes.
Let go of bitterness and make peace through forgiveness. This allows us to move forward in unity.
Seek Counsel if Needed
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)
In some cases, marital conflicts may escalate beyond what a couple can resolve on their own. When this happens, seek outside guidance from spiritually mature Christians like a pastor, elder or Christian counselor.
God often provides wisdom through other believers that can help defuse conflict and restore peace in a marriage. Christian marriage counselors can also offer tools to improve communication and resolve disputes in a healthy way.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you and your spouse can’t seem to reconcile an ongoing issue. Humility and counsel bring protection.
Keep God at the Center
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Most importantly, keep the Lord at the center of your marriage – especially when conflicts arise. Open your Bible and pray together. Seek God’s wisdom rather than relying solely on your own understanding. Submit yourselves to the Lord, asking Him to guide your words and give you discernment to resolve the issue in a way that honors Him.
If both the husband and wife are focused on drawing closer to Jesus, even disagreements can strengthen your spiritual walk together. With God at the center, marital conflicts and misunderstandings can be overcome in a way that brings glory to Christ.
Practical Ways Husbands and Wives Can Avoid Unnecessary Fights
The Bible gives much instruction on handling conflict once it arises, but avoiding unnecessary fights in the first place is ideal. What practical steps can husbands and wives take to reduce conflicts? Here are a few tips:
Listen Actively to Your Spouse
When your spouse is sharing their thoughts, feelings or desires, don’t just passively hear their words. Listen actively and intently. Make eye contact, put down your phone, and make an effort to truly understand the emotions behind their words.
If you don’t understand their perspective, ask gentle questions to gain more clarity rather than making assumptions. Repeating back what you heard shows you are listening attentively.
Watch Your Tone and Body Language
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
How you say something matters just as much as what you say. Pay attention to your tone of voice, cadence and body language, not just your words. A sharp or sarcastic tone can put your spouse on the defensive even when using polite language.
Don’t Hold Grudges
If your spouse offends you, talk through it and extend forgiveness rather than holding onto bitterness. Don’t bring up past wrongs repeatedly in future arguments. If an issue is resolved, truly let it go. This prevents little irritations from accumulating into major conflicts.
Think the Best of Your Spouse
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
Because of our fallen human nature, it’s easy to make negative assumptions about a spouse’s intentions or motivations during conflict. But love “believes all things” as 1 Corinthians says. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst.
Pick Your Battles
Not every minor annoyance needs to become a major fight. We all have pet peeves or little habits that irk us about our spouse. But Romans 14:1 calls us to “accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” Is it worth an argument or can you let some things slide?
Set Aside Regular Time to Connect
Schedule consistent, uninterrupted time to communicate with each other, free from distractions like kids, TV or phones. Quality conversation helps prevent misunderstandings and emotional distance. Stay up to date on each other’s needs, interests, worries and goals.
Pray Every Day for Your Spouse
Praying together reduces arguments by helping you align your hearts and minds with God’s will. But even if your schedules don’t allow for joint prayer, make it a daily habit to pray for your spouse individually. Ask God to bless them, shape their character and help you love them well.
Let Go of Pride and Be Quick to Apologize
None of us are perfect. When you sin against your spouse – by a careless word, selfish action or breach of your duties – be quick to say “I’m sorry” and humbly ask forgiveness. Don’t let pride prevent you from admitting fault and pursuing reconciliation.
Make Time for Fun Together!
Laughing together strengthens bonds and prevents petty arguments from forming. Set aside time for fun date nights where you can relax, be silly, enjoy hobbies together or reminisce over fond memories. This maintains the joy in your marriage.
Balancing Truth and Grace in Marriage
The principles listed above are all firmly grounded in biblical truths. However, applying them with grace can be a challenge! At times balancing truth and grace causes tension:
- Wives are called to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). Yet husbands must love their wives self-sacrificially “as Christ loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:25)
- Scripture instructs wives to respect their husbands and not speak harshly or argue (1 Peter 3:1-2). Yet husbands are not to be domineering but live in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7).
- God’s Word calls both spouses to manage anger and avoid bitterness. Yet feelings cannot just be turned off like a switch!
In all marital conflict, we must remember God’s principles are given for our good, not as a burden. Speak truth gently and humbly. Grant grace in applying these biblical teachings, recognizing that all couples will struggle at times. Keep striving, with God’s help, toward the loving, Christ-centered marriage He desires for us.
Fights and disagreements between spouses are inevitable. But as Christians, we can handle marital conflict in a way that honors God and builds up our marriage when we:
- Listen carefully and seek understanding
- Manage our anger and tone
- Forgive quickly
- Remain centered on Christ
- Apply biblical principles with grace
Though it takes diligence, humility and prayer, husband and wife can have conflict without it devolving into destructive fighting and bitterness. When disputes are handled wisely, it brings growth and closeness. God can use even our disagreements to strengthen our walk with Him and with each other.