Fighting naked—both literally and figuratively—has been pivotal in helping us fight well. Yes, you can “fight well” in your marriage. Conflict, disagreements, frustrations, tension—none of this is new to marriage. That’s what today’s episode (and blog post!) is all about.
Put two people in a covenant together, living in the same house for life, and conflict is inevitable. First, we’ll explore and understand what the bible says about how to resolve conflict, then we’ll leave you with a few tangible ways to deal with conflict in a healthy way.
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Fight Naked! How Fighting Well Can Help Build a Stronger Marriage
Selena and I always laugh when we feel a fight bubbling up because we remember this timeless advice we once received: “fight naked”. The idea is that it’s really hard to fight and stay angry when you’re both stark naked. While practically applicable, the advice is actually very profound.
Author Tim Keller says in his podcast,
“When I, in marriage, make myself physically naked and vulnerable, it’s a sign of what I’ve done with my whole life…”
So when we say, “fight naked”, we mean it practically as well as metaphorically.
Go ahead, get in the buff and see how it works! The important thing is to always be naked emotionally and utterly transparent in your communication. You’ve heard the phrase, “let it all hang out”. That’s what I’m talking about… I think.
The last thing we want to do with this blog is to paint a picture like we’ve got everything figured out. Selena and I have some experience in this area… time for some more transparency.
But before I tell our story, let’s look at God’s story: the Bible.
What’s the Bible say about disagreeing?
It’s useless to try and define “healthy fighting” on our own. At best we would arrive at some subjective mush of pop-psychological rhetoric… i.e. mostly garbage. We must turn to a moral authority outside of ourselves: the Bible. I did a quick topical study of “conflict resolution” in the Bible. Here’s what I found:
- Reconciliation is the primary goal (Matthew 5:24)
- Confession & apologizing is necessary (Luke 17:4)
- Anger is natural, but it’s not justification for wrong behavior (Ephesians 4:26)
- Listen first, speak maybe, always be patient (James 1:19)
- Forgiveness is a must (Colossians 3:13)
These principles will serve as our foundation moving forward.
We know how to duke it out…
I’d like to recant personal stories to illustrate a few types of fights in marriage, then I hope to provide insight into how to handle each type in a Bible-based, constructive way.
Our memories of fighting go all the way back to when we were dating. We’ve had tiffs of all sorts throughout our 18+ years together (4 dating, 14+ married). We’ve had shouting matches, bicker-fests, cheap-shots, and silent but deadly spats—you know, when one person gives the other the silent treatment until finally someone just leaves.
3 Types of Marital Fights and How to Seek Reconciliation
Annoyances & bickering
When you live with another human, you will get annoyed. You like the toilet paper coming over the top, he likes it to feed from the bottom. You methodically flatten the toothpaste tube, she squeezes recklessly, all willy-nilly with little to no regard for structure in the universe! (Selena’s a squeezer :) ) He leaves the lights on, you turn them off. One person chews WAY too loudly…
So on and so forth.
Speaking from experience, here’s what we’ve found:
- They’re never deal breakers – they can always be worked out or worked around. Choose your battles wisely.
- Timing and tone are everything – voice your concerns in a constructive way and time.
- Thick skin makes life easier – if your spouse does use an inflammatory tone, try to hear what they’re saying before how they’re saying it.
- Get over it – sometimes small annoyances should just be overlooked and let go.
Fights that stem from deep hurts
These fights are the kind where the heart is involved. To be transparent, I get really hurt when Selena doesn’t express a desire for me… sexually. I’ll be like, “check out my sexy new haircut and how I’ve been working out!” and I think, “she’ll surely tackle me at any moment.” Only, she’s got a thousand other things on her mind and sex is buried a few to-do items down.
If I let it brew, I get all worked up and mad as I assume she’s “forgetting that I’m a MAN with NEEDS”. If I don’t find a way to express my hurt lovingly, it builds up until I make a jabby comment and BOOM, fight. This usually occurs when we’re both tired and it’s late at night.
Depending on how she reacts, it can escalate into a full-blown shouting match with all sorts of hurtful language. I’ll say, “you never want to have sex!” or she might say, “we always do!” or “you never want to connect and talk!”. Gotta love those absolute statements…
There are many other scenarios I could use to illustrate this type of fight (spending habits, family frustrations, feeling ignored), but the common thread is how each time it’s a result of “bottling it up”. Here’s how scripture instructs us to deal with these fights:
- Seek wholeness and reconciliation, not to simply vent your hurt.
- TALK. You both must commit to talking it through. Also, seek to hear what’s not being said.
- Don’t sin in your anger. Husbands, your weakest moments are when you’re tired and hurt; don’t sin.
- If you’re wrong, admit it. Be an adult and own it. Don’t let pride drive you further apart.
Core issue disagreements
Not every couple shares the same belief in Jesus. We hear this from couples often and it’s tragic.
These types of fights can only be won by the Holy Spirit. If you’re always fighting with your wife or husband over your core beliefs, pray. You can’t win their heart, only Jesus can. Allow and trust the holy spirit to work through you to show them true, selfless love. You will have to be very strong, but God works miracles and He’s always present. The Bible does talk about being “unequally yoked”, read up on that and make sure you’re following God’s word.
There are other, more minor, core issue disagreements as well: spanking the kids, strategies for saving money, where to go to church, career choices, and theologically charged but non-essential differences (like what “speaking in tongues” means).
If you’re dealing with one of the smaller core issues, seek agreement and seek understanding. If you’re still at an impasse and it’s not a salvation issue, one of you will need to compromise.
Compromise isn’t bad, it’s just compromise. The important thing is to not let it poison your marriage by fostering bitterness and deep anger over the long haul.
Here are the key take-aways in case you skimmed:
- Fight naked: literally and figuratively. Keep it light whenever possible and be transparent always.
- Fight with love as your backdrop. If you stray from this, you’re wrong. Love must motivate you to seek reconciliation, otherwise you’re just being selfish.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you can, get over it. Have thick skin. Let some things go, and seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
- If all seems lost: pray hard and trust God.
Have you found a way to minimize hurtful & unhealthy fighting in your marriage?
Please share in the comments below.
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