By Arron Chambers
All married couples fight at one time or another.
It’s like a pile of manure landing on your front porch. You know what manure is, don’t you? Manure on your front porch is not a good thing. Not at all. It’s a smelly, disgusting, and completely unappealing in every way kind of thing.
In my experience as a marriage coach, I’ve come to believe that every married couple will have a pile of “manure” fall onto their “porch” at one time or another.
Bad stuff happens to good married couples.
And when the unexpected pile of manure shows up on the front porch of your marriage, you are faced with a few options.
Option 1: Roll in it! Some people, upon finding a pile of emotional manure on their front porch, decide to roll in it. They identify with a problem, struggle, disappointment, hurtful experience, harsh word, or rejection in a deeply personal way. They roll in the manure until they feel better about feeling pitiful.
They make the problem their new identity with the hopes that, when others see they are covered in manure, they will feel so sorry for their stinking situation they will pity them, coddle them, support them, fund them, and enable them to use their coating of manure as a cloak against any critical analysis of their actions.
Interesting thing about manure: it stinks, so victims who choose to roll around in the manure stink. They are so identified with their manure that they stink, and no one wants to be around them.
Option 2: Avoid it! Some people, upon finding a pile of emotional manure on their front porch, decide not to deal with it—they push it aside to deal with at a later time. It’s just so overwhelming. The smell. The mess. The drama. It seems so much easier to shovel the most recent pile of manure into the larger manure pile made up of other previously undealt-with piles of manure now surrounding the house.
Choosing not to deal with something bad today often leads to having to deal with something bad tomorrow. Those who never productively confront pain—choosing instead to shovel the pain to the side—find themselves in a potentially hopeless and overwhelming situation. Surrounded by mountains of manure, their only option is to plow through it. Overwhelmed by the prospect of handling what they must deal with to just get started cleaning up their mess, they shovel it aside and unwittingly trap themselves within a prison with really big stinky walls.
Option 3: Do something good with it! I’m a city kid who knows very little about farming, farms, or anything farm related, but I do know that if you want to grow something, spreading manure in a field is a good thing. It’s not even called manure anymore once it is placed in a field in preparation for planting—it’s called fertilizer. Everything changes with intentionality. When fertilizer is intentionally placed in a field, it is powerful, fruitful, and useful.
In your marriage, bad stuff is going to happen. Every healthy marriage has its share of problems—or piles of “manure” that end up on the porch. Every couple I know and respect who has been married more than a few years has a story of when they didn’t think they were going to make it—a time when a pile of manure landed on their porch and they were faced with rolling in it, pushing it aside, or dealing with it.
Healthy couples who want to have an extraordinary marriage don’t roll in it or avoid it—they do something good with it. They take it from the porch, and they use it to help something good grow in their marriage. The problems we face in marriage, when dealt with intentionally, are powerful, fruitful, and useful.
Which is why I believe in good fighting. I believe good fighting is a sign of a healthy marriage. I believe good fighting is good because it is an opportunity to do something good and productive with a bad situation.
When two independent adults live together . . . every day . . . for the rest of their lives, . . . it’s inevitable . . . there are going to be disagreements, frustrations, hurtful experiences, harsh words, disrespectful behavior, and a myriad of other provocative actions that lead couples into a good fight. They are going to find piles of manure on their porch.
Not all fights are good.
A fight is not good if it includes . . . fits of rage, violence, alcohol/drug impairment, physical abuse, throwing things, cursing or yelling at one another, terrorizing the children, the silent treatment, mocking, shaming, belittling, smashing, slamming, rolling (in manure), shoveling (manure aside), or any other out-of-control, toxic, abusive, or neglectful behaviors.
So, how can a couple have a good fight? How can we do something good when something bad happens in our marriage?
Six Keys to a Good Fight
Good information—Did you ever have an argument only to realize you didn’t have all of the information or the information you had was not correct? Maybe this rhyme will help: Facts right before you fight.
Good place—A good fight never happens in the wrong location. It’s always good to avoid fighting in some of the following bad places: in public, in front of extended family, at work, in front of the kids, or in bed (I’ll expand upon this point in my upcoming book).
Good time—The right time to have a fight is when—and only when—you and your spouse agree it’s the right time. I’m writing from experience.
Here are a few bad times to have a fight: when your spouse is leaving for work, when your spouse is walking in the door from work, or when you or your spouse is at work; when your spouse is in the middle of a big project (like dinner); when you’re leaving for vacation, on your way to church, or on your way home from church; when you’re leaving on a date or on a date; before sex, after sex, or during sex; when your spouse is trying to get the kids out the door for school; or when your kids are in the back seat of the car.
These are just a few examples. Now, every time can’t be the wrong time, because it’s essential that fights be had in a reasonable amount of time. Avoiding a fight is only delaying the fight.
Good goal—The goal of every good fight should be understanding, not victory. Why would we want to defeat our teammate and the one we need to achieve victory?
Good weapons—Not all couples fight the same way. Some couples fight quietly—in soft whispers and well-chosen words. Some couples fight loudly—in loud shouts and with a free flow of emotionally charged words. When fighting, our words are weapons.
Here’s a general principle I’ve found to be helpful in having a good fight: Don’t use a hammer when a feather will do. After just a short time being married, most of us have already identified the words we can use to cause our spouse the most pain. Don’t use those words.
Good resolution—After reaching mutual understanding, call a cease-fire. Put your “weapons” down. Take a breath. Embrace. Pray together. Apologize. Make love. And resolve to discuss it no further except by mutual agreement and with this list of keys as a good plan for having a good fight.
So, there you go. The next time you and your spouse find yourselves facing a pile of manure on the porch of your marriage, don’t roll in it or avoid it. Do the good thing and deal with the bad thing in an intentional way. Talk it through. Have a good fight, if you must. Get the manure off the porch, put it in a field, and expect good things to grow.
Arron Chambers serves as lead minister with Journey Christian Church, Greeley, Colorado. This article is ©2017 Arron Chambers