Five Ways to Stop a Fight Before It Starts
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It was our honeymoon, and we weren't speaking.
My mouth a firm line, I avoided all eye contact with my new husband. I tried staring at my plate, but Alan's shiny new ring kept catching my eye, taunting me. The ring represented everything I was trying to forget:
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:7 ESV)
We were at the beach. And when you are at the beach, you want to eat seafood, of course.
Unless, you are like me, then you hate seafood.
To find a restaurant agreeable to both of us, Alan and I used the following plan:
1. Drive to awesome sounding seafood place
2. Jump out and skim menu for chicken
3. Return to the car disappointed
After doing this 25 times or so, Alan and I both got hungry.
To make a long story short, snippy words flew, we pulled into the local Red Lobster and sat across from each other angry – and hungry. We call that "hangry."
Alan and I learned a valuable lesson; do not let the other one get hungry.
We all have trigger factors – those things that really annoy us. For you, it could be clutter, too many noises at the same time (like three children trying to talk over the sound of the television) or extreme heat. For your spouse, it could be lack of sleep, bad smells, or being interrupted.
If you trigger one of these factors, you may soon find yourself in quite a battle. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are five ways to stop an argument before it gets going:
1. Discover your spouse's trigger factors (and make sure they know yours)
If you've been married for a while, you may know these triggers already. But it never hurts to ask. Sometimes naming them helps both of you be alert and recognize when either of you have been triggered.
2. Stop and look both ways
Next time your spouse explodes, pause and look for a trigger factor. Alan gets snippy when he is hungry. I've learned to bring crackers. And he has learned to straighten up the house when I get grumpy.
3. Show grace
Does knowing trigger factors excuse bad behavior? No. Apologize for harsh words. But realize when your honey's irritability button has been triggered, and show grace. Know it just as easily could have been you who fell into the grumpy pit.
If you're slow to anger and quick to understand, you may stop a fight before it happens.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.NIV
4. Plan ahead
Some things you cannot help, but take control of the ones you can. If you know your loved one hates the smell of broccoli, don't cook it! If heat is your trigger factor, put your hair in a ponytail before you vacuum.
If you truly love your spouse (let's hope you do or we have bigger issues here), then you want them to be happy. Do what you can to create a pleasing atmosphere.
In a loving, Christ-like commitment of two people, there will still be arguments. Toes will be stepped on. Feet will be inserted into mouths. You both will fly off the handle from time to time.
Listen to me. This. Is. Normal.
It happens. Don't throw in the towel. Don't call a divorce lawyer. Don't wish harm on your spouse.
The secret to a long happy marriage is learning to forgive.
When you are in the heat of the moment, decide it then. Decide to forgive them before they say I'm sorry. Forgiveness will deflate a fight in a hurry.
When I am my angriest, I have to ask, "Do I expect God to forgive me? Tomorrow when I screw up, do I honestly want God to forgive me of my sins?" I realize that I too must forgive.
Disagreements are normal in a marriage of two imperfect people. Hopefully, we can learn from them. Take note of the things that upset your spouse. Then, work to stop arguments before they happen.
Because, honestly, your spouse isn't just your life partner or your lover, your spouse is your best friend.
And friends don't let friends get hangry.
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