New Marriage Series: Fight Club: Part 1…The first rule of Fight Club

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The goal of this blog series is this: I want to be your “Mickey.” Please get Micky Mouse out of your head and see the man, the myth, the legend: Mickey Goldmill (yep…the trainer from Rocky).  I want to train you to be the best fighter possible in your marriage. I’ve heard it said “Conflict is healthy for marriage.”

I disagree.

Fighting for fighting sake is not healthy. Purposely looking to get in conflict with your spouse because you like fighting is manipulative and wrong.  I believe in marriage and I believe conflict happens.  But my philosophy is different:

Healthy conflict is healthy for marriage.

You may see one word change from the previous quote but it is drastically different. If you don’t know how to healthily deal with conflicts/disagreements/impasse in marriage, the conflict doesn’t get resolved and vitality doesn’t get achieved.

Whether you like it or not: conflict in inevitable.

in·ev·i·ta·ble: certain to happen; unavoidable

In premarital counseling, I take a whole session to talk about it. It’s not that I’m a pessimist when talking to couples about their upcoming life together.  I’m not trying to deflate their excitement.  But there are so many idealistic mentalities when it comes to fighting with your significant other.

– “We never fight.”
– “I avoid disagreements. It’s better for our relationship.”
– “It will work itself out.”
– “He/she will get over it.  He/she’s not really that upset.”
– “We just don’t talk about it. It will only make things worse.”
– “It’s not a big deal.  It will all blow over soon.”

In the 1999 movie “Fight Club”, a group of men got together to form a recreation time of, you guessed it, fighting. People from different walks of life convened in a basement to unleash their aggression on each other and walk away friends. (I had caught the “TV version” while having the flu.) Imagine if we acted that way in marriage.   In “Fight Club”, there were 8 primary rules.  The first two were this:

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We’re going to have our own rules for this series “Fight Club.”

Fight Club

Welcome to our “Fight Club.” RULE #1: Stop avoiding it…Talk about it

This is the beginning of the problem with marital fighting/conflict: No one talks about “Fight Club”…er…the conflict at hand. We follow the rule and in doing that, we bury that which needs to be dealt with.  Unresolved conflict doesn’t ever go away. It is a sliver that is deep in the tissue.  Because of the present pain, you leave it in there and learn to deal with the uncomfortable feeling till you no longer notice it.  It stays and begins to fester.  It infects and ends up becoming more trouble and more painful than what it would have been if it was dealt with properly.

The start of conflict is where couples can set up the fight for success or disaster.  Here’s how I’m gonna set you up for “Fight Club” success…2 tips:

1 – Face it. When conflict shows its ugly head, don’t be silent.  Don’t think the other person hasn’t noticed it.  Be willing to call it out for what it is.  Don’t cop-out of the fight because “we are fighting about this AGAIN!”  Perhaps the reason you are fighting about this AGAIN is because you didn’t know how to fight to begin with.  Perhaps your spouse doesn’t know how to fight properly.  Don’t hide or ignore it. Talk about what you are fighting about. Face it eye to eye.

2 – Designate a time and place.  This isn’t the opposite of what we’ve set as “Rule #1.” In fact, it’s setting up healthy verbal conflict. You need to talk about it.  BUT…You both need to recognize what is happening and be willing to approach the conversation by giving it the right atmosphere for the words bring vitality instead of infection. “Designate a time and place” almost sounds like middle school when I would hear boys in the hall say “I’ll see you after school.” What that meant was two boys would meet just outside of the school grounds at the dead-end street to fight after school.  We all knew the lingo. We knew what to expect.  But there was a certain genius to it (sounds weird to say that).  Just because conflict is staring at your eye to eye doesn’t mean that is the time and place for it.  Tempers are up. Hurtful words are on the tip of the tongue.  Previous faults are ready to be brought up.  The tension is so thick. It’s like a stand-off of two cowboys waiting for someone to “draw.”

It shouldn’t be that way. Why? You both need time to cool down and gather your thoughts.  At this point, you are more apt to go for the win for yourself instead of going for the win for the both of you.  I’ll say it this way:

Don’t go for the win for “me”…go for the win for “we.”

I’ve said more hurtful things out of reaction than I have out of careful thought and preparation. I’m not saying delay the conflict a week or two.  I’m saying that timing and location is everything.

Why set a time and place?
– Maybe the kids are up.  They don’t need to see the conflict.
– Other people don’t need to see it. If you’re one of those couples that fights in the middle of the mall, you’re making all of us feel awkward and you’re giving me marriage blog material.
– It gives you a moment to calm down.  A panicked animal that doesn’t normally bite is more apt to attack out of reaction.
– It gives you a chance to pray. James 1:5.  Ask for wisdom.
– Perspective is easier to achieve with a clear head.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.

The response to the beginning of a fight is instrumental to healthy conflict.  If you don’t start off by talking about the elephant in the room.  You will get trampled by it.  Get it in the open, set a place and time to deal with it, and watch your “fight” start with a trajectory for life instead of devastation.

In the words of Mickey,

rocky-iii-560-mickey

“you’re gonna be swappin’ punches with the most dangerous fighter in the world. And just in case, you know, your brain ain’t workin’ so good, all this happens pretty soon and you ain’t ready. You’re nowhere near in any shape. So I say, you know, for God’s sake, why don’t you stand up and fight this guy hard?!”

We’ll see ya next Friday as we continue…till then: Talk about “Fight Club.”

Thanks for letting me ramble…

pdbarringer

Anne's Husband. Cammi & Ethan's Dad Lead Pastor @kalamazoofirst

3 comments

  • Fighting in a relation ship is not healthy and there is no love there…
    When disagreements happen, You talk and look for many possible solutions to the issue and pick the best to resolve the problem… Communication, trust and love in a marriage is the key… and another thing; when you did married to your spouse is because you were in love to that person and you did accepted the way he(she) was… Do never try to change some one, our boss him(her) around, that is your first mistake and it will take you no were…
    There is no boss in a marriage… Men and Women are equal… even the Bible it said: they became one….

    • Whatever term you want to use (fighting, disagreements, arguments, etc), conflict is inevitable when two different people from different backgrounds come together. I’m not sure where you read into “changing someone/bossing him/her around”. Can you help me understand where that came from? This series on conflict facilitates couples to do EXACTLY what you are saying: when the inevitable conflict happens, the two work together for the right solution through communication and planning so that the best resolution can happen. I just don’t understand where your reference to my “first mistake” is coming from. Please help me see as to something that may be misunderstood.

    • I would agree with you…fighting for the sake of fighting isn’t healthy.

      Looking for conflict isn’t healthy.

      If it’s going to happen, and it naturally will happen (we’re human), then I want to make sure that couples do it in a healthy way to facilitate growth.

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