Maybe you’re no stranger to the yelling or name calling that can accompany marital battles. Perhaps you vividly recall lying awake in the night as shouts thundered through the house. Maybe you remember wondering how two people could hurl verbal daggers and still say “I love you”.
Years later, your own tongue has become instinctively poised to launch poisonous arrows at your spouse. Words pierce him before you realize you’re arguing. He fires back, and verbal war rages until the final slam of a door.
Maybe yours is a perfect picture of marriage, without any disagreements or ruffled feathers. But, as one father put it, “If a couple isn’t arguing, then somebody’s not thinking.” Marital battles are inevitable. Agreeing on some rules of engagement though, can make the difference between massive casualties, and a quickly signed peace treaty. Here are a few that have worked for us:
Six Rules of Engagement
- Seal Off The Exits
Ban the word ‘divorce’ from your home. "Watch your words, for they become actions..." (Thomas Krause) The more familiar or comfortable the concept becomes, the more it becomes a viable exit strategy. Seal off the exits.
- No Name
Name-calling is the heavy artillery of verbal war. Agree to a name-calling truce, making it permanently off limits.
- Gentle Word
It’s impossible to argue with someone who won’t argue back. The proverb is true; ‘A gentle word turns away wrath’. My abrasive words have been stopped dead in their tracks by the gentleness of another. This unassuming, understated defence is one of the great secret weapons of verbal battle. (and one I hope to master…)
- Time out
Sometimes at the height of battle, retreat is necessary. When venomous words threaten to launch from your lips, walk away to reset your mind and mouth.
A notebook or computer provides an excellent place to launch arrows at a practice target. Afterward, pick through the emotional debris to discover the real underlying issue.
- Golden Rule
Put yourself in his armour. How would you hope to be treated? This empathy exercise has deterred many would-be battles.
These rules of engagement also extend beyond marriage into parenting, friendship and any relationship where battles can erupt. We may not be able to avoid conflict, but we can break free of the consequences of war. It seems peace doesn’t just happen, but is acquired.