Arguments in marriage are like dirty dishes in the sink—they’re best dealt with immediately. At least, that’s how my husband and I have come to see it.
We learned early that putting off washing dishes does not make the chore any easier. On the contrary, if you let them sit long enough (which I’m ashamed to admit we did during those honeymoon weeks), milk will sour, mold will grow, and a cloud of midges will hover menacingly above your sink. It’s truly disgusting. Even if you put dishes to soak in hot water to loosen the baked-on grime, you had better return before the water becomes tepid and the suds disappear, or you’ll be back to dealing with a cold, slimy mess.
Having learned this lesson the hard way, I now try to tend to my dirty dishes in a more timely fashion. I take care not to make a bigger mess than is necessary. As much as is possible, I wash up as I go when preparing meals, so that it’s a simple matter of loading cups and plates into the dishwasher after we eat. And I also make a point to never leave dishes in the sink overnight.
I have found that abiding by these simple rules—don’t make unnecessary messes, wash up as you go, empty the sink before bedtime—makes the kitchen a vastly more pleasant place to work. But these same principles adapt readily to marriage in general and to conflict resolution in particular: Avoid unnecessary arguments. Address areas of conflict as they arise. And don’t go to bed angry. The rules are simple. They’re Biblical. And abiding by them makes our home an exceedingly more peaceful place to live.
Avoid Unnecessary Arguments
The Bible makes it clear that the best kind of argument is one that’s avoided. Read for yourself:
- “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon a quarrel before it breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:4)
- “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3)
- “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)
Rather than wearing our feelings on our sleeves and taking offense at every little thing our husband does, we should cultivate an attitude of grace and forgiveness. But what if we find ourselves in the midst of conflict, despite our best efforts to avoid it. What then?
Address Areas of Conflict as They Arise
It is imperative that couples deal with disputes in a timely fashion, preferably as soon as they come up. Even if you decide in the heat of an argument that you need to cool off before continuing a discussion, do not put it off too long, lest you give wounds an opportunity to fester and find yourself in a bigger mess than you started with. Pray rather that God will give you the wisdom and love and patience you need to resolve the problem now.
Don’t Go to Bed Angry
The Bible states in no uncertain terms that we must “not let the sun go down on [our] anger” (Eph. 4:26). Solomon recommends that if we have a dispute with a neighbor, we “give no sleep to [our] eyes, nor slumber to [our] eyelids” until we’ve humbled ourselves and seen the matter resolved.
When a husband and wife make it their habit to resolve differences before turning in for the night, they are able to extend and experience forgiveness. After truly letting go of offenses, they rest with a clear conscience, unbothered by the day’s affairs, at peace with God and man. The alternative is tossing and turning night after night, never free of stress, guilt, resentment, anger, and bitterness that swarm through your thoughts like a cloud of midges? Given the choice, wouldn’t you rather just deal with the mess now?
The above article was adapted from pp. 253-258 of my book, Love Your Husband/Love Yourself: Embracing God’s Plan for Passion in Marriage.