Summary: Whether married or single, relating well to people includes conflict, so you may as well learn to fight well and to fight fair.

Fight Fair

1. • My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met. —Rodney Dangerfield

2. Soon after our last child left home for college, my husband was resting next to me on the couch with his head in my lap. I carefully removed his glasses. “You know, honey,” I said sweetly, “without your glasses you look like the same handsome young man I married.” “Honey,” he replied with a grin, “without my glasses, you still look pretty good too!”

—Valerie L. Runyan, in Reader’s Digest (cited in Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories).

A. When you get married, you bring three sets of preferences into the relationships

1. Things you both like

2. Things you like that differ but compliment one another

3. Things you like that differ and do not compliment one another (the fuel for arguments)

B. If you know how – or if you learn – to fight fair, your marriage is almost guaranteed to do well. If you fight unfairly, your marriage is almost guaranteed to be miserable. If you both avoid confrontation, your relationship is almost guaranteed to be lackluster and mediocre; you will not be very close.

C. Most of these principles are the same ones you would use with close friends – with anyone who cares about you. Not all of them work for people in general.

Main Idea: Whether married or single, relating well to people includes conflict, so you may as well learn to fight well and to fight fair.

I. The Right ATTITUDE about Disagreements or Arguments

A. TERMINOLOGY of Conflict

The difference between a disagreement, an argument, and a quarrel

(this is a distinction I am making; this is not an exact science)



when we argue, we are trying to address a disagreement (debating)

Acts 18:28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

an argument need not be loud or overly passionate; it is usually better if is not so loud and emotions are under control…this is more likely if disagreements are addressed at an early stage and thoroughly.


an argument can easily turn into a quarrel, something we should try to avoid

in a quarrel, there is more at stake than the disagreement: ego, looking good, superiority, power (who gets his or her way), revenge…truth is no longer the issue

James 4:1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

Proverbs 20:3 Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.

B. Disagreements and Arguments can be compatible with love and God’s will, but an argument can easily violate love and God’s will

1. Sometimes it is wrong not to argue.

Calmness and quiet is not the same as harmony.

2. A fair argument can resolve problems and make a couple closer.

An unfair argument can create more problems that it resolves and create distance.

Couples fight over everything, but the "big three" are

1. money management (the most common)

2. sex

3. in-laws

3. Frequent arguments indicate deeper issues; we must choose our fights based on what is worth fighting for

---constant bickering is bad news…often

C. Factors to consider

1. TRUTH vs. Upbringing

Exposure to parents who fought in an unfair way handicaps us

--we might determine not to argue

--we might repeat the style of our parents

--the right choice: to argue in a fair way

2. Levels of HUMILITY, SECURITY, and HONESTY make a big difference

3. Some differences have to be ACCOMMODATED and cannot be resolved

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord…(Acts 15:36-40)

Whether married or single, relating well to people includes conflict, so you may as well learn to fight well and to fight fair.

II. Rules of COMBAT

"My wife and I had a fight last night."

"How did it end up?"

"She came crawling to me on her hands and knees."

"What did she say?"

"Come out from under that bed, you coward!"

A. How NOT to fight: "The Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse" Dr. John Gottman

1. Can detect a deteriorating marriage within a 95% accuracy

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