Originally published October 21, 2016
My twenty-fourth wedding anniversary is coming up in December. I am so thankful to God for bringing my husband into my life. He has been such a blessing to me. I adore Scott…most of the time. Scott and I are both very passionate people. That’s a polite way of saying we’re both prone to being hot-headed and overly emotional at times. And that’s sort of a secular way of saying we have both given in to sin and selfishness with each other over the years. We’ve had our share of arguments, and if you’re married, you probably have, too.
The Bible says:
Be angry, and do not sin. Psalm 4:4a
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20
There is a godly way to iron out our differences in marriage. We pray for each other and about whatever it is we’re disagreeing about. We die to self, put the other person first, and act in humility and love. We exercise self control and refuse to be ruled by our emotions. Husbands love their wives and lead with a self-sacrificing heart, and, wives, we submit to and respect our husbands’ God-given leadership.
And then there are the ungodly ways to handle problems and arguments in our marriages. Younger ladies, as someone who has learned many of these things the hard way, allow me to Titus 2 you for a few moments. Here are nine ways not to fight with your husband*:
1. Failure to leave and cleave
Your utmost loyalty is to your husband. When you and your husband have a disagreement, it is for the two of you to work out together. Do not run back to Mommy and Daddy (or your sister, best friend, etc.) and complain about your husband in hopes that they will take your side against him and fight your battles for you. That is the mark of a child, not a grown woman. (And, older moms, if your adult daughter attempts to do this with you, teach her that this is not the godly way to handle disagreements. Do not get involved. Send her back home to work things out with her husband.)
2. Don’t negatively compare your husband to other men.
“You’re just like your mother/father!” “My father would never treat me like this!” “My ex-husband/former boyfriend/deceased spouse always _______. Why don’t you?” “Pastor Bob/your friend Joe would never treat his wife this way!” The fact of the matter is, your husband was created in the image of God as a unique individual. There is no comparison to others.
3. Don’t use Scripture as a weapon.
Yes, the Bible is a two-edged sword. No, that doesn’t mean to slice your husband to pieces with it. In the same way he doesn’t get to yell “You’re not being submissive!” (even though it may be true) as a way to win an argument, you don’t get to take the verses that tell husbands how to act and use them to belittle him. The best way you can use Scripture in the middle of an argument is to remember what it says to you about obedience to Christ, humility, patience, and extending grace, and obey it.
4. Don’t use sex as a weapon or a bribe.
God created sex as a good gift for husbands and wives to enjoy. He tells us we are to give each other our right to intimacy and that we are not to deprive each other except temporarily, by agreement, and for the purpose of devoting ourselves to prayer. Do not withhold sex as a way to punish your husband or hold it over his head as a way to get him to do what you want him to do.
5. No personal attacks
Would you want your husband to call you ugly, a cow, a bad wife, a lousy mother? Of course not. Don’t call him lazy, weak, stupid, fat, etc.
6. Don’t emasculate him.
Do not attack your husband’s manhood. Berating him for his job performance, belittling him for not being as successful you think he should be (or as someone else is), throwing in his face how little money he makes, mocking his performance in the bedroom, denigrating him as a mama’s boy, making his kowtowing to you a test of his manhood, and saying things like, “A real man wouldn’t ____!”, are all great ways to tear down your house with your own hands. These kinds of remarks are some of the most hurtful things you can say to your husband. They make him feel the way you would feel if he said you were old, fat, and ugly and he was going to find someone else who was younger and beautiful. These are soul crushing things to say, and if you’re in the habit of saying them, your marriage isn’t going to last long. Stop.
7. Don’t be manipulative, passive aggressive, or play other emotional games.
No pouting, no slamming things around, no saying “NOTHING!” or “I’M FINE!” when he asks what’s wrong, no expecting him to read your mind and getting mad if he doesn’t, no making his giving in a test of his love for you, no holding things over his head, no maxing out the credit cards, flirting with other men, or sabotaging his work, hobbies, or relationships as a way to get back at him. None of these are godly ways to relate to anyone, and especially not to your husband. “The heart of her husband trusts in her,” the Bible says, “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Throughout God’s word, we’re admonished to lovingly speak the truth with one another, not hide, shade, twist, or withhold things. If you’re playing any of these emotional games with your husband you’re being dishonest, unkind, unloving, and malicious.
8. NEVER threaten divorce.
For Christians, divorce is never a solution to regular marital spats. You have taken a vow before God to stick with your husband through the bad times. Christ has said He will never leave you nor forsake you despite the many times you’ve sinned against him. How, then, could you threaten to leave your husband for sinning against you? The only reason for such a threat is to hurt or scare the man you have pledged to love and honor for the rest of your life. That is not how a woman of God behaves.
9. Leave the past behind.
Don’t throw past sin in your husband’s face. When God forgives us, He puts that sin behind us. The Bible tells us we’re to forgive others the same way, and that we’re not to harbor a record of wrongdoing against others. Love and forgive your husband the way Christ has loved and forgiven you.
But what if he doesn’t do a good job at work or hasn’t cut the apron strings or is being disobedient to Scripture? There’s a time and a place to kindly, lovingly, and rationally discuss those things. The middle of a heated argument isn’t it. Christ does not use our weaknesses as a weapon against us and we do not use our husbands’ weaknesses as a weapon against them. We treat our husbands fairly, kindly, compassionately, respectfully. The same way we want them to treat us.