Every married couple will experience conflict–period.  Just as Paul warned us we will all experience trials when we follow Christ, every one who choses to marry another person, because of our fallen nature, should expect to also go through trials in their marriage.  Here are some of the key paragraphs from The Love Dare followed by some rules to help make sure your “heated fellowship” stays fair…and above the belt, so to speak.

The deepest, most heartbreaking damage you’ll ever do (or ever have done) to your marriage will most likely occur in the heat of conflict. That’s because this is when your pride is strongest, and your anger is hottest. You’re the most selfish and judgmental.  Your words contain the most venom.  You make the worst decisions.  A great marriage on Monday can start driving off the cliff on Tuesday if unbridled conflict takes over and neither of you has your foot on the brakes.

But love steps in and changes things.  Love reminds you that your marriage is too valuable to allow it to self-destruct, and that your love for your spouse is more important than whatever you are fighting about.  Love helps you install air bags, and to set up guardrails in your relationship.  It reminds you that conflict can actually be turned around for good.  Married couples who learn to work through conflict tend to be closer, more trusting, more intimate, and enjoy a much deeper connection afterwards.

But HOW?  The wisest way is to learn to fight clean by establishing healthy rules of engagement.  Basically there are two types of boundaries for dealing with conflict: “We” boundaries and “Me” boundaries.

“We” boundaries are rules you both agree on beforehand that apply during any fight or conflict.  And each of you has the right to gently but directly enforce them if these rules are violated.

    1. We will NEVER mention divorce!
    2. We will NOT bring up old, unrelated issues from the past.
    3. We will NEVER fight in public or in front of the children!!
    4. We will call a TIME OUT if conflict escalates to a damaging level.
    5. We will NEVER EVER touch one another in a harmful way!
    6. We will NEVER EVER go to bed angry.
    7. Failure is NOT an option. Whatever it takes, we WILL work this out!

“Me” boundaries are rules you personally practice on your own. Here are some examples:

    1. I will LISTEN first before speaking. “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)
    2. I will deal with my own issues up-front. “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s [spouse’s] eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’ (Matthew 7:3)
    3. I will SPEAK GENTLY and keep my voice down. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

Fighting fair means changing your weapons. Disagreeing with dignity. It should result in building a bridge instead of burning one down.

Remember, love is not a fight, but it’s ALWAYS worth fighting for.

This may be the best advice a married couple could get.  Here’s a suggestion: cut and paste the above rules onto something you can print.  Make a couple of copies. Maybe even laminate it and keep it somewhere you can find it when you need it.  Maybe give a copy to a friend.  I know I plan to.

One more thing: Choose to follow these rules NO MATTER WHAT….even if your spouse chooses to break them.  And yes, this advice is for me too!