10 Ground Rules for Fighting Fair in Marriage

Fights. Arguments. “Intense discussions.” Whatever you call them in your marriage, these difficult conversations can be extremely challenging.  However, I want to ask you—is your communication productive during these tense moments? Do you sense that your feelings have been heard, new ways of behavior have been mentioned, and healing has begun? Let's talk about 10 ground rules for fighting fair in marriage so that you can communicate in a God-honoring way and build your marriage up instead of tearing it apart.


Are your marital arguments unproductive? After a fight with your spouse are you more angry than ever? Try these 10 Ground Rules for Fighting Fair… these totally help us.

As I look back over the years at these conversations, I’ve recognized that during these times we fell into one (or more) of these traps:

  • believing that the situation is hopeless
  • attacking the other person without fair warning
  • forgetting that we’re on the same team
  • not staying on the topic
  • not praying before, during and/or after the conversation
  • thinking that the other person is fully to blame for the issue
  • expecting the other person to change first
  • being unwilling to change unless the other person does
  • expecting the change to come immediately
  • seeking our own pleasure instead of what’s best for us as a whole

Sometimes we also started a fight at the wrong time of day (late at night is not the best time for us!) or started a discussion that we couldn’t adequately finish (because kids were around, because one of us had to leave for work, etc).

Ultimately, my husband and I have unproductive and frustrating conversations because we've broken (at least one of) the 10 big ground rules we’ve established for our marriage.

I can honestly say that when we remember these 10 rules we have much more effective conversations, and change happens in our marriage.

Friend, I want to share these ground rules so that you can have better communication with your spouse too!

Give these “fighting fair” ground rules a try the next time you and your spouse need to have one of those “intense discussions.”

Our 10 Ground Rules for Fighting Fair

1) Accept where you are. 

It’s OK that things aren’t perfect. Every marriage has issues that need to be worked on!

Accept the current state of your emotions and those of your spouse. Believe this truth: “We’re starting here and with grace, a listening heart (and God’s help) we can make things better.” Have faith that things may not change overnight, but that hope is possible.

2) Talk before you share.

No one likes to feel like their cornered and attacked out of the blue. And that can easily happen when we go to our spouse and suddenly start sharing deep emotions (or probing him or her with questions), all in the name of feeling “closer.”

My husband and I find it helpful to give each other a heads up about a big conversation we need to have. Something along the lines of, “Hey honey, can we chat later today about some stuff in our relationship?”

3) Look for your part in the problem. 

I had a college professor who said, “In marriage, both parties plays a role in the happiness or unhappiness of the relationship.” Very true. It’s easy to blame the other person as the “reason” for the issue. And sometimes it’s true that one person is more “at fault” than another.

Excluding situations where abuse is present, both a husband and wife play a part in the state of the marriage (the good and the bad). It can go a long way in a conversation to first recognize and apologize for your part instead of just instantly placing blame.

4) Location and timing are everything.

Pick a time where there are no kids around or phones that will buzz. Find a place where you can speak privately and you both feel safe. For us, that’s our master bedroom (read more about how to make your bedroom a sanctuary for your marriage here). (TK—LINK).

5) Make it a safe place to share.

If you’re not sure that you can talk about these things without accusation, condemnation or pointing fingers, consider having a third party (like a counselor) present to keep the peace. Or, if it’s more comfortable, it might make sense to use a journal to ask your spouse questions or write emotions down.

6) Pray, pray, pray.

Pray before you even choose to have the conversation. Pray right before the conversation. And in those moments when you’re incredibly frustrated, pray for in-the-moment wisdom on how to handle the emotions.

7) Stay on topic.

This isn’t a time to dredge up old fights or to even cover a lot of issues at once. Pick one or two things and stay focused. Do your best to not veer off on rabbit trails or other areas of tension.

8) Remember that resolution is the goal (not just airing your needs).

Make the focus about growing closer, not just about airing your needs. Consider how your spouse may be feeling. Really listen to his or her feedback. The goal isn’t to be “right” or “wrong,” but for each of you to share honestly so that these issues won’t keep you separated.

9) View the issue as “we” not “me.”

When our partner is hurting emotionally, we’ve got to view the problem as something we work to solve together. The Bible describes marriage as becoming “one flesh,” and so when one hurts, both hurt. We can’t belittle the emotions or concerns but instead ask, “How can I help you through this? What part do I play in the problem, and how can I help solve it?”

10) Time for change (and tons of grace) must rule.

Realize that one conversation may not change everything. Growth is a process, and once we understand the deeper emotions behind the circumstances, we have to give our spouses time and space to slowly make the changes. This can be oh-so-hard (it’s the hardest part for me!!), but it’s the incredibly important grace side of marriage.

Agree to check in from time to time to discuss the issues if they can’t be solved right away.

Marriage fights are never easy, but these critical conversations can be productive and even times of blessing for our marriage if we work together to keep these 10 “fighting fair” boundaries in place.

Are there some tough issues you need to discuss with your spouse? Give these 10 ground rules a try.

Other Posts on Fighting Fair in Marriage and Building a Strong Marriage:

Learn How to Improve Your Marriage Communication So You Can Fight Fair In Marriage

If learning how to have better communication with your spouse is one of your marriage goals, I highly encourage you to pick up a great marriage devotional (here's my favorite, Consecrated Conversations, written by my dear friends, Mike and Carlie Kercheval).

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This awesome couples devotional from my dear friends (and marriage coaches) Mike + Carlie Kercheval goes deep on important topics that matter to Christian couples (everything from forgiveness to communication issues to sex). I love that it's goal is to help you create the healthy habit of better marriage communication in 30 days or less!

This best-selling couples devotional has helped over 16,000 couples build a better marriage!

The Kerchevals, certified marriage coaches, Bible teachers and an awesome married couple of over 21 years, will introduce you to a 30 day, step-by-step proven process for learning:

  • how to pray together as a couple
  • how to read the Bible as a couple
  • how to better communicate about important marriage issues

With three sections in each devotion (including a Bible verse, “Converse & Reflect” questions, and a sample prayer), this marriage resource encourages couples to discover intimacy in marriage like never before.

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Consecrated Conversations is a digital resource, which means my husband and I don't need to carry a book around because we have this powerful couples devotional available right on our phones or tablets. Yes!

And there's a bonus video workshop ($97 value!) and 30 scripture cards ($17 value) to go with the devotional!

I love how practical this couples devotional is, and how Mike and Carlie really encourage couples to invite God into their marriage discussions. Only God is the one that can bring true satisfaction, contentment and unity in marriage, right?

I also appreciate that Consecrated Conversations understands the big needs of Christian couples: that we want to communicate and connect with our spouses and we're disappointed and hurt that we can't seem to make it happen. Consecrated Conversations is a specific, proven roadmap for a closer marriage for Christian couples. 

I highly recommend this marriage devotional to many couples as the best couples devotional out there! Order your copy here.

P.S. Did I mention that this couples devotional experience (that includes an e-book, a video workshop, and scripture cards) is an INSANE value?! It's only $47 for $161 worth of content.

Seriously, the Consecrated Conversations Devotional is an amazing bible study experience to do with your spouse! What are you waiting for? 


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