This title may stir up questions in some of your minds. Does this writer assume that Christian couples fight? Is he resigning himself to the fact that we will fight? Does he think that we aren’t fair when we fight? The answer is yes to all of the above questions. This is exactly what I think happens in most Christian marriages today.
Let’s be absolutely honest with one another. You and I both know that every married couple fights at some time in their relationship. Some of you fight more than others, and I am sure that sometimes you aren’t fair with your spouse. My conviction concerning this kind of behavior originates from what the Bible teaches about man. Paul declared the fact that there is no temptation that is not “common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). In other words, we are all very much alike and have similar trials and temptations. In addition, we are all sinners by nature, and therefore, are not always loving or fair toward one another.
I am also convinced that at times we don’t treat each other fairly. In counseling I will quite often hear one partner declare, “That’s not fair!” when the details of a conflict are brought up. Have you ever said these words to your partner in the midst of a disagreement? Sure you have. Each of us has an innate sense of what is fair and what is not. Consequently, if you are unfair with your mate during an argument, nothing will be resolved. Your spouse will only focus on how unfairly he or she is being treated and will lose sight of the initial conflict.
However, let me add a word of encouragement here. Experiencing conflict does not mean the end of your marriage. You must see conflict as an opportunity for change and growth within your relationship. The only time conflicts will become detrimental is when you are unfair with one another and you fail to resolve the issue you are fighting over. Remember, all trials are working God’s perfect work in your life if you will only submit yourself to God and allow Him to change you (James 1:4).
How do we define what is fair?
The Bible defines the word fair as being honest and rendering a just and equal response toward one another. In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet records a charge made against God by His people. “The house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’” However, God responded to them, “O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?” (Ezekiel 18:29). Therefore, the best definition of what is fair will always be the way God has dealt with man. His just and even-handed approach in the way He has loved and corrected His people must be our ultimate bench mark of what it means to be fair with others. God has demonstrated the ultimate fairness by giving His own Son to die for the sins of the world that all men would have a way of escape from the judgment to come. However, mankind has been very unfair toward God in that man has not responded in a manner equal to the gift of His grace.
How do we fight unfairly?
1. You are unfair when you are dishonest. When you fail to be honest with your spouse, you automatically hinder a fair exchange of ideas that would ultimately enable solutions to be found to your conflicts. Dishonesty comes in many different forms within your relationship. Let me give you some examples.
Have you ever been asked by your spouse, “What’s wrong, honey? You seem upset.” Your response is, “Nothing.” This reply is clearly dishonest because there is obviously something wrong as revealed by your angry or depressed countenance. The question is asked because your mate can detect your discouragement and is attempting to help or resolve the issue. Often when couples come for counseling these nothing issues come out. Then the partner who made the original inquiry will say, “I never knew this. That is not fair. I can’t read your mind. Why didn’t you just tell me?” I usually turn to the other spouse at that time and explain that I agree that the action was unfair.
Dishonesty is also seen in exaggeration. When you declare to your spouse, “You always act that way,” or, “You never do what I ask,” you cause your partner to think back to the one time when he or she didn’t do what you allege is an everyday experience. It is therefore very unfair to overstate your case in this manner. This behavior will only cause further conflict.
In addition, dishonesty includes the telling of half-truths or only the part of the story that suits you. I hear couples every week in counseling say, “That is not what you said last night when we talked.” It’s unfair and dishonest when you knowingly change your statements from one day to the next. This is a sinful behavior that will derail your entire relationship. If you ever desire to resolve your differences, you must be truthful. Remember, we are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Likewise, you are being dishonest when you quickly change the subject or shift the blame when your personal faults are being revealed. You must recognize that this is a form of dishonesty within your heart and God won’t bless your attempt to reconcile this conflict. Why? Because you are not being fair with your spouse. God knows it, you know it, and your partner knows it.
Last, it is dishonest when you try to give subtle indirect messages to your mate. When you endeavor to encourage more intimacy with your husband and you say, “Have you noticed how much time George spends with his wife?” or, when you seek to change your wife’s housekeeping habits by saying, “Wasn’t Mary’s house exceptionally clean?” it is very unfair to your spouse because you are seeking to communicate a message without being direct. You can’t expect your partner to read your mind and intentions.