Rules of Engagement

Written by Heather Copple
Messy Marriage Team Member
Fighting and disagreeing with our spouse is bound to happen. We’re individuals who want and need different things at different times. We then share a space where privacy is not always present. We’re forced to deal with one another because we share a bedroom, house, children, and a life with one another.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m sure some will recognize that at times arguing with your spouse can create a war zone. It becomes a battle to the death, a war of the wills, going for the jugular, and the gloves are coming off because I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong kind of war zone. The scars and shrapnel from these wars embed in our minds, waiting until the next war to unleash and explode on each other.
Thankfully, these wars seem to happen only every few years for me and my husband, Scott. Unfortunately, early in our marriage, Scott and I had learned from our family methods of arguing that would create havoc on one another. We would yell and throw things. We would call names and really behave like two toddlers. And I’m sure that’s what we looked like!
Scott and I would be arguing and I would get to where I just couldn’t take hearing, seeing or being around him, so I would leave the room to try to calm down. No sooner than I would sit down, in would come Scott trying to continue the argument, just in a new location! I would finally decide to get into my car and drive away from the house so that I could calm down in peace.
Both of us had very valid reasons for our behavior, but we just weren’t handling things very well. We were still learning and healing from our own pasts.
One day when Scott and I were calmly talking, he told me that he hated when I left the house during a fight. He said he was afraid I wouldn’t come back and that he felt better when our issues were resolved. I told him that I felt trapped when he chased me around the house. And I needed time to calm down sometimes or I would lose control and possible do or say something I truly didn’t mean. He said he didn’t want the arguments to last several hours or days. I, on the other hand, told him that sometimes I needed to have space and time to calm down and think.
In Romans 14: 19 we are told to make every effort to work towards peace, which is what Scott and I decided to do. We agreed to the following: 
  • I will not leave the house during an argument.
  • I will tell him when I need to calm down and will then go to a different room. 
  • Scott will let me leave the room without following me, with the understanding that I will be back as soon as I can calm down. 
When Scott and I argue and I step away from Scott to talk to God about the argument, I can get clarity on the real problem. God lets me see the truth, guiding me to say what I need to get across to Scott. And most of all, He reminds me that this man is my love and friend not my enemy.
“An angry man stirs up dissension and a hot-tempered man commits many sins.” Proverbs 29:22 (NIV)

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

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