The Stages of a Fight


Have you ever stopped to consider the many stages you go through in an argument with your spouse?

If you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve probably “felt” the stages of an argument creeping steadily toward you. It’s almost like the foreboding music that signals something bad is about to happen on your favorite horror flick. You might even have the presence of mind (in your mind, mind you!) to warn yourself, “don’t go through that door!” or “don’t get into that water!” or better yet, stay away from that fin!” But like in your favorite scary movie, you feel paralyzed to do anything to stop it from overtaking you and your spouse.

Maybe it would do us well to discuss with our mates ahead of time some of the common things that trigger us emotionally or ignite a fight. You can list the triggers, then talk together about how to better handle those challenging, “triggering” moments by writing down any answers that might bring peace to that situation or prevent it from occurring in the future. Then have that list of situations and solutions handy for quick reference when needed.

One of the things my husband and I do to help prevent arguments is praying together at the start of our day. We didn’t start this practice to prevent arguments, but I’m tellin’ ya, it’s been amazing to see just how much a simple uniting prayer can and has headed the irritation and anger off at the pass.

One of the things my husband and I do to deal more constructively in the middle of an argument is changing our focus from “telling” to “listening.” Often we’re just misunderstanding each other, and simply backing up to discover the “holes” in our perspectives can squash an argument like a nasty bug crossing our path!

One of the things that Gary Smalley does is keep a list of all the reasons he loves his wife tucked away on his computer. He pulls that list up to reread while he’s still steaming after an argument. This gives him that jolt of perspective and reminder of love that has gotten distorted and lost in times of anger.

I invite you to watch a hilarious video by Brandon and Stephanie Matias on the Stages of a Car Fight and see if you can relate. Then I’d love for you to answer any of the following questions …

What’s something that invariably triggers an argument between you and your spouse?


What are some of the strategies you’ve learned to hedge off an argument or calm one that’s already begun?





If you’re interested in viewing more videos on the hurdles we all face in marriage, Bradon and Stephanie have a youtube channel called Modern Marriage Moments with all sorts of funny and clean true-to-life videos. Check their page out here.

FYI – Congrats to the winner of Tim Kimmel’s book, Grace Filled Marriage is Elizabeth from Warrior Wives! And thanks to all of you for participating!

Photo by Brian Snelson


Linking up with – NOBH, Momma Notes, Marriage MondaysMaking Your Home Sing Monday, Living Proverbs 31, Monday’s Musings, Playdates with God and Marriage Monday

20 responses to “The Stages of a Fight”

  1. Dear Beth
    Oh, I would love to pray with my husband every day, but that is just not the way he is. At times we do pray together especially when we pray for someone in need. I have learned to not nag him about this for he will when he is ready! I know every night when he lays his hands on me that he is praying for me and that comes from his heart! I also know that when I ask him to pray about something or for someone, he will certainly pray for whatever it is. This works for us, my friend.
    Blessings XX


    1. Oh, yes, Mia. You bring up a good point! Sometimes our spouse’s are unbelievers or simply don’t want to pray with us for a variety of reasons. I sure hope this reminder that my husband and I prayer together each morning is not a frustration or discouragement for those, like you, whose partners are different in this way! I just have been so amazed at how God has used this one practice in our marriage. And I know that God can use that simple touch your husband places upon you every night. I know that God can use your prayers separate from your husband’s in just the same way God’s used our unified prayers. And I’m so glad that you’ve honored your husband in this difference and have reminded us that not every marriage looks the same or needs to act the same to find peace on the conflict front, my friend! Thanks so much for adding to the discussion here!


  2. Hmm…you’ve definitely given me some food for thought. And the video is hilarious, and all too true! Thanks for sharing.


    1. I’m always glad to “serve up some food for thought,” Nancy! I hope it tasted good going down. And unlike physical food, I pray that it gives you an appetite for more! So glad you enjoyed the video too!


      1. You always serve tasty tidbits in your blog, Beth. I have a great appetite, so I’ll be back for seconds. 🙂


  3. “…you’ve probably “felt” the stages of an argument creeping steadily toward you…almost like the foreboding music that signals something bad is about to happen on your favorite horror flick.”
    You described this so well, Beth!
    Yes, too often I can see exactly where the conversation is heading and know deep down that what I say in the next couple of seconds could make the difference between having a really good day or having a horrible day. Then I have to weigh that certainty against the equally important truth that if I care enough about the relationship be truly honest about my feelings and opinions, I can’t just sweep them aside for the sake of avoiding a confrontation.
    Learning to better understand each other certainly helps, as does learning each other’s triggers. And…sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, pray for wisdom and grace, dive in, and trust you both love each other enough to sort it out through the argument….


    1. “equally important truth that if I care enough about the relationship be
      truly honest about my feelings and opinions, I can’t just sweep them
      aside for the sake of avoiding a confrontation.” AMEN, Joseph.

      May we all be bold in the Spirit with lots of love most tender, understanding that issues — no matter how painful or shameful, — MUST be confronted so that they might be released and healed. And may we all be student’s of each others’ triggers while learning to be really great lovers where Love covers over a multitude of both of our sins…Thanks.


    2. I think I described it well, Joe, because I’ve experienced that “shark” circling me and my pride many a time! ha! And yes, there is so much that we are processing in those moments and when our emotions are thrown into the mix, it seems we can’t find our way out of the chaos. Thankfully we are not left to our own devices to figure out some of these challenges on our own. We have Christ and we have the beauty of talking through these moments with our spouses. I’m so glad that you have a relationship built on trust with your wife, so that you can find better ways to understand and communicate with one another. Thanks so much for stopping by and weighing in!


  4. changing our focus from “telling” to “listening.”

    That’s a powerful piece of advice right there, Beth. I sometimes know when we’re heading into a fight too, and the puzzling thing is why sometimes I go there anyway!

    One thing that helps me NOT to go there is reminding myself that Jeff DOES really love me, even if I’m not feeling it at the moment. In the end, I know we will work out whatever the issue is, so might as well not waste time suspecting the worst about each other.


    1. Yes, it is a puzzle sometimes, Lisa. It reminds me of that passage in Romans 7, where Paul speaks to this struggle each one of us is acquainted with. It really is almost like I’m watching a scary movie–I become so detached in my mind and ability to respond appropriately. And even though it is true we really can’t respond appropriately on our own, we have Christ who gives us the grace to do what we desire to do, but often can’t.

      I really love your suggestion, Lisa. I’m not sure that I always do a good job of remembering that when I’m angry with my hubby, but when I do, it can really turn things around. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion, sweet friend!


  5. Excellent tips, Beth. A great reminder for all marrieds. And one I will be reading together with Michael later this evening. We see that some of our triggers stem from woundedness from the past, a sore spot that needs to be given over to God. Thanks and Blessings, my friend…


    1. Great, Sheila! I hope you and Michael had a great conversation and broadened/deepened your understanding of one another in times of conflict. My husband and I had a similar discussion this past weekend. It really does help! And yes, I get that “woundedness from the past.” Both my husband and I are aware of those tender spots and continually seek God’s guidance and healing for them. Thanks for stopping by, dear friend!


  6. Kim Adams Morgan Avatar
    Kim Adams Morgan

    Hi Beth, I love the idea of praying together in the morning. We will have to do that. Rick and I don’t argue much anymore, but for awhile early on, we got into a cycle where we were really going at it. In our marriage, we like “healthy” debates – it keeps things interesting as long as we respect each other. We were crossing the boundary a little, so I devised a plan where, if one of us got angry with the other during an argument, or it got heated and we didn’t walk away, we had this extremely silly hat – the one doing the yelling had to put that hat on if they wanted to continue. It was a great way for us to quickly, and in a fun way, realize how silly things were getting. It also helped the other person not internalize the words, but remember a better moment instead; and we could go back to discussing things when we were calm.

    We will never forget that time in our marriage. We learned so much.


    1. Yes, Gary and I do have many strong opinions that often get us in trouble, Kim. So arguing is an area where we’ve had to work hard to regain a proper footing with each other and with God. I think that’s a great idea–the hat! I know that would break the intensity with a good laugh. Only problem for us is that it might spur another fight about “who was doing the yelling!” 🙂 It’s crazy I know, but I guess that’s why they call it the crazy cycle! Thanks so much for this idea and I really do want to give it a try, so I’m going to keep my eye out for a silly hat just for that occasion.


  7. Great thoughts Beth! One of our triggers is sometimes a wrong body language/tone of voice that invariably leads to a person feeling disrespected, unheard or misunderstood. Earlier on that would almost always tank the conversation and lead to trouble. But over time we’ve learned to step into the other person’s shoes and communicate in a way they can hear and understand – for me that has meant cultivating a gentler spirit :).

    i love the idea of praying in the morning, what a great way to start the day. We like to pray in the evenings.


    1. Oh yes! That’s a biggie for us as well, Ngina. And it’s funny that we often don’t realize how we’re coming across in those ways. It takes a lot of pride swallowing and after-the-conflict processing to recognize those bad habits. Yes, I’m striving for that gentler spirit as well and I feel like God is helping me daily in that area. I’m glad you like the morning prayer time idea. I’m usually so tired at the end of the day, that praying just is harder for us at that time. But kudos to you and your hubby for making it a priority! Thanks so much, my friend, for stopping by and weighing in!


  8. I hate hate hate confrontation. When I sense that shark starting to circle, I AVOID, which is neither productive nor really helps me feel better, because I’m on eggshells trying to not step on any landmines. An impending argument is never really about the subject of the argument, but typically about built up resentment as a result of all the avoiding. I know it is not in the character of my husband to intentionally make me feel stupid or inferior, so if that is happening, I allow him to vent, then wait a little while and ask some questions. Typically, like you stated, there has been some miscommunication, or some external issue that is causing one or both of us to be angry or sensitive. The most successful habit I have noticed in our communication is that practice of not reacting and trying to “one-up” the other person. Also by listening to both their words, AND what they are saying. Sometimes when a person uses the words “I’m angry that you spent this money without telling me”, they are not necessarily being a controlling jerk. They may be saying, “I am afraid that if we we don’t communicate about finances, I can’t adaquately provide.” I agree, Beth, PRAYER can result in much greater clarity on BOTH sides of the argument.


    1. I’m with you on that emotion of “hate” regarding conflict, Kimberly. I saw it played out in such destructive ways when I was a kid so I think it still scares the living daylights out of me when I sense it creeping closer. And you make another great point that often arguments are really not about whatever seems to be the “topic” at the time. And I can relate to that “one-upping” as well. It’s a terrible choice, but seems so enticing when we’re seething with anger. I wholeheartedly agree that recognizing the core emotions that are underneath the anger can be a catalyst for insight, barrier-busting and peace. Thanks so much for your kind words, my friend and for stopping by to join the discussion!


  9. The clip was so funny…I am still chuckling as I write this. I am the one who like to get things out in the open…argue. My husband hates to argue so will go silent as I vent. Now we have been married 49 years this month and we still have disagreements that can cause days of not talking to each other. Yet in those days, God never fails to speak to both of us and we make up and start all over again. You would think after so many years we would be able to avoid these disagreements. Well sometimes we can by honestly talking about our every day life, our expectations, our goals. For us the best help is praying together which is where the battle line is. Our flesh fights against it, the enemy of our soul loves it when we do not pray together. Someone ask us the other night how did we make it for 49 years when the first 12 were without the LOrd and we got married at 17. Commitment is the only world we could voice. Looks change as we age, feelings change as we age, circumstances change as we age, condition change, health changes. He, our Savior never changes and if we both allow Him to work on us, which He does then we will make it. Knowing neither one of us is perfect and let each other down but we both know the Lord who never lets us down we will make it. Great post..


    1. Yes, Betty, I relate so much to what you’ve shared. God has really spoken truth into us when our hearts are broken due to a conflict. So I treasure some of those godly-processing moments following our arguments. I know my maturity has been stretched and grown in those times. I LOVE what you’ve said about God never changing although our spouses and marriages change through the seasons, Betty! That’s so profound and so very true! Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of marital wisdom, my friend! It’s a blessing to have you stop by!


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