It takes great courage to fight for your marriage and not just fight with your spouse. Below are seven guidelines for fighting “naked” (by naked I mean preserving vulnerability). Being vulnerable can cause fear as it leaves us feeling exposed, and yet it is also the cornerstone to developing oneness in marriage.

1) Say Something.

Initiating conversation rather than stuffing feelings is critical. While what you say matters, saying nothing to avoid conflict is not a strategy to develop oneness. Disengagement feeds our fears of rejection or sense of unworthiness and shame.

2) Respond Don’t React.

Realize anger is a secondary emotion that you can control. Why are you angry? Is there an insecurity or “button” being pushed?” Pray for yourself and your spouse. Being pissed-off aggressive, or shutting down and withdrawing are unhealthy, reactive extremes. Find away to respond with grace.

3) Refuse To Be Offended.

Assume the best in your spouse and remember your life-long commitment trumps any momentary trouble or conflict. If your spouse says something that sounds offensive, you can still refuse to be offended and tell yourself you know he or she is only speaking from a moment of hurt.

4) Don’t Poke the Bear.

It’s good advice for campers and lovers. Avoid poking at shame triggers that are likely to put your spouse in fight or flight mode. Address the wrong done without character assassination. Avoid generalizations of “always” and “never.” There’s a world of difference from doing something jerky and being a jerk.

5) Empathize Don’t Criticize or Minimize.

Empathy takes two people. Help your spouse understand what you are feeling and what you need from them. You should just know what I need is an unhelpful idea. Other non-empathetic statements like “That’s just stupid”, or “Don’t make a big deal out of nothing” rarely help.

6) Sit on the Same Side of the Table.

Remove any unnecessary barriers while you talk. Sit close. Use positive physical touch. Let your body language communicate “I love you and respect you and want to work this out.” And, remember… make up sex is one way that sex is a God-given gift for the good of your marriage.

7) Don’t Use Quitting Language.

longitudinal studies reveal that two-thirds of unhappy marriages will become happy in less than five years if couples will stay together. Don’t sabotage the security of your marriage vows by threatening divorce. If there are biblical reasons for divorce or separation, pursue the option with good counsel. Don’t use the word otherwise.

This list was originally developed to support the teaching series Sheet Music at Harvest Community Church, in Mesa, Arizona. See

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