1. Speak the truth in love. Regardless of what needs to be said, we can always say it with kindness. There is never a need to be harsh, cruel or humiliating. Nor do we need to hide or conceal the truth from one another simply to keep the peace. When we speak the truth in love, relationships are preserved and important values are protected.
2. In your anger, do not sin. Though our partner may have hurt or offended us, a softened heart will never seek to punish or shame or control the other person. If our expectations have been disappointed we can still resolve the issue in a way that honors God and preserves the relationship.
3. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. A softened heart will always seek to resolve the relationship rupture as soon as it occurs. While it is sometimes advisable to take a time out when emotions are running high, we should never put off the reconciliation of our relationship to the next day.
4. Don’t give the devil a foothold. Unkind and unloving words or actions can give ground in our marriage to the Enemy of our souls. At first he seeks only a toehold, then a foothold, then an armhold and ultimately a stranglehold. As soon as we realize we have damaged the other person’s heart, we should seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Remember the nine words that can rescue any marriage, “I am sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me.”
5. Don’t use any unwholesome words. If you must argue, then discipline your words. Don’t say anything you (or your partner) will later regret. That means deciding ahead of time that there are certain words you will never use in an argument such as, “I hate you,” or “I regret the day I married you,” or “I want a divorce.”
6. Say only those things that will build up your spouse. It is possible even in a conflict to use only positive and edifying words. In the midst of your disagreement you can interject statements such as, “That’s an excellent point,” “You have great wisdom,” and “I have only the highest respect for you.” Such positive and edifying statements will drain the toxicity from your disagreement and replace it with love and respect.
7. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit with your words or attitude. It’s important to stop and remember that when you are arguing there is Someone that is listening — the Holy Spirit that lives in both of you. Just as children’s hearts are grieved when they hear their parents argue, the Spirit of God is sorrowed when He hears us tear each other down. Say only those things to each other that would be pleasing to God–He is listening.
8. Forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you. As difficult as it can be to offer forgiveness to our spouse, we need to remember that Christ has forgiven us not some, or most, but all our sins. If it were not so, we would have no hope of ever entering heaven (not even a single sin will be permitted there). To forgive as Christ has forgiven us means to forgive one another for everything.
9. Ask God to continually examine our hearts. Even in the midst of a conflict with our spouse we can silently pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)
The real issue is not whether we ever argue with one another, but if we will allow God to keep our hearts soft toward each other as we disagree. As God points out our wrong attitudes or hurtful words, we can confess and repent of it on the spot.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”Ephesians 4:29