Are you and your spouse arguing to a point where it is becoming, or it is unhealthy? If so, perhaps you should consider calling a marital truce.
A truce is a “suspension of fighting or hostilities for a specified period of time by mutual agreement of the warring parties.” And that’s what marriage conflict can get to sometimes. We can become “warring parties” with our war of words and/or actions. And that is certainly NOT the reason we married. We are to marry our ways—to build relationship bridges between us, not destroy them.
Now, we’re not talking about stonewalling, or totally avoiding the issue you are fighting about. It is agreeing to suspend it for a period of time for practical, specific reasons.
Calling a Marital Truce
There are many reasons why we may need to call a marital truce. It could be:
• The timing is wrong. It may be a H.A.L.T. Time when one or both of you is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Those are times when disagreements can go in very wrong directions. It would be best to call a truce and talk about the issue at a later time.
• You are both too far apart in your differences; and you need to take a time out to pray and think about different ways you can each bridge your differences some way. We’ve done this a number of times. It’s amazing how God can help us as we pause, pray, and lean into God.
• You’re starting to approach your issues in unhealthy ways. You’re headed in a direction that could be downright toxic. There is a saying that goes something like this, “It’s all going to hell in a hand basket.” That means that we are delivering the enemy of our faith our situation by the way we’re handling it. We’re voluntarily handing our marriage issue over for our spiritual enemy to wreak havoc. And there is no way it can go in a Christ-honoring way when we do that. We get so caught up in making our point that we usher in the enemy and also treat our spouse like he or she is the enemy. As Christ followers, we should NOT be treating each other this way.
Throwing Verbal Grenades
You’ve probably heard it before. Perhaps you’ve been involved in the war of words that too many married couples throw at each other like verbal grenades.
“’I hate you!’ ‘I don’t know why I married you!’ ‘You miserable slob!’ ‘I’m so mad I can’t even stand to look at you right now!’ ‘You think YOU’RE mad! You haven’t even SEEN angry yet, you jerk!’ [A verbal grenade we often used is, “I want a divorce!”] If you’ve ever been the hurler of such verbal grenades, then you know how easy it can be to get swept up when the whooping war-cry of anger is sounding off in your mind, even despite your best intentions to remain calm.
“You’re probably also familiar with the emotional carnage left behind once the battle is over. Words of anger—often triggered by a sense of injustice or misunderstanding—lobbed viciously across the battlefield with reckless abandon, have the potential to do more damage to your relationship in a single breath than months of cumulative day-to-day stress could ever do.” (Trish Alderman, from her article, Is Anger Poisoning Your Relationship?)
Sara Groves wrote something that further brings this point home. See if you can relate. (Sadly, we can. In the past, we allowed ourselves to push right into this type of situation.)
“We just had a World War III here in our kitchen.
We both thought the meanest things.
And then we both said them.
We shot at each other till we lost ammunition.”
And that is the truth! Somehow, some way this has got to stop. Unfortunately, too many couples believe that divorce is the only way to stop it. But it doesn’t have to get to that point. TRULY! That’s why we’re proposing that you consider calling a marital truce BEFORE the situation gets this toxic. You may even just be going “sideways” in how you deal with each other. Even so, we can do better than that in our marriages!
“The saying goes that opposites attract—and then attack. Nowhere is this seen more than in marriage!”
“Why are smart people so dumb? Why do otherwise intelligent, well-adjusted, poised, and competent men and women lose all sense of control when they become husbands and wives and begin to disagree about such key topics as how to drive the car or turn off the lights at night? It’s a great mystery. In my house, there’s a very smart man and a very active woman who get themselves sideways with each other over the dumbest things. Sound familiar?” (Donna Otto)
Calling a Marital Truce
Yes, it does. How about you; can you relate? As I often tell people—Steve and I don’t argue as much any more because in our 49+ years of marriage we’ve argued about almost everything under the sun at some point. There really isn’t much left to argue over. Even so, it’s surprising how we can still find things to knit-pick about at each other. We do this, even though we know better.
As Donna Otto also says, it’s amazing how:
“These little disagreements can be like yeast. They expand in size, billowing up and out until they push us farther and farther apart.”
But we’re learning though—we’re learning to keep shorter accounts with each other. We’re learning to not build up grievances. And we’re learning to deal with them—to approach each other with more respect. It’s important to “nip things in the bud” (as the great “theologian” Barney Fife used to say). We need to talk things over before they blow up into bigger than life situations.
And we’ve also been learning the importance of calling a marital truce when our irritation with each other starts to go into directions that causes harm to our partnership with each other and most importantly, with Jesus Christ.
As Donna says:
“God makes us gifted and strong for a purpose. But obviously the purpose isn’t to tear each other down. We become one flesh for a reason, and that reason is unity, not division.”
The following are a few more important thoughts that Donna Otto wrote about in the book, The Best Thing I Ever Did for My Marriage: 50 Real Life Stories compiled by Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby:
The Treasure of a Marital Truce
“After some years of marriage—and problems—David and I came to the conclusion that heated arguments that escalate into toe-chillers are stupid. We can do better than that, regardless of who is right or wrong. But how do you stop the rolling battles before they become deep canyons of separation? We discovered the treasure of the truce.
“We declare a truce! A truce is a halt to hostility. An immediate and complete cessation of whatever it is we’re arguing about. We agree that in our marriage either party has the right to call a truce whenever he or she senses that a disagreement is starting to escalate. The other person must honor the truce.
Our truces have rules:
• “Anyone can call a truce at anytime.
• “Each of us must immediately honor the truce. This means to stop talking and not try for some final cheap shot.
• “The truce lasts for 3 hours. During this time we cannot talk about the subject of dispute, or any other subject of dispute. There will be 3 hours of peace.
(Warning: just be careful not to use this time to feed your ill feelings. Pray—yes I said pray, that God will help you to later approach your discussion about the subject in a peaceable, God-honoring way. Remember, anger is usually a mask we wear disguising the hurt that’s underneath. Usually what the anger is what’s seen but underneath it there’s hurt that needs to be addressed.)
• “After a marital truce is over, we will talk about the disputed subject again.
The issue does not go away. Only now, we are calm and usually embarrassed that things got a little out of control. The issue is usually quickly resolved and he apologizes. (Just kidding! Sometimes, I even apologize.)
“Throughout history, truces have saved many a volatile situation. Diplomats use truces to stop hostilities, and so can you. It doesn’t solve things, but it can save things. You still have to do the hard work of dealing with differences and disagreements. But you can do so without the salsa of emotion heating up your discussions. Are things getting heated at your house? Agree to declare a truce! It’s a smart answer to a dumb situation.”
Making Peaceful Resolutions
We challenge you to try using this tool the next time you get into an argument. See for yourself if it doesn’t lend itself to a more “peaceful” resolution to the situation. We also have an article posted titled, Call a Marriage Peace Conference. You’ll find additional tips in that article. But you MUST apply, that which will work, for it to help your marriage become more peaceable. All the marriage tips in the world won’t help if they aren’t applied!
Repeatedly throughout scriptures we are admonished to pursue peace and to be peacemakers. That doesn’t mean “wimping out” of a disagreement. It just means that we will do everything possible not to let an argument turn into a time of destructive behavior.
It’s important to live out Paul’s words in Romans 14:19:
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.“
We pray God’s greatest blessings on your marriage. Don’t neglect treating each other with the love and respect God would have you give. Treat each other as more important than yourself —using Christ as your example of sacrificial love.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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