Fight together for your marriage

Part 2 of an interview with Deb and Ron DeArmond,
Authors of Don’t Go to Bed Angry: Stay Up and Fight

In every marriage, there is conflict. And with every conflict, there is a choice for resolution. Will you ignore the issue until it seemingly goes away? Or will you work together to find peace?

In Don’t Go to Bed Angry (Abingdon Press), Deb and Ron DeArmond give readers permission to fight. Fight it out. Conflict isn’t the problem, after all; the real issue is how we deal with the conflict. Combining a healthy dose of personal experience with relationship-affirming biblical wisdom, Deb and Ron demonstrate how communication through conflict can lead to greater insight and understanding of thoughts, feelings, and perspectives that can safeguard—and even strengthen—your relationship. Immensely practical features including worksheets, discussion questions, callouts, and prayers make this a definitive go-to resource to help you start fighting—together—for your marriage.

Q: The book says a conflict can be a positive element in your marriage. Please tell us more about that.

Please understand when we say conflict can be positive, we are not saying that fighting and quarreling without restraint or respect is what we had in mind. But when we hear a couple say, “We never have conflict,” we are doubtful. It’s hard to believe that two individuals always share identical opinions, preferences or approaches. Just because it’s quiet in the house doesn’t mean there’s peace or agreement. Sometimes the couple no longer has the interest or energy to engage in the conversation. One may be the “more expressive” and the other feels bullied. Sometimes one or both just resign themselves to “it’s just not worth the effort,” so they choose silence and go along to get along. But avoidance is not the path to peace.

Conflict doesn’t have to be ugly. It can bring issues to the table that, once resolved, brings us closer together where agreement is genuine, not lip service. Ignoring issues is easier — it’s not better. The Word says, “How can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Marriage without a path together is not what God intended. But we see couples sharing the same home yet living separate lives. There’s so much more available to those willing to fight — together — to achieve it.

Q: You suggest that conflict leads to discovery or to damage. How does it lead to discovery? How can it become damaging?

Conflict is typically a result of one issue and two different perspectives. If we can each set aside our own preference in the moment and seek to understand the other’s thoughts, ideas and opinions, we can discover solutions that would not have been possible on our own. Often we are not aware of the possibilities until we listen to one another. Listening is not easy. Our favorite definition of listening is “the willingness to be changed by what you hear.”

That’s tough to do when you are so entrenched in your own opinion that you dismiss the potential “best option” by closing your ears, your mind and your heart to your spouse. Close your heart often enough and the relationship will suffer, sometimes so sufficiently that the damage cannot be undone.

Q: Tell us a little bit about what the boundaries of dealing with conflict appropriately might be or include?

Boundaries provide safety for both parties physically, emotionally and mentally. We established “rules” to ensure that discovery, not damage is our outcome.

Examples of our rules include the allowance that either party can call a “time out” if they feel too emotional to deal with it in the moment. The question then becomes, “When can we come back to discuss it?” and a time is established.

Another example is that no one is allowed to get in the car and drive off! It’s not a safe practice for us or anyone else on the road we may encounter.

Obviously anything physical is off the table. We suggest couples establish the rules together, using the scriptures as their baseline, and we offer some suggestions and guidelines for that process.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about how the book is arranged.

We’ve created six categories or themes to explore: Burdens, Baggage, Bridges, Barriers, Boundaries and Blessings. Each one reveals a facet of conflict that brings us closer to solutions. Don’t Go to Bed Angry is not a book of shoulds; it’s filled with practical ideas, conversation starters, and opportunities for self-discovery in every chapter.

My (Deb’s) 30-year career in helping adults develop the skills to communicate effectively and resolve conflict is very present throughout the book. It’s not helpful to know you should if you don’t know how. Ron’s experience in men’s ministry for nearly as many years allows us to cover the range of opportunities couples can capture.

And because we are not therapists, our real-life experiences in a successful 40-year, faith-filled marriage are our final credentials. Without the scriptures as our textbook and God’s spirit to guide us, we’d have messed it up long ago.

Q: Baggage sounds like an interesting topic. How does it relate to conflict?

Baggage is the “stuff” we bring to the relationship. It’s a composite of our experiences at home, school and work. Our family, friends and everyone who had any influence in our life contributes to how we deal with conflict.

Some of our experience may be valuable; it provides insight on successful methods as well as approaches to avoid. But often it may teach us that conflict must be avoided at all costs. Sometimes our example is that “he who is loudest, wins.” And we may misunderstand the signature scripture, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” We examine that carefully in the book.

Bottom line: Baggage can weigh us down, dragging the energy and life out of our marriage. Sometimes it’s better left by the side of the road. We help couples learn to do that.

For more information, visit or follow Deb on Facebook (AuthorDebDeArmond) or Twitter (@DebDeArmond).