3 Things to Consider before You Pick Another Fight

It always starts with a single drop. 

He’s on his phone too much. Drip. 

Can’t he help more around the house? Drip. 
He doesn’t appreciate you. Drip. 
Why can’t he engage more with the kids? Drip. 
When was the last time he sent you flowers? Drip. 

But a quarrelsome spirit never stays slow and steady. Unchecked, it becomes a torrential downpour of misery, soaking a home in resentment, pettiness, and frigid silence. 

Sadly, I know that of which I speak. Like every marriage, mine started with starry eyes of adoration for my husband, but nearly as soon as he carried me over the threshold, a persistent and nagging desire to change him moved into my newlywed heart. Add in a bold personality and proficiency with words, and it took no time at all for the drip, drip, drip of my criticism to overwhelm us. I suspect my new husband felt like he was drowning. In many ways, he was. 

Solomon, husband of hundreds (1 Kings 11:3) must have felt what it’s like to be waterboarded by his wife’s quarrelsomeness for he wrote:

A wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. —Proverbs 19:13 (ESV)

And . . .

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop 
           than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. —Proverbs 21:9 (ESV)

And . . .

It is better to live in a desert land
           than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. —Proverbs 21:19 (ESV)

And . . .

A continual dropping on a rainy day
           and a quarrelsome wife are alike. —Proverbs 27:15 (ESV)

Ask yourself: what do these word pictures have in common? They are void of comfort. A man whose wife is quarrelsome is left to face the hurricane winds of life without a parka. His life is spent perched on the corner of the roof, rather than inside where warm home fires burn. And there’s more at stake than the happiness of your union; Christian marriages are meant to showcase the profound mystery of the gospel. How can a never-satisfied-woman possibly proclaim the goodness and graciousness of God? A quarrelsome wife disrupts God’s good design for womanhood—that we would be and build soft places for others to dwell. 

This is not the point in the post where I tell you that my husband and I learned communication strategies that put our feet on a more peaceful path or that years of marriage cured me of my craving to control him. The passage of time alone cannot course correct quarrelsomeness. I’ve known plenty of women who stayed married for decades and only got meaner. Apart from God’s Word I would most certainly be among them. While there are times it’s still worth initiating a potentially conflictual conversation, I no longer give into the compulsion to go to the mats over every perceived offense. If a gravitational pull toward contentiousness lives in your heart—as I believe it does in every daughter of Eve (Gen. 3:16)—here are three things to consider before you pick a fight.

1. Your desires are warped by sin. 

Let the book of James expose the deception that your husband is the problem. 

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:1–2 ESV)

My list of desires from my husband is long, and often deeply selfish. 

I desire to have all of his attention. 
I desire for him to do things my way. 
I desire for him to meet my every need. 
I desire for him to live sin free but simultaneously have total tolerance for all my sin. . . . 

Ugly, I know. After seeing the reality of our sin-rooted desires, James asks us to look closer and consider the maddening impact of covetousness. 

Her husband is romantic. . . .
Her marriage seems so happy. . . .
Her man loves to talk. . . .
Her husband takes her on weekend getaways. . . . 

Desire and jealousy war within each of us. Eventually the battle spills out of our mouths. Your husband could become the man of your dreams tomorrow and if these dark forces remain unyielded to Jesus, you’ll find yourself picking the same fights over and over again. What your marriage most needs is for you to be broken before God over your sinful heart and ask for His transformation. 

2. Scripture calls you to peaceability. 

Consider Paul’s words from Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (ESV).

Paul’s caveats confirm his humanity: “If possible . . . ” “So far as it depends on you . . “

Not every fight can be avoided, nor should it be, but when I shifted from constantly blaming my man (or others) to trying to understand how my own sinful attitudes and actions were impacting the atmosphere of my home, I found freedom from my tendency toward argumentativeness. In so many ways, women set the temperature in our homes, churches, and workplaces. Because of this, a woman’s contentious ways start to feel like a constant ringing in the ears of those in her orbit. When we begin to obey the Word and walk in step with the Spirit to seek to be agreeable, it’s not overstating things to say it changes the world. 

3. Only God can change hearts. 

It may be that your issue with your husband goes well beyond minor annoyances. Perhaps he has a porn problem. Maybe he is angry or absent. It’s possible he’s sinned deeply against you or others. 

Does the dripping faucet metaphor mean you must keep your mouth shut at all times? The council and character of God make this a clear no. Our very lives are meant to woo our husbands to a high standard of holy living and Christlike conduct (1 Pet. 3:1). And in this era of extreme rhetoric, it can’t be stated often enough that Scripture’s call to avoid quarrelsomeness is not the same as requiring Christian women to silently endure abuse. All believers are called to perpetually point each other back to the truth (James 5:19–20) and to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other (James 5:16). There are times when it is wise and reasonable to speak up. 

As you lovingly encourage your husband to be more Christlike, be mindful that you are powerless to change someone else’s heart. Think of this this way: when was the last time someone’s criticism changed your heart? 

But God . . . 

“The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!” (Deuteronomy 30:6 NLT)

If your hope is in your words to change your husband, you will be perpetually frustrated. Instead, direct your words to God and trust Him to bring conviction, confession, and lasting change. 

It’s Easier and Harder Than You Think

What’s the first step to repairing a literal leaky faucet? You turn off the water. If the Spirit has used this post to bring conviction, start there. Shut off your quarrelsome words. Start now. Wise Solomon had a thing or two to say about that, too:

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, 
           But whoever restrains [her] lips is prudent. —Proverbs 10:19

And . . .

Whoever restrains [her] words has knowledge, 
           And [she] who has a cool spirit is a [woman] of understanding. —Proverbs 17:27

And . . .

Whoever keeps [her]mouth and [her] tongue
           Keeps [herself] out of trouble. —Proverbs 21:23

But if the Lord has exposed quarrelsomeness in you, stonewalled silence alone will not fix it. In this, as in all things, you need the Lord to change you from within. Cry out to Him. Confess your contentiousness. Ask Him to expose the unholy desires at the root, then watch Him miraculously change your marriage . . . your children . . . your church . . . your world.

The world doesn’t need more drippy faucet women. Whether you’ve been a quarrelsome wife for five days or five decades, there’s still time to use your words to bring life and comfort. You can be the parka in the hurricane. By God’s grace your words don't have to drip with resentment and criticism. 

I’ll let King Solomon have the final word:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, 
           and those who love it will eat its fruits. —Proverbs 18:21

As Erin points out, words are powerful—they can encourage and strengthen others, heal wounded hearts, honor God, and bring Him great delight, but words can also be destructive. The good news is that our tongues can be transformed by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit. In The Power of Words, a four-week devotional study by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, you’ll discover the connection between your heart and your words.

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager … read more …

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