Fights in marriage are inevitable. If a couple isn’t fighting, then they likely aren’t communicating. Lindsay and I started dating in the summer of 2008 and, like most couples, we didn’t fight much when we first started dating. I assumed this was due to our amazing compatibility, but the truth is that we just weren’t talking. In order to avoid conflict, we held our opinions close to the chest.

Some call this stage of the relationship the honeymoon stage, but I call it the pretend stage. The pretend stage is probably a more accurate description, because up to that point in the relationship, no one has actually shared their true feelings. As every romantic comedy movie will demonstrate, the honeymoon stage must come to an end.

All couples fight at some point, and that is good. Avoiding fights can be worse than having fights. So, how can a couple fight the right way? Here is a good question to ask before any conflict:

What am I fighting for?

As a pastor, I have observed that most fights are born out of selfish desires. Fights occur when a person wants something that they can’t have or something they didn’t get. A person becomes angry because their selfish desires were not met. The reason for arguments and quarrels is nothing new, look at what the book of James has to say:

Why do you fight and quarrel? It is because your feelings are fighting inside of you. That is why you fight. You want something but you cannot get it. Then you kill. You want something very much and cannot get it. So you quarrel and fight. You do not get it because you do not ask God for it. You ask for it, but you do not get it, because you ask in a wrong way. You want to use it for yourselves and not for others.
— James 4:1–3

Did you catch it? Did you see what James said? Fighting comes from selfish desire. Fighting happens when people are more concerned with their desires than those of the other person.

The key difference between a healthy and unhealthy marriage is not whether you fight or don’t fight, the key difference is the ability to identify what you are fighting for. Healthy relationships fight for the betterment of the relationships. Unhealthy relationships fight for selfish desires. When disagreement occurs in a relationship, make sure that your end goal is not a win but the betterment of the relationship. This will make all the difference in the world.

So, the next time you find in yourself in a disagreement, ask yourself, “What am I fighting for?” Are you fighting for yourself, or are you fighting for the relationship?