Setting Ground Rules for Your Marriage

One concept I have been an advocate for is setting ground rules for your marriage. Let me illustrate what I mean with a personal example.

It didn’t take long for Cheryl and I to realize that one of us avoids conflict and one of us actually enjoys it. If you read my blog at all you can possibly guess which one of the two I am. As a result, of this in our personalities, if Cheryl and I had a disagreement, she would quickly disappear to the bedroom. She always went to be early on days we had an argument. (Yes, pastors have those also.)

Since I believe in obeying Scripture in my home, and knowing I’m commanded not to “let the sun go down” on my anger, Cheryl and I decided that we need a rule in our marriage that we will handle disagreements before either of us go to sleep. Sometimes that means I have to “break the ice” by offering forgiveness, sometimes she does, but if we are going to obey the rule, we have to at least agree to drop any anger we have towards each other. We may settle the issue later, but we try not to go to bed angry. We have a rule!

I have often been asked how these are enforceable. Honestly, they probably aren’t. If the need to enforce them is your issue, your marriage may have bigger issues. The idea here is a mutual submission to each other (read more about that idea HERE), where both spouses agree that obeying these rules will make the marriage work better. It’s a shared agreement to behave in a certain way for the good of the marriage.

Please understand, I am a grace guy. I usually rebel against a bunch of rules for the sake of rules. The goal of our marriage, however, is for “the two to become one flesh”. We are trying to build a marriage that honors and glorifies God, but because we are two imperfect beings, we had to agree to comply with some basic understandings (rules) to help make that happen.

Do you need to set some ground rules for your marriage?

What rules would you need to have in your marriage to keep your marriage heading in the right direction?

What are some ground rules you think would be good ones for a marriage?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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13 thoughts on “Setting Ground Rules for Your Marriage

  1. You can do it! The statistics they say are not great for second marriages, but I've always questioned those numbers. When a second marriage commits to Christ and each other, and learns from their mistakes, I think the success rate can be extremely high.

  2. My marriage crashed after 7.5 years of marriage. 3.5 year old son, and ten years of my life gone. I wish there was more premarital eduction and that more pastors were as transparent as you and my pastor are. Thanks for giving me a kick in the butt for round two with my wife, when God reconciles us.

  3. We have a few rules: don’t “let the sun go down” is one, as is fighting fair…meaning we try to deal with the issue at hand & avoid impossible accusations like “always” & “never”.

  4. I am new to reading your Marriage Moments; this is my first and I know I am going to enjoy them. Andy and I believe the rule of not going to bed angry is needed and not hard to comply with at all. We also never leave one another during the day without telling each other we love each other. This is such a simple thing to become an appreciated and much needed habit.

  5. good advice to set rules to avoid bad patterns. we started noticing trends in situations that cause arguments. we set up some ground rules to help us avoid those situations. rules can seem stifling, but in this case, it means we care enough not to fight more than is needed.

  6. I am one of the conflict avoiders. I used to tell myself I was a Peacemaker (as in, Blessed are the…). But my dear friend and pastor pointed out, I was actually a Peacekeeper. Big difference. I avoided the issues to keep the peace, which really was no peace at all. Hard lesson to learn and even harder behavior to change.

    • David, you've made the first step when you recognize the struggle. For Cheryl, she has to give me freedom to lead in that area. She still hates conflict, but she allows me to take us there…provided I'm a "nice guy" about how I do it.

      • I mean that thinking about what we can do now, as a couple, can get us moving in a productive direction during conflict or disagreements. For example, we could pray about it now, and decide now what to do the next time we are faced with a similar situation that would be better, and so forth.

        Other ground rules are bringing up things when we have time and energy to work through them, not as a spouse is leaving for work or very late at night.

        The Seven Conflicts is an amazing book about this very issue, and explains both the dangers associated with conflict avoidance as well as how to determine when to drop it.