Every couple fights, including couples who have been happily married for decades. No two people agree on every thing at every time. The way to disagree while still working to build a better marriage is to accept that you will fight and then learn to fight fair.
The other day, Huffington Post contributor Maggie M. Ethridge posted on this very topic in her article, “The Top 5 Ways to Fight Fair.” One of the things that got my attention in this article is the fact that she starts out by describing how she and her husband often fight about the way they fight.
That issue is one that is very common and we think the best first step in learning to fight fair is to have some ground rules about what is and is not acceptable when you argue. Building a better marriage is all about having a plan, as a team, for the way you’ll react to challenges. We think the tips in this article are worthwhile reading for all of us.
1. A mutually understood and agreed-upon set of guidelines for arguing.
Like we just stated, you have to have certain guidelines set out for the way you fight. What those rules are will depend largely on your individual needs and boundaries as a couple, but the guidelines have to be mutually agreed upon in order for you to be able to stick to them.
2. Timing, timing, timing.
Ethridge comments on the fact that her husband basically shuts down after 6pm, so she’s learned not to argue with him in the evenings. Most of us do have a time of day when we’re not at our best and respecting that can make all the difference a fight that goes nowhere and one that is resolved well for both of you.
Knowing the time of day or week that your partner is least whole is knowing the times you should zip it, and talk it out later. A disagreement where one of you is resentfully participating in talking is never going to end well.”
3. No stonewalling. If you need to take a break from an argument or postpone a discussion to another time, do so. But don’t just stop talking altogether.
This is such a serious problem in a relationship that Dr. Gottman, a well known and respected marriage researcher, calls it one of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” meaning that it is one of the main indicators of a dying marriage. If you find yourself unable to respond, or respond reasonably, in an argument, say “I need to take a break, get myself together, and talk about this in an hour,” but do not just clam up. Stonewalling sends a direct message to your partner that you are no longer willing to put forth any effort, of any kind.”
4.Do not use all encompassing words like ‘ always ‘ and ‘ never ‘ even if they’re true.
Words like these tear our partners down and also make the situation at hand seem un-fixable. Instead of saying your spouse never helps with housework, explain that you feel frustrated by having to do so much yourself, then work out a plan for sharing the workload more fairly.
5.Agree not to interrupt, and take note of how long you talk.
Listening to your partner shows that what they’re saying is important to you, even when you disagree. Interrupting indicates that you’re more concerned with your thoughts than you are theirs. On the flip side, so does hogging the floor time.
No matter how long you’ve been married or how strong your marriage, you will always disagree on some things and the occasional fight is inevitable. How you fight is what makes the difference between building a better marriage and tearing one down.