Every marriage has its fights. All couples fight, including the happiest couple you know. The key is learning to fight fair in marriage, with the person that you have committed to loving most. Author Bruce Feiler has posted an article this week on HUffingtonPost.com, called “Lessons in Diplomacy.” he wanted to learn how to fight fair in marriage and enlisted the experts at Harvard University to help. What he learned is well worth sharing.
Feiler took part in a three-day course as part of The Harvard Negotiation Project and had psychologists and environmental behaviorists look at the way he and his wife fought. They studied the couple’s body language, voices, speech patterns and even where their fights took place. In the end, the team gave Feiler four very important insights on how to fight fair in his marriage.
1. Beware transitions.
Feiler writes that researchers have found that transition times, such as coming home or leaving for work, are particularly vulnerable times. One study was especially revealing.
Two psychologists in Chicago, Reed Larson and Maryse Richards, gave beepers to 50 families, pinged them throughout the day and asked how happy they were. The most highly charged period of the day was between 6 and 8 p.m.”
Try instituting a no-fight zone during the times when everyone is getting ready to leave for the day and for the first hour that everyone is home in the evening.
2. Level down.
Sally Augustin, an environmental psychologist in Chicago, was one of the people who studied Feiler and his wife. She said that his habit of standing during a discussion, while his wife sat, was a surefire recipe for a fight. Because he was placing himself in a position of power, his wife had no choice but to feel powerless.
When you and your spouse need to discuss something, agree to discuss it in a position of equality. Both of you should sit and discuss things eye to eye to avoid one or the other of you feeling challenged.
3. Cushion your blows.
Apparently, it’s not just that you sit, it’s also what you sit on.
A study published in 2010 by professors at M.I.T., Harvard and Yale showed that when people sit on a ‘hard wooden chair,’ they are more rigid and inflexible. When they sit on a ‘soft cushioned chair’ they are more accommodating and generous.
If you need to discuss a difficult or potentially difficult topic, everyone involved should sit in comfortable chairs. This way, no one is inclined to be too rigid and no one else is inclined to feel like they’re in the “hot seat.”
4. Go to the balcony.
The Harvard Negotion Project works with many governments and groups that are involved in tense negotiations. One of their suggestions to these groups, and to married couples, is to “go to the balcony.”
When things are starting to go wrong, imagine the negotiation taking place on a stage. Then allow your mind to go to the balcony overlooking that stage.”
According to the team’s experts, this allows couples to regain the proper perspective on the issue so that they can then work it out calmly and constructively.
Every couple fights. You and your spouse will fight. But by learning to fight fair, you can turn those fights into opportunities to demonstrate love rather than diminish it.