One of the issues we hear about in our counseling with other couples is about marriage communication. Of the communications issues, we hear most about fighting. One of the things we try to do most is not to help couples stop fighting, but to help them commit to fighting fair.
Disagreements are going to happen. Feelings will get hurt. Tempers will flare. Even in the best marriages, fights will happen. What’s important in improving your marriage isn’t to stop fighting, but to stop fighting in ways that cause serious damage to your relationship and your future.
Here are some of the tips and rules we share with other couples about fighting fair so that your marriage communication doesn’t suffer a breakdown.
1) Never fight in front of the kids.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have a minor disagreement in front of the kids. It means you can’t have an actual fight. Aside from the fact that it scares, embarrasses and worries the kids, it also makes it too easy to hurt your spouse. Fighting in front of witnesses almost always leaves one or both of you feeling humiliated and when that happens, retaliation quickly follows. Before you know it, a minor fight about finances turns into a very serious fight about insulting your spouse’s character in front of the children. Don’t do it.
Agree now to agree later that a disagreement that’s turning into a fight will be put aside for later. If things start to get heated, stop, and agree on a specific time that you’ll talk things out later on. This not only spares the kids, it gives you both time to calm down.
2) Never call names.
This doesn’t need much explanation. Long after the fight has been settled and a solution has been found, that name will linger on in the mind of the one who heard it. Your spouse will always be sure that “that is how you really feel.”
3) Stick to the problem at hand.
Very often, unresolved feelings and issues creep to the surface during a fight about something else altogether. If you’re still harboring hurt feelings or resentment over a past issue, talk it out until it’s no longer a problem. If you keep allowing it to surface every time you fight, it will always be a problem and most likely, none of your fights will ever be resolved.
There’s nothing wrong with fighting in your marriage. Two different people living in the same house will have disagreements and disappointments. But fight like you’re friends and you’ll still be friends when the fighting’s over.