Just because you fight with your husband or wife doesn’t mean you have a bad marriage. We are all individuals with our own thoughts and agendas and because of that we aren’t going to agree with any single person on everything. Also, we all have our faults, mess up, are lazy and generally are imperfect beings. This will bother people and depending on the level of conflict, may result in a fight. Studies have shown that it’s not if you fight that makes a difference in long term marital happiness, success and stress, but how you fight. The biggest things we fight about in marriage are sex, kids and money (order depends if you’re a man or woman), so you’re not unique in your arguments with your spouse.
Here are some things to consider the next time you find yourself fighting:
1) The first three minutes are critical –
Studies have shown that if you are able to stay on task and not spiral down to mud slinging in that time frame, you have a good chance of making it into actual issue resolution.
2) Deescalate –
To get through past three minutes, usually deescalation strategies need to be employed, especially if the fight starts out or ramps up to “Guns a’blazin'” zone. At least one person needs to try and deescalate things when they heat up. What usually happens when we fight is our ego takes a stance that we have to “win” the argument. So your partner ego attacks, you naturally want to counterattack, back and forth that goes. Changing the mentality to not attack but to countersteer the argument back to productive area is the way to go. During one of the training exercises I did in conflict resolution, we had a police officer come in and do some training drills he had learned that he called “Verbal Judo”. Judo, if you don’t know, is referred to as “the gentle way”. This martial art uses your opponents force and redirects it to your advantage.
One way to do this is to take a moment, let the argument or fight wash over you like a wave washes over a rock. Let the argument settle for a moment to clear your head, calm down for a moment and incorporate one of these strategies for deescalation:
A) Affirmation – affirm that your partner’s argument has merit and you can see how him or her came to that conclusion. Then state your vantage point in a calm, rational manner. “I can see how you could think that, but here’s what I meant when I said XYZ…”
B) Rephrase – rephrase what your partner has stated “just so I can understand where you’re coming from, you’re saying that [REPHRASED STATEMENT]”
C) Use Humor or Affection – sometimes it get’s hot and heavy saying something disarming like “I hate it when we fight” can have a big impact on deescalating and getting to the root of the issue and calming both parties down.
D) Take a time out – Simply state that you some time to compose your thoughts and you aren’t disengaging from the discussion; you just need a moment to calm down and think rationally.
3) Know how to bring your issue to light – Complaint vs. Criticism (and Contempt)
How you argue is very important. If you want the shields to go up to Level 10 and for you to be rebuffed even in fair assessments, go in with a criticism. This is an attack on your partner. Compare that to a complaint – a more blameless approach to the same discussion point that you can then slowly delve into salient viewpoints on the issue. Take for example a discussion on sex. An approach to begin the “discussion” with a complaint may start as “I’m really disappointed we don’t have sex more often.” or “We should really find a way to improve our sex life.” Now compare it to a criticism: “What is your problem? Why do you constantly shut down and rebuff my advances for sex?” or “You’re the reason our sex life sucks!”. While those criticism may be true, she’ll always be on the defensive ready to attack back and her ego will try to fight hard against the more frontal assault.
Also, along with criticism is contempt. To snipe and say mean disgustful things to purposely hurt feelings is a way to escalate the fight, the opposite of being constructive. Even eye rolling is contemptful in that it shows disregard for your partners viewpoint.
4) Other things to consider –
One thing I’ve been guilty of is disengaging from battle when the heat is on. Rather than discuss things through to completion, you (I) throw my arms up and leave, or stonewall and not respond. Holly is usually really good at getting me back into the ring despite my shitty behavior, but it shouldn’t be on her to do that. Those are things that should be avoided when having a fight or discussion as it is not productive in the long term. at. all. Also, when discussing things, try to be on the same physical level as your partner (both standing, both sitting), arms not crossed, making eye contact.
Take your share of the blame. If you’re a beta man, and you didn’t do anything “wrong”, you should try and take your share of the blame without apologizing. But there’s usually two sides to every argument or misunderstanding. Say things like “I should have been clearer in my expectations/my request/my communication and not have expected you to make the same assumptions/decisions I did. Next time I’ll try and do a better job, but if you don’t understand something or are unclear on it, please ask”. [This is a common one for us as it’s based on the common miscommunication MEME that seems to arise frequent enough]. Hopefully, your spouse is big enough to behave in a similar fashion, but this isn’t always the case.
Also, one person has to bring the olive branch and make up. Being the one to reach out and hug the other and say something simple like “I hate it when we fight” can go a long way, maybe even to some make-up sex. You can still agree to disagree, but can’t let these hurt feelings linger. Try to resolve the issue before going to bed, and hopefully carry over will be minimal. Also, try not to gunnysack (keep feelings bottled up until the teapot boils) and instead let out your thoughts in smaller bites or discussions.
Finally, we are all hurt and emotional and ego’s are a-roarin’ during a fight. This is not the time to bring up the “D” word to hurt your partner. You may be seeing red, but no good can come from that in the middle of a figurative knock-out, throw-down fight. After nerves calm, and you can rationally think, you’ll see that is probably not the road you want to go down, but if it is, it’s better to start those discussions in a rationale frame of mind. More than likely, if you bring up divorce in a fight, you’re just looking to hurt your partner and to show him how much they hurt you previously. Fight fair and don’t go down to this level.
We all fight, it’s unavoidable. It really sucks when we do and usually at least one person feels angry or hurt or embarrassed for their behavior or actions. A lot of our fights are based on miscommunication and while we’re mad at each other, we know it will pass. Hopefully you can see your behavior a little more clearly and can employ some of these strategies in your own lives.