The one area that most couples do not explore before they get married is how to fight. It may seem derogatory or somehow cynical to focus on how you will fight with each other when you are beginning a new life together, but nothing could be further from the truth. Learning to fight fair has health benefits as well as emotional benefits.
Happy couples fight as much as unhappy couples. The difference is that happy couples “fight fair.” They are able to clear the air and feel closer after the argument. Nothing is more uncomfortable than being around a couple that doesn’t fight fair—you feel embarrassed that you are witnessing something you should not be. Imagine if you are married to someone who doesn’t fight fair. Each fight or argument leaves you feeling humiliated, abused, and shamed. If you think you are one of those couples, the suggestions below may help. If you and your spouse fight fair, congratulations!!! You have already secured your relationship from one of the main reasons couples get divorced.
Tips for Fighting Fair
1. Use “I” Statements.” When you use “I” statements you take responsibility for the way you feel, and this helps your partner to not feel attacked. This prevents the fight from getting worse because your partner doesn’t become defensive.
2. Keep the communication open. This doesn’t mean you agree with your partner, but it does mean they have a right to their opinion.
3. Be a team! Attacking your partner will build a huge wall, and it leaves your partner no choice, but to defend him or herself.
4. Time out signal. If it is your time of the month or if you are stressed with work, it is okay to give a signal you both come up with to postpone the argument or discussion.
5. It’s okay not to make up before you go to bed. Sometimes sleep and letting your unconscious deal with the issue gives you new insights in the morning.
6. Parents are first models of fighting fair. What are you modeling? If your parents set a poor example, make sure you agree with your partner to not repeat the cycle. Go to classes, get counseling, read books—most of us are smart enough to change old patterns that aren’t working. Remember that it takes both people to agree that this is an area of importance and a mutual desire to set a better example for their children.
Anger is one of the most passionate and honest of all emotions. Dealt with in a healthy way, it can stimulate the marriage and deepen its bond. Dealt with poorly and you risk losing your spouse and/or children and creating a miserable marriage. All new behaviors take practice, one step at a time.