When people tell me they don’t fight in their marriage, I assume either one of two things is actually true: either they’re lying or the couple never talks. If you’ve been married longer than 24 hours, you’re going to have an argument. So, if we’re going to fight, how do we fight fair?
When Jeannie and I did our premarital counseling with Dr. Wade Rowatt, he gave us great tips on how to fight fair in marriage. After all of these years, we still use them.
Before we can talk about fighting fair, however, we have to talk about a few of the ways we fight unfairly. Once again, these are Wade’s thoughts.
These are the unfair ways to fight:
This is where one of the partners shoots one liners to wound the other. It’s never a direct attack, but snarky, sarcastic, wounding remarks about unrelated topics to intentionally frustrate your spouse. It works wonderfully if you have a sense of humor. You can take shots at their family, their driving, their accent—anything is fair game! And what’s the problem? After all, you’re only kidding!
The problem is you’ll have to deal with the hurt you caused before you ever get to the problem you need to solve.
This is bringing up everything that’s ever happened in the past. You bring up how they forgot to pay the light bill, how they said the wrong thing to your college roommate—anything and everything is brought out of the waste bin of the past and fought about again.
The problem is you’ll be so exhausted from refighting old fights you’ll never fight the fight you really need to have.
This is where you deny there’s a problem. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “Really, I know something’s wrong. What is it?” “Nothing.” Your spouse will become so frustrated, he or she will blow up and you’ll win the argument by default. Again the real problem is never solved.
Chinese Water Torture
This is when you fight about a million little things, but never address the real problem. You complain about his or her driving. You don’t like the food at the restaurant. You don’t like what your spouse is wearing. Every subject becomes an opportunity to whine and complain.
Once more, the real issue is never addressed. And guess what? You’ll still have to address it sooner or later.
This is when you threaten to end the marriage, go back home, or call an attorney if you don’t get your way. The problem here is the threat becomes more painful than the reality of the act. Before long, your spouse will simply say, “Go ahead and leave. At least I’ll know how this thing is going to end.”
The one thing all of these have in common is that you never solve the problem. The whole point of the argument is to solve a problem! Focus on the problem. Not each other. Not the past. Not who’s to blame; focus on the problem and solve it together.
Did you recognize any of these patterns? OK, here’s your homework: confess to your spouse which unfair way you fight. Talk about what you fight about. What things come up again and again? What ways have worked in the past? What ways have not worked?
We’ll talk more about how to fight fair in my next post.