In the previous two part series on things people wished they had known before getting divorced, one of the things we mentioned was fighting. Fighting is often viewed as the cause of a failed relationship, but as we pointed out, it isn’t fighting that makes marriages fail, it’s how you fight that matters. So with that in mind, we want to help you learn to fight fairly, and in order for something to be fair, it has to have rules that govern how it happens.
Rules to fighting, you wonder? How can a relationship argument have rules? Well, strange as that may sound, it’s actually very important, and can make a huge difference to how productive your arguments can become. In essence, “fighting rules” refer to a list of things that married couples should, and shouldn’t do during an argument. Things that could cause deep emotional hurts that last long beyond the resolution of the argument. Or things that make the fight last longer and become more intense, when it could have easily been resolved more quickly.
So we have put together a list of things that you and your spouse need to keep in mind the next time you are fighting. However, before you begin please remember that these are guidelines. Some of these may need to be adjusted in order to work for your marriage. Also, there may be things you and your spouse need to add in that we didn’t include here. Focus on what works best for both of you.
Choose your words carefully!
How you structure your sentences in a fight can make all the difference to how the argument ends. A sentence like “You never take out the garbage when I ask you to and it makes me mad!” contains the same information as, “I feel like you don’t do the things I ask you to do, like taking out the garbage, and I struggle with that.” The difference is that one is an accusation, and the other is a statement meant to share information without assigning blame.
Avoid saying things like “You always” or “You never” at the start of sentences. Start with “I feel” or “I think”, which is less accusatory and won’t make your spouse feel so cornered. Finding another way to say the same thing, a way that is not inflammatory or accusatory, will go a long way towards helping you resolve the problem faster. After all, most people respond much better to a heartfelt sharing of information, rather than someone blaming them directly.
No trash talk!
This might seem like a given, but when people argue they often get caught up in the heat of the moment and say things that that they don’t mean. Things are the result of anger and frustration. However, the reality is that you can’t take back a spoken word, and apologizing for it doesn’t really fix the damage afterwards.
Calling your spouse mean names, like moron or idiot, hurts them far beyond the confines of the argument. Also, derogatory or demeaning descriptions like useless, stupid, or crazy are both counterproductive and unkind. So keep your verbiage “above the belt”, so to speak, and take a moment to think about what you say before you say it. It may not be as satisfactory to not vent your anger in the moment in that way, but if you want your spouse to know that you love them, respecting them by not trash talking the will make a big difference in the long run.
Join us next time, when we will be looking at the next few items on the list of “fighting rules.” Learning how to argue productively and without causing lasting damage to your marriage will make all of the difference in how you and your spouse interact in the future. Also, it may keep you from ending up in divorce court, which is probably what you both want anyway. You’re welcome.