In the previous segment we talked about the importance of fighting in a productive way that is the least harmful to your marriage. If you didn’t read it, and aren’t sure why a marriage needs “fighting rules” in order to avoid divorce, we suggest you go back and read this. We discussed the first two “fighting rules”, namely the importance of choosing your words carefully, and why trash talking is not okay. Moving on, we are now going to address the next three rules, and why they’re so important to your marital disagreements.
Take a moment to breathe!
Professional fighters are allowed to “tap out” when the fight gets too intense, and so are you. If the argument is getting really heated, and one or both of you is at the point where you are on the brink of losing control, take a moment to cool down before readdressing the subject. Fighting until you lose control of your temper only increases the chances that you are going to say or do something that you cannot fix later.
If you feel like you are getting to the point where you are going to explode or say something really mean, “tap out” and take a step back. Tell your spouse that you need some cool down time, and then put some distance between the two of you. Walk the dog, water the yard, watch a TV show. Anything to give you some distance, and a chance to cool down again. Once you have regained your composure, readdress the issue with your spouse.
Listen more, talk less!
As Epictetus the old Greek philosopher and Sage used to say, “You were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason!” One of the things that people in fights so often forget to do is listen. They get so angry and focused on their own grievances, that they forget to hear what their partner has to say.
Listening is a skill, and in the heat of the moment it can be very hard. But one of the cornerstones of a healthy marriage is mutual respect. Nothing says “I don’t respect you” quite like not being willing to even hear what your partner has to say. So take time to listen. Don’t interrupt when they are speaking. We know it’s hard, but difficult as it may be, it’s a sign of respect and a necessary aspect of positive conflict resolution. Also, don’t forget that practice makes perfect. So keep trying to listen, and maybe you will discover that there are points you hadn’t considered before.
Don’t lash out in anger!
Nothing escalates a fight faster that feeling defensive and then lashing out in order to reverse the flow of pain. Nobody likes feeling as if they are under attack. No one likes it their flaws are being pointed out, while someone else’s are going unnoticed. But defending yourself with protestations of innocence, or by turning the tables and attacking your accuser, only escalates the fight.
Difficult as it may be in the moment, ask questions. In a calm voice, and without sarcasm or anger, ask for examples or details or any additional information. Your spouse may actually have a point. They may be feeling something, or experiencing something that is hurting them. Something that you are doing. Now is the time to learn more about what is going on inside their head and heart. By meeting them in the middle with curiosity as opposed to anger, you make room for understanding, and possible resolution.
Join us next time as we wrap this up with the last three things on our list of fighting rules for married couples. Because fighting fairly is critical to relationship survival, and we could all use use a tips on how to avoid ending up in divorce court during those difficult conflicts.