Recently, I received a letter from a man who has been married for five years. He and his wife are very well educated, career-driven African-Americans with dynamic jobs. Both are doing very well in their perspective careers and finances are not an issue. On top of that they are blessed with a two-year old princess. Some of their arguments have been triggered from things such as, “You drank the last swallow of orange juice…Why did you buy so many cartons of O.J….Why do I have to pay for dinner, I paid last time…Why didn’t you put gas in the car?”
In another letter I received, there’s a couple who have been married for about four years. He and his wife are from two different countries. The wife works from home and the husband is trying to find a descent job because the one he has in sales in not paying. Their arguments range from the wife working the graveyard shift and disturbing his rest to the husband needs to find a job and support her so she can go to school. He complains about her talking to her family in Armenia over skype for two hours a day and not wanting to cook and clean. She complains that he needs to get a descent job and take care of his wife.
In the past, I have actually coached a couple who right there in front of me, got into an all out, testy war of words. For all intended purposes, the way they went at it, I might as well had popped some popcorn, got a coca cola, put my feet up, sat back and watched the entertainment. This couple acted such a fool. They went from name calling, playing the dozens to things being drug up from another lifetime. This couple argued about everything, and the arguments would start over something like, “Stop leaving your shoes in the middle of the floor.”
Some couples fight over the silliest matters but claim to love one another. However some of the immature exchanges and the foul way they handle each other leads me to ask the question, “What’s love got to do with it?”
Couples who behave in this manner fail to realize that they cannot take words back. Sure, they can apologize later, but the damage has already been done and the words have already made a deep impact. If you are one of those couples where one or both of you get so angry that you storm out of the house, name call, talk about his mama or her baby daddy of the baby that you’re not the daddy of , hurl insults or stonewall or attack your partner’s character then you are NOT FIGHTING FAIR. Further, ultimately your FOUL way of communicating will destroy your relationship or marriage.
First let me say that it is natural and healthy to argue. Arguing is no more than simply expressing your reasoning for or against a matter. It is healthy because through loving instances of discourse, very important communication is taking place. The problem is when people become disrespectful in the process and take the conversation out of the “safe zone.” (i.e. Name calling, yelling, playing the dozens, stonewalling, mocking, invalidating, etc.).
Stonewalling is not talking to your mate at all or not listening to your mate. Women usually stonewall by giving their partner the silent treatment. Men usually stonewall by totally refusing to listen or interact. Yet in these battles for power and winning, everyone loses – the husband, the wife and the children. Also, family and friends lose because they are often put in the middle or end up having to listen to the madness. It becomes very messy and in these types of situations, everyone’s hands get dirty. What they say about misery loving company, doesn’t even adequately describe what it looks like when husband and wife lose all sense of civility when fighting.
While fighting is a normal part of any healthy relationship, there is a healthy way to fight. So here are eight ways that will help a couple keep their relationship on track during an argument.
8 Ways To Fight Fairly With Your Spouse
1. Open Your Discussion in Prayer – Opening your discussion in prayer will invoke a higher principle in the mix and help to temper both people in the exchange.
2. Use the LTL Formula – The Listen-Talk-Listen formula ensures that both parties will listen twice as much as they talk. Steven Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, provides a habit that couples can adopt. “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.” If you and your mate practice just that one habit, there will be a whole lot more understanding in the relationship.
3. Create a Safe Emotional Space for Communicating – It’s important to create an emotionally safe space for your mate to be able to communicate. This is the responsibility for both people. Safety means no yelling, no character attacks, no blaming (you did this or you did that…), no invalidating (that’s stupid, silly, or crazy), no stonewalling, and no judging each other. Remember that your mate is not the problem, the problem is the problem. Make the problem the enemy not your mate. So the two of you can attack the problem as a united front.
4. Use “I Feel” and Avoid Extremes Such as “You Always” or “You Never” – When you use the words, “I feel” as opposed to you did this or you did that, it removes the defense mechanisms that people automatically put up when they feel they are being attacked. Also avoid extremes such as “always” or “never.” Extremes are usually an over exaggeration of the truth.
5. Don’t Interrupt – It is important to listen to your mate and not interrupt them or talk across them. If necessary, put time frames on bringing a discussion and put a time frame on rebuttals and go back and forth until an agreement can be reached. Even if you end up not seeing eye-to-eye, agree on how you will handle the matter in the future.
6. Use a Trigger Word – Trigger words or also referred to as “Safe Words.” They are words such as time-out, pause, stop, or uncle. The purpose of these words is to invoke them during an argument that is beginning to escalate out of control. The agreed upon word is used consistently when necessary during discussions to allow the two of you to cool down, then come back to the conversation. The timeframe for the pause or time-out may be 15-minutes, 30-minutes or an hour. It all depends on what you agree to. However, the two of you must come back to the discussion to resolve the matter.
7. Address Issues as They Come Up – It is important not to let anger build up. Discuss things while they are small instead of waiting until they blow out of proportion. Also avoid going to bed angry. Resolve your matters promptly so that they don’t become bigger than what they would have been if you had addressed them early on.
8. Ask Your Mate Resolution Questions – It is both natural and important to discuss the problems in a relationship thoroughly. Yet, once the problem has clearly been outlined from both perspectives, it is critical that both of you move the discussion to a problem-solving format. In other words, just don’t complain about it, now work together to do something about it. An example of a resolution question is, “Honey, how can I help so that you don’t feel that way?”
There are many things that happen in a relationship which triggers an argument or fight between couples. It happens; but just because you had a fight is not cause to be concerned. The time to be concerned is when the fighting and argument goes afoul. So couples remember to argue in the best manner and in a loving way. Remember that your mate is your ally, not your enemy. If you have been fighting in an unfair manner, make a paradigm shift and evolve your relationship to a more healthy state.