How to Fight Fair in a Marriage
By America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts.
We are often asked this question – Is arguing healthy for a marriage? The simple answer is, Yes! When a husband and wife argue, they are engaging in a perfectly normal and expected part of what it means to be married. In fact, disagreement between two people in love is actually healthy for their relationship. To argue or not argue is NOT the question! The question should be, How do we argue effectively and fairly?
Learning how to fight fair and to make appropriate compromises will go a long way towards keeping a relationship strong. Compromise is rarely ever 50/50. Some days it is 90/10; some days it is 60/40; and some days it really is 50/50.
The truth is, compromise is part of what marriage is all about. Whether it is what to make for dinner, what movie to see, when to have children, where to live or what color to paint the living room, the two of you have to make the decisions together that both of you can support after the decision is made. Sometimes arguments can actually – pardon the pun – get to the heart of the matter.
Our interviews with successfully married couples around the world have revealed to us that unilateral decision-making on the part of one partner or the other, more often than not, exacerbates the debate and makes it less likely that a mutually agreeable resolution is possible.
Fighting and arguing are just as much a part of marriage as sex. It is a natural part of relating to another human being.
Over the years, our thousands of interviews with successfully married couples around the world have revealed seven rules of engagement for fighting fair and they are:
1. Fight in a calm manner. That means don’t shout or throw things or rant about the situation. Think about what you are going to say before it actually comes flowing out of your mouth. Keep your body language in tact. In other words, don’t take a position of anger or be mad or hostile before a single word is even spoken. Relax as much as you can and try to put down the anger you are feeling to keep a calm demeanor.
2. No name-calling or ugly verbiage about your spouse. Don’t let the argument degrade into a battle of personal insults. It doesn’t address the issues and can do lasting damage to your relationship with each other even if you didn’t mean what you said. You can’t take back your words!
3. You are an adult, act like it. Don’t have a temper tantrum! Don’t just sit there looking mad without saying anything. Engage in the conversation with the thought of how can we solve this problem together as adults.
4. Keep the argument logical and focused on the issues at hand. Don’t wander off topic to old battles or old scars. Determine what the problem is, what issues need to be dealt with and what are the possible solutions. If you focus on determining which solution would work best, it keeps you moving towards an end result, rather than diverting your attention to negative side issues.
5. Don’t cast blame. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. You share the problems together and you have to share the solutions together. What you discover is that when you figure out how to solve the problem and you can arrive at a solution by working as a team, the two of you can tackle anything that comes your way.
6. Don’t hold grudges. As soon as the issue has been resolved, forget it and move on. The worst thing you can do is resurrect old arguments in the context of a new one. That means no gloating if you were right and no reminding him or her constantly about how mad you still are. Couples with great marriages tell us that they have a short memory when it comes time to their past arguments. In fact, when asked, they can’t even remember what they were arguing about or who did what to whom. That is the way it should be.
7. As we have said many times before, NEVER go to bed mad at each other. Settle your fight before you go to bed, no matter how long it takes. You can defer the ultimate decision on an issue until further discussion the next day, but you can’t go to bed mad at each other! This is the number one piece of advice given to us by the thousands of happily married couples that we have interview over the past 30 years around the world.
Remember, it is perfectly okay to argue and debate with your spouse. Better solutions are often arrived at when you engage in wholesome debate. Learning how to argue effectively is critically important to a healthy marriage and to a healthy relationship.
In love and marriage the simple things matter. Love well!
By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz
For hundreds of tips to enhance your relationship get the Doctor’s best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2010) Available wherever books are sold.
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships