How to Fight Fair in Marriage

What kind of fighter are you? Do you bring up past hurts and grievances and hurl them at your partner, or do you simply walk away from fights, refusing to engage at all? Are you a right-fighter, always having to “win” arguments with your spouse? Do arguments typically escalate into full blown, knock-down drag-out wars, or one where you end up giving in just to keep the peace? Do you know what you’re fighting about, or do arguments over money tend to drift into fighting about the in-laws too?

Common reasons why couples fight include money, in-laws, sex, children, housework, jobs and friends. Conflict and arguments are inevitable in all marriages, but how you fight and how you end an argument can determine the long-term success or failure of your marriage. If done correctly, dealing with conflicts in your marriage by understanding how to fight fair in marriage can actually help and strengthen your relationship.

The differences between men and women in personalities, and the differences in upbringing, is reason enough for conflicts and arguments to occur in marriage. Conflicts signal that something is wrong in the relationship and it needs to be addressed, adjusted or corrected, in a way that both the husband and wife leave the argument feeling heard, understood, accepted and respected.

A primary requirement for any fight is to maintain control. Having an argument with your spouse does not give you license to be childish, abusive or immature. Disagreements are going to occur, and you are entitled to give constructive and reasonable voice to legitimate feelings and concerns, but you don’t have the right to be self-righteous, vindictive, controlling or selfish in how you fight.

How to Fight Fair:

Take it private and keep it private. Fighting in front of your children is nothing short of child abuse. Not keeping in control of your emotions will scar your children emotionally, and does not provide them the proper role model of how to fight fair as they mature. Resist the urge to discuss relationship problems with friends, family or in-laws, as this will be seen as a betrayal of trust and makes getting along with in-laws more difficult.

Venting your spouse’s negative behaviors to parents, family members or friends is not only immature, but it creates a building resentment toward your spouse since friends and family are not around when you’ve made up and resolved the issue, and it doesn’t make you look very good either.

Keep it relevant. Don’t bring up past hurts and grievances that happened months or even years ago. Put boundaries around the subject to be discussed so that the fight doesn’t deteriorate into a free-for-all. If you are angry about something, say so in an assertive and respectful manner using “I” statements to convey your feelings.

If the argument becomes heated, or if your spouse is unwilling to discuss the problem at that moment, schedule an agreed upon time within 24-hours to have your fair fight. Pick your battles; if you are angry about something but haven’t discussed it with your spouse within 48-hours, let it go and move on.

No name-calling. Fighting fair leaves no room for character assassination, using endearing terms and pet names with a sarcastic and demeaning tone only adds fuel to the fire and is very hurtful to your spouse. Don’t use words like “always” and “never” during arguments, as these sweeping statements to condemn your husband or wife will only aggravate the disagreement into a full-blown explosion.

Don’t threaten your spouse or condescend with statements like, “Just try it and see what happens!” or “You shouldn’t feel that way”, as using such deadly weapons in your marriage is a sure sign of immaturity and leaves your mate feeling ridiculed and insecure. Treat the problem as “our problem” rather than his or her problem, so that neither is left feeling attacked or blamed for every fight that occurs in the marriage.

Listen and learn. Discuss various options and ideas that both have contributed to the discussion, choosing and trying one or more ideas that both can accept. Don’t be a dirty fighter by sitting in wait for the idea your spouse recommended to fail, just so you can say “See, I told you so”.

Evaluate and adjust the options as needed by asking, “How are we doing in our effort to save money for vacation? How close are we to being able to buy the new car? Do you have any new ideas of how we can…?” Just as you want your spouse to see things from your point of view, be willing to see things from his or her perspective as well, thereby developing greater teamwork and accountability together.

Fighting about money. One way to avoid financial arguments is to agree on one joint household account for dealing with monthly bills, vacations and family-related expenditures. Both should also have separate bank and credit accounts, as women commonly have a love-hate relationship with money, but need to know how to achieve long-term financial security should the unthinkable occur and her husband dies or there is a divorce.

If one of you is better at paying the bills and saving money, then agree on that partner assuming the primary role. Regardless of who manages the bills, both husband and wife need to know and regularly discuss bank accounts and balances, bills and debts, investments and retirement plans, etc. (A friend of mine unexpectedly lost her husband last year, never knowing anything about their financial situation or having credit in her own name, and she is now dealing with the aftermath of enormous debt).

Make it a win-win fight. Even if you think you are right and your spouse is wrong, allow your partner to retreat from the fight with their dignity intact. How an argument ends is crucial to the health and longevity of the marriage, perhaps coming in the form of a sincere apology and hug. Give your spouse the reassurance that despite the fact that you will disagree from time to time, you are in this marriage for the long haul and you love him or her, and that you will not give up and leave the marriage before you’ve really tried to make it work.

What further ways would you recommend and suggest on how to fight fair in marriage?

Related Posts:

How to Get Along With the In-Laws: Dealing With In-Laws and Extended Family
Keeping the Fire Alive in Your Marriage
How to Spice Up Your Marriage: Fun and Easy Ways to Add Romance to Your Marriage
Understanding Assertiveness: Getting the Respect You Deserve
Inside the Minds of Angry, Controlling and Abusive Men
Why Are Women So Strange and Men So Weird?
Relationship Deal-Breakers: Non-Negotiable Boundaries
What Does it Mean to Leave and Cleave in Traditional Wedding Vows?

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27 Responses to “How to Fight Fair in Marriage”

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  1. alisa bowman says:

    There are many things I know rationally that rapidly fly out of the door when the moment gets heated. The key is to keep reminding myself throughout the argument and that, while not easy, really does seem to help.

    Great post!

  2. Lin says:

    Hi Alisa, fighting fair does take a lot of work and effort. The most beneficial and yet the hardest thing to do when fighting is holding hands during an argument/disagreement. It works very well…but it’s also very hard to do.

  3. wilson says:

    When a couple is having an argument, the better way is to give both of them a cool down counting, where tell the couple to count from 1 to 10…

    I knew there are some couples that don’t know how to tolerate to each other when they’re having the fight. That’s why the forgiveness and tolerance is the main ingredient to the marriages! Isn’t it, Lin?

  4. Donna says:

    This is a great article. I believe that lacking the necessary skills to fight fairly is the downfall of many marriages.

    Disagreements that have ugly endings, build resentment that can eventually destroy the marriage.

    It amazes me that many people can have disagreements with friends or other family members that never get heated, but cannot do the same with their spouse .

  5. Lin says:

    Hi Donna, thanks for stopping by. Fighting fair in marriage is a very important part of having a happy, successful marriage. Name-calling is a huge problem in many marriages, and fighting in front of the kids has many harmful effects since it teaches children how NOT to treat each other.

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