In the heat of battle with our husband, it’s so easy to throw out the rules for how to fight fair and hit below the belt. But if we don’t take the high road, bitter fighting can destroy our relationship. In fact, studies show that one negative comment or argument can negate dozens of positive interactions between you and your husband. Research also shows that one of the best predictors of whether a marriage will make it or not is how the couple handles conflict.
The good news in all of this is that you can learn how to fight fair in marriage. And by doing your part to “fight clean,” you’ll have a better chance of getting your husband to do the same.
Learning how to “fight fair” can make all the difference. Here’s how to do it.
1. Take the high road.
Tit-for-tat is a shortcut to escalation, and escalation is one of the 4 patterns that can destroy your marriage. The other patterns or habits you need to break out of to take the high road are invalidation, negative interpretation, and avoidance. You can learn how to avoid these patterns here.
2. Use “I” statements.
This means taking ownership of your feelings rather than blaming your husband. “I need some help because I’m getting overwhelmed with the kids’ schedule,” works better than, “You never help me with the kids and I’m sick and tired of it.”
3. Plan ahead.
You can’t always anticipate when a fight is going to erupt, but if there’s an issue that’s brewing, write down your thoughts to compose yourself before you dive in.
4. Don’t argue historically.
Stay in the moment. Laying out an annotated history of your spouse’s shortcomings simply fuels the fire. And, not surprisingly, “the historian” is one of the 4 styles of fighting you want to steer clear of. The others are the martyr, the bomb thrower, and old yeller. Do any of those describe your style? Learn how to make a change here.
5. Resist the urge to keep score.
Scorekeeping assumes a winner and a loser. The point of fair fighting is to promote the relationship. There are no losers when the relationship is strengthened.
6. Nice girls do finish first.
Kindness may well be the strongest card you can play in a disagreement. Conflict can be defined by hostility and contempt, or it can be defined by kindness and respect. The choice is yours.
7. Be in top form.
Remember not to have serious discussions after 9 p.m. If you’re in PMS, you might want to put off a pressing issue until later.
8. Change and acceptance.
The only person you can change is you. Accept the differences between men and women. Accept that your husband is different from you.
9. Child-free zone.
Never use your children as leverage. If you can’t fight “nice,” don’t fight in front of your children. If you do let them see you having a real blowout, apologize and tell them that you and Daddy are working on doing better. And, lest you think that you need to divorce because you haven’t learned to fight fair yet, see why a “just ok” marriage is good enough for your kids.
Never use your children as leverage. If you can’t fight “nice,” don’t fight in front of your children.
10. Follow the rules.
Think ahead about how you and your husband will fight. Make a plan in advance so you have a better chance of keeping things calm when arguments do happen.
Let’s Talk: What keeps you from fighting fair with your husband?