Yes, there is such a thing as “good fighting.” Most of the time my fights are what you would consider “bad” full of anger and pride. We accomplish nothing and then end up having the same fight later with even more pinned up anger and resentment. I try and try to stay calm but that Latin blood in me yells, how dare you talk to me that way wedo! (Imagine Selma Hyek’s voice while reading that).
So here are some practical, yet sometimes tough principles to apply while having that inevitable heated fight with your spouse. These principles are from the book, “Marriage and Family: The Quest For Intimacy” by Robert Lauer.
*Discloser: These tips aren’t going to work in every relationship. There are too many variables for a one size fits all fix.*
Maintain Your Perspective- This one is pretty simple. Put away the boxing gloves for trivial matters, save your energy for more important issues. If you and your spouse are having a power struggle over the weather then there are deeper issues that should be addressed.
Develop Tension Outlets– Find something that will help you unleash the stress! My stress release is going to Target. Nothing can help me unwind and feel like I just got out of deep mediation like cruising Target without kids. When I can’t break away from home I go into my closet and eat the candy I have stashed in there and dream about going to Target. I realize it’s probably unnatural to like Target so much but hey, to each their own.
Avoid Festering Resentment- It is vital in a relationship to openly confront issues that are important to you and resolve them. Being hurt by a loved one can cause hurt and anger with a desire to want to get that person back. No matter how good it might feel to get someone back, it is not healthy to do. Forgiveness is actually the healthier response. Forgiveness reduces anger, anxiety, and depression, and it increases the individual’s satisfaction with the relationship and with life. Avoid speculation and guessing by being completely open with your spouse. There’s nothing like your spouse coming home from a bad day at work and you guessing his distant demeanor is something that you did wrong and now you are mad because you are assuming he’s angry with you but you haven’t done anything wrong.
Be Sensitive to Timing- Telling someone that they have royally pissed you off right before they are about to dose off is probably not wise. Telling your husband that he dresses like a slob right before walking into a party is just mean. Conflict can only be constructive when both people can function rationally as well as emotionally. Make sure no one is tired or hungry. I would also recommend having kids occupied or in bed before a serious conversation. Too many times have our kids come in while we were in a “bad fight” and we took out our frustrations on them.
Communicate Without Ceasing- Communication is not a cure all but it is important to not handle conflict with the silent treatment or by hoping that time will make it all better. I have tried that and it turns into a “groudhogs” day with the same fight over and over again. Which can be so exhausting. With resolving an issue the quality of communication is important. Listening is a crucial part of effective communication. We so badly want to get our point across that we forget to listen carefully to what are spouse is saying.
Be Flexible, Willing to Compromise- Compromise may be the only way to keep a marriage peaceful. Compromising does not mean one person is just giving up on an issue they feel passionate about. The respect should be mutual when it comes to topics that are important to the other. If they are not as important to you then either being flexible or letting it go will help maintain peace and harmony in the house. Selma Hyek can take a little siesta.
Use Conflict to Attack Problems, Not Your Spouse- I wish I could keep this in mind when Dan and I are arguing. This principle flies out the window and I start brining things up from 10 years ago and everything else that has pissed me off in the last decade. Wait…what are we fighting about again? That’s what happens when you don’t battle the problem and you’re just rehashing the past. The problem isn’t being fixed. So when you have a conflict, remember to JUST address the conflict. That’s if you really want to solve the issue.
Keep Loving while You Are Fighting- When Dan and I were in marriage counseling I had every intention of going into that session to strengthen my marriage, but instead I went in hurt and angry and I wanted someone to tell me I was right and that he was wrong. I wanted validation. I was intentionally trying to hurt my husband. When you refuse to hurt your partner during conflict with intentional hurtful remarks, that you know will hurt your partner, you are continuing to love while fighting.