I have a tremendous flight response. This is why there probably couldn’t be a worse person to write on the topic of fighting fair. However, only delusional people think that a marriage of two sinners can exist without differences of opinion, frustrations, conflicts, disagreements, and arguments.
To help us all handle the inevitable, I’ve come up with four tips for fighting fair. These ideas have helped me make tremendous progress in handling conflict. (By tremendous progress, I mean I no longer cry every time we disagree.) Because it’s the month of love, I decided to list them using the acronym KISS.
K.I.S.S. As a writer, I’ve been taught to “keep it simple, stupid.” While I don’t advocate calling your spouse stupid, I do advocate staying focused on the issue at hand. Ladies, we have outstanding memories, which is often helpful when knowing where everything is in the house. It is not helpful when you turn every argument into Festivus and the requisite “airing of grievances.”
I statements—use ’em. It’s human nature to immediately raise our hackles when confronted with, “You always have such a big mess” or “You never care about what I think.” Try switching it up by saying, “It helps me feel more organized when the counter is cleaned” or “I feel unappreciated when you make these decisions without me.” Remember, you’re on the same team. Try to build up your teammate.
Speak calmly. For women, tone is everything. Once you raise your voice or clip your sentences or use degrading sarcasm, it’s hard for your spouse to not escalate. Remain calm. Listen. Take a deep breath. Feel free to step back and say, “I need to take a minute to calm down.”
Speak up. If something bothers you, say something. (I am getting so much better at this.) Don’t slam things around the house hoping you’ll be asked what’s wrong. Don’t stew about something so much that you create a much bigger issue in your head. It’s okay to say, “This is bothering me. I’d like to talk.” In fact, it’s probably healthier and more mature.
Okay, there’s one more, but it didn’t fit neatly into KISS, so here it is . . . Every stage of marriage is new to both of you. Don’t set a higher bar for your spouse than you set for yourself. Don’t point out the speck in his or her eye when you have a piece of wood in yours. (Where have I heard that before?)
Linda, a writer, Bible study leader, and retreat speaker, has such a strong case of conflict avoidance that she watches nail-biting sports games from the safety of the kitchen. On the other hand, her husband has always possessed the magical superpower of not crying during conflict and, even more astonishing, seems to actually enjoy a good debate.