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I have been married for almost 5 years now. Long enough to be out of the honeymoon phase but not long enough to know it all. However, my husband and I have been together since my freshman year of high school (minus a small gap when we went off to college), which is well over 10 years of being ‘shipped. We have learned quite a few lessons during that time, but one of the toughest lessons to learn has been how to fight fair.
If you haven’t caught on yet, when someone states that another person is ‘strong-willed’, they are trying to find a nice way to say that person is stubborn as heck.
Eric and I are both very strong-willed people.
Our first year of marriage was an exciting time of merging two people into one. And you don’t combine two people without getting some bumps and bruises in the process.
Out of all of the things that can make the first year of marriage difficult, such as finances, in-laws, or religion – our biggest struggle was fighting fair.
Let’s be clear, in your marriage, you will have arguments. If there is no conflict in your relationship, one of you is likely bottling it up. So don’t feel like the fact that you have a fight doesn’t mean that you aren’t an amazing couple that can make it through anything together. When Eric and I have healthy arguments, I usually feel like we come out stronger because I get to know more about what he feels passionate about. But in order to have that growth in your marriage, you have to learn to fight fair.
How to FIGHT FAIR in marriage
Don’t ever use the words Always or Never
Is there something that you always do? Do you always brush your teeth in the morning? I am sure you do most days, but I can’t imagine that you haven’t missed a morning at some point in your life. In fact, I bet it would be rather difficult to find something that you have ALWAYS or NEVER done (Aside from skydiving, which I have never done and will not ever do unless it is mandatory for evacuating a plane). So I feel pretty confident that your spouse does not ALWAY or NEVER do something. So don’t say that to him. When you say something that definitive, it negates all of the good things your husband has done.
Instead, say something like “It really frustrates me when you leave the toilet seat up.” See how much better that is? And your point about the toilet seat is more likely to be heard since he won’t be trying to defend himself by saying how he “doesn’t ALWAYS leave the seat up!”
Learn Your Fighting Styles
Just like it is important to know your spouse’s love language, it is also important to know how they react to confrontation. However, with that information, you need to put their best interests first. You wouldn’t like it if a friend learned about your insecurities and exploited them, would you? Easy answer: NO.
Early on in our relationship, I learned that Eric and I reacted very differently to arguments. I have a huge desire to solve things immediately. I hate letting anyone end the day upset and I would much rather talk it out till everyone is happy again. Or, more specifically with my husband, until they cave in and see things my way.
Eric likes to take a breath before he talks to me when he gets frustrated. He is extremely analytical and feels better about communicating when he has all his thoughts together.
When we were younger (and sadly even sometimes now) I take advantage of that and push him to talk things out before he is ready, which usually leads to him saying something he regrets or allows me to talk him into a corner so that I can “win the argument”. But whenever things play out that way, nobody wins and we usually don’t ever resolve anything.
We combat this by trying to schedule a time to talk about tough things. That way, both of us can come prepared, and we aren’t typically all fired up about it, which leads to better resolutions and a happier couple. Once we feel an argument start brewing, one or both of us typically calls for a truce and asks if we can talk about this later. Sometimes it is 30 minutes, an hour or later that week. But it works for both of us, because I know we aren’t going to be mad at each other until the issue is resolved, and Eric gets to put his thoughts in order before I bombard him with 1,000 words on the subject.
Sometimes you spouse is just plain wrong. For example, leaving the toilet seat up is wrong (if you fall in the toilet in the middle of the night while you are pregnant, you win this argument for life). But sometimes you are wrong. And you need to own that when it happens.
I used to be very prideful (still am sometimes) and it led me to be really defensive whenever Eric brought up something that I was doing that was frustrating or hurtful to him. Most all of the issues I cause in our marriage are because I am really quick to snap at him or be rude in order to prove a point. And that is wrong. So now when he calls me out on it, I am learning to apologize. Trying to defend poor behavior on your end is never going to solve anything. So apologize when you catch yourself trying to pin your poor actions on him.
On top of that, marriage isn’t always fair, and sometimes you will need to suck it up and end the fight even when you are in the right. It may be more difficult, but if you and your spouse are at a stalemate, sometimes you have to be the one who waves the white flag first. And the more you put your spouse ahead of yourself, the more you will realize that they start doing the same for you.
Fighting fair isn’t the easiest thing to do. It is human nature to do whatever it takes to put ourselves first (survival of the fittest, right?). But making a marriage work means doing the opposite of putting yourself first. You have to choose them over you every time. And your spouse should likewise put you first.
On the inside of our wedding bands, Eric and I had Romans 12:10 inscribed to be a reminder to try and out-love and out-serve the other every day. By no means are we successful even most days. But a great marriage is also full of grace, and each day brings us an opportunity to grow ourselves and our relationship.
What are some ways you have learned to fight fair in your marriage? Or even what do you struggle with when it comes to arguments? Update me in the comments below!