Dear Sir: When there is an
argument between my husband and me, it gets really messy. It escalates into an
angry outburst and most times both of us get hurt. What can we do to stop this?
Signed: Want to Fight Fairly
Answer: Dear Friend, too many married folks, like you and your husband,
believe that when there is an argument there must always be a
"winner," and the winner must be you. Therefore, it always becomes a
"win-lose" situation. As a result of this, some couples would only
give up a heated argument when they are emotionally and physically exhausted.
Sometime, couples would "fight" for hours, deep into the night, just
because neither one want to lose. When romantic partners/husbands and wives fight
(emotionally/verbally) they must have guidelines for fair fighting. If not,
someone will always get hurt. Dr. Howard Markman, in his book "Fighting for
Your Marriage" states that "Marriage is about teamwork. Two separate
individuals may see things differently and might make different decisions. But
often the best solution will be a compromise in which neither of you gets
everything you wanted. The reason is that you wonít have a great marriage if
you get your way all the time."
The goal is to win as a team, with solutions that show mutual respect and
bring you closer as a couple. "Sure, at times" says Markman, "you
may give up a little as an individual, but if you can gain as a couple, the
exchange can be more than worth it"
GUIDELINES FOR FAIR FIGHTING
Here are eight guidelines to assist married couples in fair fighting.
- Fight by mutual consent.
Donít insist on a fight at a time when one of you canít handle this
type of strain. A good fight demands two ready participants.
- Stick to the present.
Donít dredge up the past
mistakes and faults about which
you can do nothing
- Donít hit below the belt.
In you live together, you discover each otherís sensitive areas. Donít
throw them at each other.
- Donít quit; work it out
Bring the fight to a mutual conclusion. Otherwise, it will just recur again
- Stick to the subject.
Limit the fight to the subject. Donít throw every other problem into
it; take them at a different time.
- Donít try to win, EVER.
If one wins, the other loses and begins to build resentment about the
relationship. That destroys rather than builds the relationship.
- Respect Crying.
It is a valid response to how we feel, but donít let crying sidetrack
you. It is a response for men as well as women.
- No violence.
Physical violence violates all of the above rules for fighting by mutual
Remember, a fight between married partners has the purpose of clearing the
air and expressing deep feelings in order to build a more unified life. Keep
your goal in mind--the goal of sharing your lives with each other.
WORDS NOT TO USE WHEN FIGHTING
Here are some words romantic partners are not to use when fighting. These
words are: "You never." "I told you so." "You
always." "I donít want to discuss it." "When will you ever
learn?" "How may times do I have to tell you?" These are some of
the words that "hit below the belt," that make a partner defensive,
and that creating a win-lose argument.
Here is another secret. When partners are going
to have a discussion about a topic that usually
leads in to an argument it is wise to limit the
length of that discussion to no more than 20
minutes. Take a break and then return to the
topic. Do not stay there and ďfight it outĒ
until both are exhausted, highly frustrated and
tired. Taking breaks can reduce those passionate
WORDS TO USE FOR FAIR FIGHTING
Here are some words husbands and wives should use when fighting fairly. These
words are "Iím sorry." "I need you." "Please help
me." "I did wrong." "Thank you." "I love
You never clean the house well.
I am hurt when you do not clean the
You never come home on time.
I am upset when you come home late.
You always do things that hurt me.
Right: I am disappointed when you do things
that hurt me.
You always drink too much beer.
I am unhappy when you drink to much
Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, is a
marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical
psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to
write to P.O. Box CB-11045, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org
or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.