After 33 years of marriage, I’m here to tell you my husband and I have had our share of fights. And trust me when I tell you, there’s been some real doozies — especially in the early part of our marriage. In fact, you’d think we were in preschool based on how we handled our arguments.
The good news, though, is that it was those earlier fights that actually taught us how to fight like adults who love each other.
These days I’m proud to say we no longer fight. Yeah, we disagree from time to time and might not even talk to each other for a few hours when we are both feeling particularly stubborn, but the serious fighting days are over.
And because of that, here’s what we’ve learned along the way that’s created a marriage of respect, peace and love.
- Don’t fight in public: This needs to be a hard and fast rule. Not only are you putting each other in an embarrassing situation, but it’s very uncomfortable for the people who witness you fighting. Whether it’s around strangers or friends, no one wants to see a couple fight. You’ll never be able to solve the issue in that environment anyway and the awkwardness of it will only escalate the problem. If you can’t leave right away then couch the conversation until you get home. One advantage to this is it gives you a chance to cool down a bit by the time you readdress the problem.
- Don’t fight in front of your kids if at all possible: If you have children, they don’t need to be witnesses to the heat of the moment between you and your spouse but sometimes it happens. When my son was 3 years old, he came running over to my husband and me while we were fighting. He made us hold hands and said, “Mommy, daddy, no more yelling. Only kissing.” Now if there’s one guaranteed way to stop a fight dead in its tracks, it’s that. We picked him up, hugged as a family and explained sometimes mommy and daddy get upset but still love each other. That moment broke the tension enough to allow us to finish what we started in a calm manner while my son went back to playing in his room. Once we were finished, we went to my son, holding hands, and told him everything was fine now and to remember, sometimes people fight but when they love each other a lot like mommy and daddy do, they always find a way to make things good again.
- Don’t fight to hurt the other person: When you’re angry, your ego tends to take over and the ego is all about war and wars don’t exist without trying to hurt another person. When you go for their sensitive trigger points, their vulnerable place, you’ve hit below the belt and that’s very unfair and immature. It’s critical to remember, above all else, even in the heat of the moment, this is supposed to be the person you cherish the most in your life and who has put his emotional trust in your hands. Words do in fact hurt and they are not easily forgotten.
- No pouncing allowed: Sometimes when you’re angry about something your husband did or didn’t do you can’t wait to get in his face about it. And sometimes he’s not even aware that he’s about to be on the receiving end of your anger. So if he walks in the door and is suddenly barraged by your anger, things will get out of hand much more quickly than you can say, “En guard!” If he’s been gone all day, greet him as best as you can and give him time to transition to being home. He’ll know you’re upset just by your energy — trust me. Once he’s had 15 minutes or so, then let him know you need to discuss something that’s been bothering you.
- Don’t bring things up from the past: In those heated moments, it’s easy to want to bring in other artillery from past fights that weren’t completely solved just to arm yourself with more ammo. That’s a big no, no. All that does is take your attention away from the matter at hand and will extend, unnecessarily, an argument that might have been able to be solved rather quickly. Even if the present fight is related to a past situation, still do everything in your power to stick to the issue at hand without nagging — “Here we go again!” “I’ve told you a thousand times!” A repeated argument is indicating that one or both of you isn’t communicating the truth of your anger in a way that is clear and specific so there’s an understanding taking place on a deeper level. And, it’s not unusual for there to be an underlying issue that’s not being addressed so you end up focusing on what feels more comfortable and safe.
- Make sure what you’re fighting about is really the reason for the fight: When my husband was going through a very difficult unexpected life change he was edgy, sensitive and impatient. There were times when my compassion for his situation went out the window and off we went. What I noticed during those moments was the fight was all over the place. I had a hard time keeping up with it! Nothing made sense. That was when I realized the fight wasn’t about anything in particular but about our relationship. It was his fear about his situation. Recognizing this I stopped myself, pulled him in to me and just held him. He melted into my arms. From that place we were able to discuss those fears and be lovers on the same page instead of enemies on opposite sides.
- Avoid being overly dramatic: Sometimes life happens and we women can be experts at being overly dramatic to make a point or to make something seem like a bigger deal then it really is. Try to keep things in perspective and keep your emotional energy as even as possible. When you do you’ll be listened to more carefully and the issue can be cleared up much more quickly.
- Help the relationship and each other grow from the fight: If all you’ve done is fight and found a way to smooth things over without truly feeling a deeper sense of understanding about yourself, your relationship and your husband, you’ve wasted a perfect opportunity for growth. The more you can really gain emotional and spiritual insight to what took place the less likely you are to repeat the fight. At the end, share with your husband what you’re biggest “aha” moment is from the experience and let him know what greater understanding you have about him that you didn’t before. Yes, ask him to give you the same feedback. If he can’t in the moment, it’s okay. I promise he’ll be thinking about it as long as you shared yourself, first.
And I’ll leave you with this — don’t share your fights with your girlfriends. Your relationship with your husband is the most sacred relationship you have. And nothing, aside from an affair, hurts that relationship faster than talking behind your husband’s back. Sharing the details of your fight and any personal information about him that he wouldn’t want anyone else to know about is destructive when he finds out.
And if you think he’s not going to find out, think again. The hurt look on my husband’s face just broke my heart. That’s all it took to never do that again! Please don’t break your husband’s heart.