When my kids were younger and they disagreed (or worse) I would tell them, “Boys, fight nice!”
This always got concerned looks from any other parents hanging around. “Shouldn’t you be telling them not to fight?”
“Nope,” I would stand my ground. “I want them to learn how to fight constructively, how to fight fair, to learn how to compromise and work it out themselves. To fight nice.”
Do you and your spouse fight nice?
You are both individuals with different personalities, opinions, likes and dislikes, and needs. Disagreements should be expected and viewed as natural and healthy. There may be some things that you never agree on, and that’s OK. It’s good to ask, “Is this really a problem to be solved, or a tension to be managed throughout our marriage?” That question can be a helpful fight-stopper.
So how do the two of you as a couple currently navigate those inevitable disagreements? Maybe you guys get loud and animated. OK, some people are just loud and animated. That can be completely different than being intimidating, mean, spiteful and hurtful. That’s definitely NOT fighting nice. (Sometimes talking about how your parents handled disagreements when you were growing up can be illuminating to how you yourself - and your spouse - currently handle a disagreement.)
To The People Who Claim They Never Fight With Their Spouse
Was your wedding like, yesterday? (I’m still skeptical…)
You never fight? Really? Never? Maybe you are hung up on the word “fight.” Do you ever argue? Disagree passionately? Discuss heatedly? OK. Interesting.
Well, let me ask you this: Do you make decisions jointly? Do you ever discuss money or sex or parenting? Do both of you have power and a voice in the relationship?
Often, when couples say they never fight, it isn’t because they are both just super-ultra-mega nice or they have the “perfect” marriage. Usually, the dynamics of those relationships involve one person who dominates all the decision-making and one person that just bottles everything up and goes along. One spouse has the power, has the voice in the relationship, and the other spouse has neither. That’s not a healthy relationship. Learn to fight nice. It can actually strengthen your marriage.
Here’s another great question to ask yourselves: “Is it the two of us against the problem, or the two of us against each other?” This question alone can change the trajectory of each issue, and ultimately, your marriage!
Even if you do answer these questions openly and honestly with yourself and your spouse, conflict will always be there. Fights will still happen. So what do you do when they come? Here are 10 rules you and your spouse can follow so that you can fight nice:
10 Rules For Fighting Nice
- Keep it about the problem, not the person.
- Don’t use words like “never” or “always.” It’s never true.
- Don’t bring up past, settled issues or re-open healed wounds.
- Don’t intimidate, manipulate, or threaten your spouse.
- It should NEVER get physical. That’s domestic violence.
- Winning the argument isn’t worth losing your spouse.
- Make sure BOTH of you have space to express yourself and be heard.
- Compromise. You both should feel like you gave a little and got a little.
- Apologize and forgive. (Maybe some of the fighting wasn’t so nice.)
- End by reaffirming your love for each other. When the fight is done, it’s done.
Remember - disagreements, debates, arguments, heated discussions, even good ol’ fashioned fights are part of every marriage. It might seem impossible in the heat of the moment, but they can be an opportunity to grow closer together and don’t have to drive you apart. The key is how you handle them. Sometime when both of you are calm cool and collected, have a conversation and agree to some rules for fightin’ nice.
Written by John Daum