The art of good fighting may keep your marriage healthy


By Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Daily Life

If you’d rather have bad, hard times with your person than good, easy times with someone else, then you have to learn how to fight well with each other. Fighting well is a hard-earned and even harder-kept skill that is among the most difficult parts of being a human.

Historically, you’ve probably had fights that have ended relationships, friendships, or jobs. When you’re married, though, you have to live with this person on a daily basis forever, so if you or your spouse is a dirty fighter, your fights will leave scars that never fully heal.

Mark our words. You can’t unsay something, you can’t unhear something, and you can’t unfeel something. Once you let hurtful words fly you may cause an injury that no apology can fully heal.

Even in a heated moment when you want to lash out and hurt your person, you have to do your utmost to temper that impulse.

We all want to be bigger than we are during a big fight. Personally, we both have said some super shitty things to each other in the heat of the moment that we still regret and/or are still holding on to as evidence of what the other’s true feelings really are.

You can’t hit delete and rewrite those bullets that come firing out of your mouth. Therefore, it’s imperative to set some ground rules for fighting in your marriage early in the newlywed season.

There are rules that you should always try to abide by in a fight with anyone, but especially your spouse. If at all possible, start with taking your personal pre-fight inventory. This quick process
will help diffuse some of your energy and let you see things a little clearer by engaging your head in the situation while your feelings are all worked up.

Pre-Fight Inventory

  1. Why am I upset?
  2. What is the real reason?
  3. Am I just upset about this one specific thing, or am I bundling bigger feelings and using this new event to support or justify my anger?
  4. Is this problem a bigger thing that we need to unpack?
  5. Can I express my feelings with words and tones without getting too heated, amplified, condescending, or hurtful?
  6. Can I attempt to come to a compromise that will make me feel better? Will an apology make a difference, or am I just looking to be right and lash out?
  7. Will this matter to me a week from now?
  8. Will this matter to me a month from now?
  9. Will this matter to me a year from now?
  10. What is the real size of this issue? What is comparable and not comparable?

Once you know what size your problem is and whether it is really the issue, and after you strip away the flood of angry energy, you can engage in what will hopefully be a productive fight with respect and love. We made our own Fight Club rules. We don’t always stick to them, but, if you can remember some of them in the moment, they can save you some real pain and agony.

Fight Club Rules

  1. Don’t start a fight right before one of you has to leave to be somewhere at a certain time. (BTW, this is harder than it sounds.)
  2. No name calling (unless it’s sweetheart, sugar tush, honey schnookums, etc.).
  3. No interrupting when the other person is talking (we know — impossible — but try anyway).
  4. No blaming or accusations (even if the other person is to blame and is clearly at fault).
  5. No cussing (Amiira never can manage this one).
  6. No yelling (this escalates things too quickly and amplifies the fear level but surprisingly does nothing to make you more heard).
  7. No sarcasm (again, Amiira cannot even manage this for a minute).
  8. No defensiveness (getting defensive reads the same as saying I’m only concerned with being right, not hearing you out).
  9. No generalisations. (“You always are a fucking nightmare, and you never remember to not be an asshole.”)
  10. No physical or emotional gestures, intimidation, threats, or violence.
  11. No walking out without setting up a time to continue. (Go blow off some steam, but first be decent enough to acknowledge that you will make resolving your issues a priority after you’ve cooled down.)
  12. It’s okay to go to bed mad and wake up mad. (But it’s hard to be mad at someone who brings you the first cup of coffee. Just saying that coffee has powers of transcendence.)

This is an extract from How to Keep Your Marriage From Sucking: The Keys to Keep Your Wedlock out of Deadlock, by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola (authors of He’s Just Not That Into You), published by Hachette Australia in December, RRP $32.99




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