I have disagreements with my husband.
I know. No one likes to talk about fighting, and many people would not fess up to actually having “tiffs” with their spouse, fiancé, or significant other. That’s “behind-closed-door” conversation, taboo to talk about with friends or family, and definitely not appropriate to talk about in public, right?
I think that the notion that good marriages don’t have conflict is foolish. I actually think that good relationships are bound to have their fair share of disagreements, because first of all, they involve two imperfect people with individual thoughts and feelings. Second, these same two people want to fight for their strong marriage. They want to stick up for it and protect it and preserve it. The trick lies in how you manage the inevitable conflict — how you ensure that through your disagreement, your love and commitment is reinforced. As this week’s title implies, how you Fight Fair.
I have always believed in the idea that thoughtful conflict builds character — so much so that I promised KPW that I would “fight fair and love BIG” at the front of the church on our wedding day.
But learning to fight fair is a skill, and it takes time and commitment to learn. It might even involve unlearning some things you’ve picked up over the years. It involves understanding how you manage conflict and how your significant other handles it — maybe you need to take a walk around the block before coming back to have the “discussion,” or maybe you need to sit down at the table and look at each other face-to-face. Whatever your method is, it’s important to set ground rules together to prepare for conflict before it happens, because it will happen.
I couldn’t agree more with the marriage advice Natalie Norton shared in Southern Weddings V6 (page 286 — you’ll be seeing the full text in an upcoming Sweet Tea Sundays post!). Like her, I have to be super careful to try not to fight when I am “too tired, too hungry or too angry.” If I’m not careful, I can easily let outside influences (like work, other family, or the weather) impact my emotional stability and ultimately take it out on Kyle.
The good news? Fighting leads to forgiving – the goal should always be to better understand your other half and evaluate a disagreement in the context of your relationship with each other and with yourself. Some questions I try to ask myself:
— How does this disagreement help me better “get”
— How do I take away some added perspective and improve myself?
The goal is never to “win” a fight – that means someone has to lose, which isn’t good for the other person or your relationship long-term. Sometimes the end comes when you agree to respectfully disagree and move on, which is more than OK. Remember, it’s better to have discussion and potential disagreement than to bottle things up inside until one day they explode all over the place — or worse yet, realize you don’t even care enough to disagree anymore.
But we’re far from that place! As a last point, remember that fighting fair also means moving on — not endlessly digging up previous fights or transgressions. Yes, you should learn from each fight and continue to grow in your perspective and understanding of the other person, but bringing up previous fights and refusing to truly forgive defeats the purpose of fighting fair. It’s not just about being fair in the present, but applying that fairness to the past and future of your relationship.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how you fight fair, how you and your significant other navigate the waters of conflict. Do you agree with the age-old advice to never go to bed angry, or are you like Natalie, and prefer to come back to a disagreement once you have some space (and maybe sleep)? We’d love to hear!