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!
New to this series? Catch up here:
1: Make Laughter Happen
2: Use Your Words
3: Put On Your Spouse’s Shoes
4: Keep Dating
5: Be Present
6: Take a Deep Breath
7: Get Away
We’re sure even this sweet couple disagrees — and that’s okay! See more from their engagement session by Blue Ribbon Vendor Faith Teasley on Facebook Friday!
I’m not sure about going to sleep, but I am DEFINITELY in the camp of taking some space/time when I get heated – I am much more rational after I’ve had time to cool down and stop gnawing on whatever hurt I’ve been irritating :)
I love this and totally agree. We had to learn to trust God and always go to Him (even if that means separately so we can cool off) to pray (together if we can). It always helps us see through our own emotions and fight for US : )
I agree with all of the above. I’ve learned how important it is to think before you speak in the heat of the moment. Once those words come out of your mouth you can never take them back no matter how many times you appologize. It’s also important to own your mistakes. Acknowledging when you’ve hurt someone goes a long way.
To stay happy: play together, hold hands, be your spouses biggest fan, set goals together and my favorite and a regular event at our house: ALWAYS take time for an impromptu dance party! Dancing keeps a marriage young! :)
I take the “don’t let the sun go down on your anger” as a metaphor. As in, don’t become someone who goes from anger to contempt by not addressing things or “letting the sun go down.”
Sleep is critical for a good, reasonable conversation. Nothing good happens when a person is sleep-deprived. It’s like trying to reason with a drunk person. We use the acronym HALT – Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired. If you find yourself in any of these states, it’s usually better to take a pause, eat. take a walk. find a friend. get some rest. And act preventatively and know yourself. I am the worst when I’m hungry. It’s basically useless to even look at me if I haven’t eaten. I can do no good.
We also implement the “understanding” model. This means that the goal isn’t “winning” or “agreeing”. But rather, seeking to understand what the other person is saying. It’s much easier to come to a reasonable conclusion if you actually understand the other person’s point of view.
Lastly, we constantly try and say (outloud, even) to remind ourselves – I chose you. I like you. I am for you. The point is wholeness and unity, but not squashing uniqueness and diversity. If at any point, I start feeling combatant – I just say to myself. This is my person! His good is my good. I want him to flourish. I want him to thrive. I am for his joy!
Agreed! I usually know a disagreement is at its end when one of us says, “I just love you, okay?” It’s kind of hard not to smile at that, and it’s become the most reliable thing we can always go back to, no matter what’s happening in the moment :)
I love that!
I once had someone say to me that marriage is easy, I’ve held on to that simply because it isn’t. I don’t think it is supposed to be, because we are imperfect people, living in an very imperfect world with all kinds of crazy surrounding us daily trying to tear us down. Marriage takes work, commitment, and knowing how to apologize when you say something out of spite or “pick a fight” because of those outside influences (ie: bad day, you’re tired, hungry, etc.) For us, Kason and I don’t go to be angry or upset with each other, we also pray together every morning and before bed time. We went to bed mad once early in our marriage years ago, and it was the worst night ever, so we vowed to never let that happen again. Fortunately for us, and thank you Lord, we are not “yellers”, we don’t raise our voice to each other, ever. Now we do get aggravated or snippy, but we have both trained ourselves to say I’m sorry immediately, and then take a deep breath. Most of the time we’re just in a bad mood from something else, but in the event of a conflict we both let each other have time to talk, we try really hard not to talk over each other. (Even though he’s way better at this than me, after all I’m the girl so I want to be heard, but I continue to work hard at closing my mouth!) So our marriage consists of “I’m sorry’s”, tons of “I love you’s” at random times, and never going to bed upset with each other, after all its incredibly hard to pray with someone if you’re mad at them, and prayer together is non-negotiable, so being mad has to be the thing to change!
I’m not married yet, so take with a grain of salt :) But here’s something that Dave and I do. Since we’re long distance and pretty much all of our conversations (and subsequently, arguments) take place over the phone/Facetime, we have a rule about not hanging up while we’re still angry or upset. It’d be way too easy to cut each other out when we’re fighting and then let the problem build up, so we refuse to let that happen. Even if we’re still a little upset or we decide together to take time to cool off, we never end a conversation without saying “I love you” sincerely.
Kristen, Such great points you shared on point! I agree with you that conflict isn’t always pleasant or welcomed but done right is a neccisity for growth. Stuffing is a death nail to intimacy. All the rest of the chorus, too -Y’all encourage me and I have been married 33 years to the man of my dreams! Both sinners we are going to disagree. Also, we couldn’t be more opposite. Oh, but we love each other so much that broken fellowship stabs our hearts. We try and keep our RELATIONSHIP above our ISSUES. Also, on those nights we have crawled into bed and not wanted to even touch a pinky toe, we stick to our promise to always kiss before sleeping (that’s on me, cause he kisses me every morning before he leaves). So no matter what – we kiss and say, “I know we don’t agree right now, or are hurt, or blah, blah, BUT I love you more than this and we will figure this out”. Keep loving and keep fighting FOR your FOREVER marriage with Christ at the very middle of it! ❤️
I choose to use advice given to me at my wedding: “fight naked.”
(seriously, it can make even some of the most serious arguments gain some perspective because you can’t help but laugh when bits and bobs are flinging around.)
The amazing thing about marriage is that you have the time to grow together. When we fight or disagree, there isn’t the fear of losing your partner over a dispute, but it also means you have the luxury of putting the disagreement on the shelf for a time – a few days, a month – and revisiting it with fresh perspective. I have learned to be patient and not push, but to take the time to work through the disagreement and get it right. Maybe we’re not both thrilled, but we respect each other for trying.
[…] about, but it’s so valuable! Kristin shared her tips for fighting fair in this week’s Hints for a Happy Marriage post. Don’t miss the comments section for even more wise advice, and please do chime in with your […]
We absolutely LOVE this series of posts!!! We are so happy that you are bringing light to topics like this and helping people talk about the parts of marriage that, like you mentioned, often seem taboo to talk about. One of our favorite things to do when fighting, or at least try to do, is to hold hands and sit next to each other while we hash things out. We definitely aren’t perfect and it doesn’t always work out that way, but the closer we are when fighting or disagreeing about something, the more we remember what is the most important thing in our marriage, our love for each other. Plus, we always try to end with a kiss to ease the tension. We can’t wait until the next hint for a happy marriage! Thanks so much for sharing posts like this!!!