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I have disagreements with my husband.

*Gasp*

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” and love him better?
— 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:
Intro
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!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
14 Comments
  1. avatar Emily reply

    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 :)

  2. avatar Lara reply

    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 : )

  3. avatar Jennifer Skinner reply

    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! :)

  4. avatar Lora Kelley reply

    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!

    :)

    • avatar Emily reply

      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 :)

    • avatar Lisa reply

      I love that!

  5. avatar Tamara Menges reply

    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!

  6. avatar Lisa reply

    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.

  7. avatar Marianne reply

    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! ❤️

  8. avatar ame reply

    I choose to use advice given to me at my wedding: “fight naked.”

  9. avatar ame reply

    (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.)

  10. avatar Ilana reply

    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.

  11. avatar Southern Weddings Weekly Round-Up – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] 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 […]

  12. avatar Liz and Ryan reply

    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!!!

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Pack your bags! We’re going on vacation!!

Well, not actually — at least not together — but admit it. The idea of dashing off to a dreamy destination makes your heart beat a little bit faster, doesn’t it?

This hint is pretty easy to put into action. Hop on a plane, gas up the car or close the blinds and declare your very own staycation. Regardless of your method of transportation or ultimate destination, Hint #7 dives into why it is so important to “Get Away.”

Getting away is not easy, but lawd have mercy, it’s important. There are few things that are better for my soul than a few days away with Kyle. I like to call this hint the “secret sauce to my sassy marriage.” :)

Keep in mind that planning is important for this hint, but not required. We try to proactively build in time to Get Away when we’re setting our calendars and budget for the year, but definitely count on an occasional impromptu weekend away, too.

Kyle and I try to plan a weekend away at least four times a year, but we are by no means world travelers. For us, getting away sometimes means a weekend to visit family. Other times, it’s a long weekend away at the beach. And yes, we do save our pennies to take adventures that require planes, because we strongly believe in being purposeful and making memories. How else would I be able to touch the Eiffel Tower after years of practicing my French accent and dreaming of crepes? I’ve read studies that have shown that the greatest joy from taking a trip actually comes when you’re planning for it — which is great, because it means the effects of travel and new experiences expand far beyond just the few days you have off work!

While planning isn’t required, I do think that there is one important ground rule: you must be intentional about the away part. If you spend the weekend at home on a staycation, you must pretend like you are on vacation –– be adventurous, sleep in, watch movies all day – do whatever “vacation” means for you. If you visit family, make sure you fill your time with things that rejuvenate you. Put some of those past hints in action: laugh out loud, put down your cellphone, go on a date. The WHOLE point of this hint is to recharge your batteries and to take time AWAY from the daily grind.

The good news? When you’re refreshed, you’re energized and prepared to tackle the everyday battles. Getting away also lets you spend some quality time with the one that makes your heart beat a little faster. It is a purposeful and heartfelt investment into your marriage. It’s hard to not catch yourself smiling when you think about the last getaway you took with your beau, right? See, this really is the secret sauce to a strong marriage.

Where are your favorite places to get away? How are you deliberate about getting away? Share your travel secrets below. Let’s make 2014 the year we all “Get Away!”

This lovely engagement session is by Jen Dillender! See the whole thing on Facebook!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
2 Comments
  1. avatar Emily reply

    Living in North Carolina, John and I like to get away to both the mountains and the beach. We’ve had a tradition for the last four years of spending a weekend in Asheville in the fall, and we try to go to the coast, even if just for the day, at least once a summer. Charleston is always a favorite long weekend destination, but it’s a bit farther away and requires a bit more planning. I could not agree with you more about the importance of mini adventures and overnights — definitely something I consider very important for keeping our marriage strong and happy!!

  2. avatar Lara reply

    Oh I love this! At this new point in our lives with a toddler, we have found that even just getting in the car with her and talking a drive to see te fall leaves while she naps in the back makes us feel like we got away. Time for just the two of us by ourselves rarely happens, so getting away in small ways is a priority and always makes us feel more refreshed. Love this post!

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Lisa already pointed out that today is the last day of October, which means that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and Christmas is hot on its tail. Before we know it, it will be time to grab the confetti and ring in the New Year. It never fails that this time of year seems to fly by: the calendar gets crowded with commitments and celebrations, there are cookies to bake, presents to buy, people to visit, etc., etc.

In a world that rewards the go, go, go, I find myself craving space and time for Kyle and I, and even for our future children. I long for dinners eaten at our table (more on this later), date nights, and the occasional lazy Saturday morning sipping coffee in our pajamas. So, I try my hardest to hold tight to this family value by abiding by hint #6: take a deep breath (then take another).

For us, learning to say no means taking a deep breath (and then another) and purposefully creating space (also know as margin) in our household. It means looking at the calendar and carving out un-busy time and being fiercely loyal to our family first and foremost.

In doing so, we find that we have more energy and focus available to love on others, help out where needed and invest our time in what matters most. We also find that we are less likely to be grumpy, annoyed and angry at one another. I am guilty as charged for becoming too busy, which leads to being stressed, resulting in a certain blue-eyed boy falling victim to my wrath and irrational outbursts.

Sometimes in the busy, it’s easy to forget to stop and take a deep breath. It’s easy to continue to cram the schedule so full that we lose sight of what really matters. I love to say ‘yes’ to everyone: to every party invitation, request for cookies, need for a volunteer. I feel guilty saying ‘no’ because I am usually saying ‘no’ to something that is fun, helpful or needed. But, heavens alive, saying ‘no’ sometimes is outrageously important. Investing in my marriage and fighting for a little space ultimately trumps the guilt and allows us to better serve one another and our community in the long run.

Admittedly, we aren’t juggling soccer practice, ballet and play dates yet; however, we feel strongly that this hint will become even more important when fighting to keep little schedules from running our lives. Continuously overcrowded calendars does not allow you to fuel yourself or your marriage. I actually believe that being too busy does not allow you to be your best anything.

So, I encourage you to stop, take a deep breath and create some space. There’s no time like the present to sit down and look at your calendar, especially as the holidays are approaching. Having a commitment every night or being gone every weekend might sound necessary, but at what cost? Fight for space. Fight for a few nights of un-busy… and an occasional lazy Saturday in your pajamas.

P.S. Catch up on past hints here: #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5!

All photos by Bamber Photography, one of our delightful Blue Ribbon Vendors. See them all in this Facebook Friday feature!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
3 Comments
  1. avatar Sharon @ Red Poppy | Pink Peony reply

    Thanks for this great reminder! I’m definitely someone who needs space and quiet downtime at home in order to recharge and prepare myself for more busy-ness.

  2. avatar Emily reply

    I love this hint the most because it applies to everyone! Not just married folk. Definitely taking your words to heart going into the holiday season, thanks Kristin!

  3. avatar Hints for a Happy Marriage: Get Away – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] :) Keep in mind that planning is important for this hint, but not required. We try to proactively build in time to Get Away when we’re setting our calendars and budget for the year, but definitely count on an […]

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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