Joe and I took a class many years ago to learn how to “fight fair”. It sounded great. After all, married couples fight, right?
The problem was, even before the 6-week class was over we were arguing more than we did before! I wanted him to follow all the rules and he wanted me to stop repeating everything back to him. I sounded like a parrot, he said.
Because we were in ministry and trying to help couples who were facing separation and divorce, we thought learning how to fight fair would help us help them as well. But, since we failed the course, we found ourselves on the other extreme: not discussing important issues at all in order to avoid any chance of arguing.
Based on a resource we had read we declared our home a “Peace Zone”. Respectful-quiet-no-war-zone. That was a great goal.
However, as most know, a goal works best when it requires only one person to achieve it. Otherwise it is considered a desire. Since there was also a teenager in the home, ours was definitely a desire, and it didn’t last long. In fact, it created a walking-on-eggshells atmosphere. We refer to that time in our life as “keeping the peace till we fell to pieces.”
So, what have we learned over the years?
Here are 2 reasons why neither approach is good for marriage, and what works instead
1. The term “Fair Fighting” implies that it’s okay to fight rather than discuss.
While some couples might benefit from a set of rules when they are discussing important topics, many (like us) want to be able to interject when the thought comes, and even enjoy the back and forth bantering as they work their way to a compromise. Couples don’t need to fight. They need to discuss and settle important issues in order to have a good marriage.
What works: Grow up
Be proactive when tensions are high. Don’t let a difference of opinion turn into a fight by taking everything personal. Emotional maturity means that you will take responsibility for your own actions in every circumstance. Even when someone else is acting immature, you can be the adult in the room by…
- Walking away with the intent of discussing later, or
- Letting it go after prayer and consideration for the other person’s view, and or
- Listen to any criticism or complaints and make changes when necessary in order to be at peace with your loved ones
2. Declaring your home a Peace Zone creates walls
Let’s face it, the world we live in can be cruel, and we oftentimes feel like we are in a war zone out there. But, to expect our family members to create an atmosphere of peace at all times is asking them to put up walls and pretend all is well.
There has to be a place where everyone in the family can let down their guard and be themselves. Respectful, yes. But real.
What works: Let family members be heard
Create an environment of free expression in your home. When tensions are not high, and the atmosphere in the home is calm that’s the time to ask how things are going at work and school. People are typically more open and honest about what is going on their life when they aren’t upset about something. Creating an expression-free environment can be done by…
- Playing family games or doing crafts and hobbies together and bringing up topics about school and work
- Going for drives or walks and discussing world and religion views (listen and validate, don’t argue)
- Sincerely asking your spouse’s and children’s advice on an issue or decision you need to make
How about you? What works for you in these two areas? We really would love to know.