Zach Rosenberg hopes you married couples are fighting out there. After all, it’s a good sign.
My wife and I fight. More so since I’ve been out of work; frustrations are higher, and I’ve been at home, gumming up what used to be the unseen daily workings of my home. We’ve fought about big things and little things lately. Things that matter, and often, things that don’t. And I’ve got to say: I hope you’re fighting with your spouse this holiday season.
Why? Well, put simply: fighting means you care. You don’t fight with someone you don’t care about. Well, I mean, sure, you could – and for a ton of reasons that you’d end up finding out has more to do with yourself than the other person – but by and large, if you fight, you care. Fighting with your spouse is always worth it if you’re able to see that you’re doing it because you love them. You never fight with your ex-girlfriend on Facebook, even after you hear she bad-mouthed you to a mutual friend. She’s not worth it. You don’t care. Your spouse, however, is worth it.
My parents divorced when I was 10. I don’t recall them fighting much – and from what I understand, they were just good parents who made it a point to not drag me into their skirmishes. What I learned from having divorced parents is that not fighting is giving up. And if you’ve given up in marriage, well, what’s the point? Saying “I don’t want to fight about this” just means “I don’t want to solve this hurt.” And unsolved hurt…well, you know.
My wife and I have three simple rules for fighting, established over time as we got better at both being married and fighting:
1. We don’t quit: Neither of us can leave during a fight. No further than the curb, period. There’s nowhere to go. We talk it out until it’s done. If you’re able to leave, you learn that you can quit and tuck emotions away. Then, 10 years later, some dumb insult comes out from a long-ago hurt, and you’re getting a divorce because you ran away from some issue with an expired shelf-date. Now, you can go and blow off some steam andd get your head straight (down at the curb, in the bedroom alone) but you’ve got to come back and resolve it. I once sat on my bed for two hours staring at the ground while I thought about an issue we’d blown up over. My wife came in to check on me, asked if I was okay, and we easily resolved the fight right then and there.
2. We argue about the real issue: My wife and I don’t argue effectively when we don’t go after the core issue. In other words, you need to be honest with yourself and your spouse. If you try to argue over an effect or symptom of the real issue, you won’t solve it. If you think your spouse isn’t spending enough time with your kid, don’t say he or she is playing too many video games (because they’ll just find another hobby) – say “you’re not spending enough time with our child.” You’ll soon find that they will find time to do both, instead of cutting out the video games and still not spending time with your kid. Cut the crap, get to the real issue. This helps you not get to a point where you want to just walk away, so it makes #1 more possible.
3. We look at our fights as if we were other people: This is extremely tough, but vital. What if we were another couple we know and were hearing about this argument from our respective friends? Do our arguments float? Would we have a simple response that could end the drama? Putting things in perspective allows us to see the real and valid emotion behind the argument. It turns “I’m mad you were out all night” into “I’m jealous that you go out so often and I don’t.” The first makes you defensive, the second is solvable. This, coincidentally, is a good check for #2.
These rules work.
Sure, we’d prefer to not fight. And truthfully, we aren’t fighting so much as bickering about inconsequential annoyances. But I love my wife, and I’m going to be honest with her at all times. I don’t want her going out with friends and having them give her bum advice. So, whatever we think, whatever we feel, we put on the emotional boxing gloves and talk it out. Once we mastered our rules, disagreements came and went without all that emotional mud that many couples let stick around forever.
This kind of self-betterment and relationship maintenance is the key to our happy marriage! You’d think looking for a fight is a bad thing, but not if it’s a legitimate issue and you care enough to resolve it. Part of being a man is acknowledging your faults and using some diplomacy in mentioning your spouse’s – especially if you want to do the more-fun making-up part afterward.
So this holiday season, if your spouse says something you don’t appreciate, or does something that hurts your feelings, stand and fight. Have it out, but use the rules.
Photo by VictoriaPeckham