You know the magical thing that happens when you get married and suddenly you stop arguing?
Wait, you don’t know?
Oh…that’s right. You’re still human and just one completely imperfect, me-centered, emotionally driven wreck of a person.
Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you…so is your spouse.
It’s amazing how our greatest sources of joy can simultaneously be our most devastating pain points. But, that’s marriage. Better or worse. Yelling or laughing. Active affection or passive aggression.
You adapt and survive or hold tight to your pride and watch the beauty that once was a selfless love for another human crumble under the weight of hopelessness, frustration and fear.
I know, this post is pretty bleak so far, but stick with me.
I truly believe one of the most important keys to a successful marriage is the ability to fight fair. It’s a difficult discipline to manage (especially in the heat of the moment) but so extremely necessary to foster open dialogue in our relationships.
So, here are a few things I have learned (yes, through experience) for keeping your verbal sparring “above the belt” as they say. Wow, what a horribly inapplicable saying for females. How about, verbal sparring without “hair pulling”, “eye gouging” or “using a hairbrush as a weapon”?
- No Stockpiling Ammo
When Becky and I argue (yep, stubborn Irish guy and Mexican woman…who’d a thunk it?), I have the tendency to start off fair and then resort to the emotional BIG GUNS when the battle starts to get out of hand. These are usually past instances we have already addressed and moved on from or unspoken slights I have been bottling up over the last several days, months or years. (I can hear your inner ethnic voice right now…”white guys be holdin grudges”) This is bad and completely not fair. No one should expect to have a good relationship with the love of their life if they are holding onto these hurts. Let go and move on. Focusing on the current issue and refusing to go digging for more bullets from the past is hard in the heat of the moment, but a much safer way to approach the problem and get through without serious wounds.
- Retreat or Surrender are NOT options
Don’t get me wrong; a little time-out if the argument is starting to get too heated can be a great thing. It gives you both a chance to cool off and gain perspective again. But, you know what else is good? Humility. True compassion. Empathy. Affection. All easier to display if one of you have not completely left the area. Take a few minutes. Breath. Do the crane kick pose from karate kid for an hour (and place a video of it on YouTube to start a new marriage therapy trend), but don’t leave and don’t give up on the conversation either. Do your best to resolve and move on. If not, one or both of you will start subconsciously stockpiling ammo.
- No Communicating in Code
When I feel hurt I have a habit of getting quiet and saying “I’m fine” even though I am not. Maybe it is self-preservation or just a weird way of attempting to convey my hurt by acting unlike my normal self, but either way, it’s not productive. She might have the feeling something is wrong but I told her the opposite and now she is forced to decipher the true message in my silence. Sure, it might not be the time or place to get into it but being honest about our feelings is the only way our spouses can have a chance to address the hurt. And really, we have ZERO right to let our anger build when our spouse does not acknowledge the wound we have yet to tell them.
- Friendly Fire is Serious
When Becky and I are in the midst of our own little marital battles, it’s easy to forget we are actually on the same side. She’s not the enemy. She is the love of my life. She is the mother of my child. She is my confidant, encourager, partner, support and co-pilot in this wild ride of life. Now, that unimportant little nobody with the gaseous breath, a pitchfork and tiny horns…he’s the one we aim to conquer daily. How do we do it? We choose, no matter how we “feel” in any particular day or moment, to show LOVE to our spouse. And through those actions of patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control we not only win each battle, but we get one step closer to winning the war.
Love NEVER fails.