How do you fight? Like most couples, Nate and I have had our fair share of brawls. The year and a half we were engaged we fought frequently, unsure how to handle the pressure and decision-making of planning a wedding. We learned several invaluable tools during our pre-marital counseling, and they were put to the test during our first year of marriage. During that year we learned how to work together, discuss heated topics effectively, understand how we each handle stress differently, and respect each other’s opinions. We have now been able to build on those experiences as our foundation for most arguments. Now, our arguments are less frequent, but they certainly happen. Is it even possible to experience the incredible life changes we have without a few heated debates about life? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that would be healthy either. Neither of us shies away from confrontation nor do we seek it out. When we do argue we’ve come up with a few ground rules to ensure our discussions are healthy and purposeful. Here they are, as well as some other tidbits we’ve learned about ourselves along the way.
1. Understand the root cause of angst. Eeek, sometimes when Nate comes home fired up I know exactly who he talked to on his drive home from work. Rather than allow the foul mood to ruin our evening, we talk about why he’s upset in order to prevent any unnecessary quarrels that have nothing to do with us.
2. Give one another a break. For example, this year has been absolutely rotten for me. There have been times where I’ve been a difficult person to be around (and vice versa), and we try to give each other the benefit of the doubt, knowing that perhaps we are just plain sad and need a moment alone.
3. If you ask a question be open to any answer.
4. We have an unofficial statute of limitations on events more than one year old. Meaning, we reallllly try to not bring up old issues. We consider them resolved and bringing them into new discussions is futile.
5. Come to a conclusion/resolution. Do not let the argument last for days.
6. Think before speaking. This one is so interesting for us, because I usually overthink what I’m going to say (i.e., I’m in my head a little too much), and Nate has a tendency to blurt out anything and everything.
7. Pick your moment. This is a big one for me! Timing really is everything, and this completely applies to when a topic is brought to light. Avoid serious conversations during emotional times, right before bed, just as someone is running out the door, on the way to work, etc.
8. Avoid tangents, because usually it brings in too many other (often irrelevant) issues and overwhelms the conversation.
9. Speak your mind on a regular basis to avoid pent-up resentment. If one person doesn’t say it, the other person doesn’t know. Avoid the trap of “three months ago you hurt my feelings when you . . . ” because what is the other person supposed to do about it three months later?
10. Call each other by your sweet little nicknames when arguing. When Nate actually calls me Lesleigh, I know we are about to get s e r i o u s !
11. Refrain from raised voices. Fortunately Nate and I are pretty calm talkers, which helps to keep heated discussions from growing into extreme yelling matches. When we do raise our voices it automatically catapults the conversation into scary territory, and we like to avoid this at all costs. (This is especially vital now that we have a babe in the house.)
And a few that shouldn’t need to be explained:
12. No empty threats.
13. No name-calling.
14. Do not interrupt, regardless of how important your next point is or how ridiculous your partner sounds at that given moment.
What about you all? Do you have any tips or rules for fighting fair with your significant other?