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Fair Fighting for Couples and How/Where to Learn?

By May 18, 2008 - 6:32am
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I just had to let that out. My husband and I have been fighting...more like nit-picking and arguing...over everything. We are under a lot of stress (just moved cross-country), and it seems as everything we do gets under the other's skin. We're actually fighting about HOW we're fighting!

I'm wondering how you fight with your significant other. We talk about so many other topics, and even in "relationships department" we discuss some personal aspects, but not how we actually fight with each other.

There are so many sites that have "fair fighting rules", and my husband and I both know them. Practicing them is another thing, and I've realized you can't "teach" (inform) the other person, or they get upset (that's how we started bickering about HOW we are fighting, instead of the issue itself, which could have lasted all of 5 minutes).

I really could use some tips here, because it's frustrating (not a deal breaker or anything), time-consuming and emotionally draining. We're not taught this stuff in any formal way. How do you and your significant other fight or argue? (and, I'm talking the non-abusive fighting.). I think fighting is supposed to be productive, right?

If anyone has information about WHERE (physically) to go to learn this stuff, that would be perfect--that's what I'm really looking for! We're not to counseling-stage; I would really like to take a couples class or day retreat or something that would benefit our communication, and fighting, styles. Hubby would be open to going as well...he's equally frustrated and exhausted.


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My 30th wedding anniversary is coming up. We know too many people who didn't last that long (including our parents on both sides of our family and the couple who introduced us). But, the ones who have lasted seem to share some common values, ideas, tactics - whatever you want to call them.

Never go to bed angry is our main rule. Now, sometimes that may mean never go to bed in the same room, LOL! But, whatever works, and something certainly has over all our years together (two very stubborn, hot-headed, temperamental and high strung Type A+ personalities with diametrically opposed habits, yikes!).

May 19, 2008 - 4:33pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi Veronica,

Disagreeing is so normal.

I don't actually know if I have ever had a fight (as in a serious fight) with my husband in our 9 years together but definitely we disagree. And it's always the same subject. Which means someone isn't playing fair (and I know who it is but I won't say! Him! Him!)

You seem to be on the right path. You know the ways to hash out your disagreements but in the heat of the moment, it's not always that easy. There are great ways to disagree and not great ways. Name-calling never works. And neither does underhanded name-calling ("I didn't say you were a bitch, I said you were acting like one"). Pointing out all the faults doesn't work either. It creates hostility and defensiveness.

I think one way is both of you getting to have your say without the other interrupting. And they have to really listen, rather than mentally composing their argument back while you talk. That's not listening.

One person gets to state their issues. Then a break. The other cannot talk back because it'll end up as a rebuttal and you'll be back where you started. Let the person digest what you said. 30-60 minutes later, they get to talk. And you have to listen and wait.
Then an hour later you can talk together. It may seem impossible and unrealistic but it can really work. Otherwise the whole disagreement is

Her - I asked you to...
Him - No you didn't, I told you...
Her - but no, you said....
Him - I never said that, I said....

And NOTHING is resolved. And as you said, that is exhausting and frustrating. You have moved recently so that is an enormous stress. It takes time to settle into a new regime.

And when you learn to fight fair, don't be afraid to disagree in front of your kids. Parents who put up a madly happy front and argue in private don't teach their kids how to negotiate and compromise. Disagreeing and working it out in front of your kids teachers them how we can live together but think differently and do it respectfully.

I hope you can work it out soon, as I am sure you will. If a couples class would help and he is up for it, then go! My husband would rather have his finger nails pried off with a sharp rusty nail that EVER do a couples class or a retreat (me too, it's just not for us, we'd end up like naughty teenagers at the back of the class making fun of the instructor) but they really work for some.

Good luck. Let us know how you are getting on!

May 19, 2008 - 11:52am

HI Veronica:

First don't get too discouraged, fighting is part of any successful marriage. I have been married for 18 years and over that time we have had our ups and downs. We have even sought out the help of a marriage counselor. I have ready many book on the subject of getting along with your spouse and one of the best all time books which helped us the most was Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. I have read a few of these books as there is a whole series. Another amazing book which I really enjoyed was Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts. This book teaches you how to appreciate your husband for his good traits but also shows you how to make him want to please you as well. I highly recommend you check these two books out. Hope this helps.

May 18, 2008 - 3:23pm

My husband and I experienced something similar right after we got married. We lived together for several years, but right after we tied the knot, even the tiniest things he did got on my nerves and vice versa. It was just a change in our relationship and circumstances and I think we were both adjusting to how to deal with it.

Believe it or not, we do have a couple of rules for fighting ... Don't know if they're aligned with the more official rules of fair fighting created by psychologists and other bright people, but they work for us. Here's the rundown ...

We have a 5-foot rule. If the other person isn't within five feet to hear us, we don't raise our voices to accomodate the distance. This keeps us from yelling. (We have been known to follow one another around the house on this one though)

We rarely swear (but definitely do).

We try to take responsibility for and express our emotions rather than making judgments about the other person's behavior (A difficult scenario) For example, he might say "I feel angry when you don't put the dishes in the dishwasher," rather than "You're a slob."

We try to find the humor in the whole situation. Think most people are inclined to this approach.

We try to get away. No, it doesn't seem smart to see a movie when you're arguing, but sometimes, a mindless blockbuster is all you need to escape the world for a while. And, when you compare your problems to some other guy's crushing responsibility of saving the world, the fact that you forgot to put the coffee cup in the dishwasher doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

Let us know which rules work best for you or if you discover other rules along the way.

May 18, 2008 - 10:59am
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