Every marriage has its fights. Sometimes you’ve both had a rough day, or you just can’t see eye to eye on an issue. Everyone gets out of the wrong side of the bed and spends the day cranky from time to time.
No couple should aim to have no fights in their marriage. Conflict is a normal part of being in a relationship, and even the most committed married couples fall out from time to time.
However, that doesn’t mean you should just let arguments go unchecked. Fighting can quickly become toxic and damage your relationship. That’s why learning to fight fair is so important – it means you can meet conflict head on without hurting each other or causing lasting harm to your relationship.
The mark of a strong relationship isn’t whether or not you argue, it’s how well you resolve problems when they arise. Make painful conflict a thing of the past and learn to fight fair with these 8 simple ways to improve marriage communication.
1. Create a time out system
There’s no law of marriage that says once a fight has started, it has to run its course. It’s perfectly ok to request a time out to cool off, calm down, and think about the next best step. Institute a time out system with your partner and agree that either of you can call “pause” on a fight at any time. You can use a specific code word that you agree on, or you can simply say “time out.” Remember to always honor each other’s time our requests – don’t try to finish your point after your partner asks for a time out.
2. Keep to the subject
When you fight, focus on what the fight is about. Resist the urge to drag up things from the past. If you’re frustrated because you seem to do all the chores, talk about that. Don’t drag up that one time they stood you up for an important event. Using fights to air every past resentment only causes pain and is more likely to drive your partner away.
3. Agree to fight
It sounds odd, but it’s best if you can agree to fight. Instead of telling your partner that you’re going to have it out, right now, whether they like it or not – ask them. Tell them that there’s something you need to talk about and ask if it’s a good time. Of course if they keep dodging the subject there’s a problem, but it’s only respectful to give them the chance to say if they’re ready, and agree to the discussion.
4. Don’t aim to win
Your partner is not your opponent, and this is not a contest. Don’t go into a fight with the aim of winning it. When one of you wins, neither of you really wins – how can you, when the other is left defeated? You’re a team, and you’re still a team when you’re fighting. Aim for an outcome that you can both agree with.
5. Quit yelling
Yelling puts your partner on the defensive and doesn’t help your communication at all. When you shout at someone you become the aggressor and they naturally go on the defensive and either shut you out or yell back. If you feel like shouting, take a time out and come back to the discussion when you can be calmer. Learn to put your point across without shouting at your partner.
6. Pick your time
Not all time is fair game for a fight. If your partner is exhausted from work, or you’re trying to deal with the kids, or you’re about to head out to meet your couple friends, don’t fight. Choose a time to have your discussion when you are both feeling relatively at ease, and you know you won’t be interrupted. You’re not aiming to sneak attack on your partner, but rather to find the right time and space for a talk.
7. Don’t go for the jugular
Everyone has sensitivities and weak spots. Chances are you know your partner’s and they know yours – so don’t use them against each other. No matter how angry you are, don’t use their insecurities against them. The damage you do could ripple out long after the fight has ended. You’re not fighting to hurt each other – you’re discussing an issue so you can resolve it and move forward in a way you’re both happy with.
8. Keep your sense of humor
A sense of humor can go a long way to resolving conflicts and dissolving tensions. When things are tense, don’t be afraid to crack a joke or make a quip you know your partner will laugh at too. Be willing to laugh together and see the funny side of your disagreement, even if you’re angry, too. Laughter brings you closer and reminds you that you’re in the same team.
Fights don’t have to be ugly and painful. Practice these techniques so you can learn to fight more fairly and turn conflicts into opportunities for better communication.