As a younger man I often heard things like “winning is not everything, It’s the only thing.” Who wants to lose?
Many men seem to equate being gentle and patient with loss. But the truth is, self-promotion is loss, and lifting others up is winning. Many of the men who join our program, The Core, think they’re always right; everything is and should be as they see it. They will say things like, “A good wife, a Christian woman, should just submit.” They often feel they’re being controlled and respond by blaming their wives for forcing them to do something. But the wives also complain about being controlled and manipulated.
I have seven rules I use for a fair fight, which I’ll go into more in a moment. But first, let’s all agree on a few guidelines:
- No name calling, hitting, throwing, etc.
- No using the words “always” or “never.”
- Don’t raise your voice.
7 Rules of a Fair Fight
- Connection is first. The goal is to build connection in your relationship. Of course, you will have disagreements. You will fight with each other. You can have conflict and still build a connection!If what I am doing is not connecting my wife to me, then I am out of bounds. If I am forcing my will and not listening to my wife, then I am breaking connection. The truth is, if I want to have a great marriage I need to be fully connected and sharing with my spouse in our mission and purpose. If she is winning, then I am winning. She may not be perfect, but neither am I, and we are on the same team. I want to help her be the best she can be.
- Don’t ignore issues. True connection means that you have to talk about what’s bothering you. Communication is key to a healthy relationship and lack of communication allows resentment to build.
- Value each other. When I value someone, I want to hear their opinions and understand their feelings. Saying things like, “You are such a tightwad,” “Don’t be an idiot,” or “Why can’t you do anything right?” don’t communicate value and respect to your partner. Neither do things like, “I can’t believe you just said that,” “You shouldn’t feel that way,” and “I have to do everything around here.” Each of these statements conveys the thought that you are better than your partner. That’s not valuing each other.
- Be the first to repair. The bible says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) With your spouse, be the first to confess when you blow it. Use statements like,“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” “Can I take that back?” “I’m getting a little worked up. Can we start again?” “I know this is a tough subject, but I want to work through it with you.” These types of statements deescalate an argument and help to restore connection.
- Take a time out.Taking a break from a fight can be very healthy. When your emotions become overwhelming, it is almost impossible to think straight. Our anger can cause us to strike out and say or do things that don’t demonstrate value. Take a break from the heat of the moment, but then come back and talk about it. Otherwise, you risk disconnection.
- Identify your patterns. Conflict in couples tends to follow regular patterns. When we are able to recognize our patterns and understand each other, we can avoid many hurtful arguments.
- Understand your emotional triggers. In conflict, we often react strongly to something that we hear. Our partner will make a statement or ask a question that triggers something deep inside of us. Be gentle with your partner, trying to stay away from things that may be a trigger and being careful with sensitive topics.
Talk about the Issues
If you are not on the same page with your spouse about money, goals, vacations, food, pornography, work, child discipline, etc., the goal is not to win the argument. Don’t just come up with a solution on your own and say, “This is what we will do to fix things.”
Talk about the issues with your spouse in ways that have a chance to unite you. Listen to his or her (and your!) feelings and emotions. Your spouse wants to be heard and know that he or she is vitally important to you. Connection is first; not winning the argument. If winning is your goal, you may as well just walk alone.
You will probably need some help to identify the real, core issues in the relationship and change how you approach and resolve these issues. We offer those services here at the Marriage Recovery Center! For more information about couples counseling and other other programs, please contact our Client Care Team.