If you haven’t ever felt a murderous rage bubble up in your veins as
…you discover your spouse’s breakfast spoon cemented to its cereal bowl for the fiftieth time,
…cursed to the high heavens after face planting (again) after tripping over those giant ass combat boots,
…your spouse tells you whatever is bothering you is “no big deal” and to “stop blowing things out of proportion,”
or all of the above…
I’d like to congratulate you on your recent marriage!
For the rest of you, welcome to marital fight club. I bet you’re wondering what’s the first rule of marital fight club? I’m glad you asked.
The first rule of marital fight club is to fight fair.
Learning how to argue in a relationship is HARD. As a matter of fact it is the hardest skill I’ve ever had to learn as an adult and it took my spouse and I years to master it as a couple.
Fighting isn’t really something most couples ever want to talk about when it comes to their relationship. We always want to appear happy and lovey and like we’ve got it all together. Even when we aren’t and we don’t.
You know what? Everybody fights. Everybody. Every. Single. Couple. Fights.
Your super perfect neighbor couple who jogs while holding hands? They fight.
Your parents who’ve been married for decades? They fight.
Your best friend and her spouse? They fight.
I do want to clarify that as you mature in your relationship the goal isn’t never fight again. It’s to transform yourselves from enemy combatants on the battlefield into passionate teammates working toward a single vision: a mutually fulfilling relationship.
How do you go from fighting against each other to fighting with each other? Check out our Smart Military Spouse’s Guide to fighting fair with your spouse.
The Smart Military Spouse’s Guide to Fighting Fair
Take a moment to calm yourself.
There are little things in life that set me off like a volcano. And I’m an extrovert. And impatient. Which means I can go from level, sane, and pleasant to “I need an old priest and a young priest” in 2 seconds flat. I’ve had to teach myself to breathe. Literally breathe.
Taking a few moments to breathe and calm yourself stops you from entering a fight in a blind rage. I’ve also learned that blind rage takes me from right to dead wrong, even when I’m justified in my anger. Go figure.
Figure out what’s really bothering you.
Once you’ve calmed yourself down, ask yourself this: “What is REALLY bothering me?” Chances are, if your trigger was finding dirty dishes in the sink, it’s not really about the dirty dishes. It probably has something to do with you feeling slighted in someway.
It’s your job to figure out what is really bothering you so you can clearly express yourself when you sit down (calmly) to address this with your spouse..
Accept the fact that ambush tactics have a tendency to backfire.
I’m muller. Earlier in our marriage, if something my spouse did or said annoyed me at 8 a.m. I’d mull on it throughout the day. I’d become more agitated and as soon as he’d open the door, I’d attack.
Yeah, that doesn’t’ have a great outcome. Ever. It immediately puts your spouse on the defensive and nothing productive will come from that. Remember, the goal is to be on the same team.
Have an end game in mind.
Once you’ve figured out what is bothering, have a concrete idea of what you want to come out of the confrontation. I doubt you’re fighting just to vent or just to score that sweet, sweet makeup sex.
I’m notorious for not having an answer to my spouse’s query, “So what do you want from me?”
If you want your spouse to be more considerate by not leaving dishes in the sink, say that.
If you want your spouse to drop you a call in the late afternoon to give you a better idea of what time she’s coming home, say that.
Don’t bring up every single way your spouse has wronged you since the beginning of time.
This is DIRTY DOG. DIRTY. Once an argument has happened and been resolved it’s in the past. Even if it is relevant. Believe me, I’m saying this for my benefit and yours. I still have to stop myself from going down this road.
I know how tempting it is to bring up the other 49 times he left the bowl in the sink. Stick to the issue you are currently discussing and that issue only.
Stop escalation in its tracks.
We’ve all had that little argument that blew up into World War 3. Stopping escalation before it happens isn’t always easy. It take a bit of self awareness and being present. Pay attention to your body language, volume, and increase in snark and sarcasm.
If you notice that things are getting out of hand, call it out. Acknowledge it and consciously walk things back to calm.
Don’t say the D word. Don’t do it.
One of the most damaging things you can do is throw or threaten divorce.
Here’s a little truth and transparency for you. Early in the game I treated it like my ace. It was not. It was cruel and malicious. To this day, I am grateful that my spouse never called my bluff.
It damages trust and security in a relationship. It is like dropping a bomb…once the damage is done, rebuilding takes a lot of time and energy.
Remember, you’re a team and you’re in this for the long haul.
You’re not going to agree on everything and that is OK! Your team relies on compromise and mutual respect. Even when you fight.