Making Marriage Work by Fighting Fairly

Making Marriage Work by Fighting Fairly (<i>cont'd</i>)

In the long run, it's most important that the outcome of your disagreement doesn't leave one of you feeling like a loser. If you yield on an issue that's important to your partner, it's likely that your partner will do the same for you on another occasion.

Use strategic timing

Be sensitive to your partner's shifting moods. Is your husband rushed and frazzled most mornings? If so, don't raise difficult issues when you wake up, especially if they're going to require a long discussion. Instead, pick a time when he seems more relaxed and positively disposed.

Timing your request doesn't mean that you're walking on eggshells or that you're afraid to speak. It simply means that if your partner is in a negative frame of mind, he may say no to something that he'd agree to at another time.

Don't garbage-bag

When people get into an argument, they often start with one issue, segue into another, and wind up throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. They then bring up a host of past grudges and resentments.

Discuss only one issue at a time. If you're arguing about household finances, don't throw up her tendency to be late, or that he burned the chicken when preparing last night's dinner. When you do that, you're sure to wind up fighting about personalities — not issues.

Don't try to fix your partner. Marital arguments often give husbands and wives an excuse to practice a little dime-store psychology. Someone will say things like, "The problem is that you're just like your mother," or, "We're not going to get anywhere until you get over your neurosis." Your spouse needs to feel loved and respected for who he or she is!

You are not your spouse's therapist. It's not your job to fix his or her personal problems. Trying to do so is an especially counterproductive strategy when you're in the middle of a fight.

Don't go for the jugular

When arguments between married couples become heated, a common strategy is to throw up the one thing that's sure to hurt your partner's feelings. For example, if a husband knows his wife is insecure about her skills as a mother, he may attack that vulnerability in the middle of an argument about housework.

Attacking your partner's weak spot in the middle of a fight is one of the worst things you can do. These attacks generate a lot of bad feeling that can last long after the immediate argument ends.

Don't take the moral high ground

When married partners have an argument, the issue at hand often gets buried beneath a battle about who is a better, kinder, more considerate human being. Unless you or your partner is trying to win an election, it's not important to sort out who the better candidate is. Chances are, both of you do your share in creating problems. Nobody wins when the focus of a fight shifts from a specific issue to a battle over whether the husband or wife is morally superior.

Make sure both of you can live with the outcome

Some arguments lend themselves to compromise. Others wind up being resolved in ways that favor one spouse over the other. Still others have no clear outcome — and are likely to be repeated again and again.

When one partner feels crushed in the wake of an argument, the long-term health of the marriage suffers. Even if you give in, neither of you should feel bullied or manipulated by your spouse.

Husbands and wives who are committed to each other and their marriage understand that neither partner truly wins if the other walks away feeling like a loser. Both of you have to be able to live with the outcome of your disputes, or someone will wind up feeling angry and resentful.

Excerpted from Making Marriage Work For Dummies™, published by Wiley Publishing Inc.

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