I want to encourage those of you in relationships, or those who aren’t yet but hope to be, not to stop arguing. That’s right, I think arguing is a good thing, and I’m not the only one! (See this or that) Arguing is a sign “that you and your partner feel secure enough to express yourselves without fearing judgments.” A complete lack of arguments usually indicates a shallow relationship.
Don’t Pick Fights; Fight Fair
I don’t think you should pick fights, and I’m not saying you should argue more in order to have a deeper relationship. I’m saying that arguments happen, and it’s not a bad thing. In and of itself, an argument just means that two deep-thinking people have differing opinions, or sometimes that there has been a miscommunication or misunderstanding. The problems stem from how we handle the arguments when they occur. We should still continue to give our partner the benefit of the doubt. That is, don’t assume they’re trying to start something or insult you; rather, assume that he, too, is trying to be understanding of you and simply express his mind.
My husband and I have been working on the art of arguing throughout our relationship, which started as “just friends” in middle school. We both still remember that day at the lunch table, back when I was a more-physically-aggressive version of myself, when I clawed his arm until he bled during a Just Quit It! type of argument. There have been hurtful incidents on his part an d my part: He used to get frustrated and try to hurt me, and I sometimes tend to assume the worst in him. We haven’t always fought fair, but with nine years of practice, and we’re starting to get the point.
The Point is Love
The biggest thing I remember when we do get into arguments is that we love each other. Through nine years of arguing and making up, we have always loved each other, and we know that in the end, we just want to be heard and understood. That’s why we can forgive and move on with a strengthened relationship. Not only strengthened by withstanding the gale, but also deepened though mutual understanding. He knows a little more of my mind, and vice versa.
One of Hubby’s and my favorite quotes is from Matt Chandler, from his sermon “Sex Pt. 2.”
“There’s always this point in time when we say this is the person I want to fight with for the rest of my life, this the person I want to do life with.”
Dos and Don’ts
Whether or not all’s fair in love and war, there are some basic guidelines that make fair fighting a little easier. And, well, successful. I am taking these from Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Parrott and Parrott, as it was the first book I read that had them laid out so clearly.
1. Don’t Criticize – Criticizing involves attacking someone’s personality rather than his behavior, and it entails blaming and accusing. These are usually “you” statements. You do this, you don’t do that, you could have, you should have…
2. Don’t be Contemptuous – Contempt is the intention to insult or physically abuse your partner. This can show up through name-calling and mockery, especially.
3. Don’t Stonewall – This is usually, but not always, done by men. Stonewalling is a way of withdrawing from the situation, sometimes in an attempt to avoid escalating the situation further. But it also makes the person appear as if he is not listening or no longer cares about the situation, or worse, his partner.
4. Do Choose Carefully – There are a lot of issues that can, and should, be overlooked. Not everything is worth a fight. Ask yourself if it’s worth it!
5. Do Define the Issue – It’s easy to see when it’s someone else, but often when we fight, one person may think the fight is about one issue while the other person sees the issue as something completely different. Ask yourselves and each other what the real source of the disagreement is.
6. Do State Feelings – Two parts to this. One, use “I” statements rather than the “You” statements mentioned above. Two, use the “X, Y, Z” formula. To take an example from the book, “’When we are riding in the car (X), and you change the radio station (Y), I feel hurt that my desires are not considered (Z).’ That is far more constructive to your partner than saying, ‘You never consider my feelings when it comes to music.’ Although the latter may be what first comes to your mind, it’s likely to draw a defensive response that gets you nowhere.”
It’s natural to find conflict in deep, intimate relationships. Dealing with it correctly makes us more intimate, not less. I hope that you can take away from this an understanding of how to begin fighting more fairly. Is there another do or don’t you think should be added to the list?