Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fighting Fair in Marriage

My husband and I's recent "blow-out" reminded me how far we've come in terms of "fighting in marriage". I thought this would be a perfect "Works For Me Wednesday" post. No, really, I am serious. My husband and I have grown in this area that I think it's worth sharing.

What works for us? It works to know your spouses' "fighting style". It is a key. Not desiring to "win the argument" but to "win over the conflict, to find a solution to the problem". This is part of the big umbrella of we have to know our spouses' "communication style".

So, what's our style?

Hubby "thinks out loud". He doesn't think before he says something. He says it so he can think about it.

I, on the other hand, "think before I speak". the problem is, sometimes I think too much, I don't speak.

Now.... put us together in a crisis situation and you can just imagine how our "thinking style" would clash. Let's take our recent fight for example....

All throughout the week I was thinking and brainstorming about my parents' situation (their being homesick and desire to go back home) . When I finally told my hubby (not by will or not in my perfect but because I had to), my husband started "thinking out loud". In the process, he started saying some things that "irritated me" or "offended me" and the conversation went downhill from there. Them we worked at "fighting fair" and the downward spiral went upward. It took us a day to work this out compared to weeks of crisis counseling we used to have after a fight.

In the early part of our marriage, I used to stuff everything, and when "conflicts" like this arose, I eventually would just "shut down". Now, that drove my husband up the wall. He can't stand that I don't answer his questions when we are arguing. It drives him insane. Then he starts asking more and louder and I would feel like I was being "badgered". Yeah, in my mind I would be saying "badgering your honor, badgering (ala L.A. Law)", but I won't speak it out. I would just be there in a catatonic mode which drives my husband insane even more. Then... then when I can't take it any longer .. I would BLOW UP! I would scream like I had never scream before. The first time I did that our whole cul-de-sac heard it. And if you know me in person, you now that I don't ever scream to a person (ok, except my kids). So the families in that cul-de-sac started praying for us!

So...to make this long story short ...after much counseling and marriage classes, we have learned that hubby needs to back off and not badger me when we are arguing but I need to speak and not shut down. When we're in a middle of a fight, one of us or both of us should keep in mind the other's fighting style and we should "give in" a bit by communicating in his or her style, the the "conflict cycle" will spiral up towards a solution instead of spiraling down to a dead end.

We still have "hot" arguments once in while, but not to the point that we have to call our dear marriage counselor (hi Karen :) in emergency. Oh, we've come a long way....

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips, go to Rocks in My Dryer.


Gretchen said...

Good for you, Liza. This is so important. I was even talking to my son about it the other day. We can't live shoulder to shoulder w/each other and not disagree. The key is that, even if voices get raised, we know we love each other, and we try to back up and communicate better. Great post. Great wordless Wednesday, too.

Megan Cobb said...

SO TRUE. I wish I could get my husband to understand this as well. :)

Unknown said...

Great post.

What works for us:

-Redefine the problem
-Don't blame the other and don't feel blamed
-Make sentences starting with: I feel.., I think... and keep it neutral, so don't blame, decribe the behaviour of someone else or read into it.
-Take a time out to redefine the problem again if necessary.
- Plan solutions.

JJ said...

My hubby and I fight more like Edith and Archie Bunker. Lots and lots of bickering, but no big blowouts. We are both capricorns and are fighting style is identical. I always wonder how it affects the kids though. My mother was a dictator style screamer to my dad and it always made me feel sad. I guess we all go through this bump in the road of life.

Heart of Rachel said...

Hi Liza. Thanks for sharing this interesting post.

I guess in every marriage, there is always some misunderstandings. We can always make use of these situations to strengthen the relationship by learning from our mistakes and thinking of ways to avoid committing them again.

ScroochChronicles said...

Hi Liza!! This was a fantastic read because many of us "wives" can relate. We may have different syles but, in essence, we are thinking and talking about the same thing.

My husband and I don't ban fighting. Just not in public and not in front of the kids. We don't have too many fights but when we do it can put any Army/Navy/Marine led battalion to shame. We can both reason out till our tongues hang out but we never go to bed without fixing things. So far, that works for us :)

noemi said...

after being married for 22 years, I have already adapted to the fighting style of my husband. So yeah, I keep quiet when he is in a fit. Then I talk to him after he has calmed down. Indeed, couples have their own styles

Hailey's Beats and Bits said...

i think it is better to shout and pour everything out, leave nothing. then start afresh than to leave lotsa things inside bottled up!
define marriage: bliss and blisters!

Anonymous said...

You're right Liza. We need to understand our fighting styles as a couple. I always think and talk too much in the past. In contrast, my husband speaks a few hurting generalizations and leaves the fight scene most of the time leaving me in the air -- so there is just a cool off, not a real resolution. He is more of a conflict-avoiding person and I've just had to accept him as he is. I am working on improving my fighting style for the sake of my kids.
You're lucky Liza.

Katrina said...

Great insights, Liza! I especially like the idea of trying to "triumph over the conflict" instead of triumphing over your spouse. In our relationship, I tend to think out loud, too. I try to make up for it by taking a pause before we discuss an issue so I actually know what I'm going to say before I say it.

Thanks for sharing your post!