Fighting the Good Fight: The 8 Elements of a Good, Clean Fight

I wrote this past Monday about why you shouldn’t be afraid to fight with your spouse, but with the caveat that you need to have a good fight, not a screaming match or a series of put-downs or other negative behaviors.

Fighting is part of communication, and it can be a healthy part of a marriage, as long as you learn how to do it right. 

What are the elements of a good fight?

No name-calling, harsh language, or physical violence of any kind.

One sure-fire way to create distance between your spouse and yourself is to resort to name calling or harsh words of any kind.  Don’t ever call your spouse names during a fight.  It’s underhanded and unnecessary.

Additionally, try to avoid swearing during your arguments.  Even if it’s not directed at your spouse, it’s a really good way to escalate the fight, even if it’s not your intention.

I think it goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning that physical violence during an argument with your spouse is never appropriate.  This is usually emphasized for men, but it’s not okay for women to do it, either.  I don’t care what you’re arguing about, or even if you aren’t hitting “that hard.” Not even once, guys.

No blaming.

Repeat after me: an argument is not a competition.  The point of it isn’t to win.  Your goal shouldn’t be to “beat” your spouse, it should be to come to a mutually satisfying agreement.

There’s no need to blame your spouse, even if (in reality or in your opinion), something they did is the root cause of the fight.

At the end of the day, the two of you are not opponents, but teammates.  One of you can’t win while the other loses.  Don’t lose sight of that!  I wrote an article a few weeks ago if you’re interested in reading more on this topic.

No manipulation.

Don’t manipulate your spouse in any way, for any reason.  It’s not fair, and it doesn’t help either of your cases – it’s just something that breeds resentment and puts cracks in the foundation of your marriage.

Part of this is to not withhold intimacy as a way to “punish” your spouse.  Don’t withhold hugs, kisses, or even sex just to “get back at” them.  If you’re in a place where you don’t feel up to physical intimacy, you also don’t have to force yourself.  However, be honest about how you’re feeling.

Respect.

Even when you’re mad at your spouse, it’s important to show them respect at all times.  There’s no reason to be nasty.

Remember who you’re fighting.  Remember it’s not an enemy, it’s someone you love.  Don’t bring up things they’re ashamed of to try to win the argument or make them back down.  It’s just not fair, and it’s not right.

Another part of showing respect for your spouse is phrasing your complaints in “I” rather than “you” statements.  When you phrase things in this way, it prevents what you’re saying from coming off as an attack, which makes it easier for the two of you to effectively communicate.  It will make your spouse feel more respected, which will help them hear what you’re saying without getting defensive.

Credit them for the good things they do.

Don’t just point out the negatives.  Point out the positives, too.

When possible, preface your complaints with a compliment or acknowledgment of where they try to do what you want.

For instance, if you’re upset with your husband because you feel like he doesn’t help you enough around the house, but you do recognize the times he helps with the dishes, you might say something like, “I appreciate you doing the dishes now and then, but I really need help with x,y,z.”

You may not have the opportunity to do this during a fight, and if that’s the case, be sure to compliment them when you can after the fight.  A 3:1 ratio is a great goal!  For every one complaint you have about your husband, try to think of 3 good things about him.

Honesty.

There’s no point in communicating dishonestly with your spouse if you want a solid marriage.  Don’t lie during an argument, especially to try to “win”.

No branching out.

Make sure that during a fight, you make sure to keep on topic.  Don’t start bringing in other issues to try to get the upper hand or to deflect from something you’ve done wrong.

Even if you have more issues you need to work out with your husband, try to focus on just one thing at a time, especially if one of the issues is a big one.

Patience.

Sometimes a fight can’t be resolved in a single night.  Sometimes, you have to put it on the back burner and come back to it later when you’re less emotional, more level-headed, and/or have some time away from it to get a little perspective.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a time out, for a few minutes or even overnight, if that’s what you need.  Just be sure to revisit the topic at the agreed-upon time.

That being said, be sure to show some affection in the meantime, even if all you can muster is some hand-holding or a hug.  Put that oxytocin to work for you during the time-out!

 

Fighting can sometimes be unpleasant, but it’s so worth it.  If you can learn to improve your fighting habits, you can make your fights more productive and less stressful, which means you get to get to the wonderful make-up process quicker! 😉

But in all seriousness, it will make your marriage so much better.

What’s one thing that helps you fight a clean fight with your spouse?

Great tips. Fighting well is something I want to work on and this is a great guide!

About The Author

Leah

I’m a twenty-something LEO wife and stay-at-home mom to a one-year-old little boy. I enjoy writing, reading, taking my son for walks and runs in the stroller, and crafting. My goal is for Love and Blues to be a resource for first responders and their families. I write about marriage and family topics, as well as about the quirks that come with being married to a man in law enforcement, firefighting, or emergency medical services.