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Learning To Fight Well


Arguments during our first year of marriage seemed to all end with me withdrawn and crying, and my husband frustrated and even angry I wouldn’t keep arguing with him. This seemed to happen far too often.

 

I started to think there was something wrong with us, or something wrong with our marriage. We weren’t ever arguing about anything serious, but small things always seemed to escalate. 

 

It took me a long time, but I eventually learned important lessons from these disagreements. Here are a few important things I’ve learned about fighting well.

 

Acknowledge That Healthy Couples Fight

 

I was blessed to grow up in a family that hardly fought in front of others, including my extended family. While that was a blessing, it took me a long time to learn that it’s normal and healthy to have fights and arguments in a marriage. I eventually learned it’s normal to fight with your husband. 

 

Healthy disagreements are a part of healthy marriages because it is a part of working through and confessing our sin. I’m convinced that if a couple never argues, they would never grow closer in intimacy. Healthy arguments may even include momentary raised voices, crying, hurt feelings, time until the relationship is restored, sharing painful truth or feelings, or a period of silence. But healthy disagreements share a common thread of wanting the best for each other, wanting to resolve the issue, and apologies and forgiveness. 

 

Learn Your Fighting Styles

 

Each person has their own “style” of fighting. I tend to withdraw and get overwhelmed and emotional, but my husband is loud and intense. I can come off like I don’t care, and my husband can come off as mean. Both aren’t true, but our styles of fighting speak those things to the other during a fight.

 

I have had to learn to force myself, even though it’s been ever-so-slowly, to talk and communicate even when I feel angry, while my husband has learned to speak more gently and lovingly during an argument. By understanding our fighting styles, we can better work to improve these to better honor our spouse.

 

Commit To Never Calling Each Other A Name

 

When we are frustrated with something, it’s helpful to name the behavior instead of labeling the other with it. For example, we might say, “how you said that feels mean” instead of labeling the other person as mean. Or “I don’t like the tone you’re talking to me with,” instead of “you sound like a jerk right now.” It sounds like a small nuance, but it goes a long way. Labeling the behavior and not your spouse says you know their hurtful behavior is not who they are.

 

Default To Most Sensitive Spouse

 

As you can probably tell, I am the more sensitive spouse in our marriage. My husband has gracefully defaulted to arguing towards my sensitive level. If you are the more intense arguer, think about how to gracefully meet your spouse at their level. And if you’re more sensitive like me, think about how to communicate more effectively, both during an argument, and apart from an argument about how intensity may make you shut down.

 

It takes time to learn how to effectively argue as a couple. My husband and I have been married for over seven years now, and our arguments are shorter, more effective, and less intense than during our early years. That doesn’t mean we don’t have serious arguments, but we have learned how the other communicates. It has been a slow progression, one that I am guessing will ebb and flow with the seasons of life. If you are discouraged with arguments in your marriage, know that it can get better with time when each person is committed to growth. And know that you’re not alone.

 

Wife Step: Reflect on what your fighting style is and share it with your spouse. Invite him to think about his fighting style, and discuss how each of them impacts and affects your arguments.

 

*By ‘argue,’ I mean the healthy, normal disagreements between a couple. Normal arguments do not include physical acts, intentional emotional or verbal phrases such as name-calling, put-downs, or serious attempts to manipulate or control. These things are considered forms of abuse, and this article does not apply to those types of fights. If you think you are experiencing unhealthy arguments or abuse, please know you do not deserve it and should seek professional counseling immediately.

Meagan Elling is a wife of 7 years to Reed, mama to two little girls, writer, and house renovator. She is a SAHM {I’ll let you decide if you want this spelled out or not} in Duluth, MN with a writing degree she thought would go to waste. She is passionate about encouraging women, ministry, traveling, reading 5 books at once, and Texas Roadhouse bread. Meagan writes at www.meaganelling.com and on Instagram @meaganelling.

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