When it comes to marital fights, I know two things…
FIRST – EVERY COUPLE FIGHTS.
Some spouses fight like a hurricane, while some spouses fight like a gentle spring storm. Some are heated and loud, while others are icy and quiet. Some spouses are measured and careful with their words, while others are vicious and wounding with their words. But all couples fight.
For instance, my wife and I are not typical “fighters.” We don’t raise our voices and we don’t draw battle lines on which we’re willing to die. This doesn’t mean we don’t fight. It’s just that when things start to ramp up, she tends to withdraw and tend to be a peacemaker. We still fight, but it’s just low and muffled.
SECOND – NO SPOUSE WANTS TO LOSE.
Here’s the problem with fighting…if you’re not careful, winning the argument will become more important than the problem you’re fighting over in the first place. And a stubborn determination to win the fight sets up your spouse to be the loser. And no spouse wants to lose – even if they’re wrong.
When this happens, you may win the argument, but you will lose the fight because you’ve created a rift between the two of you that’s even harder to repair than the thing you were originally arguing about.
HOW TO LOSE A FIGHT.
A sure way to lose a fight (and the relationship) is to focus more on winning the argument than winning your spouse. Here are some ways in which you might inadvertently lose a fight…
Raising Your Voice.
When you raise your voice, you immediately raise the stakes of the argument. Raising your voice raises the tension and the hurt, making it harder for your spouse to respond favorably. Raise your voice when your cheering on your favorite team, but not when you’re fighting.
I don’t care how upset you are, there is never a good reason or excuse for you to engage in name-calling! You don’t allow your children to call other people names, and you shouldn’t do it either; especially to the one you promised to love and honor. If you’re calling your spouse names, you’ve crossed a line and you’re losing the fight…and your spouse.
You’re being condescending when you exhibit an attitude of superiority over your spouse. Condescension is when you infer that they just don’t know what they’re talking about and that you know better. It’s a form of pride that puts your spouse down for the sake of elevating yourself. It inflicts a wound that’s hard to heal.
Sarcasm is often passed off as humor, but usually, it’s a veil for hurt and anger. Sarcasm can be corrosive to a marriage because it’s a passive-aggressive way of showing contempt for your spouse. Dr. John Gottman, one of the country’s leading marriage experts, says that the presence of contempt in a marriage is a major sign that the marriage is in trouble. (See The Four Horsemen: Contempt.)
Backing Them in a Corner.
This happens when refuse to make room for your spouse’s ideas or opinions. When you give your spouse no other option but to agree with you or be wrong, you back them into a corner, leave them no choice but to withdraw or to come out fighting.
Stonewalling is when a spouse shuts down and refuses to address the issue. They may change the subject, clam up, or even get up and walk out. Another form of stonewalling is constantly responding to questions with “I don’t know.” Stonewalling is a form of avoidance and it leaves the other spouse frustrated and with no way to find any resolution. It leaves them with a wound they can’t heal.
Not listening to your spouse communicates that they and their ideas are unimportant and not worth listening to. It’s demeaning and not a good way to win them or the argument. Think about how it feels when someone won’t listen to you. Not listening to your spouse is a blatant act of disrespect, and a sure way to lose a fight.
The reason these behaviors are defeating is that they cause your spouse to become defensive. And when your spouse gets defensive, they will engage in similar defeating behaviors. In short…everyone loses!
HOW TO WIN A FIGHT.
So, let’s look at the best way to win a fight with your spouse. As you might suspect, you win a fight with your spouse by doing the opposite of the above list. Here’s how you truly win a fight with your spouse…
- Stay calm and keep your voice at conversational levels. (Proverbs 15:1)
- Never call your spouse derogatory names! (Ephesians 4:29)
- Shelve the condescension and sarcasm and show your spouse respect. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Stay lovingly engaged rather than withdrawing or running. (3 John 1:8)
- Listen to them more than you talk at them. (James1:19)
- Offer solutions that make room for your spouse’s wants and needs. (Phil. 2:3-4)
So the next time you’re with your spouse and you feel a fight coming on, don’t do the things that will cause you to lose the fight, and eventually the relationship. Determine you’re going to win the fight…THE RIGHT WAY.