How to stop fighting

Jay Dee

How to stop fighting

Jul 27, 2013

At church today, I was talking to a teen, and during the conversation he asked how often my wife and I fight.  I answered that we don’t fight, and he was floored.  His parents fight constantly.  Then it occurred to me, mine fight fairly regularly

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How To Stop FightingAt church today, I was talking to a teen, and during the conversation he asked how often my wife and I fight.  I answered that we don’t fight, and he was floored.  His parents fight constantly.  Then it occurred to me, mine fight fairly regularly too, and most married couples I know do.  So, what happened in my marriage?  Why don’t we fight anymore?  We used to, so how did we stop fighting?

About 7 years or so into our marriage, we seemed to realize at the same time that our current pattern was destructive.  We were never in danger of getting a divorce (neither of us believe divorce is a valid option), but we were in danger of being miserably married to each other for the rest of our lives, a pattern I’ve seen before in my family.  My grandparents hated each other to the day they died.  They had this weird love-hate relationship, by which I mean they loved to hate each other.  They fought constantly, tore each other down, basically did anything to undermine each other.  My parents followed in their suit, but much muted.  I honestly don’t know if my parents like each other.  I know they fight a lot and they constantly take verbal shots at each other.  The entire concept of respect is lacking in either direction I think, and I think we were following their example (again, muted a bit it seems).  I loved and respected my wife, but I had no idea how to show it, and neither did she.  So, we just buckled down and suffered through it.  After all, we were told marriage was work, so we were prepared to put in our work.

My wife’s family came with similar baggage I think, this one sexual in nature.  Her grandmother once asked her “You don’t actually like that [sex] stuff do you?!”  My wife says she has no idea if her parents have a sexual relationship.  But no message is a bad message, and negative attitudes about sex, regardless of how subtle, will come through.

So, when we were married, we had all these issues.  So how do you deal with such baggage?  Well, I’ll tell you how not to deal with it: by not dealing with it!  But that’s what we did, we buried it, buckled down and put our nose to the grind.  The result? Every time we had an opportunity to take a step forward, we held each other back.  We’d make suggestions to our partner with a tone of “why didn’t you think of this?” or if we came up with a solution to a problem, it was frame as “this wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t mess it up”.  And God forbid we ever make a mistake, it never left, just came around and around like boomerang.

Anyways, by year 7 (or so), we had had enough.  This wasn’t working.  We had kids now.  Something needed to change.  We were not going to pass this attitude of marriage on to them.  So, we sat down, and started talking.

 

That’s it.

That’s the key.

Talk.

Together.

 

It’s so simple, and so elegant and so important and so influential on every aspect of your marriage.  We evaluated what we fight about the most and decided to work on it.  The biggest arguments we had were about communication.  So, we spent months being very focused on communicating more and better.  We talked more, we asked each others opinions, perspectives, wishes, desires, dreams, hopes, fears, everything!  We asked clarifying questions like “Did you mean [insert what I thought I heard]?”  Just ask questions and be prepared to answer questions in return.  Without malice, without politics, without fear.  Be transparent.  Yeah, it’s risky.  But if you do it together, it’s less risky.  Don’t get me wrong, you’re going to make mistakes and hurt each other.  But it’s worth it in the end if you both stick to it.

Need help with how? Read through the book of Proverbs together.  Do one chapter a day for a month.  It will smack you in the face with how to treat each other with respect to communication.

Then, one day, we noticed we don’t fight about underlying communication issues as much as we fight about money, because our communication had gotten better.  So, we started tackling money.  I made a budget (something my wife had been saying we needed to do for years, but I wouldn’t listen), we talked about it, adjusted, rehashed, discussed more, agreed, and we stuck to it.  We talked about money constantly.  Every day almost.  I learned about stocks, options, silver, gold, mutual funds, the stock markets, everything I could about anything finances related, and I shared the important parts with my wife and we discussed them.  We began to see together how big of a topic this was and how little we knew.  After 2 years, our money issues didn’t go away, but they turned around.

So by this point, we’re not fighting too much anymore. But there was one big topic we still had a lot of anger and resentment around: sex.  So we started talking about sex.  We talked about what was happening, what wasn’t happening, what we like, don’t like.  What sex means to us, how it makes us feel.  Really deep intimate stuff.  My wife shared her perspective of our sex life early in marriage which contributed to our problems.  Things I had no idea she was feeling.  I’m still learning things from that period as we continue to talk.  I finally broke down and confessed my prior porn addiction.  We started to understand what sex meant to each other, and so we started being more aware of how to make sex better for each other, not just the acts, but timing, approach, everything.  And you know what?  We finally did stop fighting about sex, and our sex life improved.  Partly because we were talking about it, partly because we were learning how to see each others perspective, and partly because, I believe if you both communicate, unguarded and with transparency, your marriage will grow.

Your Turn

And so, we turned our marriage around.  By talking.  We went from terrible finances to heading towards debt free.  By talking.  We went from sexless to amazing sex life.  By talking.  You probably will have different topics, or maybe the same.  The solution is still “talk about it” together.  So, go find your spouse and talk about this post with them!  Then come back and tell us how it went in the comments below.

 

Edited To Add: I followed up with post with one about how to do Effective Conflict resolution if you are looking for practical steps to help stop the endless cycle of fighting without resolving anything.

37 Questions for spouses to ask each other about sex

37 sex questions for spouses to ask each other

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16 thoughts on “How to stop fighting”

  1. Apple says:

    Wow sometimes I am just blown away by Gods timing.

    We had the sex talk last night, I am a refused wife and last night I just started to talk, firstly I prayed for the right words and for clarity for both of us.

    We talked for at least 30 minutes, we both got agitated at times but we didn’t shout or get angry, then we made love and it was beautiful.

    Then DH offered 7 straight days of sex and I accepted 🙂

    1. Jay Dee says:

      That’s amazing! Good for you both!

      One word of advice (from someone who has been there). If your husband is unable to follow through with 7 straight days. Don’t blow up at him.

      My wife made similar promises to me, in the past, but, due to circumstances, was unable to fulfill. I’m afraid I didn’t always handle it well, and it hindered further growth in that area.

      And if your husband is reading: My brother, you better do your best not to miss a single day. A promise like in your context this is not broken without harm done to your spouse, regardless of whether or not the reason is valid.

      1. Apple says:

        I’d already decided I wouldn’t get uptight if he didn’t fulfill his offer, the fact that he was willing to make it was a blessing, I know he will try .

  2. ButterflyWings says:

    I think it’s so important to distinguish between having different opinions/politely disagree versus “fighting”.

    I have great problems with my husband because he thinks politely having different opinions is “fighting” and he ends up getting upset and deliberately picking a fight.

    I don’t know how to deal with this. I feel like I’m not allowed to have a different opinion. Even when I say something thinking he has the same opinion and it turns out he doesn’t, he gets upset. When I ask him why, he says it’s because we are “fighting”. He has no concept of being comfortable with having different opinions or of friendly respectful debate either.

    I don’t know why he thinks it’s fighting. I am always polite, never making it personal and always follow what he wants to do. eg, if I said to him “I think we should paint the wall blue because it would look cool”, even when he’s previously said things leading me to believe blue was what he wanted, he’d say “I think green is better”, and I’d say “ok honey, green would be ok too”, he’d get upset and say we were fighting and he was sick of us fighting and pick a fight. How is something like the example I’ve given even a “fight”. I gave an opinion, one he’d basically said at an earlier point in time he said he shared (but later denies ever saying), he has a different opinion, I say I’m happy to do that, and he says we are fighting because I have a different opinion but am happy to go with what he wants with no argument?

    And he picks fights over even smaller things than the above example. I don’t know how to cope with it.

    I know fighting. My parents are fighters. My siblings are fighters. My whole family spends every day and night attacking each other over the tiniest things and end up with holes being punched in the walls, swearing at each other, self harming, etc. I know all too well what fighting is. And I spent my entire first marriage walking around on eggshells avoiding saying anything because my now-exhusband would find a way to get upset about it and abuse me (usually physically) for it. Something as simple as him walking in the door was enough to get me a beating – if I asked him how his day was, I was accused of spying on him. If I didn’t ask him how his day was, I was accused of not loving him.

    I have become an expert at not doing anything the least bit unpassive because I avoid fights at all costs to protect myself. Which is why it hurts so much for hubby to say I’m picking fights any time I have an opinion or suggest something. I’m just at a loss as to what to do.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I’m afraid this is text-book Asperger’s Syndrome (as you’ve said he has). Any conflict can see intolerable, regards of why, how or if it’s just opinion. Differing opinion is still conflict, there is an A and a B. Inherent conflict (even if not a fight).
      To many people with Asperger’s, conflict means fight. Sometimes especially with opinion, because if you have a different opinion, that means his opinion might be wrong, and that just can’t be. Because they like truth above anything else. And there can’t be two truths in conflict.
      In the normal mind, this is accounted for by preference, but people with Aspergers tend to be more objective, so preference isn’t an option, it’s black & white, right or wrong.
      So, if he likes blue and you like green, someone is wrong. That’s how he feels/thinks.

      Go check out this page: Dealing with an Asperger’s husband: tips for married couples. It has some tips for dealing with it. I have a bit of experience with Asperger’s Syndrome, so feel free to shoot me an email to discuss.

      1. Alecia says:

        Our daughter has AS and I’d have to agree. I’d add though that, through our experience, much of the inability to handle conflict comes more from the inflexibility in thinking rather than (or maybe in addition to?) seeing differing opinions as conflict. Regardless, its still an additional element that’s added to the marriage relationship that has to be worked through in order to maintain peace.

        1. Jay Dee says:

          Yes, those with AS tend to be very rigid in their thinking. The entire world looks a look more black & white (little room for grey).

  3. Darian Bohaty says:

    What do you do if your spouse can’t or won’t communicate?
    My husband is either unable or unwilling to put his thoughts and feelings into words. It’s so frustrating. Where do we even start?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Wow, big question for so few words. This is a common problem. Many men don’t grow up learning how to communicate what or how they feel. We lack the vocabulary, because we have never practiced it.

      To start, you will probably have to do the bulk of the communicating. You need to be calm, and a safe place for him to experiment with this new thing of communication. He needs to know that any attempt on his part is good progress. If he starts getting upset about it (angry, etc), and you yell back, he’s not going to try again, because its not safe. I know, it’s not fair, but no one said life was.

      Funny, having this right on the tail of ButterflyWings’s comment. I think you can learn a lot from the training they give Asperger’s kids. Saying things like “You look angry, do you feel angry?” Because people without a vocabulary or used to feeling their feelings don’t know what their feeling sometimes. They lack the words. So you can say something like “Are you angry because [situation] happened? I know I probably would be in your place.” I know it sounds a bit childish, try to frame it more adult for your situation. If he says “yeah, I’m angry”, that can be a huge step. Then ask questions to draw him out. “What does that make you want to do?” Actions are easier to explain than feelings, but you can derive the feeling from his action. If he wants to punch a wall, then maybe he’s frustrated and just wants to do something, but there is nothing that can be done. If he wants to punch the person, then maybe he wants to resolve the conflict, but lacks conflict resolution tools.

      But, explaining how you feel, using terminology that expresses that may help him gain the vocabulary and means to express his.

      Also, most guys aren’t OK with looking vulnerable. So, it may be hard for him to show feelings because they seem weak to him. But, to me, Jesus was the manliest guy out there, he took on Satan head to head and won, he fought demons toe to toe and they ran away. And Jesus wept. It’s OK to have feelings. But we aren’t taught that as men.

      Hope that helps a bit.

      1. Darian Bohaty says:

        Thank you! That’s hugely helpful. I think you hit it spot on with the vocabulary bit.
        I now have something I can prayerfully work on to help, instead of just being frustrated. Thank you!

        1. Jay Dee says:

          You are very welcome. Would love to know how it went some time.

  4. Bonny Pearl says:

    My husband’s childhood included repressing all negative emotions because he wasn’t allowed to express them. So, unless it was joy, he shut down if we were to try to discuss things that were frustrating to him. We found a great daily emotions exercise in Dr. Doug Weiss’ book, Sex, God, and Men. We still do this exercise every morning. We also couldn’t work through our issues on our own. We tried and prayed to no avail. We had tried private counselors, but they weren’t effective. God placed an 8 week marriage class in our laps that was nothing short of a miracle. (I hope you don’t mind me mentioning these, Jaydee.). The class is called dynamic marriage and the only cost was for the books and media material.

    P.S. Great applications in this post. Communication is absolutely the key.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      No, of course I don’t mind sharing resources. Thanks for letting people know and your experience with it.

  5. Robert says:

    This was very good Jay Dee.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. MJK says:

    I just finished talking with my hubby about this subject of fighting. I reminded him, since it’s been some time, about our first year of marriage. We fought all the time (daily). I couldn’t understand it. We never fought during our dating and engagement (2 yrs). The fighting actually started when I moved down to his town. It took almost a year but we finally figured it out. We eventually started talking about when and why we would fight. Every single argument had the same theme. It was right after we talked with my father-in-law (aka Mr Evil). Mr Evil took it upon himself to pit his son (my hubby) against me. It was his way (so he thought) to try to get rid of me. Mr Evil had no idea who he was dealing with. He did not know that I would do anything to make this marriage work. Since we were newlyweds, we were just starting to get to know what we liked and dislike, as a couple. It was unfair for Mr Evil to ask me my opinion about something , then go to my hubby and ask him his opinion on the exact same matter. If they did not match, Mr Evil would let my hubby know the conflicting information. He did it purposely to make us fight. Mr Evil would do this over and over. I had no clue that “family” could be so manipulating. He really did try to split us up. He would get enjoyment in seeing us fight. Wow!
    What was the solution, you ask? My hubby came up with an idea. Mr Evil needed both of our opinions to have us fight. The solution was for me to not to give him my opinion. Problem solved!
    Okay, this was not easy. I could only respond to Mr Evil with two responses, if he asked my opinion about anything. The two responses that I was to say were, “I don’t know” and “Ask my hubby”. For 15 years that was all I could say to Mr Evil if he asked me my opinion. The fighting stopped immediately between my hubby and I. I didn’t escape the verbal abuse though, from Mr Evil. He would say to me after my repeated responses, “What are you, stupid?” and “Don’t you have a mind of your own?” and “What are you? weak? with no opinion?” etc…
    The problem of us fighting stopped so I was good. My armor took a huge beating. When you fight because someone other than your spouse doesn’t play fair, that’s different. I had age on my side. Mr Evil would eventually die, and I just had to be patient.
    Our discussions, in our marriage, always had rules:
    *We were not allowed to swear or call each other names. This was big for me. I had no idea what kind of family he came from. I would not meet Mr Evil and his wife until we were already engaged for six months. That’s right, a year into us seeing each other. Call me crazy.
    *Another rule was to not bring up past offenses. Forgiveness has to be complete before you can move on.
    *Yet another one was not to bring up family. I learned this one early on, in our marriage. It was important not to bring up Mr Evil to my hubby, no matter what. Mr Evil would not define Hubby and I’s relationship.
    *We decided early on not to raise our voices. I break this rule maybe once out of every three years. I use the loud voice when I feel not heard. My hubby never has raised his voice to me. Sounds kind of unfair? I listen to him completely, always. I hear everything he says. I also read his facial expressions because he uses few words. Every word he utters has meaning. Communication is THAT important.
    I hope these rules help someone else. They are useful for us.

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