One of the most important skills you need learn to keep your marriage healthy and strong is fighting fairly. Fighting can happen in all marriages, not only in “bad” marriages. Researchers estimate that 25% are happy, 50% will never be happy without therapy. 30% of marriages are considered to be “empty” and having only a little love or joy. 25% of marriages could really be happy if they would communicate better and if they learned how to resolve conflict.
This latter of 25% is the one that should be focused on. The difference between a bad fight or a bad marriage and a bad fight or a good marriage is learning to fight fair. You can have an overall good marriage even you have a bad fight. Actually, couples who fight in a productive way and end the fight right, report more marital satisfaction. In two words, fight fairly is what separates the couples who fight and make up from the ones who fight and don’t.
As it follows, seven tips for fighting fairly in a marriage are presented:
1. Fair fighting involves focusing on the behavior not the person.
2. Direct requests are also used in a fair fighting couple. They ask if they want their partner to behave differently. This way the whole idea would be exposed clearly. For example, instead of saying “I need you to change” you can say “Please place your dishes in the sink from now on”.
3. If you want a fair fight, limit your focus in arguments. Instead of “kitchen sinking” an argument (meaning when a person is complaining about everything at the same time, and throw in the kitchen sink for good measure) you can focus on one issue at a time.
4. Healthy respect and good nonverbal communication are maintained by fair fighting couples. A well known marital researcher at the University of Washington, John Gottman, has highlighted the importance of good nonverbal marital communication, and has identified four behaviors leading to relationship distress. Contempt is one of these behaviors. Non-verbal contempt (eye-rolling, avoiding eye-contact, shaking their heads) can be a cause for relationship distress if this shows up in a couple.
5. The end of a fight is allowed by fair fighting couples. Letting the fight be over when it is done with it, is one important element of fighting fairly. This way is easier to forgive if not to forget. Just to prove a point, they do not bring up old issues again and again. This way the couples take the chance to make up and reconnect at the first opportunity.
6. It is recommended that in a fair fight, couples discuss issues sooner rather than later, because it is easier to talk about a small issue, before it becomes too big and overwhelming or leads to extreme resentment.
7. The couples, in a fair fight should focus on winning in the relationship not on winning the fight for them just to prove they’re right. They must remember that they are allies rather than enemies, and they must remember that they are on the same team and working on the same goals. Instead of focusing on their personal ego, they should rather focus on keeping the relationship as their main focus.
The skill of fair fighting can be learned. It is likely that fewer marriages would end in divorce if more people learned to do it. It is a true fact that all marriages will have fights, but it matters how you handle each fight, and this will determine whether your marriage is a happy or unhappy one.
Always remember this: “Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate. " - Barnett R. Brickner
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