Conflict is unavoidable in marriage, and any long term relationship. When handled with maturity and love, conflict can even be healthy and productive. This post is a collection of 10 lessons learned about what makes for a healthy fight, in less than 500 words:
1. Quiet words can be just as deadly: I used to think that we didn’t fight because we didn’t yell. I’ve delivered some quiet, collected but mean comments, met by a fallen, heartbreaking look from Mike. They weren’t loud and explosive, but deadly as sniper strikes.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Proverbs 18:21
2. Take a note from boxing, and fight in rounds: Not everything has to be resolved immediately. Dismissing fights prematurely can lead to buried resentment, but taking time to process and a good night’s sleep can make for a smoother discussion sometimes.
3; Don’t make sweeping generalizations: “You always overreact,” or “You never remember to do what I ask.”
4. Learn your spouse’s style: I often need to process and think for a few minutes (or even longer) before responding. If Mike didn’t know that, he could aggravate me further by impatiently pressing me, or he could mistakingly think I’m giving him the silent treatment.
5. Don’t be conflict averse, regardless of personality style: According to StrengthFinders, my greatest strength is “Harmony,” which is described like this: People who are especially talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.
This strength is generally useful in my marriage since I don’t fight unnecessarily, but harmony seekers are also susceptible to passive aggression. Disagreement and conflict are normal, healthy parts of a quality marriage.
Avoiding the important fights leads to bitterness and resentment, so heads up if you’re someone like me who tends to keep the peace.
6. Don’t bring up past fights or hurts. You’ll only fuel the fire.
7. …But do notice patterns: Do you always fight about money or plans with friends or your in laws? If there’s a recurring point of contention, make a point to bring it up during a calm moment when real progress is possible.
8. Avoid cruelty in the name of honesty: “I’m just being honest,” can be a noble sounding mask for unnecessary, hurtful words. There is a place for painful truths in marriage, but not during tense, emotional moments.
9. Don’t try to defend yourself when all you need to say is “I’m sorry.”
10. Be discrete: Public arguments are uncomfortable for everyone involved and multiply the damage done. Anger and hurt feelings are compounded by humiliation when witnessed by friends.
What did I miss? To the point that you’re comfortable sharing, what would you add to this list?