Understanding Marital Conflict Can Help Make Resolving Quarrels Easier

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“Each fight really has three fights within it: the present fight, the history of the fight, and the family of origin fight…”

DING! It was round 2 of the Johnson’s knock-down-drag-out-fight.

Mary’s face was red. She wasn’t about to lose another fight. Joe wasn’t into the fight. He was mostly on the defensive, blocking her punches. This made Mary even madder. She wanted him to hurt like she did. She pulled out all the punches…

“You ALWAYS do things like this,” she jabbed. “I can NEVER count on you. Remember last time? Your apology was obviously just empty words.”

Joe bit his tongue to avoid escalating things.

Then, Mary wound up and blindsided him: “You’re just like your father.”

Whoa! Below the belt. DING! Time out. Back to your corners.

I’d like to say that in good relationships people never fight. But that’s very unrealistic. Arguments are a part of even the best relationship. But one secret of good relationships is, when they fight, they work to resolve the conflict.

Let’s look at why arguments happen, how to fight fair, and how to resolve conflicts.

Couples fight. It’s normal, healthy and natural. In fact, if a couple says they never fight it worries me more than hearing they have an occasional argument. Because if they’re not disagreeing once in a while, it means they’re probably holding in a lot of resentment. Couples fight because they’re human.

Now healthy fighting isn’t yelling and acting out. It means having an emotional disagreement without screaming or throwing things.

Before I go any further, let me set some quick ground rules for fighting fair:

  1. Don’t use the “D” word. Never threaten divorce as a ploy,

  2. Don’t compare your spouse to their parents. It will only escalate your argument.

  3. Don’t feel you need to resolve things in one setting – getting away from the emotion and coming back in an hour or a day can make resolving the issue easier. If you choose to take time out, be sure you’re both clear on when you’re going to come back to talk about the issue.

By Laura L. Bokar, Ed.D., L.C.P.C., L.M.F.T., A.C.S

Additional Resources:

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