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Fighting Fair: part 2

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

by Brianne Lutterman, MA, NCC, LPC-Intern

On the last section, I talked about venting your relationship problems with your spouse/significant other to family members and friends. Problems arise within your relationship when venting to others instead of resolving the issue with your spouse. Not only does venting affect your marriage, but can also impact your relationship with your friends and family.

Instead of holding your grudges in while saying to yourself, “I just don’t want to deal with it right now,” “I need to pick my battles,” “I will deal with it tomorrow,” I want to suggest a few ideas on fighting fair. Keep in mind, if something matters to you or is bothering you, it is worth addressing with your spouse.

1: Verbalize to your spouse that you are upset, the moment that you become upset with them. Do not grit your teeth and let it slide. If it bothers you, it needs to be addressed. Verbalizing your anger should not include any cursing or demeaning language. If you are upset because your spouse did not call when he/she said they would, simply state, “Hey, I was expecting your call since you told me that you would. When you do not call when you say you will I feel __(fill in the blank)___.” Stick to how their actions affected you. Stay away from assumptions and accusatory language, such as “You never call when you say you will,” “You never think about how this makes me feel.” This kind of “you” language assumes you know what the other person is thinking and feeling. It also dismisses any times where they did go the extra mile for you. Your spouse will automatically go into defensive mode or just shut down.

2. If you know you will not be able to have a calm and rational talk with your spouse, tell them you need some time to cool off and do just that. This does not mean a separation or taking a few days off from your spouse. I am speaking in terms of minutes or hours- “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26, The Bible). Mornings are usually too busy and you will get caught up in your routine, forget the reason you were upset with them (then you remember and you are upset all over again all day long), and you more than likely do not have enough time before work to effectively discuss the situation. Tell your spouse to give you a moment to cool down with no interruptions. It is better that your spouse give you this time now than for you to say something out of anger you will regret later.

3. Get into a different environment than your spouse and get back to rational thinking as opposed to emotional thinking. Literally go out of sight from your spouse. It will be extremely hard to calm down when the person you so loath at that moment is five feet from you. Go into another room, in the back yard, upstairs etc. Do something that will get your mind off of the current situation. For the moment, put whatever you are upset about on an imaginary shelf to revisit it in a few moments. Go for a walk, play with your pets, meditate, do deep breathing exercises, stretch, read a chapter in a book, clean, listen to calming music, do some guided imagery, play a short game, draw, paint, sing (not angry love songs…I believe 80’s music is best, but I may be biased). Remember: these are all solo activities.

4. When you are calm, ask yourself some questions:

-What was I upset about?

-Was it logical/rational to be upset by this? Do not go off of secondhand information, such as “my friend said they heard you say/saw you __(fill in the blank)__.”

-Could my spouse be innocent? Now if your spouse says, “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t told you I have been struggling with this, but I started smoking again last week,” then this answer is obvious. If you find an empty pack next to his car on the side of the road, however, do not immediately jump to conclusions. Could there be another answer?

-What does the situation look like from their point of view? This is hard to do! It will get easier and more of a habit the more you practice doing it. Try to replay the situation in your mind that angered you, using the instances in the last question where they were innocent. Think of how your partner may have felt, consider the load they have on them currently-maybe they are under a lot of stress at work. Maybe they took their stress from work and took it out on you (kicking the dog).

5. Lastly, before rejoining your partner, consider this: they are not with you to be malicious to you. They remain with you because they care for you. They are married to you because of their love for you. The chances of your spouse intentionally doing or saying something to hurt your feelings is very small. More than likely arguments/situations can be summed up by a lack of (or faulty) communication, or taking stress from other areas of life out on spouses. Finally, do not let one argument snowball into another. Address the current problem and that problem only at that time. “Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Mathew 6:34, The Bible).

image courtesy of and Ambro, published on 01 June 2011 Stock Photo - image ID: 10044246

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