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5 Tips for Fighting Productively with Your Spouse

It’s Valentines Day this week and love is in the air! Many couples think that love means never disagreeing. They actually think that if they fight, their love is coming to an end. Oh, how untrue!

Disagreements are healthy, and happen to every couple. You actually get closer when you resolve disagreements. The problem is, most couples don’t resolve things; they have the same fight over and over again.

My parents never fought. I’m not kidding; I can only remember one time in my entire childhood that my parents had a fight. Then, out of the blue, they announced they were getting a divorce. We were shocked!

In the early years of my marriage, when hubby and I had a fight, I was sure we were headed for a divorce, just like my parents. Hubby taught me that disagreements are fine as long you’re working towards resolution. However, if fights are mean spirited, it not only hurts—and nothing gets resolved, it also teaches the kids to act the same way.

Kathleen E. Finnegan, MA LPC, from has this to say about the impact fighting has on kids, “Verbal conflict with demeaning put downs on the other partner, or sudden outbursts and threats, is toxic to a child’s emotional and physical well being…(and) continuous exposure to battles desensitizes them to aggression.”

Here are some ideas to help you work towards a resolution when you fight, and model better ways to address disagreements.

1. DON’T Fight in Anger Waiting until you’re really angry to express how you feel creates mean, nasty arguments that are hard to resolve. Anger can consume you and take the place of thinking or accessing how you really feel. It also teaches your kids that nothing get resolved unless there’s a fight first.

DO Speak Up When siblings fight we ask them to use their words before they get angry so they don’t hurt one another. Parents need to use calm words, too. To do that make a vow to begin expressing what you feel, when you feel it, the moment something comes up. That gives you both the ability to access and express your feelings before they build to the point of consuming you, thereby giving you a real shot to talk, not yell, how you feel.

2. DON’T Nit Pick If you nit pick about everything, the love between you will begin to be replaced with bitterness.

DO Look at Yourself Take an honest look at what’s bugging you about your partner. Is there a bigger issue, or is it really just the little things? Once you find the source of your anger decide what your needs are, and what you want to do about it. Taking action teaches your children how to be responsible for their feelings, too.

3. DON’T Stop Listening Fighting when you’re angry stops any “true” listening from taking place. It also teaches the kids that fights are more about determining who’s right than they are about listening to the other person’s point of view.

DO Repeat What You Heard The best way to “truly” listen is to make sure you’ve heard and understood what the other person wanted to say. Try asking the other person, “This is what I heard you say… am I correct?” Doing that allows any misunderstandings to be corrected immediately, before you end up fighting about something the other person didn’t mean to say.

4. DON’T Blame Blaming someone you love usually comes from rehashing unresolved feelings and tends to use attack words.

DO Resolve When you say what you feel, when you feel it, and vow to work on the issue until both parties feel it’s resolved, then blame tends to disappear. The way you handle your issues either teaches your kids how to dish the dirt or how to resolve disagreements.

5. DON’T Repeat the Same Fight Does it ever feel like you begin fighting about one thing and end up fighting about the same issues again and again? That’s because the issues weren’t ever truly resolved, so they show up in fight after fight.

DO Problem Solve Try problem solving the issue so it remains the central focus and the past doesn’t get rehashed. Here are five steps to get you started.

  1. When feelings come up stop, breathe and regroup before speaking. Remember this is just a problem, not a threat. If there is a threat, or you fear abuse, deal with it immediately.
  2. Each one of you should state the problem, as you see it, so you’re both on the same page. Vow not to bring up the past unless truly relevant.
  3. Each one of you should suggest three options for how this can be resolved.
  4. Then discuss any possible consequences that may come out of handling the problem as suggested.
  5. Choose how you want to resolve this.

This way of handling fights may feel strange in the beginning, but experts agree that remaining angry, with no resolution in site, not only erodes your relationship and models bad habits for kids; it can also affect your health.


Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be, and the founder of Proactive Parenting. Her book and site help parents gain more patience by responding instead of reacting for ages 1-10. Receive 2 FREE tips from the book. Proactive Parenting is proud to announce the Online Skills Class. A class that any parent can attend, even if you live outside the US. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

9 Responses to “5 Tips for Fighting Productively with Your Spouse”

  1. Farrah

    Good tips! My husband and I are strange fighters. I am the volatile one, he likes to avoid confrontation. This makes for strange discussions. I hope though- that we can continue our road to talk about things unlike my parents who yelled and screamed at each other.

  2. @kymnasium

    thank you for the do tips. I have been married over 20yrs all of these tips have been tried, it does work! that is how I have been married so long lol We learned these awesome useable & doable tips throughout the years you pretty much summed it up!, wish I found you earlier lol Even now though it's been over 20yrs we still need to be reminded of all these great tips.

  3. @GallowayLeslie

    "do speak up" is the one I need to remember — I am bad about holding it all inside, and milling it over, and blowing it up into a much bigger situation than it was, and THEN telling my hubby why I'm mad. I've gotten much better at just telling him when the situation arises, and it helps so much.

  4. Erica C.

    We definitely repeat the same fight often…we definitely need to work on getting true resolutions.

  5. Jara

    This is an amazing article! If I have learned one thing about being married, it's that it doesnt do any good to bottle things up. And my husband and I have always said from the very beginning, our promise to eachother is we will never talk about our personal problems to other people. Like venting I mean. Because if we still feel the need to complain to other people about eachother, then we obviously are still not okay or over whatever incident it was, and that just means we need to talk about it some more!

  6. Melanie

    Nice idea, but it doesn't work well when only one of you "plays by the rules." Not sure what to do then…


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