When my hus­band and I fight we barely look at each other

The Peterborough Examiner - - ARTS & LIFE - El­lie

Q: My hus­band and I don’t know how to “fight fair.”

They say that op­po­sites at­tract, and that’s partly true for us. We come from dif­fer­ent cul­tures and grew up with ev­ery­thing dif­fer­ent, from foods to mu­sic.

But we’re the same on one thing — ar­gu­ing till one of us drops from ex­haus­tion or storms out the door.

It’s un­healthy, I know. But we can’t seem to stop it once we’re both fix­ated on the fight. We do love each other, when there are no on­go­ing bat­tles over dis­agree­ments. But when we fight, we can barely look at each other.

It can be as prac­ti­cal a de­ci­sion as whether to paint the house vs. join a gym. Or whether our child should start karate lessons. Typ­i­cally, we’ll turn it into a war of words and see who wears the other one down.

Can you help us?


A: Dis­agree­ments oc­cur in ev­ery re­la­tion­ship, un­less one part­ner’s al­ways dom­i­nant or con­trol­ling, the other sub­mis­sive or pas­sive, and both want it that way. That’s not ever go­ing to hap­pen with you two.

In­stead, how to have “healthy dis­agree­ments” that lead to de­ci­sions based on logic or com­pro­mise is what you both should be learn­ing.

Oth­er­wise, those weary­ing bat­tles can sap your com­mit­ment to stay to­gether.

So, it’s wise to con­sider all that you two can do to learn to fight fair.

Here’s an in­cen­tive from the start: re­solv­ing a stormy bat­tle to­gether and walk­ing away un­scathed be­cause you both ac­tu­ally lis­tened and un­der­stood the other’s view will in­crease close­ness and in­ti­macy be­tween you.

Many web­sites pro­vide lists of fair­fight rules, such as the most ba­sic one: don’t fight in front of the kids.

But there are more “dos” to fight­ing fair that mat­ter equally.

Start with DO think about what you really want from your mar­riage ... to­tal agree­ment on all is­sues, stay­ing to­gether even if you don’t re­spect his/her val­ues.

Or re­solv­ing small-stuff eas­ily be­cause if it’s small, you shouldn’t be sweat­ing it even if you still think you’re right.

Ask your­self, DO you love this per­son enough to ac­cept his/her seem­ing “flaws” some­times?

DO re­mem­ber that some of the con­flicts are a nor­mal ex­pres­sion of your cul­tural dif­fer­ences (in which nei­ther is more right than the other).

DO set bound­aries on your own words. If you use them as weapons and aim to hurt/de­flate/in­sult, it sparks a psy­cho­log­i­cal war from which some­one will even­tu­ally want to walk away in­stead of call­ing a truce or com­pro­mis­ing.

Here’s the DO that may be hard­est, but is also most es­sen­tial. It’s rec­om­mended by Daniel Dash­naw, a Mas­sachusetts­based mar­riage and fam­ily ther­a­pist, writ­ing on cou­ples­ther­a­py­inc.com:

“Take a break from the fight when it’s on the brink of es­ca­la­tion. And make re­pair at­tempts along the way too.” That’s fair warn­ing.

FEED­BACK Re­gard­ing the woman who feels her hus­band se­cretly “used her as a beard” for 10 years as he pur­sued a gay life­style (Oct. 29):

Reader: “Apart from your ad­vice that she re­main with coun­selling, urg­ing her to re­main with a man who be­lit­tled her for years serves him, but doesn’t serve her at all.

“How would they re­build trust af­ter such a fun­da­men­tal/pro­found de­cep­tion? What’s their re­la­tion­ship other than a long-term lie?

“I’d rather you’d ad­vised her to move out and seek what joy she can find in the re­main­der of her life af­ter a mar­riage that’s sapped her con­fi­dence and her health. What can he of­fer her now that he didn’t will­ingly with­hold ear­lier?”

El­lie’s tip of the day

Dis­agree­ments oc­cur in ev­ery cou­ple’s re­la­tion­ship. “Fight­ing fair” is how they can dis­agree and stay con­nected. EX­PERT AD­VICE. IN YOUR IN­BOX: Sign up for the Star’s ad­vice news­let­ter, get the lat­est on re­la­tion­ships, eti­quette and more.

El­lie Tesher is an ad­vice colum­nist for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your re­la­tion­ship ques­tions via email: el­[email protected]­tar.ca.

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