Q. "My husband accuses me of not fighting fair and using 'drama queen' tactics. How can I handle our arguments better, so he doesn't get so wounded and mad at me?"
A. In the midst of a heated debate, my husband once declared, "Shannon, you'd make a great lawyer!" It wasn't a compliment. Sadly, he recognized that winning was far more important to me than understanding his feelings.
Learning to fight fair is one of the best ways we can show respect for each other. The goal of any disagreement should be to understand each other's feelings and strive toward an amiable compromise. With that goal in mind, let's consider …
9 Below-the-belt Tactics to Avoid:
- Dragging others into the argument ("Well, my mom says …");
- Giving the silent treatment;
- Yelling or crying to get your way;
- Spewing destructive criticism ("You suck the joy out of everything!");
- Using sarcasm;
- Issuing threats and ultimatums;
- Getting defensive;
- Using buzz words (always, never, hate, divorce);
- Expecting him to read your mind.
You and your husband need to set productive ground rules for fairer fights:
Establish a proper time and place to hash things out, then limit the discussion to one topic. No dredging up old issues.
Express your emotions calmly. It's better to say, "I felt angry when you did this" than to rip his head off and scream down his neck.
Validate his feelings. He has a right to them, just as you have a right to yours. Rather than responding, "I can't believe you feel that way!" consider, "I may not understand your pain, but I'm sorry I caused it."1