February 10, 2004
Some couples fight over and over about the same issue, only to discover that it never really gets resolved. Often, the tendency to quarrel becomes such a habit, that it’s hard to break this vicious cycle. It’s normal for couples to disagree, but a line should be drawn when the arguing escalates to yelling, name-calling or occurs when young children are present.
If you’re still having trouble retiring your verbal boxing gloves, Dr. Phil offers the following advice for fighting fair.
Discuss issues, not topics
Most people fight about topics rather than issues, explains Dr. Phil. They’ll find something safe to vent or argue over because they feel too threatened to deal with the real issue that upsets them. The emotional health of the relationship will continue to suffer if couples aren’t honest about what’s really bothering them. Discuss the problem, not the symptoms.
Don’t fight in front of the kids!
Dr. Phil stresses that parents don’t have the right to fight in front of their children. Even when spouses make up after an argument, children are still left to deal with feelings of fear that result from overhearing their parents’ screaming and name-calling. Fighting in front of kids changes them. The next time couples feel the urge to bicker when little ones are present, they should remember that they are their children’s base of operation and security. Take it private and keep it private!
Create formulas for success
Before the insults start flying, partners should create success formulas so that everybody wins. If a husband and wife argue because she hates his driving and he can’t stand when she yells at him in the car, they should come to a compromise. The wife could agree to hold her tongue if the husband stays within the speed limit. Work it out before you get in the car.
Dr. Phil often reminds couples that marriage is not 50/50, it’s 100/100. Partners should remember that sacrifice is involved in their relationship. When neither party is willing to deviate from their beliefs, it’s time to negotiate, says Dr. Phil. If a husband dreads taking long vacations and his wife insists on a two-week cruise, there needs to be some balance. Four or five mini vacations a year might work just as well as one or two extended trips.
You do not put your marriage on the line over day-to-day issues or disagreements. Your marriage is above all that. That means no ultimatums. Relationships are negotiations, and when you throw out ultimatums, negotiations have stopped. When negotiations stop, relationships break down, people get hurt, they make irrational decisions and you wind up with both of you not having what you want.
Break the Cycle
Couples often start arguing for one reason and continue for another reason, explains Dr. Phil. Because fighting has become such a habit, they fail to deal with emotions stemming from the initial conflict. Do something dramatic to break the cycle.