Do you ever sometimes feel like you’ve somehow stumbled into a fight and are not sure how it happened? When we go looking to pick fights we know what we’re up to, but sometimes it seems like all of a sudden we’re fighting with someone and we’re not exactly sure how it happened.
This can happen between any two people but it’s certainly common in a marriage, just given that married couples are two people who spend so much time together. The silver lining of picked fights is that, although when we go looking to start one we’re not exactly at our best, we know its cause. Sometimes I think it’s worse when fights happen accidentally.
One partner or the other brings up a topic of discussion. Maybe it’s something he or she legitimately wants to discuss, or maybe it’s just part of making conversation. The important part is that for some reason it pushes the other person’s buttons and before either know it a fight’s started.
The worst thing one can do in these situations is to start laying blame. It’s easy to say, “well, I just wanted to talk about things I’d like to do around the house, you’re the one who blew up about it!” but it’s not that simple (and even if it is, that doesn’t really help anything, especially in the moment). Perhaps the one who started the conversation blundered into a delicate topic, maybe even one that he or she ought to have known about which his or her partner was sensitive.
These situations are just hard because once the fight’s started emotions are high, and they might even be higher because the participants aren’t even sure how they fight started and begrudge getting there. Here’s how to deal with such situations.
Do your best to keep your cool. Back down from the topic. If it’s an important one to which you want to return at some point, address that carefully with your spouse. Make it clear that you want to talk about the topic, but you also don’t want to hurt the other person. No matter what, even if the topic was seemingly unimportant, you might have hit a nerve.
Once everyone is calm ask your spouse if they are all right (and don’t do so in a passive aggressive way, like “what happened back there? Are you O.K., you really flew off the handle!”). Try saying something more like “are you all right, you’re upset, is there anything I can do to help?”
In any marriage if the fighting is frequent and severe then obviously the problems must be addressed. It’s both fair and vital to the health of the marriage that you state what you need from your partner, including things they shouldn’t do and things they are doing. But remember that that goes both ways, and you must be gracious in accepting those same things from your spouse.
If it’s just a little fight, however, even one that you feel like you wandered into unknowingly, let it go. Check to make sure you didn’t stumble into a sensitive topic. Keep your cool and put your spouse’s happiness above your own wounded pride.
Spats (or bigger fights, even if they’re sparked by something seemingly harmless) are just a part of marriage. They’re one of those bad things we vowed to accept with the good. In the grand scheme of things, they’re totally worth it.
*(The above image by photostock is from freedigitalphotos.net).