Have a Good Fight!
Spouse conflict can be resolved productively
Have you had a good fight with your spouse lately?
When two persons share their lives, disagreements and conflicts are to be expected. The complete absence of conflict is not always a healthy sign because it could mean that issues are not addressed.
The important question is: how can a couple resolve conflict?
In a bad fight, issues are not resolved and both energy and emotion is eventually wasted. One spouse can impose a ‘solution’ or both parties can settle on a compromise that neither party is really happy with. This forbodes a vicious cycle of fighting because unresolved issues will eventually resurface and contribute to the subject of another fight.
In a healthy or good fight, both spouses (yes, both spouses) are pleased with the solution because it serves the best interests of the family.
How can a couple have a “good fight”? The starting point is to think win-win. A win for someone is a solution that addresses the concerns of that person. To have a good fight, we must correctly identify our real concern, as well as the real concern of the other. A win-win solution addresses the real concerns of both parties.
For example, wife A performs a more active role in the children’s education and emotional development. Deep inside, it can create feelings of isolation, like a single parent struggling to bring up children on her own. Yet she continues to pour in efforts to create a warm home environment, by preparing meals that her family enjoys. If husband A misses dinner, perhaps justifiably, due to pressing matters at work, she may be upset enough to pick a fight with him. The apparent issue: he misses dinner and does not appreciate the effort she has spent preparing a nice meal for him. The real concern – she feels alone and unsupported as a parent.
Is it easy to identify real concerns? It starts with developing our own self-awareness. We need to be able to step back and observe our own life and feelings. Ask – how do I know that I am right and my spouse is wrong? If we are not honest with ourselves, it is difficult to calibrate our behavior and improve our relationships.
What about understanding the real concerns of our spouse? Do we realize that we look at the world through our own paradigms and perspectives, and that our spouse can interpret the same event, differently but just as validly? Are we convinced we have all the answers, or are we prepared to listen and understand? Learning from our past experience of spousal conflict, can you identify some rules of engagement to help ensure that the next fight will be a good fight? Will you discuss these with your spouse, so that both of you don’t fall back on unproductive ways of resolving conflict?
Next time, try the using the following means of engagement:
Paraphrase our spouse’s point of view before rebutting
Leave the matter when both parties have already cooled down
Say, “I am sorry for losing my temper, will you forgive me?”
Part of sharing a life together is growing together, and resolving these fights are an excellent way of helping each other increase self-awareness while remaining steadfast in your commitment.
So the next time a fight comes along, make sure to have a good one!
John Ooi is a father of six children. He writes regularly at It takes a Village to Raise a Child e-newsletter. Article is reproduced with permission.