Fighting isn’t fun, so I don’t do it often. I only do fun things often, e.g., drink wine, watch Frozen, sing loudly in my car, eat pizza, text my friends ugly pictures of my face, stalk people on Facebook, etc.
Arguing with someone is the most draining experience in the world, but even so, I’m not one of those people who avoids arguments like the plague. I try to stay calm and choose my battles wisely, but when I strongly disagree with something or feel the need to stick up for myself (or others), I do it.
Most of the time, things don’t get heated. You say or do something I disagree with, I kindly explain why I disagree or why I was hurt, and we move on. Maybe there’s an apology, or maybe we agree to disagree, but I believe that most spats can be solved quickly, rationally, and without vehement anger.
Unfortunately, things can’t always be so hunky-dory. Sometimes, we want to yell at someone. Sometimes, we want to cry and vent. Sometimes, we want to prove our point with venomous words and a condescending tone.
Particularly before marrying Aaron, I was doused with guidance about how to handle fights in a relationship, so I wanted to share with you some of my favorite pieces of advice that can apply to any sort of disagreement– but mostly to ones with someone you care about:
1. Fight fair, not loud
This is my stepmom’s mantra, and I love it. She doesn’t say to let someone walk all over you, or to always be the first to apologize, or to brush your feelings under the rug. No, she says to fight fair. This means being willing to listen to the other person, speaking rationally once you’ve calmed down, and respecting the other person as your equal– not talking down to them with sarcasm or disdain. The “not loud” part is obvious. Yelling doesn’t make the other person hear you any better. Sometimes raising your voice may feel like the last resort to get your point across, but it never works. Always fight fair. Never fight loud.
2. Go to bed angry
Wait, what? Isn’t that the opposite of what we’re usually told? Yes, Ephesians 4:26 says “Do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry,” but it doesn’t say “every single nuance of an argument needs to be solved before bedtime.” One of Aaron’s and my favorite couples gave us this advice, and I really like it…especially because it really, really challenges me, personally.
I have an extremely hard time going bed without all of my ducks in a row. I’m good with agreeing to disagree, but when it comes to a serious argument about something that affects my relationship with the other person, I want to solve it as quickly as possible. Sometimes, however, it’s best to just go to bed. Sleeping on it can save you a lot of emotionally-charged behavior that you regret. “Do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry” might just mean acknowledging your love for the other person, despite your frustration, then working through the details in the morning when you’re a bit less worked up.
3. Always give the benefit of the doubt
Odds are, your spouse or friend or family member wasn’t purposefully trying to make you mad when they did or said something that led to an argument. If they did, then that’s a different issue, and all I can say is pray for patience. In general, however, people do or say things because they have a thought-out reason. If a friend doesn’t invite you somewhere, it’s because she didn’t think you’d want to go, or she needed some quality time with a different person. If your parent criticizes your choices, it’s because they want you to be happy and successful. Heck, this even applies to political arguments. As much as I get frustrated with people’s political views that differ from mine, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt that they truly think their stances are what’s best for our country.
At the end of the day, people say and do things that hurt us because their brains and perspectives are different from ours. Even if you feel like you absolutely have to address a situation, approaching someone from the angle of trusting their intentions will lead to a much more civil and productive conversation.
4. Don’t try to solve anything after drinking
If you’ve been drinking on top of your anger, stop. Alcohol is a depressant that amplifies your negative feelings– if you’re sad, you’ll become unconsolable. If you’re worried, you’ll become frantic. If you’re angry, you’ll become livid.
Once you’ve started down the road of drinking, there’s not much you can do except wait to sober up, but that’s why it’s so important to always be aware of how alcohol is affecting you in the moment. No one is perfect at this, but you should be able to realize when you’re buzzed…or more. For those of you who know your limits and begin to feel rage bubble up past the point of being sober, say to yourself, “I’m not thinking clearly right now” and remove yourself from the situation (and from the booze). If you can’t be self-aware of your level of intoxication while drinking, it’s probably best not to consume alcohol in the first place.
5. Use inside jokes
Joking has its place in arguments, so be wise with your use…but definitely take advantage of humor. Usually, this tactic is best once you’ve already shown your serious dedication to the conversation. As things are winding down, use an inside joke to add some levity. Making the other person smile is the perfect way to move forward to happier times. For smaller arguments that can be solved with a simple yet stern, “Please don’t do that again,” inside jokes are the perfect way to quickly ease the tension.
I’ll give you an example: Whenever Aaron does something small around the house that bothers me (which isn’t often), and I have to say, “Aaron! Please stop putting your dirty suitcase on the pillow where I sleep,” he quickly removes it, and that’s basically the extent of the argument. Even though I’m annoyed because I’ve told him not to do this before, there’s no use letting it ruin our whole night. Therefore, I always follow up with, “What’s my one rule?” to which he responds, “Don’t steal the yarn.” I then reiterate, “Don’t steal my yarn, man!” We’re big fans of quoting New Girl, no shame. Aaron even quoted Nick Miller in his wedding vows. Anyway, the yarn quote is my way of saying, “You knew that you shouldn’t have done that, but I love you, and I know you just weren’t thinking. Don’t worry about it.” It makes us laugh, and he doesn’t walk away feeling nagged by his wife. Everybody wins!
Now, don’t go running off to find an argument just so you can practice these skills, but feel free to add this link as a favorite to your phone so that you can reference it next time you want to kill someone.