My spouse and I have fought for years over many things. Lately instead of fighting and clearing the air it seems that we just “go silent” to keep the peace. I am not sure that this “peace” is really any better as we seem to be drifting apart. What do you think?
Not all couples deal with issues in the same way. But your comment on not fighting possibly being worse that fighting can be indicative of a problem. I think the key here is to fight fairly. I have taken some excerpts from the USCCB website “For Your Marriage” (http://foryourmarriage.org/25-ways-to-fight-fair/). Also one thought is to hold hands while fighting. While that sounds funny the key is to remember we need to fight for our marriage, not for being right or wrong.
Please note that the words “fight” and “fighting fair” are used below to mean expressing one’s disagreement or anger to another constructively. At no time should physical harm be considered “fighting fair.”
Prayer as strength: Major religions view marriage as sacred and prayer as a vital strength. While human behavior principles must not be neglected in learning how to handle conflict constructively, neither should couples neglect the religious resources of their faith in working out their problems.
Know your own feelings: Seek to grow in self-awareness. Being in touch with your own true feelings is essential before you can constructively handle anger or conflict.
Negotiation and compromise are essential in any marriage: During a calm, clear moment agree that neither partner should “win” a fight. If one wins, the other loses and builds resentment. In effect, both have then lost because the relationship is damaged. Even when one spouse is wrong, permit him or her salvage self-respect.
Pin down a time and place: Be sure, however, that resolving an issue is not postponed indefinitely. After cooling off, pin down a time and place to continue. For example, after the news goes off and in the living room – not in the bathroom doorway while brushing teeth.
Stick to the subject: When a number of issues seem to be accumulating, present them one at a time. If you have not resolved past issues, put them on a current or future agenda
State the issue honestly and clearly: Don’t simply say, “I’m hurt by the way you don’t show me respect.” Rather, be clear and specific as in, “I felt hurt when you said…or when your tone of voice sounds condescending toward me.”
Don’t hit below the belt: Everyone has vulnerable areas. Don’t use your confidential knowledge of your partner’s weaknesses and sensitivities to hurt him/her.
Don’t label: Avoid telling your spouse that he/she is neurotic, depressing, or a bore. Rather, try, “I’m tense inside, honey, because you seem moody and depressed. I’d like us to talk about it.”
Develop humor: Humor goes a long way towards promoting healing.
Don’t attempt to resolve a conflict when drinking heavily.
“Touch” can begin dialogue: Use touch to help your spouse make the “entry” or “re-entry” into a communicative mood. A foot reaching over in bed, a hand on the shoulder can say eloquently, “Honey, one of us needs to begin the dialogue. I’m willing to start.”
Exclude violence: Agree in advance that real violence is always ruled out.
Respect crying: Crying is a valid response to how we feel. Do not, however, let crying sidetrack from getting to the real issue causing the conflict.