With Valentines season upon us, I’m taking it on myself to share some nuggets of wisdom with my married or hope-to-become-married readers. I’d love to say these tidbits were gleaned over the stretch of our 36 years of matrimony. Surprisingly enough, they all came from a marriage conference we stumbled upon last fall, with Dr. Doug Weiss. Whether he invented them himself I cannot say, but he taught them to us and left us wishing we’d learned them years ago.
This week’s lesson is on fighting right; next week I’ll describe a tool for connecting on an emotional level; and thirdly, just in time for Valentine’s Day, a different take on Date Night!
I’m sure this never happens at your house, but Pete and Pam seem to experience the same argument in their home over and over. Either Pete is pouting (again) or Pam has lost her temper (again) or Pete starts mumbling sarcastic comments (again) over the same old issue. Perhaps one or the other finally gives in with a reluctant “fine!” But it leaves them both with a bitter edge, sometimes frustrated to tears because they’ve never learned to fight fair.
Step 1. This “Fighting Fair” tool requires a worksheet Pete and Pam can make. At the top, they identify the problem. Let’s say they’re fighting about who takes out the garbage and when. They write that at the top of the sheet.
Step 2. Each person involved in the fight lists at least three emotions that surface over this issue. So, one side lists “His Feelings” and the other side “Her Feelings” with 3-5 blank lines below. Pam and Pete might use words like frustrated, cranky, hurried, or unappreciated. This step is important because it acknowledges those feelings. Even if one spouse isn’t bothered in the least by this issue, if it’s a problem for either partner, it’s a problem for both.
Step 3. Each person lists at least three solutions. The left side says “His Solutions,” and the right side “Her Solutions” with 3-5 blank lines below. Independently, Pete and Pam must come up with at least three possible solutions; for example, “Pete does it all the time,” “Pam does it all the time,” “Take turns on garbage day,” “Kids do it every day,” etc. This part of the exercise is key because it forces everyone concerned to be part of the resolution. Including the children when appropriate teaches them good problem-solving skills, too.
Step 4. Once everyone provides at least three solutions, Pete and Pam compare them and make a list of all possible solutions from the suggestions made. Probably, some will overlap. Number each solution.
Step 5. The Vote. The left side of the sheet says “His Vote” and the right side “Her Vote.” Below that, each person has a numbered list representing the combined solutions. Let’s say the list contains eight suggestions. Separately, Pete and Pam assign a value to each solution, from one to eight, giving the highest value to their preferred solution.
Step 6. Pete and Pam total the value assigned to each solution. Whichever has the highest number becomes their decision. They write this on the Decision line.
Step 7. They fill in the date, and each person signs it.
Step 8. Now they hole-punch the worksheet and put it in their Fight Binder. Now that a solution has been agreed upon, this issue need never be fought about again. Pete and Pam can simply refer back to the binder if needed and say, “see here, we decided this on January 30, 2014.”
This may seem like a lot of fuss, but wouldn’t you gladly spend an hour solving a problem if you knew you’d never need to fight about it again?