The Right Way to Fight With Your Husband

Amy Keyishian

Fighting Couple
Neglected? Controlled? Fix it!
All this talk about Jake and Vienna's breakup has me thinking about the way we fight with our partners. New research from Baylor University narrows down all relationship fights to two categories: “You’re controlling me!” or “You’re ignoring me!” If you figure out which category you fall into, you could be well on your way from fightyville to nookytown. Here’s why -- and what you can do.

Professor Keith Sanford, an associate professor of psychiatry, studied thousands of married couples and had them describe their recollections of specific fights by choosing from a list of words -- to describe both themselves and their partners. The results fell neatly into those two buckets. So simple, and yet what can you do to both understand and change things? 

The two perceptions are just what they sound like: In the first, you feel like there’s an enormous bug up your ass, and it looks just like your husband. In the second, you feel like you’d welcome a bug up your ass -- or anywhere else, just as long as that bug seemed like it cared. And no matter where your fights start, this is, invariably, where they end up.

The trouble isn’t just with one partner; it’s a dance you both take part in. If you’re the one who tends to feel threatened, you’ll get into the habit of responding defensively.

The key is to put your head together with your hubby, figure out what fight you’re repeating (again, and again, and again), and agree on ways you’ll attack it the next time it rears its ugly head. That’s the hard part, of course: getting on the same page. But if you‘re catching this little relationship trap early enough, you’ll both still have the energy and will to make it better.

If one of you feels neglected or forgotten, the other partner apologizes, and the neglected person forgives. If you each play your part, you should be able to move on.

And if one of you feels threatened or controlled? The other person has to acknowledge that perception -- even if they didn’t realize or intend to do that -- and show respect and appreciation while ratcheting down the hostility.

Of course, you each may have different perceptions. That’s okay. The important thing is to fix it, not be right. Maybe you both try something new and see if things get better.

The funny thing about this strategy is that a lot of it can feel like play-acting. You know you don’t mean to be a bitch. It’s just that your husband is trying to talk out his solution for the economic crisis when you haven’t had your morning coffee. But saying, “I can’t talk about that now” can go two ways: It can sound like an invitation to discuss the issue later, or like a total shut-down of communication, depending on your tone or facial expression. The smallest adjustment just might lead to a dramatic reduction in frustrating fights -- and a great increase that lovin’ feeling.

Do your fights end in sex? Or does the argument linger?

Read More