Menu
How to fight fair: dealing with conflict in your marriage

I’m sure we can all agree—fighting stinks.

But, unfortunately, it’s inevitable in a marriage. You’re dealing with shared finances, heavy work loads, (never-ending) laundry, dishes (ugh!), creating children, maintaining children, not to mention making each other—and yourself—happy.


It’s a lot. You and your partner should be equally prepared to communicate effectively with one another in order to tackle small issues and those bigger, more important issues and decisions that come up.

“Fighting” can actually be productive as long as some general, agreed upon few rules are followed. So, how can a couple really “fight fair”?

Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of Marriage in Modern Life gave us her best tips:

FEATURED VIDEO

1. Create a safety zone.

Every couple needs to create a conversational safety zone with agreed-upon rules that both partners try to follow. Set yourselves up for success when discussing complicated or contentious issues by proposing a day, time, and agenda. Make sure that the time and place works well for each of your schedules. First thing in the morning or as soon as your partner arrives home from work may not be the best time. It might make sense to meet for lunch or coffee outside of the house and away from the kids to keep the focus on the agenda.

2. Engage in active listening.

When talking with your partner, engage in active listening, or use what is called the “speaker/listener technique”, which can be very effective in slowing down the conversation and preventing conflict escalation.

The rules are pretty simple. Each partner takes turn being the Speaker and the Listener. Whoever is the Speaker starts by expressing his or her concern in two to four sentences at a time. Then the Speaker checks in with the Listener to make sure that he or she understands what the Speaker is trying to convey. The Listener can ask questions for clarification and should paraphrase what the Speaker is saying. Partners continue in this manner until the Speaker feels heard and understood. Then the partners switch roles and continue the conversation.

By focusing only on what the Speaker is saying, the Listener is discouraged from being reactive or worrying about how he or she plans to respond. Concurrently, the Speaker must organize his or her thoughts and focus on communicating clearly and authentically.

3. Limit the time spent on discussing an issue.

When practicing the “speaker/listener” technique, set a timer, say 30 minutes, and see how far you can get in the conversation. When the time runs out, agree to either add more time or continue the conversation on another day.

If one of you starts yelling or getting angry, table the discussion for another time. Work on managing your anger instead of taking it out on your partner. By stopping the conversation, you are showing your partner that you acknowledge your temper and would rather continue the conversation at a time when you are more clear-headed. Just be sure to agree to a future time and place to continue the discussion before walking away.

4. Don’t drag other arguments into your current argument.

Make sure you stick to the agenda and do not let the conversation drift into other areas on which you disagree. If after engaging in active listening and thoughtful communicating you still cannot agree on a particular issue, it may make sense for partners to take turns in making the final decision, like in the game of basketball when the referees decides which team gets the ball based upon the possession arrow. In order for this to work, it must be fair and the decisions should be comparable in nature.


Dr. Anne Brennan Malec is the founder and managing partner of Symmetry Counseling, a group counseling, coaching, and psychotherapy practice located in downtown Chicago. She has been instrumental in Symmetry Counseling’s growth and success, and what started in 2011 with just six offices and five counselors has expanded to include over 20 professionals and 19 offices in two Chicago locations. Dr. Malec, who had an earlier career in business, made a significant shift in 2000 when she began her training in the fields of Marriage and Family Therapy and later, Clinical Psychology.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


Keep reading Show less
Shop

There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

Keep reading Show less
Life