Learning How to Fight … and Other Tales from a Happy Marriage

RockyThe best advice I never received about marriage was learning how to fight.

No, my wife isn’t a wannabe UFC champ, but fighting is an integral part of any relationship. And even the best marriages require a little rope-a-dope. Ours is no different.

It’s one of a laundry list of items hidden from newlyweds, like how the ugly truths about parenthood are kept in a vault for fear that no one will ever procreate.

Our ability to fight, make up and not leave any pirate-like scars has been a key reason we’ll be celebrating our eighth year of marriage later this month. It’s eight years, right honey? For some reason I can’t do the new math on how many years of wedded bliss we’re in. That can’t be good.

My future wife and I rarely fought when we were dating. When it happened, it felt awful and unfamiliar, like we had discovered a new side of our relationship we wanted to bury as swiftly as possible. The good times always outweighed the bad, so learning how to fight didn’t seem important. It wasn’t … then.

Being married ups the stakes on any skirmish. And when we fought during the first few months of our marriage, both my wife and I emerged with wounds that felt like they would never mend. It didn’t help that we grew up in vastly different family cultures. Mine was often loud, and shouting wasn’t an uncommon event even when there wasn’t a lick of malice behind it. My wife’s family was more reserved. So when I raised my voice in a fight it felt jarring to the Missus. Understanding the backgrounds we bring to a marriage is a critical step in learning how to fight better.

Today, my wife and I are like sparring partners who step in the ring now and then but typically leave with a respectful nod or vow to grab a drink later. What changed?

I’ve learned to temper my volume control, for starters. I also know when it’s time to apologize, earlier rather than later, to stop matters from escalating. It’s not a matter of simply muttering, “yes, dear,” or, “you’re right, dear” like too many stand-up comedians suggest. If you’re wrong, admit it. If both parties are to blame, cop to your part.

I also understand my wife’s strengths and weaknesses, so hammering the latter makes little sense unless I truly want to go a few extra rounds. And I don’t. Nor should you. Should my wife blow a gasket when I fail to fix the garage door when she knows I’m a lousy handyman?

The first rule of Marriage Fight Club is know thy opponent. What makes sense in my marriage won’t help solve my bud’s woes, but the same general tactics covered here apply.

Now, let’s get out there and have a clean fight … and make up ASAP.

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