And In THIS Corner…

Fighting fair (yeah, right) with your spouse

In my opinion the famous quote, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath” is an incomplete thought. The rest of it should be, "stay up and fight.” This is especially the case if you are married. But fighting, like anything else, isn't a skill you learn overnight. It takes years and years of practice, and is best left in the hands of trained professionals. Like my husband and me, for example.

Just last weekend we had a fight. Oh, don't worry, it wasn't anything serious. In fact, looking back, the whole thing was pretty silly. Here's what happened. The party-of-the-first-part simply made one tiny little innocent, casual, helpful remark that there was a green arrow in the right-hand-turn lane. Well, all of a sudden the party-of-the-second-part went completely ape and started ranting and raving about backseat drivers and "passenger-side windbags”. Then he swelled up like an old toad. Honestly, it was ridiculous, if the party-of-the-first-part does say so herself. Fortunately, within a few minutes, we arrived home, which signaled the end of Round One.

Unlike fighting in a car, where the only thing you can do is glare out the window or flip to a radio station you know the other person hates, fighting in a house has endless possibilities. Like avoidance, for instance. Party-of-the-first-part goes to one end of the house. Party-of-the-second-part heads off to the other. But after a while, you realize that this is getting you nowhere. After all, what good is banging drawers shut and kicking shoes across the room if the enemy doesn't know you're doing it? So you wander into common territory, like the family room, and Round Two begins.

The family room, you will discover, is the perfect arena for fighting's most sacred tool, the Silent Treatment. This weapon is used in one of two ways. First is the two-party Silent Treatment. Just as the name implies, each side is equally frosty and cold toward the other. No eye contact is made. Nothing is said. This can go on for hours, or even days if you handle it just right.

The other use is the one-party Silent Treatment, and is really the most effective. In our case last weekend, my feelings were still hurt over the turn-signal incident, while my husband had gotten over it completely, so I was giving him the one-party Silent Treatment. Believe me, it wasn't easy because I am by nature such a congenial person. To make things worse, he came in the room with the latest issue of "Boy's Life” magazine. (For those of you who didn't have sons, this little gem of a magazine has something to do with the Boys Scouts, and is chock full of useful information like which of nature's native plants and/or shrubs make the most suitable substitute for toilet paper in the wilderness. Why we still get this publication, when our own son is thirty-three tells you a lot about the maturity level of my husband. I'm not being petty. It's just a fact.) So anyway this dumb magazine had just arrived in the mail, so Marc brought it into the den where I was ironing and cheerfully started asking me riddles from the Joke Page.

"Why was the limestone mad?” he asked. I said nothing and continued to iron wrinkles into his shirts. So he answered the riddle himself, "Because it was taken for granite”. He laughed. I didn't.

Undaunted he tried again.  "What do you do when two snails start fighting?” He paused, and when I didn't respond he said, "Nothing. You just have to let them slug it out”.

Let me tell you, at that point it was all I could do to keep a straight face, but I managed to pull myself together, and just kept on ironing, without saying a word. After a while, my husband said, "I'd like to know just how long this cold shoulder is going to last, so I can plan my evening accordingly”. This was a signal that the Silent Treatment had run its course, and it was now time for Round Three, the real fight.

The challenge here is to choose your words carefully. I'd suggest such time-honored phrases as, "Did it ever occur to you that…” or "For your information…” and my personal favorite, the curt, but all-expressive, "Fine”.

Some experts say that when fighting you shouldn't yell and scream, use the words "always” and "never”, or bring up old issues from the past. I say Poppycock. Any fight worth messing with has no rules. In fact, the next time you feel a good fight coming on, do like the snails do. Just get in there and slug it out!

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