The Divorce Lawyer’s Handbook for Staying Married
CHAPTER SIX — FIGHT FAIRLY
Arguing, fighting, bickering and nagging are ways of expressing disagreement with your spouse, that can become destructive and turn into insults, bottled up anger, storming off and the silent treatment. We learned to fight from our parents who taught us that success means winning an argument. And the longer the conflict stews, the more we mull it over, and the bigger and scarier it becomes.
Dr. Howard Markman, University of Denver Professor and author of “Fighting for Your Marriage”, tells the Wall Street Journal that it’s not that we fight, but how we fight, that’s important in keeping couples happy and together. He says that each person needs to know that they are being listened to and getting their point across. Dr. Markman has developed the “speaker-listener technique” to teach couples how to fight fairly and resolve their conflicts more successfully.
He says call a 15 minute meeting to discuss the issue. Do not be intent on finding a solution. The meeting is just to talk and listen about the problem. Flip a coin to see who goes first.
The winner of the coin toss explains his or her position first in two or three sentences. The other party (1) listens and (2) repeats what he or she heard to acknowledge the other person’s position and show that he or she understands it. Then the same spouse gets to elaborate with two or three more statements. Next the roles are reversed and the parties go through the process again. Dr. Markman says a solution may become obvious by the end of the exercise. “A lot of times, all you need is to be listened to,” says Dr. Markman.