Heart Smart (Learning to Fight Fair)

Couple holding hands 1

Doc and I had a fight the other day.

It was SO stupid. We weren’t even mad at each other. We simply disagreed about something.

He handled it marvelously (he usually does.) I was the one with my nose bent out of shape. We didn’t reach an agreement before he had to leave town but even though we didn’t agree, we reconciled and that was enough for me.

And we did it laughing.

The turning point in the “discussion” happened about two-thirds through. Mutual exasperation could have left us speechless so I guess instead of awkward silence we laughed.

Doc’s absence over the next few days left me pondering why our conversation ended on such a healthy note. I couldn’t help but think “Wow, we know how to fight, and it only took twenty-seven years to figure it out!”

Dear DoAheads, this is what I want to share today…principles that will keep our hearts smart. Below are several truths we need to remember when tensions rise and we’re tempted to fight against our spouse instead of for our marriage.

Five Principles for Fighting Fair

1. If you win, someone you love loses.

This underlying truth has profoundly influenced many conversations between Doc and I.

If either party has the mindset that they want to win, it’s NOT a good time to talk  The result will inevitably be… no one wins. When we enter a disagreement we must enter into it with the mindset that “winning” means the couple is the victor——- not one individual.

“Do I really want you to lose?” When I allow that phrase to hover in my head during hard conversations it keeps my mind, motives and mouth accountable. It also helps me to do the next thing on the list.

2. Don’t back the other person in a corner.

This sounds like the first principle but there’s another angle to it. I learned this gem from Doc.

He has the opportunity to deal with all kinds of folks in different work settings. One day He came home and told me about a hard conversation he had to have with someone. He interjected, “I didn’t want to back them in corner. I had to give them a way out.”

How smart. “Give the other guy a way out.” If the motive of the fight is to prove the other person wrong and push them in their corner with no way out what does that accomplish?

A tool for helping your “opponent” not feel trapped  is to let them know you believe the best of them, ‘I’m sure you didn’t intend to hurt me…”, “I know you would never deliberately…”. When we are hurt, giving the perpetrator a way out can be hard, but it’s also an effective way to move forward in conflict.

3. It’s imperative to listen.

Paradoxically, this is the simplest yet hardest thing to do. It is incredibly difficult to truly listen! I have to push my thoughts aside when Doc and I are in a knee-deep disagreement. If I don’t, I end up listening half way. The other half of my energy is focused on how I am going to counter him as soon as he has finished speaking. For the love of Mike, why is it so hard to really listen?

4. It’s essential to know if what you’ve heard is on target.

It’s not a typo that listen is listed twice. The first time it’s with the intent that our mouths stay shut. Our only job is to focus on what the other person is trying to communicate.  FIRST we just listen, THEN we listen and reflect back what we think we’ve heard. For example,

Husband says, “I wish you would have told me you were going to get a membership at the gym. It costs $45 a month. I can’t believe you would spend that without talking to me first.”

Wife has several options:

#1 Assume the worst of her spouse and reply, “Don’t tell me my business! I can’t believe you’re such a control freak!”

#2 Does not assume the worst of her husband but makes a wrong assumption regarding his motive, “I don’t understand why you feel I need to get your approval on every budget decision we make.”

#3 Assume the best of her husband and wisely reflect back what she’s heard so she can understand where he’s coming from, “I know the budget is important to you because you care about big-picture finances for our household, but are you more concerned with the actual outlay of cash or that I didn’t check with you first? Help me understand.”

 5. Speaking the truth in love is vital.

Speaking truth in love is the yin to the yang of listening. Good listening is vital to knowing what the other person needs and wants. Speaking truth in love is the only way to let them know your needs and want. It would be unfair to them and to the relationship to withhold that information.

Authentic relationships are built on honest, open communication. There’s only one catch. The truth must be spoken in love.

The “scientific barometer” I’ve found for truth in love is that it’s usually the thing I need to say but can hardly form on my lips. This is the opposite of what can happen to me in the heat of the moment when I have little trouble spitting out not-so-nice words. But truth in love? Those words linger both in formation and expression.

Doing Ahead as it pertains to relationships is one of the hardest DoAheads ever.

I can still hear my mother say, “It’s important to think through how you relate to people because you never know how the things you say and do today will affect the people you care about tomorrow.” Maybe that’s what happened with Doc and I. I caught myself imagining how rotten the next few days would feel if he left on an ugly note.

Shaunti Feldhahn (author of the book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages) would have grinned and made the observation that highly happily married couples “discover the difference between resolving their anger and resolving an issue.” Doc and I may not have resolved the issue but we gave anger a marching order with a laugh and resolved to never forget…

Our love for each other trumps anything else.

February is nearly upon us and since it’s the “month of love” I’ll share more insightful findings from Shaunti’s book next week. In the meantime let’s spur each other on to fight for the relationships and people we love!

Your DoAhead Friend,


  1. This is an article! A powerful life changing piece that needs to be shared! Send this out, Cindy!

  2. Thank you Suzie…it’s amazing what 27 years of marriage teaches us! 🙂

  3. Cindy… this is wonderful! And spot on for me today. Two days of an unresolved issue with the hubby and we are both just worn out. Time to change the mindset and the approach.

    Thank you so much for sharing this little nugget of your heart with us!

    Blessings, Jana

  4. This is a wonderful how to post! It is filled with great pointers and very well written. Thanks for sharing. ~ visiting today from #lifefree Thursday

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