How to fight fair

Today I wanted to explore Dr. King’s sayings on protest in terms of how to fight fair with your spouse. This is the second of 3 posts celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King and kicking off Black History Month in February.

2.  “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” ~MLK

2011 was a year of protests, from Egypt to the Occupation of towns across America. Many of these protests involved thousands of peaceful, non-violent protestors. At the same time, many of them also devolved into violence. Watching the Occupy Oakland protestors next door to my home town, Alameda, I saw first hand how similar this conflict was to how argument escalates in a marriage. It reminded me of how important it is to learn how to fight fair and carry Dr. King’s words in our hearts.

It started out peacefully enough with one side–the “people”–stating their opinion and displeasure at their relationship with the other side–the government. At first side #1 received  non-response from the other side (the Mayor’s office). So they continued with their complaint. With no dialog occurring between the two sides, each became more and more worked up and entrenched in their different opinions. After becoming increasingly frustrated with the protesters and unsure of what to do, side #2 lashed out with frustration at side #1. Both sides ended up exploding at each other with terrible violence. When the smoke cleared, both were hurt, embarrassed, and more alienated from each other than before, and nothing productive had come out of the encounter.

Both the Occupy protesters, the government, and our marriages can benefit from learning how to fight fair. Only mutual love and respect can solve a dispute between two parties–screaming louder to drown out the shouts of the other side will not convince them that you are right. Here’s how to win a fight with love. This is how to fight fair.

1. Love means...being truly interested in your spouse’s point of view and hearing her opinion.

Realize that both of you have important view points to contribute the issue. If you respect your spouse, you will respect their needs and desires reflected in their opinions. Being negative or dismissive about things that are important to your spouse will lead to serious marriage problems.

2. Love means…willing to work together until you find a win-win solution.

Try to get to the root causes of your opinions instead of focusing on opposing solutions. For example, you want to go biking but your spouse wants to watch a movie. Two opposing ideas, right? Well what if your underlying reason is that you want to get out of the house, and your spouse’s reason is that she has been on her feet all day and wants to rest. Now you can find a new solution that addresses both your desires. Why not go for a car ride–you get out of the house, and she can stay seated. Win-win!

3. Love means…knowing where your anger limits are and working around them.

Everyone has hot spots that get them from calm to raging in 2 seconds. Know what gets you riled and will push you away from how to fight fair. At these times practice Exit and Re-enter strategy: leave the room to cool down and return once you’re calm.

4. Love means…being on the same team.

If you treat your partner with love, you will realize that you are always on the same team. You are both working together on how to make a relationship last long, healthy and happy for yourselves and your children. Likewise, the citizen and the government are really working towards the same goal: to have a safe, supportive, and respectful relationship, and to create a great country. Maybe marriage skills and conflict resolution should be required teaching in high school civics classes!