Summary: In marriage, we are going to encounter conflict, and at some point, we’re going to fight dirty. And sometimes we will be on the receiving end of these dirty tactics.

Eventually, you’re going to fight

In marriage, we are going to encounter conflict, and at some point we’re going to fight dirty. And sometimes we will be on the receiving end of these dirty tactics. Perhaps we don’t consciously choose to fight in this way. But consciously or unconsciously, we continue to do it because it’s worked in the past or because we’ve seen it modeled. When we fight dirty, we’re often looking to gain an advantage through another’s weakness. If we’re hostile at that moment, we know that we can get a reaction by pushing their buttons in certain areas. We’ve shifted the goal, now willing to inflict pain to win. And if your goal is to win the argument, there’s going to be a loser. Additionally, if you lose a lot, you might even fight dirtier to win occasionally. And thus, the downward cycle that turns ugly. But could there be a better goal than inflicting pain on the other person? Is there a better win?

Two Things to Remember in Conflict

One | The goal of marriage

Marriage is not about winning and losing; it’s about oneness. When one person in a marriage loses, they both lose, and when one person wins, they both win. Oneness is about a husband and wife becoming so intimately connected that they develop a mental, physical, relational, and spiritual harmony that goes beyond human possibilities. Two become one in the flesh. But occasionally in an effort to find oneness, you and your spouse will have conflict. Conflict is often an attempt to come to mutual understanding. Like two positive poles on a magnet, at times you will repel each other, and when this happens, you will have disagreements, conflicts, arguments, or fights—call them what you want. It’s fine to engage in a debate for the purpose of understanding each other and coming to a common understanding. But as these moments happen, you and your spouse can develop some unhealthy patterns. As a result, you might interpret your spouse as an enemy rather than an ally, and therefore go on the attack and fight dirty, losing sight of the goal of understanding.

Two | Stop dirty tactics

There are a lot of great dirty fighting techniques out there. Some you know better than others because you use them or have had them used against you. Below is a short list of some common tactics. Consider the ones you use and the one your spouse uses and have a conversation about them. (Please don’t have this discussion during a dispute but during a time of peace.) You can even rank them by the ones you feel you each resort to the most.

Twenty dirty techniques:

1) Bad Timing. Pick the worst time to start an argument.

2) Escalating. Move quickly from a single issue to more significant matters you’ve been waiting to bring up.

3) Sand Bagging. Move from the primary issue to all the other problems you have.

4) Generalizing. Use inflammatory language like “always” and “never.”

5) Cross-Complaining. Respond to their complaints with one of your own.

6) Interrogating. Imply with a question that they could have easily done something that they didn’t do. For example, “Why didn’t you...”

7) Blaming. Make the issue entirely their fault.

8) Pulling Rank. Make the point that you do more than them in every area.

9) Dominating. Talk over them regardless of what they say.

10) Violation Listing. Recite every injustice you’ve suffered.

11) Negative Labeling. Give the person a negative psychological label like “immature” or “neurotic.”

12) Mind Reading. Telling the person why they did something even if you don’t know.

13) Predicting. Predict fatalistic views of the future.

14) Avoiding Ownership. Don’t take responsibility for anything.

15) Exiting. Walk out of the room or leave the house in protest.

16) Denying Compromise. Never back down from your position.

17) Personalizing. Make it about the person and not the issue.

18) Victimizing. Make yourself the eternal martyr.

19) Grudging. Hold a grudge forever and bring it up repeatedly.

20) Shifting. Be inconsistent in an argument to avert resolution.

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