Welcome to “Love and Sex Today.” I am Dr. Doug Weiss and today’s topic is called “Fighting Fair.” This comes from my book, “The Ten-Minute Marriage Principle.” I’m going to give you principles from there so that you can reduce your arguments, and make your arguments effective that you’re actually solving problems instead of attacking each other and using your skills to win. You might be wrong and you could still win an argument.
What I’m going to teach you today is going to be how to fight fair, but also how to get the best solution for any problem in your marriage. How would you like to be able to efficiently solve problems and get the best solution every time? Well, that’s our topic for today.
If you’re married or you’re in a primary relationship, even if you’re dating for goodness sake, you’re going to have conflict. One of the realities of life is life will continually bring you challenges, no matter how perfect and wonderful your life currently is. I have a really good life and yet there’s going to be challenges in my life. Probably today there’s going to be a problem we have to solve, a relationship we have to look at or reevaluate. This is constant. It’s called growth, and conflicts can lead you to growth. It can lead you to new ideas. It can lead you to new solutions if you know how to do conflict well.
Now, fortunately or unfortunately for you, depending on how you grew up or what you were exposed to, you didn’t learn how to do conflict well. You try to be right and being right is more important than actually solving a problem. Beating the other person at the game of conflict has become more important than actually sitting through and creating the best solution for the day. This is so common. I’ve dealt with helping people fight fair for over thirty years. It is wonderful to see people arise, using new skills, practicing, and getting better results. Well, that’s what you get to do today. Let me give you your skill.
I have a fighting fair worksheet that will help you. If you want one, we’d be happy to email you one. Go to loveandsextoday.com and click the email tab. Just send us a message asking for “the fighting fair worksheet.” My staff will know what it is and they’ll email it to you. You can print off about 20 of those and you want to do that so you can practice arguing.
When someone does a three and five-day intensive at Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, oftentimes, they do this exercise. I give them 8 or 10 of the worksheets and I say, “Today, I want you to hash out two or three fights and go through the worksheets. After you leave here, I want you to do another five and when you follow up your phone call with me, let’s go ahead and find out what those five arguments were, how you fought fair and how you solved the problem.” I’ve also done this at conferences. It’s a blast to watch people fight in less than five minutes and solve problems that have been plaguing them for sometimes five, ten, fifteen years.
The first thing you do at the top of the sheet is you state one problem. Now, this right here totally destroys the people who want to cover every issue to find a solution. “We’re talking about me. Now, let’s talk about you. Let’s talk about your mom. Let’s talk about the past. Let’s talk about the future. Let’s talk about the dog.” You cannot solve a problem if you’re not focused on one problem. Now, if other problems come up, you can sidebar a little, “Okay, we’ll talk about that next but let’s stay on the problem.” I’ll give you an example at the end.
Number two, this is where it’s challenging. You need to write down your feelings. He writes his. She writes hers. You both write down your feelings. If you’re not good at feelings, read my post about emotional fitness and get my book, “Emotional Fitness.” Get good at feelings because if you’re in a long-term relationship and you don’t know how to do feelings, you’re handicapped on being able to do a lot of things. If you are emotionally handicapped, your conflict resolving skills will be limited because you won’t be able to communicate your feelings towards an issue. You might be arguing about feeling a certain way although you don’t have a clue that’s what you’re doing. You’re going to argue because you feel disrespected and instead of being able to say, “You know what, I felt disrespected and you hurt my feelings,” you’re going to argue about something off the wall. So being able to identify your feelings about the issue is very important.
The next step is to write down new ideas. Now so far, all you’re doing is writing. You both have a sheet of paper. You’re not talking. He writes down his ideas. She writes down her ideas. The next step is combining the ideas. I’m just going to assume that you’re reasonably intelligent and as a reasonably intelligent person, you probably have dated and married a reasonably intelligent person. At least you used to think that, so you want to be able to combine ideas because no matter what the problem is, you’re going to come up with some of the same solutions which all by itself should confirm your hypothesis that you married someone intelligent.
Lastly, you vote from 1 to 10. One is I don’t like the idea we’re voting on. Ten is I love this idea we are voting on. It may be your own idea but you love it. So let’s suppose you have five different solutions for this problem and then you vote on your options. In option one, the vote total is eight. The option two, the vote total is 13. For option three, the vote total is six. Option four, it’s 10. Option five is 18. Well, 18 would win the day. Now, some people actually use the sheets and they keep these in some kind of record. They sign on the bottom, in that way, they don’t have to keep solving the same problem a hundred times in their marriage.
I can’t tell you how many couples argue about the same thing again and again and again. My wife Lisa and I rarely have a conversation again and again and again. We’ve used the format of being able to solve problems most of our marriage and it really helps us stay friends because even through the process, we’re hearing each other. We don’t always agree on what each other’s feeling or even some of the ideas that we come up with, but we get down to it and we solve the problem and we don’t have these recurring problems because we solved them.
Let me give you my classic example of this. Lisa and I were married for probably just a couple of months when I was getting my master’s degree. I was working more than full-time, taking a full load of master’s level classes. Lisa was working full-time, but we had different shifts because we only had one car, which was her car. So I would take her to work in the morning. I would pick her up and I would tell her where the car was because we worked in the same building and then she would take the car home and she’d come and pick me up at [spp-timestamp time="11:00"] at night. This went on for a couple of years.
Well, this particular day, I was running late and I had my backpack full of books and I was running towards the door and my beautiful wife was sitting on the sofa and she was going to be home the rest of the night and she looked at me and said, “Don’t forget to take out the garbage.” I said, “I don’t know what this garbage thing is but when I come home tonight, we’re going to solve this.” Okay, so what we found out is that we both came from different garbage histories. That’s right, a garbage history. You have a garbage history. Everyone has a garbage history. It’s how your family manages garbage.
Lisa’s the last of six children. Imagine eight people in the same house and how much garbage that would produce. That’s a lot of garbage, okay? She was at home while all the other kids were at school and she would watch her mom collect all the garbage and take these big garbage bags down flights of steps to the curb. In her little girl heart, (I’m talking about someone before kindergarten) she created an idea that said “if my dad loved my mom, he would take out the garbage,” so garbage means a man loves his wife. That’s her rationale, but she created it before kindergarten so you got to give her some grace there on that.
Well, in my world, I lived in a house with my two half sisters, my stepdad, and my mom. We had a totally different garbage system. It was like this kind of equalitarian garbage system. It didn’t matter if you were male or female and it didn’t matter if you were a child or an adult. The garbage would pile up and you were allowed to pile that garbage as high as you could, but if it fell over, you were responsible to take it out. So we’d be sitting around, maybe watching TV or having dinner and someone would make a crash and the garbage would hit the floor. We all just laughed, and that person would take the trash out.
As you can see, Lisa and I came from different garbage universes and we had to solve the garbage problem. Maybe Lisa felt disrespected or unloved or unimportant. Maybe I felt confused, frustrated, and burdened. Then we write down our ideas for a solution. Remember, there’s only two of us in the house. There’s not a lot of garbage. It’s only one flight of steps down and we were both in really good shape at this time in our lives for sure. Lisa’s ideas might be for me take it out all the time as the man. My idea was to rotate taking it out.
Once we combined our ideas, we voted on them. Okay, maybe Lisa votes 10 on me taking it out. I vote one, that’s 11. Her taking out, she votes two and I vote eight, well that’s 10. Rotating taking out, she votes seven, I vote seven and that’s 14. 14 wins. We rotate who takes it out. This method of solution can be applied to bigger issues. In reality, I felt that hey, if that means I love you, and that’s achieved to do that, no problem. Let me do that for 20 years. Now we both do it because we have to drive down to take the garbage out.
But that’s how you would solve the problem: you walk through the grid, state the problem, state your feelings, his and hers, write those down, write your different ideas down, combine those ideas, vote on the ideas, so you don’t have to argue about issues repeatedly. You can save these worksheets to prevent future arguments. “Hey, you want to talk about garbage?” “I thought we did that one already. Let’s look back. Page, page, page. Oh yeah, there’s the garbage argument. You want to do it again?” This is ridiculously easy and it’s amazing how quick I can turn couples that fight like cats and dogs into problem solvers.
Well, you deserve that problem solver lifestyle. Again, if you want that worksheet, go to loveandsextoday.com and give us an email. We’re more than happy to send it to you. Go to our website, please subscribe, and find a free chapter to one of my books. We would love for you to write us a review on iTunes. One of you who write a review will be chosen for a private priceless conversation with me which will be a blast, and we will be able to solve something that’s going on in your life. We really want you to have great life. This is one of those practical skills. Share this with all your friends so that you can help them fight better. Remember, always have great love.