Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Strengthening Marriages: Stop Screaming!

Part III of a four-part series by Greg Wells.

Principal Two:
Fight fair.
No hitting “below the belt.”

Fighting (conflict) is part of any relationship, and learning to do so in a healthy way is imperative. Our natural tendency when angry is to try and hurt the other person before they can hurt us, and we all know what “buttons” to push to really do the most damage to our spouse. Pushing those buttons is the equivalent of hitting “below the belt,” and is something to be avoided at all costs.

The majority of couples I see in my practice that have trouble fighting fair and not hitting “below the belt” fall in to one of two categories: “Screamers” and “Aliens.”

If you and/or your spouse are Screamers—that is, you always seem to end up losing control and yelling at each other, try having a “Paper Fight.”

No, you don’t wad up paper and throw it at each other, as tempting as that might be. Rather, you are to agree ahead of time that the next time you get in an argument, either one of you can call a “time out” (literally use those words) and instead of having a verbal argument that turns into a screaming match, you’re going to Paper Fight.

Paper Fighting means just that: grab a pen/pencil and pad of paper, and both of you sit down at a table. WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING, the person who called “time out” is to start writing whatever they want to say. Once done, pass the paper to the other person, who is to read what was written, and then respond—on paper—with their side of things. This pattern should continue back and forth until both people can agree on paper that they are finished. It is important that NOTHING is said out loud from the moment “time out” is called until both agree on paper they are finished arguing.

The first time you try a Paper Fight, you can expect to spend upwards of an hour arguing it out. However, over time you’ll get more efficient at arguing on paper, as well as get better at not raising your voices in the first place. After all, it’s much easier to state calmly and clearly what you’re feeling than it is to have to write it all down.

Tomorrow: Advice for Aliens

Greg Wells is the Director of Counseling Services at 121 Community Church and the counselor at 121 Counseling Services. An ordained minister, Greg is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife have been married for eleven years, and work together raising their two daughters. Greg counsels on variety of issues, including trauma/abuse and intimacy in marriage.

You can contact Greg directly at:

(Photo by Mr. Wind-Up Bird. See for restrictions.)

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