Rules for fighting fairly

Joey Garcia

In all of our arguments, my wife tells me to “act like a man.” But if I attempt to use strong, “manly” words or actions, she accuses me of trying to be right or better than her. She is constantly busting my balls, and when her yelling succeeds in breaking me down until I cry, she accuses me of being a wimp. I cannot feel good about myself or confident when she blocks me both ways. She seems to want total control of everything in our home and of me. I can’t talk to her without hearing, “Shut up!” Please give me your advice.

You are being emotionally abused. Abuse occurs in fights, not in arguments. According to Michele McCarty, a writer who specializes in relationship books for young adults, “In an argument, conflicting thoughts and feelings are expressed strongly but appropriately. In a verbal fight, unfair tactics are used, which are hurtful to the parties and to their relationship.” McCarty specifies six rules for fighting fairly: (1) Use “I” or “we” messages. (2) Don’t argue about personal or private matters in public. (3) Don’t ask questions unless you honestly want an answer. (4) Handle small complaints as they arise; don’t stock up on gripes and grudges until you explode. (5) Remember that the only possible winner in an argument is both of you. (6—the rule that relates to your situation) “Stick to the point. Don’t use hurtful verbal weapons or psychological warfare. Waiting for an opening and then … attacking the other person’s sore spots or vulnerable points, such as their manhood or womanhood, reputation, looks and so on, just isn’t arguing fairly. Trying to keep the upper hand by breaking down in tears or walking out or pouting or giving someone the silent treatment is also fighting dirty. It attempts to play on someone’s genuine emotions and their feelings for you in order to get your own way. But look out if you’re found out!”

Now that you’ve discovered the truth behind the dynamics in your relationship, what can you do? Understand that your wife likely was abused herself. Or, she observed someone else being demeaned and unconsciously chose to identify with the abuser. She needs psychotherapy, and so do you. It’s vital for you to learn why you choose to accept such treatment. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

My retired parents guilt-trip me for not spending time with them. The frustrating thing is that both of them were too tired or busy to spend much time with me while I was growing up. Plus, they were, and still are, extremely critical and quarrelsome, so spending time with them is painful. How can I get them to understand that I have my own life, and it doesn’t revolve around them?

You can’t. They’re going to believe whatever allows them to be right and you to be wrong. But you can stop guilt-tripping yourself for not being the person they expect you to be. Stop any thoughts that revolve around them and fully invest yourself in relationships with people who are peaceful and accepting of you.

My girlfriend is very superstitious and broke a mirror. She has been depressed ever since. How do we replace the bad with good?

How do you stop living in fear of beliefs? Try my friend Byron Katie’s process at

Meditation of the week
Suffering, entombment, resurrection. Which phase of transformation do you avoid: the realization of suffering, the need for genuine solitude or standing in the fullness of your relationship with God?

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