Fighting is a normal part of any relationship, but the first marital fight after tying the knot can feel particularly intense for many couples. Feeling intense is also a normal occurrence, and luckily there is a lot you can do to get to the other side quickly and with minimal damage.
Why the first marital fight feels so big
It goes without saying that marriage is a large commitment. This commitment can make the first fight of this important stage of your relationship feel particularly heavy. It is common to have fleeting thoughts of dread, and you wonder if you made the wrong decision in getting married. In some ways, the stakes have been raised!
During the first fight, you may be hyper-aware that simply walking away is no longer a viable option. The idea that it would be easy to become disentangled from your partner during an argument helps to take the pressure off of heated discussions before marriage. In the early stages of marriage, you are navigating the new dynamics of your relationship.
Redirect your focus to take the pressure off
Instead of focusing on the fact that you are legally bound to your partner, and are now arguing with them, remember the following:
Your partner is still the same person he or she was before you got married.
While the stakes may be higher, the person you married is the same person you were with before the ceremony. Nothing fundamental has changed. While an argument may feel more intense, you are both the same two people navigating a disagreement.
You have overcome many arguments over the course of your relationship before marriage.
The two of you have likely disagreed before, many times. As a couple, you worked through those arguments and overcame them to get to marriage in the first place. This, in combination, with the first point – that you are still the same people— should provide ample evidence that you will get through this argument too.
You both just made a commitment to enter the marriage and make your relationship permanent.
The weight of marriage during the first argument often obscures the fact that you both just made a commitment, likely a public declaration, to prioritize your relationship and make the marriage work. This should make your argument seem smaller in many ways.
To get through the fight smoothly and without lasting damage, you want to make sure that you are fighting in a constructive manner that ultimately de-escalates the situation.
Listen and repeat what your partner is saying.
You may have heard this tip before, and with good reason—it works! At the core of most arguments is that neither partner feels like they are truly heard. If you make it clear to your spouse that you are listening, the fight may turn into a simple discussion.
Be sure to listen to your partner without interrupting them. Then, even if you disagree, take the time to repeat what you understood back to your partner. This will give them the opportunity to address any misunderstandings that have been created and enforces that you are listening.
Own your feelings and lead with them.
Avoid language like “you make me…” or “you are so…” This language implicitly puts the blame on your partner and leaves no room for them to work with you. Instead, try phrasing your complaints in terms of how you feel. For example, “when you do…, it makes me feel…” or “when this happens, it makes me feel like you don’t care.” This also allows your partner to see what actions or events lead to the argument and ways that they can change their behavior.
Know when you need to take a break.
We often feel like a heated argument needs to be resolved right away. The truth is, once you or your partner have been triggered to a certain point of anger, arguing is no longer productive. Pay attention to your partner’s cues and realize when you have reached a limit. Check in with yourself to see how much access to reason you have at the moment. If you feel like no progress can be made in the current emotional state, suggest a break or even sleep on it.
Fighting is a part of every relationship and every marriage. Remember that you and your partner have overcome many fights in the past to keep the first fight after tying the knot in perspective. Employ good fighting techniques to make sure that you both get through this first fight, and all the fights to follow, in one piece!
About the Author
Joel Curtis is a registered Psychologists with Endeavour Wellness and has over 17 years of experience. Joel holds a Masters’ Degree in Psychology from Western Sydney University. He owns a number of private practices in Sydney and provides expert content for several national TV and Radio programs.