| A Better You |

Fight Nice

“It’s not if you fight, it’s how you fight.” Yet “fighting nice” is easier said than done

Fight Nice
Abby Delouya

I’ve said it before, but it’s research backed and worth repeating: “It’s not if you fight, it’s how you fight.” Yet “fighting nice” is easier said than done.

Why is it so hard to control ourselves when we’re upset? It may be physical — when we’re tired or grumpy, we may have difficulty controlling how we speak. It may be emotional — when we’re feeling flooded, or extra sensitive due to old wounding, whether from earlier times in the marriage or from childhood, then we have even less capacity to regulate. If it’s hysterical, it’s likely historical.

The good news is that if we practice “good fighting,” we’ll have an easier time accessing these skills even under stress. Before we get there though, let’s examine the four most destructive conflict styles that damage relationships.

You’re critical: Criticism strikes at the core character of a person. It’s a very personal way to attack, and whether or not it’s intentional, it takes the focus off the subject or issue and aims anger directly at your spouse. The target is who your spouse is as a person. Examples of criticism are: “You never help out,” “Why can’t you be more considerate?” or “You’re always missing the boat on things….”

You’re mean-spirited: This can also be called contemptuous, disrespectful, or purposefully hurtful. People who have this conflict style might name-call, ridicule, mock, and bully their spouses. Examples of this are: “It feels like I’m talking to a child,” “Are you stupid? Do you need me to slow it down for you?” or “Try not to embarrass me like you always do….”

You’re on the defense: While it’s a natural response to criticism, defensiveness signals to your partner that their concerns don’t matter or that they are wrong. Let’s say you asked your spouse to make a return at the post office. When you ask about it, he automatically gets defensive by saying, “I told you I’d take care of it, stop nagging,” or “Yeah? Like how you were supposed to bring the library books back last week?” This type of response deflects responsibility and doesn’t address the need being discussed.

You check out: Instead of making defensive or rude digs back you do the opposite — you simply shut down. While you might not be saying anything mean, you’re also unable to make a repair. Not answering or stonewalling can feel as rejecting and upsetting as an active verbal fight.

How do we have a good fight?

Be respectful: This includes letting your spouse finish his/her sentences. Listen like you want to be listened to — which probably includes a calm tone, enough time to share your feelings, and validation of your emotions.

Stick to the issue: If you’re jumping from topic to topic or year to year (“This is exactly what happened three years ago at Uncle Benny’s house…”) then things will escalate fast. When an issue is contained and not part of a larger, more intense narrative, it’s easier to discuss.

Choose your timing: Don’t start a heavy convo when someone is falling asleep or just waking up. If it’s been a stressful day at work or with the kids, be mindful of that as well. Try to plan a time to discuss the issue, and if you have difficulty staying on track or not interrupting each other consider setting a timer as each of you shares.

Give space when needed: If someone asks for a time-out — give one. Time-outs allow for cool downs and can help to regulate and bring the most relevant topics back to focus.


Abby Delouya, RMFT-CCC, CPTT is a licensed marriage and individual therapist with a specialty in trauma and addiction.


Off Course
Sara Eisemann

What disrupts our peace most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be.”


“Should” and “supposed to” are the enemies of menuchas hanefesh. Where we bring expectation, we bring turmoil along as well. We get so invested in how we want or need things to be that we create tension both internally and externally in an attempt to get there. But who defines the “shoulds”? Who decides how things are “supposed to be”?

There’s a sort of unspoken script for life — healthy childhood, formative adolescence, education, loving marriage, productive work, beautiful family, and so on. When we look around, however, it’s hard to find anyone who treads this path seamlessly. Most people stumble somewhere along the road, if not in several places. Yet somehow the narrative lives on and causes endless anguish to those who embrace it.

Getting lost in what we want it to be robs us of the ability to experience the gifts of what it is. Letting go of expectations and the accompanying stress creates a space that can be filled with acceptance and serenity. Every stage of life can be mined for lessons, for growth, and even for joy. The couple that awaits their first child may be cultivating a strong friendship. The unemployed man might be learning something about what his actual interests are. And on it goes.

While it’s easier said than done, if we can accept that everything is exactly as it should be, we won’t waste our energy and our precious lives mourning what it could have been.


Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed therapist, Directed Dating coach and certified Core Mentor.


Staying Safe from Top Down
Dr. Jennie Berkovich

Whoosh! I looked back to see a bochur zoom past me on his scooter, but was relieved to see that at least he had donned a helmet. Whether it’s biking, skateboarding, rollerblading, or scootering, helmets are an absolute necessity.

Childhood accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, and a head injury can lead to lifelong consequences. Wearing a helmet while biking reduces the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Helmets are critical when skateboarding, especially when children are learning new tricks or even just cruising at low speeds. And even at low speeds, a fall from a scooter can lead to head trauma.

Accidents can occur unexpectedly, and a helmet offers comprehensive protection. By consistently enforcing helmet use in all scenarios, we instill a lifelong habit of safety in our children. My patients will recognize the phrase, “If it has wheels on the ground, you need a helmet on your keppie!”


Dr. Jennie Berkovich is a board-certified pediatrician in Chicago and serves as the Director of Education for the Jewish Orthodox Women's Medical Association (JOWMA)


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 873)

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