How to Fight Smarter, Not Harder

couple fight

“Having your wounds kissed by someone who doesn’t see them as disasters in your soul, but cracks to put their love into, is the most calming thing in this world.”   ― Emery Allen

Conflict is inevitable. But we can greatly influence the quality of conflict in our relationships. We can develop skills that help us transform conflict into a less destructive occurrence.

If done well, conflict can actually be a bonding activity.

My husband and I have been married for less than a year and in the months before our wedding, we attended 12 sessions of Marriage Preparation Counseling at Osage Creek.

We had plenty of conflict then and we still have plenty now… but, we fight so much smarter now than we did before thanks to the insights and tools from those sessions.

One of most invaluable aspects of attending those preparation sessions together was gaining a deeper understanding of each other and why we react to various situations the way we do.

We learned about each other’s “Soul Wound”.

Deep down inside, a very hurt part of my husband still believes the lie that he’s not important.

Deep down inside, a very hurt part of me still believes the lie that I’m not good enough.

In other words, a Soul Wound is a generalized “shame message” that tells us why we are unlovable, unwanted… rejected.

When both my husband and I have our Soul Wounds ‘triggered’ at the same time, that is what makes for a conflict.

On the surface of things, we fight about housework, finances, who’s going to cook dinner, how often to have sex, and all the little things that irritate us like pinpricks: him leaving his socks everywhere, me sleeping in, him forgetting to take out the trash, me not immediately throwing away used kleenex (I know… ew!).

Issues like that are precipitating events, but when we peel back the layers of the onion, we find that what we think is the issue is never really what’s going on. It’s that darn Soul Wound. Those surface layers of habits, preferences, and one-time mistakes ‘trigger’ up the deeper layer –the Soul Wound– and that’s what we’re really fighting about.

When we are truly attached to someone –a parent, our spouse, our dearest friend– losing that bond with them is of life-and-death importance. It’s not about How Could You XYZ?! –it’s about not being important, not being good enough, not being accepted and cherished and… safe.

So, my husband and I attend to these deeper, truer layers of the conflict first.

The calming effect of being truly seen, heard, and understood; of being comforted, reassured, and relieved is not to be underestimated.

When you counteract those Soul Wounds, when you say you are accepted, you are important, you are good enough, you are safe in my love… the fight isn’t so much a fight anymore.

Not only do you end up easily problem-solving the little surface issues of socks and kleenex, but you’ve truly invested in yourselves, in each other, in your relationship by virtue of connecting at a soul level, helping heal those Soul Wounds.

And that makes ‘fighting’ almost kind of awesome!

Do you know what your Soul Wound is? What the one, over-arching lie is that part of you still believes? Can you see how your Soul Wound gets triggered and creates conflict, how the ‘issue’ is never the real issue? Do you agree that it would be powerful for you in your relationships to be comforted, reassured, and relieved more? The next time you fight with someone very close to you, do you think it will help diffuse the conflict to understand that they’re scared and looking to hear from you that they are safe in your love? I dare you to try it!

Photo by Dragunsk Usf

21 thoughts on “How to Fight Smarter, Not Harder”

  1. Wow. The fact that you “fight” as much as you do so early in your marriage has me baffled. I am glad that you have both reached out for support. I suppose that everyone has some sort of Soul Wound but some cuts are deeper than others. I wish you all the luck in growing into your marriage and understanding what triggers each others Soul Wounds so you can steer clear of them. I also hope that your “fights” evolve into “healthy debates”. Thanks for the post

    1. Hi, Mike! I accidentally posted my response as a regular comment (and I don’t know how to change that…) and I wasn’t sure if you’d see it if not directly attached to your comment. So, keep scrolling down to find it! :-) Thanks for your engagement.

  2. Enjoyed this from start to finish, Laura! I wholeheartedly agree that Soul Wounds come into play and relate to this. I love how you shared examples and posed some terrific reflective questions! Well done! And congrats on your first guest post!

  3. Thanks for the well wishes, Mike. We also think that having outside support is invaluable and I also agree with your observation that some Soul Wounds cut deeper than others. Sometimes having a deeper understanding of each other’s wounded places helps us know to alter certain words, choices, and behaviors and thus ‘steer clear’ in a sense; but the wounds will always be there and they will inevitably be triggered up again (often by the most unexpected things at the worst times!), and so it has been very important and helpful to us to grow in our self-awareness and our communication so that we can can more successfully navigate those triggers –or, to “fight” smarter, not harder.

  4. Thanks for acknowledging us in your post! Great job articulating what you’ve learned as you continue to grow together, and how you’re applying it. Well done. :-)

  5. Great post. I love the term “soul wound”, and I think it’s great that the program had you identify those wounds before getting married. What a great tool for conflict resolution and to help you love each other more effectively.

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. Awesome! Glad there was value for you, Tara. The term ‘soul wound’ really resonates with me, too. I think of our soul wounds as being guarded by our ‘pet dragon’ –another one of my favorite terms. If you’re interested, you can read in this post about why your pet dragon means well but gets pretty nasty (and lands us into a ‘dragon dance’ with someone else’s pet dragon!):

  6. Hi Laura,

    It is wonderful that you and your husband are both learning how to fight smarter at the beginning of your marriage on minor things. And then be prepare to deal with major things that will come up later. This is alway a good role model of communication for everyone including kids.

    Congratulation on your first Guess Post!


    1. Hi, Eugene! Thanks for reading & commenting, and for the supportive encouragement. :-) Yes, indeed … we will anticipate plenty of kinks, big and small, that will need to be worked through as we continue this Life Journey together. Thankfully, with great tools and lots of practice :-p we’re getting better and better at ‘fighting’ smarter.

  7. I am not as good as I can be.That is my soul wound.Another one is that I am different from others.I don’t fit in even though I seem to fit in.Places and activities others enjoy , I don’t.I find them childish and irrelevant although I try to enjoy with them.All I am concerned is to grow,reach somewhere,be a somebody,know something.Doing this gives me joy even if I don’t reach my goal.This obsession has made me the loneliest guy on the planet.No one near me understands me.
    I had not felt my soul wound until now and that is why I wrote it.Thanks.

    1. I’m sorry to hear of the pain of your Soul Wound, Pique Dan. I am glad that you have words to put to it that hurt now, though –naming the feeling, thought, experience is always the first step to understanding it more so that we can learn and grow through it. Keep growing and opening yourself up. Other people on a journey of healing and growth will find you.

  8. Great write-up Laura – thanks for sharing this!

    It’s so true how a wound from our past can creep up on us in adulthood and cause a triggered emotional response that really doesn’t have much to do with the reality of the situation at hand.

    I shared about something similar a short while ago, and the term I use for ‘Soul Wound’ is ‘The Big Hurt’.

    If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks again Laura,


    1. Thank you, Julia Kristina! I really like your chosen vocabulary of “The Big Hurt” –I just may start preferring that term myself. :-) Thanks for sharing the link to your post –many great insights. I commented. ;-)

  9. What a great article. I look around me all the time and wonder how long that couple will be together and I can near calculate the length of time it will take for relationships to dissolve. Not because I am happy about other peoples unhappiness, but because until we know ourselves on a deeper level, how can be begin to know someone else. The onion theory is how I see it as well.

    I am so glad that you wrote this article and even thought it was a brave choice to do 12 sessions of development with your partner. It would have been a exciting yet daunting experience.

    I have been breaking through these barriers and taking a hard look at myself for a while now, to the point where I am now real gentle with myself, more tolerant of my weaknesses (I actually find them exciting – it means I get to work on them). I am yet to find a partner to see if my new found truths about myself, resolve conflict better or remain the same, but I just keep on my journey, knowing when the right time comes, I will be aware. Thanks again for this article.

    1. I’m so touched, Rachel! Thank you for all you kind affirmations. Congratulations on all the “inner work” you’re doing. I am glad that you’ve been learning to be kind and gentle with yourself and I totally appreciate the whole perspective of excitedly viewing ‘trouble spots’ as simply new ‘growth opportunities.’ You will go far with that attitude! I couldn’t agree with you more that it’s impossible to build a healthy relationship with someone else until we first have a healthy relationship with ourselves. Keep up the great work –you are right: when the time comes to find the partner for you, you will be ready for it. :-) I have no doubt that all the work you’re already investing in yourself will pay off in spades in relation to your future partnership. That’s the beauty of ripple effects!

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