Updated: May 21, 2020
The 100 year old advice that could save your relationship, friendship and mental health.
When I was a little girl, I had the absolute pleasure of spending hours with my great-grandfather, learning from him, loving him and laughing with him. He was one of the smartest, kindest, most passionate men I have ever met, and I can still hear him telling us to “fight nice” at the first sign of a disagreement. It’s an often spoken phrase in my family, thanks to my Pa, “fight nice” echoes through the hearts and hallways of 3 generations, despite him being gone for over 10 years now.
I never really thought too hard about “fighting nice” until I started dating seriously, and now that I’m married I realize that my Pa taught me one of marriages, and maybe life’s, most important lessons; disguising it as a phrase that made us giggle and forget that we all wanted to play first base during our kickball game, or whatever the end of the world disagreement was that day for my siblings and my cousins and myself.
I didn’t always fight nice, hell sometimes even now I forget to, just ask my husband. I can be petty, I sometimes say things I don’t mean, I do things I shouldn’t in the throes of a disagreement, you name it and I probably did it to one boyfriend or another in the beginning of my dating life. I think the idea of fighting nice can even be applied to non-familial relationships. We should hold our friends, siblings, parents and even stranger’s mental well-being above our own selfish desire to “win” the argument. The world can be a scary, dark and angry place sometimes, and there can never be too much kindness or thoughtfulness to rival that.
I’m still learning to think first, and act later. I still have to make a conscious effort to fight nice with my husband every time we disagree, and to be completely honest it’s even harder to fight nice with people I’m not madly in love with. This era of online and less personal communication has made it so easy to forget that behind the computer screen, or on the other side of the phone, there’s a real person; probably just as passionate about the argument as you may be, and we all deserve a little bit of grace. We are all just humans, spinning around on a rock hurtling through space and time, trying to figure out ourselves and one another, the least we can do is care a little bit, we owe that to each other.
Fighting nice means thinking about the other person's feelings, how your words and actions might affect them. Fighting nice means not name calling or using petty arguments to hurt the other person. Fighting nice means letting the other person get a word in edgewise and not shouting louder than them just because you know you can; because you grew up in a loud crazy Italian-American family and your vocal chords don’t have a max volume, not that I’m speaking from experience here or anything.
Fighting nice doesn’t mean dropping the subject or caving to your partner all the time. Fighting nice isn’t saying sorry when you don’t mean it. It’s not saying you can’t have passionate or valid arguments and disagreements. It isn’t never arguing, or never having a disagreement or a difference of opinion. Fighting nice isn’t ignoring your problems or thoughts, or your partner's actions to avoid conflict.
Fighting nice is simply recognizing that above every single thing in the world, more important than whatever may be coming between you, is love. Your love, your relationship, your friendship, your sanity (and the other person’s) is more important than a wet towel being left on the floor for what feels like the millionth time, or being the first baseman during kickball. Because being the pitcher is the superior position anyway and maybe one day the wet towels will lead to new hardwood floors, who knows.