Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I want advice about how to fight with my husband. I don’t really want
to fight; I’d rather have a civil discussion. But I also don’t want to roll
over all the time when we disagree about something. But that’s what
usually happens, mostly because of how he fights. He gets louder and
louder (and louder faster) than I do, and when we’re talking about
something (relatively) small like how to remember to give the cat her
heartworm pills, it turns into some draconian battle about the future of
western civilization, his heart fibrillations, or whether we should invite
his mother for a two-week visit. I feel like I’m in some world-wide
wrestling movie and the guy just pulled out a staple gun or ten feet of
chain. How can I learn to battle more effectively with words against
someone who doesn’t fight fair?

Dear Beaten:
When he starts to get hyperbolic go over to the oven timer and set it
for two minutes (or five depending on your tolerance). Then tell him:
Go for it! Get it all out. Shout, scream, jump around, throw it all in the
ring, whatever you want to say as loud as you want to say it! While he
does so you should sit quietly in an armchair, maybe practice saying
om beneath your breath, or other calming activity. Do not react or

When the timer goes off, hand him a pen and paper and say My turn.
Write down as concisely as you can the specific issue you think we are
not agreeing about. That should get you back to the cat and her pills.
Get him to agree that you’ll discuss his mother or health another time,
but that the next ten minutes are about the cat, a calendar, or some
other system to keep her healthy. My bet is that he’ll need less and
less rant time first in the future and you’ll turn down the volume on
your fights.