Do It Better
O, The Oprah Magazine | From the November 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
How to Win the Fight
by Mary Matalin and James Carville (Mary is a Republican party strategist, editor-in-chief of conservative publisher Threshhold Editions, and married to James. James is a Democratic party consultant, CNN contributor, and married to Mary)
Mary, the wife: There are four mandatory rules for winning, and all are easier said than done. First and foremost: Pick your fights carefully. I learned faster with my kids than with my husband that some hills are just not worth trying to take. With kids, brushing teeth is a necessary battle; matching hair bows is not. With husbands, respect is requisite; shared politics is not. Second: Understand your objective. What is your goal and why? Are you trying to make your husband like you or do what you need? Third: Know your enemy. Military leaders premise engagements on this concept, but spouses often walk blithely into the line of fire. Fourth: Prepare. If you are prepared, you will be in the right fight, with clear goals, so you can anticipate counterarguments. And remember: There is no shame in losing, only in not trying.
James, the husband: If any man has ever won a marital argument, I haven't met him. I'm 0 for 5,211 in my marriage, and I'm sure to lose 5,212, thanks to a theory I like to call SCR: surrender, capitulation, and retreat. I've read all the marital advice—you know, confront your issues, discuss them. My advice is just leave 'em go. I know couples who've been having the same discussion for 35 years. It ain't worth it. Women know how to fight better. I think part of it is—to put it delicately—biological, but you're going to be a lot happier just agreeing and doing what you're told. These days the only fight my wife and I have is when she'll say to me, "You're just agreeing with me to agree with me!" And most of the time it's true. But I'm a happily married man. It'll be 13 years this month. What can I say?