Arguments are commonplace in relationships, and most of the time, they fizzle out quickly, life settling back to normal. Studies show that when a couple is upset with one another, the best thing to do is drop the anger act and show off a bit of emotion. Turn on those waterworks, remind each other why fighting hurts, and hug it out.
If you can act rationally during an argument, know that you’re already 17 steps ahead of couples from the mid-1400s, who were known for taking their martial issues to the ring in the form of a duel. “Trial by combat” was a common practice during the European Middle Ages for those moments when there wasn’t enough evidence to settle legal tiffs. In the case of a man or woman, it might be over infidelity or divorce, where word alone is driving the allegations. In these cases, husband and wife would take to the arena and beat the living crap out of each other until one sustained crippling injuries, one died, or the sun set (the more romantic option).
Duels between men and women weren’t as common during the Middle Ages, as most female plantiffs and/or defenders would recruit champions to fight in their names. For married women, it was a bit trickier, and it often lead to them picking up a cloth club or a sword and settling the score themselves.
Fencing master Hans Talhoffer penned an illustrated instructional guide on dueling that gives us a picture of what these fights were like. Fechtbuch, published in 1467, shows a women taking on a man standing in a hole, the handicap that leveled the playing field between the sexes.
Glimpse at this archaic way of life in the drawings below and be glad that couple battles in the 21st century are mostly fought with passive aggressive text messages.
Matt Patches is a writer and reporter living in New York City. His work has been featured on Vulture, Time Out New York, and The Hollywood Reporter. He is the host of the pop culture podcast Operation Kino.