Fighting is never fun. Yet in any marriage or long-term relationship, conflict is inevitable. Maybe you’re someone who never argues because you think the easiest path to harmony is not voicing your concerns. Or maybe you’re quick-tempered (like me), and small disagreements turn into an all-out war. Which one are you? No matter what type of fighter you are, it’s important to remember that disagreements are a natural part of your relationship. According to Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D., occasional conflicts “actually deepen relationships, if you can have them with empathy.”
So, if you’ve clicked on this post, you probably want to learn some tools in order to create a healthier arena. That’s where these 6 winning tips for fighting fairly in your relationship come into play. Even if fighting fair doesn’t result in a resolution, it ensures that fights are productive and loving—not detrimental.
#1 | Keep It Civil
This might seem like an obvious rule for fighting fairly, but it’s worth mentioning first. It’s natural to have the urge to fight to win at all costs. In the heat of the moment, many couples forego civility for the desire to defeat their partner in battle. But tearing each other down won’t get you anywhere. It may feel good in the moment, but it’s not going to pave the way toward productive conflict resolution. So how do you keep it civil when you’re mad as hell? Start by refraining from name-calling. Lay aside any unnecessary nasty comments, mean remarks, or hurtful statements. It means not raking your partner’s character over the coals. By choosing not to allow insults to become the main form of communication between you, it keeps the fight “above the belt.” Try to remember that you’re both on the same team, and respect is vital in nurturing a healthy relationship, even in the face of conflict.
#2 | Validate Your Partner’s Feelings
Going hand-in-hand with keeping it civil, it’s important to remember to validate your partner’s feelings. Minimizing or flat-out ignoring your partner’s emotions can be extremely painful and lead to longer-term resentment. Even when you don’t fully understand, your partner has a right to feel the way they do, so be very conscious of not dismissing them. Instead, work on listening and affirming their feelings. Validating those feelings means letting your partner know that you value them. Some common ways to invalidate your partner is by telling them that they’re overreacting. Another way is to apologize but redirect blame. For example: “I’m sorry you misinterpreted what I said,” or “I’m sorry you thought I was being mean.” These are very passive-aggressive statements. A healthier response would be, “I hear what you’re saying. Thank you for helping me understand where you’re coming from.”
#3 | Stick to the Issue
Have you ever been arguing with someone, and they keep bringing up all of your past mistakes? This is the most frustrating thing, and it can definitely derail a fight or cause it to escalate. When you’re angry, it’s tempting to pack every single issue you’ve ever had and hurl it at your partner. This is clearly overwhelming, but it also dilutes or complicates the original disagreement. It’s counter-productive to resolving the reason why you’re actually mad. Instead of throwing everything but the kitchen sink at your partner, try to stay focused on the one point you want to address. This will be much more productive in reaching a workable solution. This practice doesn’t mean you are ignoring the issues or avoiding them, but it ensures you can tackle them in a more productive and focused manner at a later date.
#4 | Take a Break
Fighting, even when it’s fair and civil, takes a lot out of you. With that in mind, know that it’s completely okay to take breaks when you’re hashing it out. Taking a break is also essential when you feel like things are getting too heated—especially if you have a history of losing your cool. To be clear, taking a break does not mean storming out of the room, giving the silent treatment, or withdrawing from your partner. Taking a break is being able to say, “Hey, things are getting a little out of control or destructive here. Why don’t we both cool off and come back to this conversation in 15 minutes.” The ability to take this step-back shows an incredible amount of respect and maturity. It also allows you to manage your intense emotions so that you don’t say hurtful things.
#5 | Set Boundaries
A great strategy to incorporate into taking a break is to set some non-negotiable boundaries before you regroup. These boundaries should also be set and agreed upon before your next fight. These rules might include zero tolerance for name-calling, aggression, or anything else that you both agree upon. If setting clear boundaries sounds impossible, remember that the idea is to help you both maintain the respect required for a genuinely productive discussion. Boundaries are not meant as punishment. They’re mutually agreed upon guidelines set in place to protect ourselves emotionally.
#6 | Schedule Your Fight
Yes, you read that correctly. A solid way to fight fairly is to tell your partner that you’d like to discuss a particular problem in advance. Avoid a heated ambush, by casually setting aside time to discuss specific issues. This allows your partner to think about them in advance as well. By doing this, hopefully, you both can approach the conversation with openness, rather than feeling attacked. My husband and I have also scheduled time to talk in a restaurant or café. Changing up the atmosphere forced us to be more civil by default. After all, you’re less likely to get into a shouting match in public.
Please share your winning tips for fighting fairly in the comments below! And discover the 5 toxic habits that are destroying most relationships, here.
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