Being in a serious relationship means that you are going to get into arguments from time to time. In fact, if you and your partner never disagree, at least one of you is likely holding your feelings inside. Avoidant couples don’t usually argue but they also tend to feel their relationship lacks depth, spark and romance. They feel more like roommates than lovers.
Fighting helps you feel more connected if you do it correctly because each person feels heard and respected after the fight and you are usually able to come to a compromise that both people feel is fair. For this reason, it’s actually healthy to fight,as long as you fight fair.
If you’re not used to it, fighting fair can take some practice and a lot of self restraint. If you tend to fly off the handle every time you disagree with your partner, give yourself some time to get used to this new way of communicating. But BY ALL MEANS get used to it because aggressive behavior is definitely detrimental to a relationship (and your own happiness) over time.
To keep it light and fun, let’s think of fighting fair like a game with specific rules to follow. In this post, I’ll go over some of the guidelines for healthy fighting, how to abide by them, and some examples of what it sounds like when you are NOT fighting fair. In keeping with the game analogy, we’ll call it a “Home Run,” when the rules are followed, and a “Foul Ball,” when they are not. Ready? Let’s play ball!
Identify The Problem
Home Run: Be as specific as possible, and use “I” statements. Say something like, “I feel angry because I didn’t feel that you supported me when I told your mother not to give the kids candy after 9pm.”
Foul Play: “Why do you always side with your mother? Maybe you should have married her instead of me!”
Focus On The Issue At Hand
Home Run: Stay on topic as much as possible. Be in the moment.
Foul Play: Bringing up every fight you’ve ever had about his mother, or any mother, for that matter. Yes, that includes Mother Earth.
Listen With An Open Mind
Home Run: Remember that even though you may not like your partner right now, you chose him for a reason. Give him the benefit of the doubt, and honestly listen to what he is saying. Who knows, you may learn something new about him.
Foul Play: Don’t listen, or listen, but, only to give yourself time to come up with a comeback suited for the Jerry Springer show.
Treat Your Partner’s Feelings With Respect
Home Run: You don’t have to agree with your partner to be kind and respectful toward her feelings. Statements like; “I can see why you feel that way,” or “I see how much this is hurting you,” make your loved one feel validated and safe, without forcing you to agree with anything.
Foul Play: Calling her too sensitive, putting her down, or rolling your eyes. Believe it or not, rolling your eyes at your partner and/or being condescending is one of the top predictors of divorce. Yes, I’m serious! So keep those eyes in check and play nice even when angry. You can read all about that and other behaviors that are toxic to your relationship in my post 4 Toxic Behaviors That Are Ruining Your Relationship.
Take Responsibility For Your Actions
Home Run: If your partner has brought up something you did that bothered him, take responsibility for your part. Maybe you made a mistake, or maybe Mercury was in retrograde, but, either way, it helps if you can own your actions.
Foul Play: Make excuses, even if it means blaming the price of tea in China! Guess what? Defensiveness is another one of those 4 Toxic Behaviors That Are Ruining Your Relationship.
Home Run: Speak in a calm, compassionate tone of voice. Avoid yelling. Wait until your partner finishes talking before you respond. Take a timeout if you feel yourself getting heated and setup a time to come back to the conversation once you have both calmed down.
Foul Play: Yell, throw stuff, interrupt your partner and storm out of the room slamming the door behind you. He who yells the loudest wins, right?
Fight to Resolve the Problem
Home Run: Remember you are on the same team in life. It’s not you vs him, it’s you and him vs the problem. The goal is to come to an agreement and enhance the relationship, not to prove you are right.
Foul Play: Do everything you can to prove you are right. Disqualify everything he says and find a way to prove him wrong. It’s times like these you remind yourself of what a great lawyer you would have made.
So, there you have it. You have just been through a crash course of Relationship Rules 101. Before you pick your next fight with your partner, make sure to glance over these rules of engagement and try a few on for size. Heck, maybe you should pick a fight tonight just so you can keep them fresh in your mind. Kidding, don’t do that!
If you would like to see some of these guidelines in action with a real live couple, check out this video. In my private practice, I teach couples how to fight fair using a communication technique called the Imago Dialogue.
If you want some personalized help on how to communicate more effectively with your partner, contact me. I’m happy to referee!