Do you and your partner fight fair? Would you know what fighting fair looks like if you saw it? As a couple’s therapist, I see clients come in the door and break down their fights to me. One of the first things I notice is how mean couples can be toward each other. I have created a list of my top tips/rules for fighting fair in a relationship, so try these next time you and your partner start to argue.
- No name calling – Name calling can quickly turn the argument down the wrong direction, which can escalate the argument in a matter of minutes. When you call your partner a name (whether you meant it or not) you could make your partner feel as if you are criticizing them. Once you say something bad, your partner can’t unhear it. Be careful with your words.
- When you notice the volume of your voices escalating, take a breather – When you can acknowledge when your voice is getting too loud, or you are starting to feel enraged, take a break from the conversation for 10 minutes or so to de-escalate and regroup, then go back to the argument with a clear head.
- Do NOT fight to win – This one seems to get couples. A lot of the time, couples fight to win. When you fight to win, you are also setting your partner up to lose. Do you really want to make your partner feel like a loser? When you fight to win, what are you really wanting to accomplish and get out of the argument?
- Your point in arguing should be to explain to your partner how you feel – If you go into an argument to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, and what made you feel that way, your partner might respond in a calm, sincere manner.
- Use reflective listening – This is something I teach to almost all of my couples. When you are sharing your point of view with your partner, you will let your partner know when you are done. Before your partner responds, they will briefly summarize what you just said. Doing this ensures your partner is listening to you, and getting the main points of what you are saying. Once your partner summarizes what you said, they can then respond to you. Once they are done responding, you then summarize what they said, and then respond, doing this until the argument has either reached a resolution, or come to a conclusion.
- Start your argument with I felt “X” when you said (or did) “Y” – When you start your argument with I felt “X” when you did “Y”, you aren’t putting your partner in defense mode. For example, if your partner plays too many video games, and you feel ignored when you are wanting to spend time with your partner, if you start out saying “I feel lonely and ignored when you play video games instead of hanging out with me”, this should open a more honest, calm conversation and will allow your partner to address how you are feeling.
Fighting fair might not always seem possible, or achievable, but with plenty of practice, and patience (from both parties), you can really get in the habit of it. Keep in mind, a productive, respectful, and fair argument that can be resolved is the goal. Now you try bringing those tips into your arguing and see what happens!
Written by Taylor Cordell, BS in Psychology, MA-Candidate, CST-Candidate, Certified Life Coach