How to fight fair
Arguments happen in every healthy relationship — we know it sounds contradictory, but it’s true! However, they can still have a negative impact if they aren’t handled properly. That’s why knowing how to ‘fight’ fair is important.
We’re about to say something that might shock you: it’s ok to argue with your partner. Just because you are in a relationship with the person doesn’t mean you automatically have the same ideas or beliefs on everything.
Now, we want to be clear: we are NOT talking about physical altercations, abusive outbursts, or emotional tirades. These types of behaviors are not okay and shouldn’t happen in any relationship. What we’re talking about are disagreements or arguments that occur within healthy, respectful relationships.
When handled correctly, arguments can be a productive thing. They can help people better understand the other’s viewpoint or help clear up confusion on an issue. Part of being in a healthy relationship means disagreeing sometimes and having difficult conversations. It can be hard, but here are some things to consider so you can “fight” fair.
Here are some things to consider as you practice fighting fairly:
- Take a breath.
We know that it can be hard to think clearly when you’re angry, so taking a breath can be incredibly helpful. It allows you (and your partner) a second to collect your thoughts before engaging in a dialogue with your partner. Big emotions like anger or hurt can make it hard to think clearly, and if you’re not careful, you could potentially say something that might damage your relationship It’s okay to feel those emotions, but you want to make sure they don’t take over the conversation.
- Use “I feel” language.
When arguing with your partner, be sure to choose your words carefully. When expressing yourself, make sure that you don’t attack your partner. Avoid saying, “You do X, Y, Z.” They say there are three sides to every argument — yours, theirs and the truth. You’ll have a more productive argument if you focus less on the actions of your partner and more on how the action makes you feel. For example, instead of saying “You always decide the movie,” say, “I feel like I don’t get the opportunity to pick the movie. And that makes me sad (or other emotion).” This helps your partner understand how their actions impact you and why you want things to change.
- Take the situation as it is.
Even though you’re angry and it can be hard to be objective, try to see the situation for what it is. Do not escalate the argument just because your partner does. Ask yourself— is this situation worth arguing about? Try to understand the purpose behind an action — if something happened accidentally, you should not treat it as if it was done intentionally. It also helps to focus on the specific issue that caused the argument — there’s no need to bring up something that’s unrelated.
- Avoid making excuses.
If you have done something wrong, the best possible option is for you to admit it and take responsibility. Denying something only makes it more hurtful and often your partner will be able to forgive you much more quickly if you are honest and forthcoming. Part of being in a healthy relationship is being able to reflect on your actions and behaviors in order to learn from them.
- Remember you’re on the same team.
In a relationship, there should be an understanding that you’re working towards a common goal: you both want to be loved and appreciated. We know that “losing” an argument can really dent your pride. Before you go too far, take a step back and think — would you rather lose the fight or lose your partner?
- Set ground rules.
After a fight, people often step back and take stock of what happened. You and your partner can discuss what hurt each of you during the disagreement and how you can avoid that in the future. At this point, you can set some ground rules for future fights — like not cursing at each other or calling each other names — which might help reduce intensity.
Help is available.
Fighting with someone is never easy, but it’s especially difficult when arguing with someone you care about.
Thinking carefully and controlling yourself during an argument can help you avoid saying something that could permanently scar your relationship. Remember, our advocates are here 24/7 to offer support and insight. If you’re unsure of how to ‘fight’ fair or are worried about how your partner resolves conflicts, please reach out.
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