How to “fight” fair

Arguments happen in every healthy relationship — we know it sounds contradictory, but it’s true — but they can still have a negative impact if they aren’t handled properly.

We’re about to say something that might shock you: it’s ok to argue with your partner.

Now, we want to be clear: we are by no means saying that physical altercations, abusive outbursts or emotional tirades are ok or normal. We’re talking about disagreements that occur within healthy, respectful relationships.

The trick to preventing an argument from destroying your relationship is learning how to 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 we would first like to encourage you try to take a second to collect your thoughts before engaging in a dialogue with your partner. Anger can be poisonous and if you’re not careful you could potentially say something that might damage your relationship.

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 describe 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.”

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 this 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.

Avoid making excuses.

If you have done something wrong, the best possible option is for you to admit it. 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.

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 you and your partner can take stock of what happened. You can discuss what hurt each of you and how you can move forward. At this point you can set some ground rules for future fights — like not cussing at each other or calling each other names — which might help reduce intensity.

Fighting with someone is never easy, but it’s especially difficult when you’re arguing with someone that you care about.

Thinking carefully and controlling yourself during an argument can help you avoid saying something that could permanently scar your relationship.


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