Fighting is tough. The name calling, the false accusations, the heart hurts… and often no positive results. That’s because couples usually aren’t fighting with purpose, but instead are fighting to win. If you or your partner engage in a fight with the goal of winning, you have already lost because you are making the argument a battle, instead of about resolving an issue. If it helps, before you jump into a fight, recall five things that you love about your guy. Remember, he is not your enemy – he has just done something that has made you unhappy at the moment. So instead, use your next fight as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship by understanding each other a little bit better. Sounds hard to do, I know, so here are some rules to help you fight fairly and with purpose.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE.
When you initiate an argument, think ahead of time about what your goal is, and stay focused on it. Otherwise you could end up running in circles into a never-ending argument.
TANGO FOR TWO.
Your business is nobody else’s business. Not your neighbor’s, not the diner’s at the table next to your’s and certainly not your kid’s. A fight should occur privately. If it can’t wait until you can find a quiet place, pass notes.
Go beyond surface problems. If your partner always leaves his dirty socks next to instead of in the laundry basket, think about why that really bothers you and address the deeper meaner instead of just ranting about the socks.
Use a calm voice and a clear mind. It is not ok to be childish or abusive (physically or emotionally) when fighting. Voice your feelings in a constructive way – that way your partner will want to hear you. Pause and think before speaking if you need to.
READY, AIM, DON'T FIRE.
Avoid all personal attacks. Instead use “I” statements. In doing so you have complete ownership of your feelings and your partner won’t jump to a defense mode as easily. Name calling, cursing and any other bad behavior is also a no-no.
STAY IN THE PRESENT.
Issues of yesteryear that have been put to bed should stay there. Further, it is key to place boundaries around the topic at hand so that you don’t run the risk of running off on tangents and creating an unmanageable laundry list of arguments for which none, including the original, will be solved.
LOSE THE THREATS.
Firing off threats or ultimatums devalues a relationship. When you are committed to someone you are willing to work through the struggle of challenges you face. By stating otherwise makes the recipient of such a threat question your commitment.
ALL FEELINGS ARE THE RIGHT FEELINGS.
De-validating someone’s feelings is one of the cruelest things you can do in a fight, especially if it is difficult for that person to open up. Although you may not believe or agree with the stated emotion, don’t rob your partner of it. Likewise, don’t tell your mate how he should feel. Let feelings arise naturally.
LEARN TO COMPROMISE.
There is nearly always a middle ground to be reached in a situation, or at least a place where no one feels like they are completely losing out. Find it.
SET A TIME LIMIT.
Determine how long you are willing to discuss something before you need a break. Eventually arguments become stale – repetitive and unproductive and a 10 minute break can restore and refocus thoughts and emotions.
CONCLUDE A FIGHT KINDLY.
Establish an end of fight ritual that no matter what, you and your partner employ. A hug, a kiss, saying “I love you,” or “I’m sorry for my part” all work well.