How To Fight Fair

Although this is not your most traditional or glamorous “how to” post, it is one that we can all benefit from. Every couple disagrees–it is the reality of cohabitation. I am no expert at relationships but it is a topic that I have always devoted a lot of time and energy into researching. My studies in prior schooling, reading since then, and personal experience in my TINY BLIP of a relationship in the grand scheme of life, have pointed me in the direction of following these guidelines. What I've discovered thus far is that it is not if a couple disagrees that can make or break them but how they fight that can be lethal.

Here are some ground rules that we all should consider adopting into our relationships…

  • Use “I” statements when presenting something that is bothering you. Take ownership for your own feelings. These feelings were a result of something that your partner did or said (or didn’t do or say), but the feelings are your own. Say things like: “I feel”, “I get upset when…” If you follow only one of these guidelines, make it this one!
  • Never attack your partner’s character! You are discussing a problem with actions, not who your partner is as a person. Take issue with something that he/she did not who he/she is. Don’t say things like “well that’s just because you are a lazy low life”–ouchhhhh!
  • Avoid using the words “always” and “never.” Complaining to your boyfriend (or even worse, other people in front of your boyfriend), that he NEVER gets you flowers will not produce a gorgeous bouquet on your desk every week like you are fantasizing about.
  • Explain why this issue is important to you. Share how it makes you feel. Try to help guide your partner so that he/she can truly see where you are coming from. This will increase his or her intrinsic motivation to work on it. After all, your partner cares about you and how you feel. Sometimes you just need to show him/her how to demonstrate empathy for what you are experiencing. *This step is also key because it means that before you bring up an issue to your partner, you need to self reflect on why it bothers you. Ask yourself what the trigger point is. Figure out just how important this issue is to you. Decide if and how you should proceed after this reflection process.
  • ^^^That being said, understand that we are not all wired the same way. Just because you wouldn’t feel the same way if situations were reversed does not mean that your partner’s feelings are invalid. We all have our own experiences and reactions to those experiences. It is not our job to be the judge and jury on whether or not people should feel the things that they feel. It is our job to respect our loved one’s feelings.
  • ^^And then that being said, you have to be truly honest about your own feelings. Don’t bring up false or exaggerated feelings in order to manipulate your partner or this whole strategy should go out the window.
  • No interrupting (ugh, why is this one so hard?!). Let your partner finish his/her whole statement before interjecting. Interrupting sends the message to your partner that you don’t value what he/she is saying and that you spent the whole time that he/she was speaking thinking about your rebuttal instead of absorbing the information. Interrupting leads to more volatile fighting.
  • Don’t nitpick. You can’t bring up every little thing that bothers you or neither or you will ever have any fun. This can be challenging for Type A, super neat freaks like myself but sometimes you’re better off shutting the closet door yourself than making it “a thing.”
  • Agree on an argument style that works for the both of you. I grew up in a house where my parents didn’t yell at me with raised voices and quickly discovered that this was a “no fly zone” in relationships for me. Figure out what and where your boundaries are and then share them.
  • Avoid flooding! Stay in tune with your physiological responses and recognize the warning signs that you may be getting overly stressed out. If you need a ten minute break to take a walk and calm down, ask for it.
  • Don’t stonewall! Nothing will ever get resolved if you shut down. It will only make you and your partner feel isolated and alone. {Insert dramatic scene from a movie where the guy turns on his side in bed to put his back to his wife in silence and their relationship falls apart.}
  • Ask your partner if it is a good time to discuss something that is bothering you before you lay it on him/her. Your partner then has the right to ask to schedule a different time to talk (for example, if she is working). However, if one of you asks for the discussion to take place at a different time, you need to designate that time right away so that it doesn't seem like you are just pushing it off. Follow through!
  • Always discuss issues in person! Technology makes it SO tempting to just text over a novel with all of your feelings and issues (guilty!!) but things get lost in translation with this method. You will be able to produce a better outcome if you make this human interaction a human one (aka face to face). Your partner will be more invested if he/she can look into your eyes (and see how cute you are of course). However, if writing down your feelings so that you stay on track is helpful for you, then write them down to read aloud.
  • Ah yes, staying on track. Staying on topic is important. When you bring up an issue, you should only bring up that one issue. Don’t make a pyramid of every single thing that bothers you. If you do, it will feel like an attack and that pyramid will quickly come tumbling down on you.
  • Focus on the present. As tempting as it is to reach into that big bag of evidence that you have stored in your mind, keep it locked up. That arsenal will only lead to war. You are working on getting this current issue resolved.
  • Be realistic! As much as I wish I could treat my fiancé like a magic genie who gives me a castle and whisk me away on a romantic getaway every week, I know that it is not worth my breath or effort. Focus on what is attainable. What is attainable is also the things that actually matter.
  • Most importantly, accept your partner for who he or she really is. You can’t wish for them to be someone that they are not, fight with them about it, and then expect them to change. Your partner will never change who he or she is and frankly he/she shouldn’t. Your partner can work on changing some habits or actions (over time) but not who they are. LOVE and embrace your partner for who they are.