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How To Fight Fair Without Destroying Your Relationship - [26 Relationship Experts Share Incredibly Effective Insights + Tips]

How To Fight Fair Without Destroying Your Relationship

1. Remember you are on the same team


1. Remember you are on the same team.

You are both on one side of “the boxing ring” and your problem is on the other. Your team loses if you start fighting each other instead of the problem.

2. No low blows.

This means during arguments there is no name-calling, no sarcasm, no threats to end the relationship, no walking out, no throwing stuff, and no violence to yourself or your partner.

3. Assume that your partner does not intentionally try to hurt your feelings or ruin your day.

Don’t begin discussions accusing or attacking.

4. Make it a goal for your partner to leave any discussion with you feeling respected and cared for, even if you have to agree to disagree.

Dr. Anita Sanz –

This video explains the secret reasons men LIE to women (even women they truly do love)…

And a special “tweak” you can make in how you interact with a man to force him to tell you the absolute truth…

# 2. Follow the 5 tips below


Conflict in a relationship is inevitable.

Healthy couples fight, but they know how to fight in a way that is fair rather than destructive.

Here are some things you can do to fight fair when you have conflict:

1. Keep your eyes on the goal which is to resolve the conflict in a way that makes both people feel loved, respected, and heard. It isn’t to score points, win, or get your way; it is to gain mutual understanding.

2. Focus on the big issues not the petty irritations. It isn’t worth fighting over the little things. Bring up only the big issues that matter in the long run. Manage the minor irritations yourself.

3. Look inward first; outward second. You always have a part in the problem, even if it is only your attitude or reaction. Clean up your own act first and then focus on your partner’s problems.

4. Manage your defensiveness. All of us feel defensive when we feel criticized, but reacting defensively is what escalates arguments. Try to detach and view the conflict from the perspective of an outside third party so you can be more objective.

5. Stick to the issue. Never bring up other issues, especially unresolved things from the past. Focus on the matter at hand and get resolve on it before bringing up anything else.

Karla Downing, MFT –

# 3. If you fight fair, disagreements can actually strengthen a relationship


Learning to fight fair is crucial part of a successful relationship.

Just because you have found your soul mate doesn’t mean that you won’t have any arguments.

Some big, some small, but they are guaranteed to come up, and when they do, it is important that they don’t tear your relationship apart. If you fight fair, disagreements can actually strengthen a marriage.

Here are ten rules to stick to when fighting fair:

1. No name-calling.

2. Don’t bring up past history, stick to the issue at hand.

3. Keep the argument between the two of you; don’t involve family members, girlfriends or your kids.

4. Don’t interrupt each other. Take turns expressing your feelings and listening to each other.

5. Speak in a normal tone. No yelling or screaming. People tune out when the volume is turned up.

6. Don’t go to bed angry. Even if you don’t see eye to eye on a subject, forgive and call a truce before going to sleep.

7. Don’t argue in a public place. Keep it private.

8. Tell your partner how you feel rather than putting the blame on him.

9. If you can, hold hands during the fight, and keep eye contact.

10. Even if you are really angry, remember the things that you love about your partner. No one is perfect! Emphasize the positive aspects of your relationship.

Don’t focus on the negative. Remember, when you met your partner, you fell in love with all of their wonderful qualities.

Marla Martenson, Matchmaker –

# 4. Put down the gloves & pick up your dancing shoes

Allison Cohen

Communication truly is an art form.

Innately, we have the ability to utter our thoughts but no one is given a manual as to HOW to express them. If not used properly, those seemingly benign sentiments devolve into “fighting words;” accusations fly, judgements are laid bare. After the bout is over, “fighters” slink back to their respective corners, bruised and battered. The good news is that with time and the proper action plan, you may ease the path and create a healthy dialogue that can move any relationship (personal, professional, familial or romantic) forward.

Consider the following when planning to communicate:

1. Timing – Pick a time that you both have the emotional and physical energy to really participating meaningfully.

2. Present Focus – Keep your comments grounded into what is happening in the present (as opposed to issues that have occurred in the past) to avoid defensiveness and losing track of the real issue at hand.

3. Win Vs. Understand – Trying to “win” an argument will almost always be a losing proposition. Make the goal of the conversation to “understand” and be “understood.”

4. Take Ownership – It’s never easy to admit fault or apologize, but when you do, it can be an absolute game changer for the better.

5. Avoid the Extremes – When possible, avoid words such as “always” or “never.” Instead, use “I” statements to avoid blame shifting.

6. Remember to Tango – Much like a dance, a conversation is about TWO people working as a team. Make sure that you listen as much as you talk.

Allison Cohen, M.A., MFT –

5. Understand that the goal is not to win, but to find a way in which both you and your partner can grow closer and be more aware of each other’s needs and hopes


There is no fighting fair in an argument.

Arguments have a winner and a loser, depending what pattern any couple repeats over time. Sometimes the” winners” can just outlast their partners and just wear them down. At other times, the craftier fighters feign loss and exact a price later on when the former aggressors have quieted.

Many couples, if they just stood back, could go and have a cup of coffee and come back to catch a predictable ending because their negative interactions are so repetitive.

They can interrupt the argument and become different personalities if the phone rings and return immediately to where they left off when they finish dealing with the diversion. Heart-breaking arguments that take place in front of others to gain attention or allies, are especially destructive when they happen in front of captive audiences who stand by helpless to stop the process.

There are no real winners in arguments between people who care about a future together, and every destructive argument leaves scars, many of which are cumulative.

Yet, all intimate partners disagree at times and must resolve those differences, hopefully in such a way that the past doesn’t just predict an identical future. If they can understand the difference between an argument and a classic debate, they have a chance.

In a debate, at the sound of a whistle, the partners must be able to play the other side with the same emotions, opinions, needs, and goals as their opponent did just moments before.

The goal is not to win, but to find a deeper truth that can somehow capture an innovative new platform from which both partners can grow closer and be more aware of each other’s needs and hopes.

From this new awareness, both begin their next disagreement with a deeper sense of the other and a new responsibility for what and how they are going to disagree and resolve. They now can enter conflict with a higher purpose and often achieve it. Then each fight resolution becomes a platform for a better interaction the next time around.

Dr. Randi Gunther –

# 6. Redefine the fight


– Set the intention to do it differently.

It won’t come naturally at first, but with time, this is a skill you can develop.

– Listen, don’t speak.

Often as someone else is expressing a POV, we are already formulating our own response. And if we are formulating a response, we have not really heard the other person at all.

– Get curious about each other’s POV.

What is it? What experiences in life helped to shape this POV? By taking the conversation into this deeper place, you both gain greater perspective and understanding that could affect the outcome, but that will create more connection between you no matter what the outcome.

– Validate each other.

Validation does not equal agreement. Validation is the ability to empathize with another POV.

– Stay in the present. Don’t bring up the past. Keep the disagreement focused on the issue at hand.

– Eliminate judgment.

– Notice your own rigidity. Be consciously open and flexible.

– Repair and recover.

It is natural that you will slip into old reactionary behaviors. Don’t punish yourself or your partner. Simply go immediately back to your intentions to do it differently.

– Whenever possible, begin and end disagreements with statements of genuine appreciation for each other.

Fighting fair is a skill. It’s a matter of identifying and being aware of old, reactive behaviors, and choosing a more peaceful, healing path for your relationship.

Bobbi Jankovich, LMFT –

# 7. Know that there are 3 steps you take as a first responder in a fight

Julie Kurtz

Every relationship develops a unique ritual called the “fight”.

This ritual of fighting is unique to the very tribe- or rather “partnership” that you belong to. Others may look at your tribal ritual of fighting as odd or weird compared to their own. You need to become an expert in your ritualistic pattern of fighting and then learn the skills of survival. A “fight” is designed to influence the other person to achieve a desired goal or outcome. Here are simple steps of tools you can add to your toolbox so that your ritual will help you achieve positive results for all involved.

Pretend in a fight that you are a FIRST RESPONDER (fire fighter or officer).

There are three steps you take as a FIRST RESPONDER in a fight:

1. Fight, Flight or Freeze

The brain signals that you are in a state of emotional distress and shuts down other pathways in the brain preventing you from thinking clearly or regulating your emotions in a healthy way. The only thing that can be accomplished is self-awareness and acceptance that you need to experience this stage before you move onward.

Each of us has a preference for one way and we must be aware and respectful of our own and our partner’s style of FIRST response. Some want to engage and talk immediately and others need some time. This stage will pass and eventually, you will move to the next stage.

2. Listening

Listening comes next and is critical before you move to the final stage. When you are emotional or feel that someone has caused you pain, your right brain takes over. The right part of the brain is the “emotional” side. This side has to tell the “story” and be heard. Being heard without solutions, judgment or reaction is the key to this stage. Once the right side of the brain communicates the problem and your loved one really “hears” you, then you are read to move on to the next stage.

3. Logical Reasoning

The left side of the brain is where logical reasoning happens. The left-brain is unable to take over until the emotional side has been heard and allowed to express itself. Once one is authentically heard, the left side of the brain engages next. The brain engages the executive functioning skills where we are able to make sense of the story and find a solution.

The left-brain is in charge of finding a solution that will meet the needs of all involved. This stage has to happen and mutual agreements need to be discussed.

Once the solutions are determined, each partner returns to baseline and feels connected and attached in the relationship once again.

Julie Kurtz, LMFT –

# 8. Allow love (not fear, control or anger) to guide your hearts and mouths


The first and most important thing we must remember when in disagreement with our partner is to allow love (not fear, control or anger) to guide our hearts and our mouths.

It is our right to speak our truth, however, for maximum communication efficiency; words spoken with love are heard more productively than words spoken with contempt or anger.

When the ego (contempt, manipulation or guilting) gets involved in the conversation, it most often will trigger our partner’s ego and then the conversation becomes like two rams smashing into each other trying to gain back ground. There is simply no “win” in situations such as these because most often one sides just backs down and walks away.

Important tips to remember prior to (or during) a disagreement:

a. The goal here is resolution through effective and honest communication. If I remain calm and centered, the chances are greater that my partner can stay centered as well.

b. I love this person and even in disagreement I will honor him by not screaming at him, refraining from using curse words or name calling.

c. Validate, validate, validate your partner’s experience. A little empathy goes a looooong way.

d. Own your sh*t. In most every disagreement, each person has a part. Ownership of one’s behavior and actions can reduce the emotional charge almost instantly and allow for effective communication to happen.

Bryon Katie has a quote, “It only takes one side to end a war.” Be willing to be that side by bringing Love to the table.

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor –

# 9. Be open to the possibility that the other’s point of view has merit or at least makes sense to him

Human conflict is natural and inevitable.

In fact, we frequently experience conflict within ourselves. For instance, part of us may want to relax and take it easy, while another part may encourage us to get busy and be productive. Both points of view may be valid at the same time and so, it would not make sense for us to make one part of us “wrong” and the other “right”. Instead, we can acknowledge the merit of both and make a decision that honors and validates each one.

In the same way, when couples find themselves in a conflict, it is important that each be open to the possibility that the other’s point of view has merit or at least makes sense to him.

If we refuse to acknowledge this, our partner may feel invalidated, hurt, and possibly even coerced and resentful; not a good recipe for a trusting and mutually supportive relationship. It helps to follow the idea that “the means determine the end”. If you want your relationship to be loving, trusting, and supportive, you cannot invalidate your partner when he disagrees with you or turn on them when you don’t get your way.

Often our anger is triggered when the unspoken expectations we may have of our partner are not met.

When this happens, it may help us to question how realistic our expectations are. For instance, is it reasonable to expect our partner to always agree with us and see things the way we do? If this is our expectation, won’t we feel angry, hurt, and betrayed when their opinion differs from ours or when they act in a way that disappoints us?

Instead of getting stuck in feelings of anger, disappointment or hurt that may be triggered by the actual disagreement, perhaps an easier and more productive way of dealing with conflict would be to expect that there will always be times when you and your partner see things differently and then be mindful of what qualities you ultimately want your relationship to embody; coercion or cooperation, validation or ridicule, kindness or cruelty?

The choice is yours. Fairness means treating your partner the way you wish to be treated. In this way, your disagreements will merely be opportunities for you to continue building the relationship that serves you and your partner well and brings out the best in each of you.

Margot McClellan, LCSW –

# 10. Refrain from making accusatory statements when arguing or disagreeing with a partner


In my blog and in my work with couples, one of the most important tools that I teach is to refrain from making accusatory statements when arguing or disagreeing with a partner.

You can easily recognize those accusations because they generally start with “You”. Frequently, when a listener hears a sentence beginning with “you” – they feel attacked, go into defense mode, and will stop ‘hearing’ what is being said; they begin planning a counter attack.

When arguing, it is critically important to take responsibility for the thought that you want to convey in a positive and constructive way by describing how you FEEL.

Start with the feeling… “I feel really disrespected when I get interrupted”, “When I come home to a sink full of dishes it feels like no one cares that I worked all day”, “I feel really disconnected from you right now and I am afraid that you don’t want to be with me”.

Fighting in intimate relationships is so often about frustrations and/or fears.

Communicate the feeling that you have without accusing your partner and there is a strong possibility that a full out argument will never manifest. If you sense a defensive reaction coming from your partner as you attempt to speak, point out that you are not intending to be pointing a finger, simply sharing how you feel. More often than not, our partners DO care about our feelings and will be willing to listen.

Leslyn Kantner, MSMHC, NCC –

# 11. Fighting to win equals awful and destructive; fighting to learn equals helpful and satisfying


While fighting might have a negative connotation, research shows that couples who fight are actually happier than those who don’t.

Couples who never fight are most likely conflict avoidant. They fear that a fight will lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings or even abandonment. These individuals probably grew up in families where fighting truly was negative, and they never want to feel scared like that again.

I certainly don’t advise getting into verbal conflict where there is hurt, ridicule, or abandonment. What’s the point of that? But there is good fighting and bad fighting.

Fights have a purpose in a relationship.

A fight lets you express what you feel strongly about and it also let you know what your partner feels strongly about. As opposed to creating distance, a fight actually works to bring you closer, because you both find out what’s important to each other. Fights give you the information you need to find solutions.

What makes some fights awful and destructive, while others helpful and satisfying?

Here is the big secret: Fighting to win equals awful and destructive; fighting to learn equals helpful and satisfying.

There are very few issues that have only one point of view. Mature people fight to give and get information so that they can find a solution. Adults fight to learn- about themselves and about their partner. Fights become a conduit to growth. From this perspective, there are only winners.

One more thing. To get information, you have to listen closely to what your partner is telling you.

If you are rehearsing your come-back (a common tactic in people who fight to win), you’ll miss out on the information you need to move towards a resolution. Always listen with respect and curiosity. Instead of dreading a fight, you might even start to look forward to it!

Sally Leboy, MS, MFT –

# 12. Identify and eliminate “fight traps”

Many couples and even couples therapists believe that a knock-down-drag-out fight is great for a relationship. Hence, many couples therapists encourage partners to take turns dumping on each other in session.

What a mistake!

I’m here to tell you that whatever you say and do boomerangs back on you. And while it may feel good to get your rocks off in the moment, on the rocks is where your relationship will end up if you don’t learn to fight fair.

In order to fight fair, you must identify and eliminate what I call Fight Traps.

Fight Traps are those faulty, dysfunctional fighting tactics that everyone uses. I divide Fight Traps into two categories: Open Warfare and Secret Warfare.

Open Warfare are those outright slaps in the face, such as Name Calling, Put Downs, Sarcasm, Yelling, Screaming and Character Assassination.

Secret Warfare includes the indirect ways that couples stick it to each other like, Guilt Tripping, Recruiting Allies to Your Side, Passive Aggression (coming late, “forgetting”) and even what I call the Three Scrooges: Nagging, Whining and Complaining.

If you want to fight fair, you need to ditch your Open and Secret Warfare tactics.

You also need to know that anger is a big smoke screen. When we’re angry and fighting it’s because our needs aren’t being met. Learning to state your needs properly (rather than blaming your partner after he lets you down) is the most important secret to heading off fights in the first place.

If and when a fight does erupt, to fight fair, substitute the Fight Traps with my proven X, Y Formula,

Which consists of saying what was said or done and how you feel about it. In my book Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First) I show you how to create a winning X, Y Formula by starting with a Disclaimer, and finishing with your Suggestion for the Future.

Last, but not least, if you want to fight fair, you must learn to listen.

Good listening skills head off and/or quickly resolve any beef. When you listen with the ears of your heart, you’re not only fighting fair, you’re fighting for your relationship.

Never forget: relationships are like rubber bands.

They can only be stretched so far before they snap. Don’t let your relationship fall apart under the weight of not fighting fair! I’ve helped hundreds of thousands of couples go from conflict to blissful connection. Are you ready to jump aboard?

Dr. Jamie Turndorf –

# 13. Don’t use your own hurt to justify hurting your partner, instead acknowledge the hurt, process it and respectfully discuss your feelings


Some couples believe that fighting fair is some oxymoron, but I beg to differ.

In my private practice, I frequently assist couples in learning how to effectively fight fair.

There are rules of war, so it is only plausible that we as mental health professionals assume that there are unspoken rules for relationships as well. I call these the “rules of love and war.” These rules must be explored with couples facing turmoil.

A fair fight is a mutually consensual one.

Communication is an essential element of a relationship, but attempting to engage in a heated debate with a hushed partner is not a fair fight. There’s a time and a place for everything and if both partners do not agree to engage, then the fight quickly turns into an attack.

The most common attack that I hear is hitting below the belt.

This is when a partner takes confidential knowledge of the other partner and uses it to cause harm. While it is true that hurt people, hurt people; couples must be careful to avoid this dangerous trap. Instead of using one’s own hurt to justify hurting the other, it is important to acknowledge the hurt, process it and respectfully discuss one’s feelings.

Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey –

# 14. Manage your emotions, protect the relationship and be aware of your intention

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on conflict management, and the first line stated, “Conflict is inevitable.” Through my 27 years of practice and research in this area, I have found the following guidelines to serve me (and my clients) well when in conflict. This list is certainly not exhaustive…but they make a real difference when put into action!

1. Manage your emotions so that your emotions donʼt manage you.

Since conflict is inherently emotional (otherwise, how would you know youʼre in conflict?), it is paramount to take charge of your emotions so that you can use them to underscore your statements rather than score with them.

2. Protect the relationship.

We are bound to “bump heads” from time to time with people we love and care about. It is important to remember, especially in times of heightened emotions, that the relationship is important to us, and that comments or tactics done in anger or hurt can and will damage the relationship. When the fight is over, the damage can linger. By protecting the relationship, we handle each other more lovingly.

3. Be intentional.

The fact is, every time we interact with someone, we are going to have an impact. This we have no choice about. The choice we do have is, “What kind of impact do you mean to have?” If your intent is to hurt them because they hurt you, it will come out that way. If your intent is to sort the issues out toward healing and resolving the conflict, then that will happen.

Dr. Greg Alch –

This video explains the secret reasons men LIE to women (even women they truly do love)…

And a special “tweak” you can make in how you interact with a man to force him to tell you the absolute truth…

# 15. Never stick the psychic’s jugular


Every couple wants to know how to fight fair.

Is there such a thing? When our emotions are heightened and we feel defensive (and sometimes entitled), it can be very difficult to consider our partner’s point of view. While having the ideal “tennis-match” exchange of opinions and ideas may not always be possible, here are a few tips that could help.

1. Never say never… or always…

Unless you are arguing about brushing your teeth, there is rarely an event in which your partner “always” or “never” does something. This will lead to a quest for specific examples and thus starts the record-keeping. Remember, relationships are give and take, not winning and losing.

2. Stick to the topic at hand: 

While your position may have some merit, its not always helpful if you “just-so-happened” to bring up an upsetting event from last Christmas. This will derail both of your from the current issue, taking you further and further away from a resolution.

3. You are not a psychic:

When someone tries to tell you how you think or how you feel, its rarely accurate and it certainly doesn’t feel good. Don’t do this to your partner. Not only will it raise their defensiveness but it will also signal to your partner that you are not hearing them.

4. Don’t go for the jugular: 

Because our partners see all our sides, because we have allowed ourselves to be vulnerable with them, because we trust them, our partners know our weak spots just like we know theirs. Don’t use the extraordinary features of your relationship as ammunition. Arguments can be healthy; don’t take it as an opportunity to be hurtful.

There are many tips and techniques that can be useful when having an argument with your partner. Practice them during fights big and small and over time it will become a part of your routine.

Brynn Cicippio, MA, LMFT –

# 16. Follow these 11 guidelines

Kimberly Atwood

Arguing in couples can be heated, intense, scary and painful at times. However, it can also bring the couple much closer together and help partners get on the same page.

Due to the heightened emotions on both sides during disagreements, it can help to have some rules to keep in mind:

1. Avoid global statements, such as ‘always’ and ‘never.’

2. Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements. For example, “I feel as though I do not get enough help around here.” Rather than, “you do not help out enough around here.”

3. Stay present – stick with one topic at a time. Do not bring up things from the past.

4. Do not attack your partner. Do not curse. Refrain from name-calling.

5. There is no need to blame your partner. Blame is not productive and it is inextricably linked to shame.

6. Remain calm and keep your voice down. Yelling just keeps people at a distance and makes them not want to or unable listen.

7. Step away. If you feel the need to step away, that’s okay. Let your partner know that you need a break. You may need to take a night and sleep on it – things often seem clearer in the morning. Coming back together to continue the discussion is the key to resolving it, so make sure you find a time to revisit the discussion.

8. Avoid ‘right and wrong’ thinking. Many arguments are power struggles, during which each party is fighting to be ‘right.’ Don’t fight to be right, work together for the good of the relationship.

9. Focus more of your effort on listening than talking. When your partner is talking, do your best to actively listen and resist the temptation to think about what you’re going to say next.

10. Do not threaten or mention divorce or break-up. This is hurtful, creates anxiety, and adds many more layers beyond the current disagreement.

11. Attempt to be more curious and less defensive. Ask more questions of the other person rather instead of assuming you know what he is thinking.

All of these rules are difficult to practice, especially in the heat of the moment, so try keeping them in mind during less intense conversations with your partner as well.

You may not be able to take all of these rules into each disagreement at the same time, so pick a few and discuss them with your partner, so you are both trying to implement one or two at the same time, together. Remember, you are not seeking perfection, just improvement.

Kimberly Atwood, MA, LPC –

# 17. Speak calmly, be mindful, listen deeply, slow it down and restore the connection

Relationships are joyful and rewarding, but they can also bring negative emotions during conflict or tension.

It is inevitable that you will not always be on the same page with your partner, so how you and your partner manage conflict is crucial to preserving the health of your relationship. Conflicts can become events that tear you apart or bring you to greater understanding and bonding. With effective communication and mutual respect, you can focus on fighting fairly.

Below are a few tips for handling conflict:

1. Set an intention to come together to resolve the issue. This creates collaboration.

2. Speak calmly and assertively. Resist the urge to allow your anger to intentionally hurt your partner.

3. Be mindful in your choice of words and actions. Use your words constructively with care while owning how you feel and taking responsibility for your part.

4. Listen deeply and attentively. Do your best to withhold judgment or respond defensively. Avoid interrupting and make sure you are taking turns.

5. Slow it down. Arguments can be heated and fast-paced, which interferes with the amount of time you have to listen, process, reflect and communicate wisely. Create space between your reaction and response.

6. Make a conscious effort to learn and grow as an individual and as a couple. Restore your connection by ending a fight with a hug, an apology or positive words (examples- thank you for listening, I feel much better and I hope you do too or I love you).

Rachel Dack, MS, LCPC –

# 18. Ask yourself these 4 questions


Is Your Goal “Me-Oriented” or “We-Oriented”?

Do you focus on “winning” (at all costs) or do you focus on working together to make the relationship better? The former is obviously corrosive to relationships; the latter brings out the best in both parties.

Do you keep the Law of Reciprocity in Mind?

Human beings are creatures of reciprocity. If we feel like someone doesn’t care about our point of view, we are unlikely to care about theirs. Conversely, when someone tries to understand our perspective, we try to understand theirs. When considering how you want to engage the other person, ask “Do I want to receive back what I plan on giving?”

When You Feel Defensive, Do You Act It Out or Do You Name It?

One of the most powerful ways to turn conflict into a transformational process is to simply acknowledge when you feel defensive rather than act it out. Naming our negative emotions literally changes how the brain functions, cooling down the amygdala—a structure that gets activated when we feel threatened.

When the other person hears us calmly—or as calmly as we can—state that we are feeling defensive, rather than acting it out, they are much more able to hear our perspective and empathize, rather than become defensive themselves or reactive in some other way.

Are You Honorable When You Hear The Truth?

If the other person gives you feedback that you know is true, even though it hurts, do you defend against it, try to “get them back” or do you acknowledge its validity? If the other person has a good point or valid perspective, do you act like politicians on Sunday morning talk shows and ignore their valid point and change the subject, or do you acknowledge the validity of what they just said?

The more honorable you are in acknowledging the truth, the more the other person will trust you and care about listening to your point of view.

David Lee, Consultant –

# 19. Establish rules, remember you love your partner and learn to challenge each other in a constructive manner


As in any great partnership, debate and disagreement are inevitable.

Thus, the goal is not the avoid conflict completely. The goal is to approach and handle the conflict constructively. Here are some tactics my partner and I use to fight fairly (we find that fighting CAN be fun!).

1. Above all, establish rules for your fights.

Some examples of rules are: never take low blows regarding issues your partner has confided in you out on confidence; never threaten abandonment (divorce or saying you will leave); never abuse your partner physically, emotionally, or verbally. These rules are more obvious to some than others but it’s good to have an open dialogue about what it means to cross the line and damage the relationship bond, and in what ways that can happen for you personally (everyone has different boundaries).

2. Next, I always try to remember something I learned in graduate school.

In a relationship, it takes 20 positive acts of kindness to balance out 1 action out of spite or negativity. This means, if I say a sarcastic comment to my partner, I will have to do 20 nice things for him to balance the pain and damage caused by the one sarcastic comment. Is it worth it? The answer is almost always no. This is hard to remember in the heat of the moment but it’s good to remember. We find ourselves saying “20 to 1, babe!” and laughing about it, remembering how important each moment is.

3. Remember that you are in love with this person.

They are your partner in crime, best friend, lover, daily companion. They are not your foe or enemy, and definitely not the person that cut you off on the freeway earlier. Don’t take your aggression or anger out on them, ever. They come to you to confide in when they are hurt or had a bad experience at work.

You might be the only person they are comfortable confiding in. Therefore, don’t be the cause of their pain or hurt, whenever at all avoidable. If their outlet is the one inflicting the pain, it can be confusing and detrimental. It throws the relationship out of balance and if the pain is caused repeatedly, it might cause the hurt partner to seek consolation outside of the relationship. Though it is not an excuse to cheat, we can see in this situation why one might be tempted to have their needs met elsewhere.

4. Lastly, try to have fun with it.

My partner and I are in business together as well and we love to play Devil’s Advocate with one another. We throw curve balls and challenge each other’s thought processes in a constructive way, while remaining aware of the rules above and remaining respectful above all. We like to keep one another on our toes but not in a bullying way. Challenging each other is a way to keep the relationship intriguing. There’s an art to doing it in a respectful way!

Rima Danielle Jomaa, MFT –

# 20. Stop trying to be right, don’t be mean & accept that arguments are part of being in a relationship


A few things we need to remember when trying to fight fair are:

– Stop trying to be right.

What does it matter if you are right and the person you love isn’t speaking to you? Is it that important to be right if it means you hurt your partner or create negativity in your relationship? What does being right mean anyways? We get so caught up in trying to prove our point, that we forget that the end goal is improving the relationship.

– Don’t be mean or bring up things from the past.

Being hurtful to your partner in an argument or referring to things that happened long ago is not only unfair, but also very unproductive. If the goal truly is to have your feelings understood and validated, then attacking your partner with harsh words and grudges will only backfire by creating defensiveness and anger.

Not only that, but if you want someone to understand you, you have to try to understand them. Relationships are a two way street and it is important to be considerate of your partner if you want them to be considerate of you, even in a fight.

– Accept that arguments are a part of being in a relationship.

If you learn to argue productively, disagreements can function as inspirations for change and opportunities to strengthen your bond as a couple. Moving through conflict can create greater trust and relationship security. Many couples find that arguments are a healthy way to address tension and navigate concerns.

Lisa Resnick, LPC, CHHC –

# 21. Follow these 4 guidelines


It is natural and inevitable , that all relationships at some time, will have conflict, anger, and disagreements.

Conflict is actually a healthy part of a relationship because it means that one feels safe and comfortable to express their opinions and emotions to the other.

It also can help with becoming more fully understood as well as it provides the ability to have a “mirror” and to receive feedback about how one is acting and coming across within a relationship. With that being said, it is important that anger and conflict is expressed in a constructive and “fair” way.

Here are some tips for fighting fairly within your relationship.

1. Ask your partner about when is a good time to talk about difficult or conflictual topics.

It is important that you both are feeling awake and energized so that you have the best chance of working things out, feeling heard, and problem solving.

2. Try to be constructive and specific about your needs and requests.

Don’t bully, explode, intimidate, or attack the other’s character. This will erode trust and make it hard to resolve and trust in the future.

3. Stay on one topic at a time, and try not to blame, deflect or distract your partner.

Take all requests and needs seriously and look within about what you are responding to or being triggered by.

4. Try to validate the other’s perspective and work hard on finding a middle ground, compromise or resolution.

Conflict can enhance a relationship if it is addressed and understood and not avoided and dismissed.

Stephanie Newberg, M.Ed., M.S.W., L.C.S.W –

# 22. Fight fair with clear communication


Perhaps the biggest issue at the heart of relationship troubles is communication.

There will be disagreements in every relationship. However, how a couple navigates through these choppy waters can make or break their ship.

When a disagreement presents itself, some of the most effective communication tools are 1) Structured feeling statements 2) Reflective listening.

People want to be heard but so often forget to really listen.

Structured feeling statements: “When you (ACTION/STATEMENT at the heart of the disagreement), I feel (EMOTION: hurt, sad, angry, resentful, etc….), because… (ASSOCIATION: it reminds me of when… it seems like…). These statements, when utilized correctly, foster clear and direct communication and minimize the defensiveness of the listening partner.

The speaker is owning her emotional experience, yet letting the partner know how she has been affected by the other. Also, tempers can get heated. Even so, it is important to maintain a tone of respect that does not undermine the integrity of the relationship.

Reflective listening: While your partner is doing his best to clearly communicate his feelings, your job is to reflectively listen without interrupting, remembering to breathe if the temptation arises, and then communicate back to your partner exactly what you heard: “So what you are saying is that when I…you felt…because…. Did I understand you correctly?” When it is clear to both that the listener understood, switch roles. Truly feeling heard can dramatically de-escalate any argument.

Angela DeVita, MFT, ATR –

# 23. Fight with the intention to engage in a respectful, problem-solving dialogue

Fighting fair starts with the intention to engage in a respectful, problem-solving dialogue and is actualized by reflective listening.

Both parties enter into the conversation with a desire to cooperatively create a solution in which the needs of both are honored, rather than a desire to impose their view, be right, and make the other wrong. When you regard your partner as a teammate rather than an adversary, conflict resolution feels more like brainstorming and less like battle.

In my experience, the best way to initiate and maintain this collaborative spirit is through the practice of reflective listening.

One partner will express one point, and before moving on to the next point, the other will repeat back in their own words what they heard. If the speaker feels that the listener has not fully grasped their meaning, he takes the time to elaborate on or clarify their point. This goes on until the speaker has expressed all the points relevant to a particular topic. Then the other party can do the same in response.

The wisdom of this practice lies in its ability to slow down the pace of communication, allow both parties to feel truly heard, create understanding, deescalate combative dynamics, dissipate the emotional charge of difficult topics, foster mutual empathy, and create a calm climate in which effective problem-solving can occur. Give it a try! You may find that this one simple practice can dramatically improve the quality of your relationship.

Clémentine Malta-Bey, MA, LPC –

# 24. Be conscious of your words, stay in the moment & use the perspective technique


Since relationships are about relating and connecting to one another in a respectful way, we need to eliminate the term “fighting” from our love vocabulary.

As we all know, words have a deep impact on us and we often associate fighting with stress and upheaval. These are no ways to resolve a conflict.

The message here is: be conscious of your word choice as you work through your relationship conflicts.

Stay in the present moment as you share what upset you and offer possible solutions to highlight ways to resolve the argument. Where couples often go down a slippery slope is when they address one issue and then unearth additional concerns, which occurred in the past. This approach never ends well.

To model equality in your relationship, focus on the present grievance, stay in the moment, and negotiate ways to remedy the issue.

Applying these principles to your relationship will result in both partners feeling validated and understood.

Using the perspective technique simply means speaking as if the grievance, which you’re addressing, happened to your partner instead of you.

By alternating one’s perspective of any situation, it gives us an important view of the issue at hand.

As a result, we gain empathy for our partner because we envision how we would feel if the upsetting situation happened to us. This is an effective tool to addressing a relationship concern respectfully.

Brooke Campbell, M.A., RDT-BCT, LCAT –

# 25. Listen actively, use “I” statements and don’t expect your partner to read your mind


One of my favorite lines in a movie is from Jerry McGuire when Jerry tells his wife Dorothy, “You complete me”.

Of course, her response to that was, “You had me at hello”. Most of us dream about a major conflict resulting in a lovely exchange of sentiments. However, the truth is an innocent exchange of words can quickly result in a couple forgetting that loving feeling.

Regardless of how much a couple loves one another; conflict is a natural occurrence in a relationship.

Conflict occurs when our partner’s behaviors do not align with our expectations, usually expectations we learned from family, friends, and society.

Despite the nature of the conflict, learning effective communication skills can help reduce and solve most battles.

1. Use active listening.

Active listening allows others to feel respected for their views. Be sure to look the person in the eyes, stay focused on what they are saying, minimize responses while the person is explaining their position, and remain open to their point of view.

2. Use “I” statements and avoid blame.

Begin your statements with “I” and your feelings. It allows you to accept responsibility for how you are feeling and your behaviors.

3. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind.

Be willing to say what you are thinking and feeling. Chances are your partner is unaware of what is going on in your mind. Many partners assume their mate knows what they want or what they are thinking, chances are, they do not.

Dr. Imani Price –

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# 26. Follow these 5 steps


Disagreements are part of every relationship, and how you handle them makes all the difference.

These five steps will help you to embrace conflict as a way to solve rather than complicate problems:

1. Make time and space for conflict.

When there is a need to resolve a problem, make sure you do it in privacy at a time when you are both calm and unrushed. This means perhaps agreeing to discuss a particular issue over a leisurely dinner instead of arguing while you’re both getting ready for work in the morning, and doing it away from the kids.

2. Establish general rules for mutual respect.

Resolution is best reached when name-calling, yelling, door-slamming, storming off, and other destructive behavior is off limits. Agree up front that if either of you get charged up during an argument, you will take a break and come back to the discussion when you have cooled off.

3. Stay focused on the issue at hand.

Conflict goes nowhere when couples go off on tangents, so make sure to address just one issue at a time. If other issues crop up in an argument, take note and agree to tackle them one by one in separate discussions.

4. Confirm a common goal.

Conflict goes best when partners decide going into the discussion what outcome they both want. Regardless of your differences, you will be more likely to reach consensus if you agree up front that you both want to treat each other well and increase your understanding of each other.

5. Don’t compete.

The goal of conflict in a relationship is not to get your way or win; it’s to create common ground from which to build. When you view your relationship as a mutual work in progress, you will find resolution by collaborating – and that is the real secret to fighting fair.

Dr. Amy Wood –

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