Iffights happen in your relationship every once in a while, don’t worry --provided that both of you stick to some fair fighting guidelines.
Ideally,if you’re single and getting involved with someone new, it’s a good idea to startlaying the foundation for fair fighting BEFORE you have that first majorblowout.
How do you do that?
Bydiscussing important topics with your partner to see if the two of you arebasically on the same page. Some of the dirtiest fights in relationships happenwhen two people get seriously involved and then discover that they havesurprisingly different expectations about basic things like money, sex,housework -- and how to handle conflict.
So,long before you’re about to move in together, find out where your partnerstands on topics that could have a huge impact on your relationship somewheredown the line. If you’re not on the same page, please don’t convince yourselfthat it won’t matter because you love each other. Discuss those differencesrealistically upfront, rather than fighting angrily about them later.
Or,here’s a radical concept:find someone who matches up with you better on thebasics from the get-go.
Andno matter how long you’ve been in a relationship, a great way to keep laying the foundation for fairfighting is by not allowing problemsbetween you to fester -- and anger to build. Once all that anger builds up andexplodes, it’s harder to resist the urge to fight dirty.
Here’s how you and your partner can keep itFAIR:
**Fight about what you need to be fightingabout. **
There’snothing more exhausting and pointless than hours spent bickering abouteverything BUT the core problems you and your partner need most to address. Andthe more exhausted and annoyed you both get with the bickering, the more likelyyou are to spiral into dirty fighting.
That’swhy it’s important to be as honest and clear as you can with each other aboutwhat the fight is really all about.Don’t drag in a hundred other little issues or past grievances. Keep it asfocused as possible.
Inother words, conserve your energy for the important work that can happen during fights. As in, dealing withthose top priority problems that put distance between you and your partner, andpotentially threaten your relationship.
**Attack the problem, not each other. **
I’mnot saying don’t be angry. Of courseyou’re angry when you’re fighting. But that doesn’t give you license to bedisrespectful and rude.
Thatmeans no snarky sarcasm, name-calling, or putdowns. Although it can feel so good, in the heat of battle, to saysomething that will make your partner feel one-upped and defensive, it’s areally dumb idea. Know why? Because once that stuff comes flying out of yourmouth, your partner probably will never, ever forget it.
Andthen the damage is done.
Duringa fight, think of your words as potential darts. When you’re not fighting fair, on somelevel, you know that your words arehitting the target with their sharp, piercing metal tips. Ina fair fight, no matter how much you’d liketo make your words into darts, you have to figure out how to make them intothose ping pong balls covered with self-adhering Velcro instead!
Oh,and it does help to use specific “I” statements during arguments (e.g., “I feelthreatened when you yell at me like that,” etc.), rather than generalizedpersonal attack statements (e.g., “You’re a stupid Neanderthal bastard,” etc.).
Speak for yourself.
Whenyou’re pissed off and the stakes are high, you’re going to have a hard enoughtime accurately describing your ownposition. Concentrate on doing that well, staying as focused as possible -- andnot going into attack mode. Use those “I” statements, even if doing so seems a littlecorny to you.
Andif you get the desperate urge in the middle of a fight to mind-read what’sgoing on in your partner’s own head, stopit! Instead, ask your partner to speak for him- or herself. Then listen without interrupting. And try to understand.
Speakingfor yourself also means not dragging other people’s opinions into your fight tostrengthen your position. That includes opinions of your family members,friends, or therapist -- especially those opinions that conveniently make yourpartner out to be the only flawed person in the relationship.
Newsflash: there are two flawed people in every relationship.
Leave some wiggleroom.
When you’re in the middle of a fight, and mad as hell, youmight think that the ultimate goal is to win at any cost. Take no prisoners and all that. But if you value your partner and the relationship, you'll get over that way of thinking!
There are two outcomes to hope for at the end of a fight: (1) Get through it with as little damage as possible and, (2) Effectively attack whatever problem is causing you to fight -- and threatening your relationship.
To achieve those outcomes, there needs to be enough "wiggle room" so that the fight doesn't go past that terrible "point of no return."
You and your partner might want to consider agreeing in advance on a "time-out" signal or code word. If a fight feels like it's getting out of control, the signal or code word allows either person to put the argument on hold for a later, designated time. This is a lot better than one person unexpectedly "abandoning" the argument!
Last but not least, there's nothing like genuine apologies coming from both people to turn a fight into something that makes a relationship stronger.