The Good Fight

The Good Fight

Tension and conflict are inevitable aspects of every relationship. Believe it or not, you can have a good and a fair fight. Having a fair fight is necessary if you want to avoid bad feelings for a long time afterwards.

The following may indicate you are having a “bad” fight:

  • You forget what you are fighting about and continue to fight anyway.
  • You think that if your partner wins, you lose (or you think you must win this one).
  • You bring up past issues that have nothing to do with the current disagreement.
  • You don’t listen to your partner because you already know what he/she is going to say.
  • One or the two of you resort to name-calling, sarcasm, or put downs.
  • Things get out of control when you fight.

You can learn how to fight fair. The following are simple rules for a fair fight.

Pick the right time

A partner who is tired or upset can become defensive or angry. Also, you need to make sure your spouse is ready to hear you. Pick a time that he/she agrees on. Even if you are eager, wait.

Avoid a negative start

Research shows that happens in the first 30 seconds of a conversation can greatly determine outcome of that conversation. Consider carefully the tone and content of your opening remarks. Nine ways NOT to begin a conversation: You always…”, You never…”, “Why can’t you just…”, “You’re not listening…”, “You just don’t get it…”, “What, this again…”, “You have to understand…”, “How long is this going to take?”, “Everyone else…”

Be Specific

Deal with the issue at hand, not with a symptom of the problem. Get real about what is bothering you, or you will come away from the exchange even more frustrated.

Remain task-oriented

Know what you want going into the disagreement. If you don’t have a goal in mind, you won’t know when you’ve achieved it.

Keep it relevant

Don’t bring up old grudges or sore points when they don’t belong in a particular argument. Put boundaries around the subject matter so that a fight doesn’t deteriorate into a free-for-all.

Avoid character assassination

Stay focused on the issue, rather than deteriorating to the point of attacking your partner personally. Don’t let the fight degenerate into name-calling.

Know when you take a break

This is one of the most important skills you can develop. If you are going in circles, getting nowhere or getting angrier, you need a break to cool down. Repeating what you have just said will not change the outcome. Calm yourself down and try to have positive thoughts about your partner during the break. If you continue to have negative thoughts about your partner during the break, you will not be able to calm down. Think about what you want to say or need and agree on another meeting time.

When you resume the conversation, preferably within 24 hours, go back and review the rules above or find other resources about rules for conversations by reading articles or books

Know how to take a break

You need to know how to take a break. There is a difference between a hostile disengagement and a kind disengagement. For a kind disengagement you may say any of these:

“This is getting unproductive, I need to take a break, and I’ll be back in x minutes to resume our conversation”

“I am very interested in what you have to say, but not when you say it this way”.

“I am getting frustrated and I need to take a break to calm down” The key is that the partner who initiates the disengagement is the one who is responsible for resuming the conversation later on. Many partners are concerned about a break because often the one who initiates doesn’t return to the table and that leaves the partner who was left without closure.