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Improve Your Relationship: Fight Fairly

Couple engaged in a conversation

Couples argue. It’s human nature and it doesn’t doom your relationship to failure. In fact, conflict is helpful and productive if done with love and compassion. In other words, fight fair.

So, what does fighting fair mean? First, take an honest look at your arguing patterns. If possible, try to zero in on specific areas that continually create conflict in your relationship. Do arguments over these issues erupt suddenly? Or do they build while having a regular conversation? How long does it take for the tone of the discussion to ramp up, and how long does it take for the discussion to go south? Get a timer. Really, I am recommending this.

Do one of you need to win the argument?

Fair fighting requires rules of engagement. Parameters need to be set. Language limits need to be discussed. Time limits are an absolute. Determine when to end the argument because you aren’t getting anywhere. Come back to it. Most importantly, neither of you need to be a winner or loser.

Conflict and arguing are only effective when they lead to each person in the relationship feeling as if they have been heard. It’s perfectly o.k. to say “I hear you” but I don’t agree. In many cases, you won’t agree. Two people, two different vantage points. Now, the hard part — more rules. Back to the timer. Resist the impulse to let an argument go on and on. If you are getting nowhere, take a time out. Set a time to return to the conflict and give yourselves some breathing time.

Resolution of conflict looks different to different people. What represents fair and comfortable resolution for you as a couple? Yes, you need to have that discussion as part of your relationship.

Since you won’t always agree, how do you resolve a complicated issue? For more on that, come back for Part II of “fighting fair.”

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