Fair Fighting Rules

Most relationships have conflict.  It happens. I would encourage you not to avoid conflict, but to embrace it. When you get into a conflict with your partner, you must have fair fighting rules.  Check out these 10 helpful techniques you can apply prior to arguing:

  1. No hitting below the belt.  No calling names, cussing, or ridiculing your partner.  Criticizing your partner will only draw him or her away from you.

  3. No talking over your partner. It is important that you are patient. Take turns to speak while the other partner is listening (active listening).  Active listening is listening with curiosity and focus. You’re trying to understand your partner and become closer to him or her. This takes a high level of patience and breathing to manage your emotion.

  5. Create a word you both recognize. This helps set a boundary when one or both of you need a time-out.  This word should be neutral.  Please honor your partner’s boundary when he or she sets it.  After you have set a boundary, excuse yourself and inform your partner you will return.  This is important, because you don’t want to recreate a historical abandonment.  Always tell your partner you will return after your emotion has reduced.

  7. Be kind and use an easy manner.  It is important to show your partner that you are interested and focused.

  9. Don’t be vague.  When describing a problem, put it into behavioral terms like “Yesterday, I felt hurt when you called me a dirty slug.”  instead of saying, “You called me a name and I can’t stand it.”  Try to use the 5 W’s (What, When, Where, Why and Who?).

  11. Use “I feel” Statements.  This means you must be vulnerable to share with your partner your feelings. These feelings can be sadness, hurt, pain, anger, sadness, shame or guilt.  The statement would go as follows: “Jim, I feel hurt, when you call me a dirty slug because it makes me feel less than.”  I feel_________, when you____________, because________________.  Fill in the blanks.  Using “I feel” statements allows your partner to react without being defensive, because he or she is not perceiving your statement as an attack.  When you use “you statements,” your partner is more likely to react defensively.

  13. Stay present and focused during conflict.  If you find yourself distracted or over stimulated, ask for a time-out. Distance can sometimes cause clarity.

  15. Schedule a time to discuss your differences rather than trying to multi-task your argument with other activities.

  17. Don’t make date night into your scheduled conflict day.  Date night is a time to honor time for the relationship. Choose another time or day to discuss a conflict.

  19. Honor each other’s worldview. Remember that you and your partner share different perspectives.  You don’t have to always agree with someone’s perspective. Simply validate and try to understand. Act interested and always stay honest

I hope you can try to use some of these techniques during your next conflict.  Conflict doesn’t have to be scary. It can indeed be a way to grow and understand each other.


Elana Clark-Faler
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