Fighting Fairly

Improve Conflict Resolution By Following These Eight Rules of Fighting Fairly

Every couple disagrees at some point. Here are eight rules to make fighting fairly the norm in your relationship.  

1.  Start gently!  If you go on the attack or you start with a passive aggressive comment, you will get met with resistance or defensiveness. Examples of how to be more effective in addressing concerns: 

  • Honey, something’s been bothering me. Can we talk for a moment?”
  • “I know when we’ve talked about this in the past it hasn’t gone well, but I’d like it to be different this time.”
  • “Hey, is now a good time to bring something up? I’ve been bothered about something and just thought we should clear the air.”

2.  Try making a repair in the middle of the conversation.  Iff you see the conversation is not going in the right direction, try something like:

  • “Oh! I didn’t mean to say it that way, can I start again?”
  • “Wow, I really messed that up right now. I’m really sorry.”
  • “I don’t like how this is going. I’m afraid we’re going to start yelling like we always do.  Can we start over more calmly?”

3.    Shift complaints into requests. Instead of, “I hate it when you don’t wipe down the stove” say, “Honey, will you wipe down the stove? I’d appreciate it.”

4.  Stop being so critical!  For example, don’t say, “Why do you always…” Or “You never…” or “God, you’re so…” Don't call each other names or compare your partner to their parent or sibling.  Don't roll your eyes and say something snidely or under your breath.  Feeling hurt, anxious or angry is not an excuse to be critical. 

5. Stop being so defensive! If you resist, it persists!! You won’t allow your partner to get over her frustration or feel heard if you keep resisting what he is saying (by being defensive, criticizing in return, withdrawing from the conversation, etc.). You don’t have to agree with them, but it goes a long way to validate what they’re saying. Examples of ways to validate and not resist:

  • “Okay, I can see what you mean…”
  • “Okay, I really got what you said and how you feel about that… You feel this…”
  • “I know, I see your point...”
  • “Yes, I know, I do that sometimes”
  • “It must be hard feeling that way…”

6.  Listen more than you talk. If you find yourselves feeling like you’re on two different planets when you talk, it’s probably because you’re not really listening to each other. You may be lost in your own head or planning what you want to say next. Remember, PRESENCE is what is most needed for good communication.  

7.  Learn to ask directly for what you want and need. Stop wishing s/he would just “get it” and start asking for what you want to have happen. Say things like, “I want you to hug me right now.”; “I would like you to tell me you appreciate how hard I work.”; “I want you to start planning more dates.”

8.  Don’t talk when you’re really upset! While it’s completely normal and healthy to get upset with each other, it does no good to talk about your issues when you’re too upset to talk well.  People break this fighting fairly rule all the time!!  If you want to drastically improve particularly nasty conflict, stop this nonsense immediately.  Agree to come back to it later when both of you are more calm.  The sooner the better but depending on timing and temperament, you may need to talk about it in a day or so. 


For even more information on effective communication, download my e-book called, "Honey Let's Talk: A Couple"s Guide to Improving Communication."