How to Fight Fair in a Relationship According to Experts
Every relationship deals with conflict and arguments, no matter how much you love each other or how good the sex might be. How you deal with those disagreements is a big factor in if your relationship will last or not.
Jack and Jill Adult asked experts to share their advice on how to fight fair with a partner. Here’s what they had to say.
Own Your Part
“Take responsibility for your role in the conflict and argument,” says Christene Lozana, founder of Meraki Counseling Services. “While it can be easier to find fault and blame your partner, practice some self-reflection to recognize how you may be contributing to the conflict. While you don’t have control over what your partner says or does, you do have control over how you relate and respond to them.”
Matchmaker Amber Artis agrees. “Instead of blaming your partner and pointing out what they have (or haven’t) done, take responsibility for your part in the situation. Acknowledge what you may have said, done, or felt that led to the disagreement.”
Avoid Blanket Statements
Artis also advises not to speak in absolutes. “Don’t say things like ‘You always do that’ or ‘You never listen.’ No one is always one way and it is unfair to box in your partner like that.”
Lozano agrees. “These blanket statements can easily fuel defensiveness. All your partner needs to do is think of one exception to your statement, which increases the likelihood of fueling the conflict.”
These blanket statements also include name-calling says Steven Reigns, founder of Therapy for Adults. “Name-calling isn’t just four-letter words but also sweeping generalizations like nagging, inconsiderate, or selfish.”
Take a Time Out
“‘Time outs’ help each partner calm and reset,” states Reigns. “Fitbits and smartwatches are great because they track your heart rate. A heartbeat of more than 100 beats per min is a sign you’re feeling emotionally threatened. Take at least a 30 min break.”
Taking time out doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the problem says Reigns. “Time outs aren’t abandonment. It means the relationship matters and both of you are going to take time to cool down and bring your best selves to the next conversation.”
Leina Rodriguez, LMFT, founder of Refresh Psychotherapy, advises taking time to reflect, as well. “Think about why the topic needs to be brought up and what feelings come up for you in regards to it. Being clear as to why the topic is important to you will help in being clear as to what your needs are and the other person will better understand where you’re coming from.”
Remember That Words Matter
Lozano advises not to hit below the belt. “You probably know your partner’s buttons to push, and striking them where it hurts the most can be a reactive way of really damaging the relationship.”
The last thing you want to do is say something you can’t take back or your partner won’t ever forget. Lashing out in anger almost never leads to a good place. It may cause more problems later.
“Remember that each of you wants to feel heard and understood,” says Lozano. “This can help you empathize with your partner and realize that they may be experiencing the same frustration as you are.”
Focus on the Right Things
Artis advises, “Focus on what you value and love about your partner. Don’t stay focused on the negative. You will easily find what you focus on for so look for the things you love, not the things that may annoy you!”
Rodriguez reminds us that it’s important to focus on a single topic, too. “When people are in the middle of a heated argument, they have a tendency to bring up everything they have been mad about in a relationship. This causes one or both to feel attacked which can cause people to be more defensive. The more defensive a person is, the less likely they will hear the other’s point.”
Be Mindful of Feeling Defensive
Speaking of feeling defensive, we’ve all felt it in an argument. Reigns advises not immediately acting on that feeling.
“Don’t immediately react and respond to a comment that upsets you. Count to 20 while taking some deep breaths,” says Reigns. “Out of your woundedness, you could lash out and hurt the other person. This “leveling the playing field” moves you further away from the connection, intimacy, and love that you ultimately want.”
When Possible, Laugh and Forgive
Artis reminds us that it’s important to have a sense of humor. “This doesn’t mean making light of your partner’s feelings, but using humor to show that you don’t take yourself too seriously can help to lighten the mood,” says Artis. “Sometimes causing a break in the tension can lead to an authentic conversation.”
Artis continues. “Forgive easily. Life is too short to hold grudges. If you really care about each other, be slow to anger and quick to forgive.”
How you fight and argue in a relationship will determine if you’ll stay together or not. It may take unlearning a few bad habits and opening yourself up to your partner, but you can both fight fair and work through problems together.