Tips For Fighting Fair
How to fight fair
The lack of conflict in a relationship is not a good thing. Healthy amounts of conflict can actually make a relationship stronger and bring partners closer to each other. Not acknowledging problems in a relationship in order to avoid conflict is an unhealthy pattern and does not serve to protect the longevity of the relationship. Perhaps the most common myth about couples that are perceived to be happy is that they do not fight. In my practice, as a couples’ counselor, I encourage my couples to disagree and argue in a healthy, relationship-building kind of way.
In this article, I will share some of the tips that I have found to be extremely helpful in teaching couples to fight in a fair manner.
1. Don’t avoid conflict-
If your partner’s actions or behavior makes you angry, say so. Holding back on expressing how you feel just to keep the peace in the relationship is going to backfire, sooner than later. Couples that unknowingly get stuck into a pattern of avoiding conflict are surprised when they find themselves divided by a wall of resentment and bitterness. A lot of people are conflict avoidant or uncomfortable with conflict because of the way conflict was handled in their family of origin. If you are one of many that run in the opposite direction in the face of conflict, know that by not rocking the boat, you are not doing yourself or your partner any favors.
2. Pick your battles-
Sounds like an oxymoron because how can you approach conflict instead of avoiding it and yet pick your battles? You can! Most arguments or disagreements stem from a misunderstanding or the underlying mood of one or all of the people engaged in the argument. If your partner does not call when they are running late, on their way home to work, ask yourself if you are angry about them being late or angry about them not letting you know that they are ok. Before you dive into the fight over the issue, make sure you are clear what it is that you are fighting for and consider if the issue at hand could be addressed a different way. For example, letting your partner know that when they don’t call to let you know that they are ok, you become worried versus yelling at your partner, the minute they walk in, telling them how selfish they are for not calling.
3. Time Out-
Because of different attachment styles, partners have different reactions to stress and conflict. For someone with an anxious attachment style, relief is sought by hashing out the issue at hand and talking things through. However, for someone with an avoidant attachment style, talking things through is extremely stressful and their brain seeks isolation to regulate itself. Be mindful of each other’s attachment styles and agree upon a time out strategy. When one partner calls time-out, the conflict stops temporarily. However, it is important to have a mutually agreed upon time-frame in place for checking back in after calling timeout. In other words, timeout should not last for hours. Ideally, a timeout should last about 15 minutes followed by a check in to see if the issue could be resolved without either party becoming dysregulated again.
4. Fighting face to face-
Conflicts and arguments tend to escalate pretty quickly when they happen via texting or in the absence of face to face contact between partners. The reason being, partners are unable to track each other’s moods when they are not looking at each other and it puts their nervous systems into a state of high alert. It’s best to avoid discussing hot button topics until you and your partner can sit down face to face.
5. Everyone wins-
Couples in secure functioning relationships always look for resolutions to their arguments that are a win-win solution for both of them. If your arguments almost always result in you or your partner losing out in some way, with time the foundation of your relationship will begin to show cracks. Take the time to negotiate, compromise and confirm that you and your partner are truly ok with the outcome of the argument.
6. Quick repair-
A very important part of fighting fair is the ability to make quick repair. Couples that fail to repair hurt as soon as it happens often are confronted with memories of past hurts each time they get into an argument. Quick repair is also important to prevent the injury from becoming a part of your long term memory because the longer an event or feeling stays in your awareness, the more likely that it will become a part of your memory bank. Repair can be made by verbally apologizing, physical touch and eye contact, reassuring your love for each other and reinforcing the safety in the relationship.
I hope these tips will come in handy, the next time you get into an argument with your partner. Perhaps using one or all of them will result in a different outcome or even a different experience of conflict in your relationship. Remember, conflict in moderation and handled in a balanced and healthy manner can strengthen your relationship.
Written by: Nagma V. Clark, Ph.D., L.P.C.C. specializing in sex therapy, couples therapy & marriage counseling, premarital counseling, individual relationship therapy & LGBTQQI couples counseling at Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. in the East Bay, in Dublin & Oakland.
If you and your partner would like to learn more about conflict resolution and how to strengthen your relationship, couples/marriage counseling at Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. in the East Bay can help. Dr. Clark utilizes an integrative approach to help couples strengthen all facets of their relationship.
Call 925-400-3541 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 30 minute phone consult or fill out the contact form and you will be contacted within 12-24 hours.