Fighting Fair with Your Partner: How to Ensure You Both End Up Winners

Photo by istockphto

Photo by istockphto

By Cathy Neville, LPC
Sometimes things get heated and emotions are high.
You just want to make your point.You just want to make him or her listen.You just want to win.But wait a minute. Is that really the goal?

Yes, you’re angry. Maybe you’re even right.

Still, if you press your point by any means necessary, it’s likely that you and your partner both end up the losers.

There must be a better way.

Fighting Fair

You’ve heard it before. Fight fair.

But how?

When tensions mount, you need something in your arsenal of responses and reactions besides sarcastic barbs, a rising tone, or the silent treatment.

You need some ground rules and a way to communicate that says,

“Let’s have this out” and “I still love you.”

Let’s start with the ground rules:

Rule #1. Keep your cool. Calm, rational behavior lends itself to considerate conversation.

Rule #2. Be specific and focused. Discuss only the issue at hand. Keep your complaints clear and concise. Avoid implying that your partner “always” or “never” does this or that. Generalities usually feel like blame.

Rule #3. Stay away from accusations and embrace “I statements.”Express how you feel rather than putting your partner on guard.

Rule #4. Don’t accumulate complaints, exaggerate faults, or eliminate trust. Avoid tendencies to pile on emotional grievances and overreactions. Never use sensitive topics or areas of vulnerability against your partner.

Rule #5. Don’t shut down. It’s okay to take a break if the discussion is too much for either of you. Assure your partner you will resume the conversation later. When you’re less overwhelmed, come back together calmly.

With the ground rules set, it’s wise to closely consider the specific conflict and the end goal.

Is it worth the effort? Yes?

Then its time to communicate.

The following suggestions may help you employ the fair fighting ground rules and, hopefully, reach a mutually beneficial resolution:

  • Agree to prioritize time to talk. Considerately set a time to iron out issues in a safe, appropriate setting. Prepare to share your position and really listen to your partner’s concerns.
  • Set a conflict resolution goal. What do you want to see happen between you and your partner? How would you like to see your relationship or the situation improve when all is said and done?
  • Take responsibility for your part. Avoid insinuating that your partner “made” you do, think, or feel anything. Simply share how you felt when he or she behaved in a particular manner or responded to you in a certain way. Keep blame to a minimum.
  • Honor the person you know and love. Remember that you love your partner. You don’t really want to hurt him or her. It’s counterproductive to push your partner away. Try to walk in your partner’s shoes instead. Do all you can to see through the anger and disappointment of the moment to the genuine bond you share.
  • Ask yourself what a win/win looks like. Resist the urge to “defeat” your partner by really giving some thought to how compromise might help you solve your problem. Consider the cons of your viewpoint and the pros of your partner’s. Keep an open mind.

Okay, you’ve got ground rules and a plan. Now what?

Proceed to disagree!

It’s okay, as long as you honor your connection.

Keep your communication healthy to keep the battle localized and productive.

If you do find some conflicts are too emotional or require a third, objective perspective, don’t hesitate to call a counselor or therapist.

Learn to fight fair.

You can preserve your love and still have your say.