Part of being in a healthy relationship is communicating effectively, including when someone feels angry or disappointed. Disagreements and fights are bound to happen in any relationship, which is why it’s crucial to know how to fight fairly with a partner.
What is unfair fighting? It’s when one or both partners use negativity during a disagreement to get their point across, thereby not actually helping the conflict. Unfair fighting does not help the matter at hand, and it does not help either partner be understood.
Here are some points to share about fair fighting:
Feelings are legitimate: If either partner feels strongly about something, they are entitled to a voice in the argument and to have those feelings heard. Trying to hear them out and understand their perspective on the matter will help both sides avoid becoming too focused on their own needs. Getting defensive and interrupting will not help, but listening will.
Admit to being wrong: People often have trouble admitting they were wrong. Justifying an apology won’t be as effective as apologizing outright. Partners should avoid statements like “I didn’t mean to” or “what I did was nothing compared to you”.
Maintain control: Cheap shots often come out of frustration from not being understood. Just because someone is angry does not mean they can act childish or immature. This includes name-calling, insulting, or saying things with the sole intent of hurting a partner.
Avoid emotional bullying: Do not punish a partner for bringing up a complaint in the first place. This will only shut down the conversation faster. Instead of becoming angered by a grievance, allow the other side to speak about the issue.
Deal with it: Both partners should talk about what is bothering them instead of shutting down or giving one the silent treatment. Shutting down involves no communication about why a partner has withdrawn and when both sides can talk about the issue again. It’s also unfair to withdrawal from the argument and then open it up again without addressing the earlier conflict.
Look for resolution: If a partner chooses to get even or spite their partner, that’s not fighting fair. Relationships are not competition -- they are a partnership. Focus on working together to come up with a compromise that works for both.
Stay relevant: Bringing up old grudges will be upsetting. Stick to the argument at hand so that a fight doesn't deteriorate into a free-for-all of other baggage. By attacking a partner personally, it becomes a way to degrade or belittle the other, which are unhealthy behaviors.
End it peacefully: If one partner is apologizing for something said or done, recognition of that apology is important. Moreover, arguments should have a time limit instead of stretching on indefinitely.
Is it worth fighting over?: Not every disagreement should devolve into a fight. No one has to be angry every time there is a disagreement.
If you know someone who is experience unhealthy communication in their relationship, have them contact one of our peer advocates by texting “loveis” to 22522.