Fighting Fair

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Most of the time, we think that we are the rational individuals in our marriage. When we engage in an argument, our partner is the one who is being unreasonable. However, fights within relationships are always two-sided, and both parties need to take on some level of responsibility. So, thinking on that vain, do you fight fair?

Fair fights do not mean that you both get equal opportunities to yell, point out each other’s faults, and scream, “I’m right!” Fighting fairly means to acknowledge the fact that you are, in fact, arguing but to stay true to the respect and love that acts as the foundation of your relationship. To create a controlled, neutral environment for fair fighting, follow the steps below and watch how much more effective and respectful your arguments become.

  1. Engagement

When you start to feel your blood boil over an argument trigger, take a deep breath and suppress that urge to scream. Instead, have this line waiting in the wings and say, “Will you engage in a fair fight with me?” Ideally, speak with your partner beforehand and agree on the language that works best for both of you. Maybe you will decide to say, “Can we have a rational conversation about this?” or “I’m willing to fight fairly on this, and you?” Whatever you decide to use, put it into action before the conversation begins to set the tone for a safe, open conversation.

  1. Private Reflection

Reflect on what you want from your partner. If your partner is waiting for you to speak, communicate that you are thinking about what you need from him/her and ask for a little time and patience. Then, spend some time reflecting on the issue at hand (don’t dig up past issues) and what you need from your partner going forward. Think further about how you can word it in a caring, non-critical way to promote growth rather than defensiveness.

  1. Complaint

Put your reflection into action. Clearly state the behavior that made you upset, clearly describing the offensive action. Once your partner is clear on the behavior, explain how it made you feel.

  1. Feedback and Reward

Invite your partner to give feedback about what you said. Let him or her clarify that the complaint is completely understood. When you are both in agreement on what was said, thank your partner for taking the time to understand. Remember throughout this process that even though you are not seeing eye-to-eye at the moment, you are still a team. Treat your partner accordingly.

  1. Private Reflection

Take some more time to reflect on options for change, even small ones. You can do this separately or together. Make sure to take into account the fact that you are both responsible for the wellbeing of the relationship. Include both of you in plans for change.

  1. Request for Change

Clearly state the changes you would like in the relationship. Be as specific as possible.

  1. Feedback and Reward

Repeat #4.

  1. Evocation

Agree as a couple to put the changes into effect. Discuss a time and way to evaluate the effectiveness of the change. Think of this time as the trial period. If the new behaviors do not work, brainstorm together an alternative.

  1. Partner’s Private Reflection

Reflect on options and considerations.

  1. Partner’s Response and Feedback

Agree, disagree, state reservations and suggestions.

  1. Acceptance, Rejection, or Modification

Continue process to closure.

  1. Closure

Close the fight and show appreciation.

You may not use all of these steps in a fair fight with your spouse. Consider this as a guide to the principles and mindset you and your partner should adopt when engaging in disagreements. The calculated and formal nature of the steps may seem awkward and unauthentic, but they actually work as a neutralizing agent to make both you and your partner less emotionally charged and more open to positive change for your ever-growing relationship.

(Source: Passage to Intimacy by Lori H. Gordon, Ph.D)

For a free phone consult, call Dr. Fibus at 818.395.2831.