How to Fight Fair

Arguments happen in every healthy relationship — it sounds contradictory, but it’s true. It’s okay to argue with your partner; not everyone will agree on everything all of the time. But arguments can have a negative impact if they aren’t handled properly. The trick to preventing an argument from destroying your relationship is learning how to “fight” fair.

Now, we want to be clear: we are by no means saying that physical altercations, abusive outbursts or screaming tirades are okay or normal. We’re talking about disagreements that occur within healthy, respectful relationships.

You and your partner can use the tips below to keep your relationship healthy and respectful, even during disagreements.

Take a breath.

It can be difficult to think clearly when you’re angry, so taking a moment to collect your thoughts before engaging in a dialogue with your partner can be helpful. Anger can be poisonous, and if you’re not careful, you could potentially say something that might damage your relationship. Taking a breath before getting into an argument is an important step in learning how to fight fair.

Use "I feel" language.

When arguing with your partner, try to think carefully about the words you’re using. You’ll have a more productive argument if you focus less on the actions of your partner and describe how those actions make you feel. For example, instead of saying “You always choose the movie,” say, “I feel like I don’t get the opportunity to pick the movie.”

Take the situation as it is.

Even though you’re angry and it can be hard to be objective, try to see the situation for what it is. Try not to escalate the argument just because your partner does. Ask yourself: is this situation worth arguing about? Try to understand the purpose behind an action. If something happened accidentally, you should not treat it as if it was done intentionally.

Avoid making excuses.

If you have done something wrong, the best possible option is to admit it. Denying something only makes it more hurtful, and your partner is likely to forgive you much more quickly if you are honest and forthcoming.

Set ground rules.

After a fight, you and your partner can take stock of what happened. You can discuss what hurt each of you and how you can move forward. At this point, you can set some ground rules for future arguments — like not cursing at each other or calling each other names — which might help reduce the intensity. If at any point either partner breaks one of the agreed-upon rules, or the argument gets too intense, the other partner has the right to stop, safely walk away and pick up the discussion again when things have calmed down.

Remember you're on the same team.

In a healthy relationship, there should be an understanding that you’re working towards a common goal: you both want to be loved and appreciated. We know that “losing” an argument can really dent your pride. Before you go too far, take a step back and think of an argument not as you against your partner, but you and your partner against a problem that you can solve together.

Arguing with someone is never easy, but it’s especially difficult when you’re arguing with someone that you care about. When you know how to fight fair, thinking carefully and controlling yourself during an argument can help you avoid saying something that could hurt your partner or scar your relationship.

If you do not feel safe communicating with your partner, or if your partner constantly yells, calls you names, or blames you for their behavior, these can be warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Our advocates are here to support you.


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