Man and woman standing against a wall trying to figure out how to fight fair

How to Fight Fair in a Relationship

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Fight Fair.

What does that even mean?  In every relationship I ever had, I always felt like this was something that didn’t exist.

There was name calling, abuse, yelling, throwing things.

Doesn’t sound fair to me.

I thought it was all normal.  I mean, every relationship I had ever witnessed had some form of this.

Isn’t that sad?

At least I know now that it is possible to fight fair with your partner.  Not only that, the tips I will give you will usually work for any kind of disagreement you have with anyone.

So buckle up and let’s start learning to fight in healthy ways.


How to Fight Fair in a Relationship Pinterest Pin


Fighting Unfairly

It looks like Aaron and I have the perfect marriage.

And to some extent, I feel we do.

We respect each other, tell each other we love each other every day, we still hold hands while watching tv, etc.

When we disagree (which isn’t often), we don’t yell at each other, or call each other names.

Our disagreements are usually over pretty quickly.

It wasn’t always like this though.

We had to have some pretty serious changes in our behavior and some serious discussions to get to this point of peace and love.

Our first few years of living together was rocky, with all about the screaming, name calling, slamming things, and saying things we didn’t mean.

Until one day, I had enough.

We sat down and hashed out some ground rules that became the foundation of our arguments and it brought us closer than ever.

In came down to these principles that re-imagined the way we approach disagreements.


#1  Name Calling is Unacceptable

When you name call, it is meant to demean your partner.

Sure, they may be being a jerk. But there is an important psychological reason not to resort to calling them that.

Name calling is demeaning and usually used when you want to hurt someone or bring them down to your level.

And it works.

Unless everyone in your life that you have ever come across has loved you, you have been called names too.

Whether in relationships, by coworkers, or on the playground.

I am willing to bet you remember when it happened and how you felt, even 20 years later.

When you think back to the person who called you the name, you probably don’t remember that person fondly, even if they were nice to you later.

Which is why you should refrain from calling your partner names.

They will remember it as hurtful and demeaning. It will start to become a habit of them looking at you a little bit differently (and not in a good way). And they will remember it every time you use a certain tone of voice or say something that triggers the memory.

And a little piece of resentment will start to form and grow.  Even if you apologize for it.

It seems dramatic, but it’s very true that is how our brains work.


#2 Divorce/ Leaving is Not an Option

It can be easy to get caught up in anger and tell your partner that “maybe we should just get divorced”, or “maybe you should just leave”.

Put some duct tape over your mouth the second you think it, if you have to.

You do NOT want this out there.

You may want to say it to hurt them, scare them, or because you feel so stressed out and want to give up arguing, but it will CRUSH your partner and plant a seed of doubt in their mind.

Everything you do after you make up, they will be searching for signs you don’t love them anymore. They will look for constant reassurance.  They will start to lose faith in both you and the relationship.  Even if you say you didn’t mean it.

Once you put it out there, it will make it easier to say again the next time, and the next.  Until one of you does leave.

You are in this together.  Work on it together.

Don’t put this out there EVER.  It will make your partner not only rethink the relationship and trust you less, but it will become a pattern to say this.

And if you have said this already, salvage it by constantly reminding your partner that they are everything you want, and make sure not to mention it again.

#3  Be on Opposite Sides of the Room From Each Other

This will remove any temptation to escalate the argument.

If you are standing close, you might accidentally hurt your partner.

If you are yelling in their face, it’s natural that they get louder.

Because who wants someone in their face in anger?

None of us do.

So respect personal space when you both are angry.  It will help to not escalate it even more.


#4 Inside Voices Please!

Seriously, when has anyone yelling ever made things better?

It hasn’t.

In fact, it does the opposite and makes the person even angrier or less likely to listen.

Does anyone like to be yelled at?  NO. It’s demeaning and makes the other person feel like a child.

One thing that really worked for Aaron and me is sitting down and coming to an agreement on this, because the most important way we could fight fair was to not raise our voices at each other.

So our agreement is this:

If he raises his voice, I immediately stop listening.

If I raise my voice, I expect him to immediately stop listening.

So if either of us starts to raise our voice, we let the other know calmly that we would like them to speak lower so we can listen to them better.

And it has worked like a charm.  The first few arguments after we came to this agreement, we had to constantly remind each other, but now we don’t even have to any more.

#5  Listen With Everything You Got

This one seems impossible when you are angry, but it is easier than you think.

Why would you want to listen to someone who is blaming you for everything? You want to defend yourself and stop that line of thinking!

I get it.

If you or your partner are angry, it is because there is a deeper emotion going on.  They are hurt, they are disappointed.

Remember that.

Let them talk.  Stay silent the entire time they are talking and listen for the real reason behind the anger, because it usually is deeper than what they are saying.

Don’t get defensive.  Even if you feel what they are saying is not true.

It’s true to them and that’s what matters right now.

The most important thing here is to hear out your partner on what is hurting them.

The more they talk, the more you will hear the “I feel” statements that will let you know how to de-escalate things.

Don’t interrupt them.  Listen until they run out of things to say.

Once they are finished, summarize what they said to you to make sure you understand why they are upset.  Truly put yourself in their shoes and express how you would feel if you were them.

Ex:  ” You are upset because you felt like I was taking the decision away from you and treating you like a child.  I didn’t realize I was doing that, because it wasn’t my intention. I can see how that would upset you, because I would probably be upset too”

Usually, you will have calmed down by this point, since you put yourself in their shoes. Then you can go on to explain your side in a calm manner and them be more willing to listen.


#6 Fight Fair By Not Placing Blame

None of us are blameless.  Most fights start because we misread our partner’s intentions.

So whose fault is it when that happens?

Is it yours for misunderstanding?  Is it theirs for not being clearer?

So when trying to fight fair, you don’t want to place blame.  Because this won’t come to a solution.  In most instances, it is both of your faults.

If you place blame, it will make your partner not even try to see your point of view because they are busy trying to defend themselves.

Instead, talk about how things make you feel, admit your fault in the situation, and what could be a solution.

“It made me feel unappreciated and overwhelmed when I had to take out the trash, do dishes, and make dinner this evening. I probably should have told you that and asked you if you could take care of the trash, or one of the other chores from now on, instead of getting angry that you weren’t already doing it.  That was unfair of me to expect you to do it without talking to you about it, because you had no way of knowing I was overwhelmed.”

In most cases, your partner is willing to listen and offer solutions if they know they aren’t being blamed, and more willing to help you with whatever you are needing them to do.

Apologize for the part you had in the argument.  It doesn’t matter who apologizes first.

There should be no winners in a fight.  Because the one who didn’t win will begin to harbor resentment and you don’t want that.

Come out of it with both of you feeling sorry and coming to a compromise.

#7 Leave the Room

If neither of you can seem to calm down, call for a break.  Because if one of you can’t seem to calm down, that person will likely say something they regret and can’t take back.

So leave the room.  Go watch tv, read a book, take a shower, play with the dog.

Give it about a half hour to an hour before one of you approaches the other.

I have to admit, I was REALLY bad at this one.

I didn’t want to be sad, have anxiety, or feel hurt that we were fighting.  I couldn’t stand the thought of him being mad and I wanted to fix it as soon as possible.

This is a mistake.

You can’t put a light switch on someone and expect them to stop being angry because you want them to be.

This can actually prolong the fighting and escalate it.

Sure it would be nice to work it out right away, but that can’t always happen, so you have to tell yourself that you love each other and will work this out in a little bit.  It will get fixed.

One thing I did do is let my husband know that the longer he stays angry, the more hurt and depressed I feel.

I didn’t want to waste a day of our lives fighting, when we could be happy together, because life is short.

I would give him his space if he needed it in the moment, but I really wanted us to start talking things out within an hour or so.

He has been on board with compromising like that, because he understands the reasoning behind it.  We get space, and we don’t waste too much time being angry.


#8 Fight Fair by Staying in the Argument

It seems natural that when you are fighting to bring up old disagreements and other things your partner has done.

Stop yourself.  Stay in the moment.

Take care of this particular circumstance.

Avoid phrases like “every time” , “never” or “all the time”.

It will make your partner feel attacked and will chip away at them feeling secure with you, because it seems you have been keeping score or that you have a problem with them all the time.

Nobody wants to feel like they can’t do anything right in their partner’s eyes.  That’s exactly how it will make them feel.

So focus on this particular argument and stay in the moment.  Work this one out, without bringing up anything else, and then if the old scenarios are bothering you, talk about that at a later date.

#9 Gaslighting is a No-No

Questioning someone’s perception is one of the worse things you can do to someone you love.

It’s psychological abuse.  Plain and simple.

If your partner states something happened, they perceived it as happening.  You can’t deny what one perceives.

But telling them they are crazy or it didn’t happen will not only give a blow to their self esteem and make them question their sanity, but it will ruin your partnership.

Because if one partner loses faith in themselves, then they will lose faith in everyone around them, including you.

Maybe you didn’t mean to do the action, so don’t remember doing it or saying it.

It’s very possible, because we often do things we don’t recall doing, because we tend to remember our intentions clearer than our actions.

So don’t label them, don’t tell them what they saw or heard was wrong.  It doesn’t matter if you feel it happened or not.  The biggest issue is they feel it did and you didn’t intend to do it.

Making them feel crazy, or denying it, isn’t going to make that situation better or help in your goal to fight fair. It will only make things worse.

You should acknowledge the parts that are true for both of you:  That they saw or heard the action that hurt them, and you didn’t intend to do it.

That is what is important.


#10 Recall Good Things About Your Partner

When you are angry, you tend to focus on the bad.  Because who thinks happy thoughts when they are angry?

Change this.

It will take a while, but it will get easier.

When you are thinking about how horrible your partner is, take a deep breath and think of a memory where they did something nice for you or something that makes you love them.

For me, it is often thinking of watching my husband laugh after he has told a really bad joke.  Or how he tries to remember to do dishes for me on the weekends, so I can have a few days away from them.  Or how he takes care of the dog.  Or how he tries to massage my neck when I’m having a bad pain day.

By recalling memories of good things your partner did, or reasons that you fell in love with them, it helps you think about the situation from a different perspective.

You aren’t out to hurt your partner anymore, you now are approaching it calmer and more rational, because you remember you love this person and want to work it out. So are more willing to see a compromise.

How to Fight Fair

One of the biggest things to take in about how to fight fair is to listen to your partner and remember you love this person.

There should never be winners or losers in a fight because you are partners.  You either both win or you both lose.

If these tips don’t work, you may need to get outside help, because that means there is a deeper issue going on that needs to be worked through.

I wish you tons of luck and hope my secrets to fighting fairly works in your relationship.

Do you have tips on how to fight fair in your relationship?  Let me know in the comments!


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