If you are married or in a serious relationship, I bet it’s fair to say that you have had disagreements with your partner. For most of us, that’s putting it lightly.
It’s only natural that spouses that spend so much time together are going to have conflicts. Whenever we do fight, it is critical that we use healthy conflict resolution skills and fight fair!
Remember, when an argument arises, your goal is to resolve the issue at-hand and not to hurt your loved one. A healthy and marriage-oriented style of conflict resolution strives for two winners through compromise and understanding. If your actions are not conducive to resolving the issue at hand, then you are not fighting fair.
Of course, this is easier said than done in the heat of the moment. Fortunately, by adopting some simple rules for fair fighting, you really can allow cooler heads to prevail and resolve conflicts without causing long-term damage to your relationship.
My wife and I learned about these easy-to-remember-rules when they were presented by another (older and wiser) couple at a Pre-Cana marriage preparation course where we were instructing on a different subject. Their topic was communication, and healthy conflict resolution is a vital aspect of good communication.
Like most good advice, these rules for fighting fair are provided in the form of a great acronym: FIGHTS.
Face each other
Look into each others eyes as you discuss problems. This is particularly difficult for those who are used to guerrilla warfare – shouting some nasty comment, slamming down the phone or slamming a door – leaving no room for discussion because your partner is absent. However, two people can be in the same room and still be absent. Put down the paper or turn off the TV, and come out of hiding. You both need to participate.
Focus on resolving only the problem at hand. Avoid raising side issues.
Guard your tongue
Avoid ridiculing and name-calling. Name-calling is like swearing, and it attacks your partner’s character. Once name-calling enters the fight, your partner won’t hear anything you say, no matter how right you might be. He becomes too busy thinking about how to defend himself instead of listening to you.
Hold the history
“You always”, “why can’t you ever”, and “you never” are examples of history. And history doesn’t belong in your arguments. Bringing up history indicates to your partner that nothing will ever change and that the past has not been forgiven or forgotten.
Hold hands. This position softens the heart and makes us feel vulnerable to each other. We are more willing to be reasonable and caring than to win at all costs when we hold hands.
Stay in there
Finish the fight. Don’t go to bed with unresolved anger.
Finally, you must be open to compromise. You can walk hand-in-hand without always seeing eye-to-eye.
If you and your spouse take these rules to heart during a calm time, you can set healthy ground rules for conflict resolution that will serve you well in your marriage. When my wife and I argue and come to realize that we’re out of bounds and not following the “fighting fair guidelines”, one of us says “we’re not fighting fair” and we look at each other and laugh.
Then we get back to actually working to resolve the real issue.
Photo by specialkrb