Fair fighting. If you've ever read a self-help article for couples/marriage you've probably heard the term. But what is it, really, and how do you incorporate it into your relationship? Fair fighting is conflict resolution that handles the issue without escalation. When done correctly, it solves the problem, gives both parties a safe space to verbalize their emotions, and encourages problem solving without engaging in a huge blowout.
But how do we do it?
First, LISTEN. Most of the time, when we are fighting, we stop listening. We are waiting for our partner to shut up so we can go ahead and tell them everything we are thinking/feeling and we've completely stopped listening to what they are thinking/feeling. The problem is they sense this, and all it does is fuel the fight. How many times does your partner say, "You're not listening!" or "I feel like you don't hear a word I'm saying." Second, take a pause. When we get heated it becomes easier to go over the edge and say things/do things we can't take back. We all have a build up and we know when we're reaching that point of no return. Agree to have a safe word, and when you or your partner needs that break, give it to each other. Walk away for 10 minutes (or longer) and take time to collect your thoughts/feelings. Then return whe
n you can engage in the conversation calmly. Third, avoid personal attacks. Under no circumstances is it acceptable to call each other names or attack each other's character. Don't take "cheap shots" at each other. Fourth, talk about the issue at hand and ONLY this issue. Don't bring up stuff from the past. When I'm working with a couple one of the main rules is if it didn't happen today, it's off the table. You didn't address it right away so you can't bring it up a week (or 6 months!) from now and try to fight about it. Address things in real time, as they happen, and stay on topic! If you're fighting about disciplining the kids, don't bring up your partner forgetting your birthday or to do the dishes. Talk about the topic at hand and ONLY that topic. Fifth- this is kinda similar to part 4 but bears repeating- DON'T BRING UP SHIT FROM THE PAST!!! There is a time and place for dealing with past issues, and sometimes you might realize you have underlying resentment/anger from a previous issue, but this isn't the time. Bring that up when you can talk about it calmly, not as ammo in a fight. Finally, and this is probably the most important and honestly deserves it's own blogpost, use I-statements. I-statements are a way to
express your emotions without passing blame or responsibility onto your partner. Example: "I was frustrated because the dishes didn't get done." That's an effective I-statement and will be received much better than, "You didn't do the dishes again!" It's important to remember you are in charge of your own emotional regulation. You absolutely can be angry/frustrated/stressed because of a situation, but that's not someone elses' fault or responsibility to placate. If the dishes not being done frustrates you, that's fine, but that's your emotional state. Don't pass that onto your partner. Instead, express yourself ("I was frustrated") and explain why without blaming ("because the dishes didn't get done.") To wrap up, fair fighting can be an essential tool for managing conflict withing relationships. For more tips and advice check out my website or contact me for a free consult.