Even the happiest of partnerships can hit a few bumps in the road on occasion. In other words, we all have fights. Don’t you wonder why some relationships flourish over decades, while others blow up in just a few years? The truth is that every relationship has trouble spots, but the difference in hitting the bumps and moving on with a minimum of damage, is found in the ability to “fight fair.”
What is fighting fair? It’s a number of things. It’s respecting your partner enough to allow him or her to have opinions and values different from yours. It’s understanding that we’re all broken in one way or another and it’s allowing room for flaws and failures. It’s valuing the relationship above all others and making room for listening, setting new goals and offering forgiveness when it’s called for.
We all know that relationships are hard work. Marriages, long-term friendships, whatever the partnership you may be committed to, you’ll have times when the entire bond can be broken if not for some well-chosen and agreed to “rules.” Here are some tips for fighting fair rules you might agree on with your partner. Feel free to add some of your own. What has worked for you?
– Agree that conflict is natural and healthy when handled with love, respect and a degree of humor.
– Don’t ignore problems or trouble spots. Be brave enough and honest enough to speak out when something is bothering you.
– Never bring in third parties when in a discussion about your relationship. It’s a problem for just the two of you. Third parties tip the balance of power and make one partner feel “ganged up on.”
– Don’t argue in public or in front of children. Working out difficulties in a relationship is hard work and deserves privacy to maximize the chances of reaching a solution honoring to both partners.
– Don’t interrupt, don’t blame, don’t name call, don’t attack. Use your manners.
– Be clear about the issue. Define your feelings and attach them to certain behaviors. Vague language makes it difficult for the partner to understand the problem and minimizes the chances of reaching a solution.
– Use I sentences, not You ones. “I feel … when” is better than “You always…”
– When your partner is speaking, do your best to listen and follow the line of reasoning. Don’t use the time to plan your next response.
– Allow for “cooling off” periods of time before sitting down to discuss an issue. There is a greater chance that the discussion will be profitable if anger has had a chance to blow over.
– Seek a solution, but don’t continue a discussion for hours. Nothing is gained when both parties become exhausted. End a discussion with both partners retaining their dignity. You may need to “agree to disagree” for the time being.
– Never underestimate the power of humor. Life situations can be filled with strong feelings and a lot of angst, but a touch of humor takes the edge off. Try it.
Conflict is part of life. Even the nicest, most patient people in the world will need to vent sometimes. Let’s be willing to listen, validate, support and honor our partners. And when all else fails, don’t forget those three little words: Let it go. That’s right, let it go. The earth won’t crumble if you don’t reach agreement on all of the trouble spots in your relationship. Let it go and just care for your partner.
What do you think? What other pieces of advice can you add to the discussion? Let’s hear from some of you about the ways you and your partner have learned to live in harmony.