If we asked whether you and your spouse “fight fair,” what would you say? What would they say? What actions and reactions make for a fair fight in your opinion? Like everything else that ensures positive growth in a committed relationship – every couple’s answers to those questions are slightly different.
Every couple fights, it’s unavoidable. You must view it as a part of the growth of the relationship. Still, there are some preliminary boundaries you can set up with one another, and a few universal ground rules to resolving conflict that can help guide you through the rocky roads you will inevitably travel together.
Before you can even get to that step, though, you have to take a long, honest look at the way that each of you currently handles things when tensions get high.
That’s what we’re going to cover in Part 1 of this post. In Part 2, we’ll dive into some universal ground rules that you should institute to help you fight more positively.
Fair? Maybe, maybe not. Fair-er? Absolutely!
Relationship Advice: Fighting Fair Starts with Knowing How You Personally Address Conflict
All of us continuously experience conflict. From our earliest memories all the way to the very last disagreement we’ve had – probably within the last couple of days. One thing we can probably all agree on: conflict never feels good.
Because of this, we each develop our own methods for dealing (or not dealing) with it. Check out some of the most common ways people tend to react during couples’ conflicts. These are coping mechanisms that help us through the emotions we face when conflict arises.
Do any of these sound familiar to you and your partner?
- Skirt around an issue
- Ignore your own feelings
- Completely clam up because it feels safer than explaining
- Become unresponsive because it seems like your feelings don’t matter to your partner anyway
- Feel like criticisms and differences of opinion are meant as a personal attack
- Say things you know will hurt the other person in response to your own hurt
- Bring up things that continue to bother you, even when not part of the current argument
Most likely, at least a couple of those hit home. The unique ways we deal with conflict are countless. So the first step to fighting fair is understanding how you tend to cope with feelings of upset.
A quick word: try not to tell your partner how you think they react. If they are having trouble determining their particular tendencies, you might want to involve an unbiased third party to help. Otherwise, it’s just going to come across as things you think they do wrong – and that’s never helpful.
Both of you becoming aware of your tendencies will inform the second part of this equation, because you’re going to need to come up with rules and boundaries that are unique to the two of you. Just remember, it takes discipline not to react in a defensive way, which may be your go-to when it comes to conflict. It takes mindfulness and character to stay focused on the most important thing — the relationship!
That being said, there are some general ground rules that are always helpful, and we’ll cover that relationship advice in Part 2.
Still struggling with that first step? Reach out for relationship advice. An Imago-based couples workshop or a few private sessions might be just what you need.