Fighting Fair in a Relationship: 12 Rules
Marital and dating relationships can bring both joy and pain. No relationship exists in a vacuum, as no relationship will be blissful all the time or painful all of the time. Healthy long-term relationships involve both effort and compromise. Feelings of love partners have for each other often wax and wane over time, needing to be rekindled. However, if the relationship brings considerably more joy than pain, rekindling the romance will be well worth it.
There are several old sayings in regards to relationships that suggest in order to attain true happiness one must “give into” or “go along with” whatever the other partner is saying. Some of the sayings include; “a happy wife, a happy life”, “most women marry a man thinking that she will change him — and she doesn’t; a man will marry a woman thinking she’ll never change — and she does”. Unlike reality television, life is not scripted, therefore no one has the ability to predict what types of changes will occur individually or romantically over an extended period of time. Life should be viewed in the context of a roller coaster, with thrilling highs and confusing lows. Life is about change, and all relationships are in motion.
During the course of a relationship all are subject to disagreement and conflict. Most of us start a relationship wearing our “kid gloves”, being overly nice, accommodating, or pretending there are no issues within the relationship. Some of us quickly concede to defeat following the slightest hint of a disagreement. Some people erroneously believe to maintain a relationship you must avoid all conflict. However, some conflict in a relationship can actually strengthen the relationship. Conflict allows partners to identify problematic areas in the relationship, expression of feelings, build relationship resiliency, and develop coping strategies to manage future conflict. Healthy fighting begins with respect, empathy, flexibility, and compassion. Keep in mind when conflict occurs within a romantic relationship, you are fighting with someone you love and care about. You do not want to cause your partner any pain, say things that have a lasting negative impact, or say things you are unable to take back. Possessing respect, empathy, flexibility, and compassion allows partners to disagree, problem solve and find compromise without fear of destroying the relationship.
Fair Fighting Includes:
Identifying, acknowledging, and accepting our own role in the conflict
Recognizing no one is perfect
Discussing issues when both partners are emotionally available, i.e., have time to discuss issues genuinely or is not overwhelmed with another personal emergency/conflict
Finding a neutral spot, i.e., an environment that does not include others, or an environment one is perceived to have an unfair advantage
Openness and honesty from both partners, each partner must take the time to listen genuinely and without judgment
Opportunity to express feelings without fear of criticism, mockery, or hateful responses
Speaking at a normal rate and rhythm, without screaming or accusatory language
Discussing problems in the here and now, rather than dredging up issues from the past which cannot be changed or undone
Avoid personal attacks
Avoid score keeping
Do not assume you know what your partner is thinking or what he/she is going to say
Ensure each partner has the opportunity to speak his/her mind. Do not assume because your partner has remained silent during the conflict “you have won” or he/she agrees with you. Silence simply means you have done too much talking and your partner has emotionally “left the building”.
One of the most important keys to a healthy relationship is to make communication, physical contact, and intimacy a priority. Understand disagreements and conflict in a relationship are inevitable. Therefore, it is essential that you build a strong foundation that consists of respect, openness, honesty, compassion, and communication that will allow you to have a fight in the relationship without jeopardizing or compromising it. Ultimately, a healthy, long-lasting relationship is about partnership, to be successful each partner must be “all in” or it will not survive the test of time.