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Fair Fighting Rules

Last Updated on February 18, 2024 by Sarah Smith

16 Fair Fighting Rules for Healthy Relationships

Relationships are not always easy. Sometimes, conflicts and disagreements arise between partners, and they can lead to hurt feelings, resentment, and even breakups. But conflicts are also inevitable and natural in any relationship, and they can be opportunities for growth, learning, and understanding. The key is to know how to fight fairly and constructively, without damaging the bond and trust that you have with your partner.

In this article, we will share with you 16 fair fighting rules that can help you and your partner resolve conflicts in a healthy and respectful way. These rules are based on the principles of effective communication, emotional regulation, and problem-solving. By following these rules, you can avoid unnecessary escalation, reduce negative emotions, and reach mutually satisfying solutions.

Rule 1: Identify the issue and state your feelings

The first step in any conflict resolution is to identify the issue that is causing the conflict and state your feelings about it. This helps you and your partner to understand each other’s perspectives and emotions, and to avoid assumptions and misinterpretations.

For example, instead of saying “You never listen to me”, you can say “I feel ignored when you don’t pay attention to what I’m saying”. This way, you are expressing your own feelings and needs, rather than blaming or criticizing your partner.

Rule 2: Listen actively and empathetically

The second step is to listen actively and empathetically to your partner’s point of view and feelings. This means that you pay attention to what they are saying, without interrupting, judging, or dismissing them. You also show that you are listening by using verbal and non-verbal cues, such as nodding, eye contact, and paraphrasing.

For example, you can say “So, what you’re saying is that you feel frustrated when I don’t help you with the chores”. This way, you are showing that you care about your partner’s feelings and that you are trying to understand them.

Rule 3: Use “I” statements and avoid “you” statements

One of the most important rules of fair fighting is to use “I” statements and avoid “you” statements. “I” statements are statements that focus on your own feelings, thoughts, and needs, rather than on your partner’s behavior or personality. For example, you can say “I feel hurt when you forget our anniversary”, rather than “You are so careless and insensitive”.

“You” statements are statements that blame, accuse, or attack your partner, and they can make them feel defensive, angry, or guilty. By using “I” statements, you are taking responsibility for your own emotions and avoiding unnecessary hostility.

Rule 4: Be specific and avoid generalizations

Another rule of fair fighting is to be specific and avoid generalizations. Generalizations are statements that use words like “always”, “never”, “all”, or “none”, and they can exaggerate or distort the reality of the situation. For example, you can say “You always come home late”, rather than “You came home late today”.

Generalizations can make your partner feel unfairly judged, and they can also prevent you from addressing the real issue. By being specific, you are focusing on the facts and the behavior that is causing the problem, rather than on your partner’s character or intentions.

Rule 5: Stay on topic and avoid bringing up the past

Another rule of fair fighting is to stay on topic and avoid bringing up the past. This means that you focus on the current issue that is causing the conflict, and not on other unrelated or old issues that have nothing to do with it. For example, you can say “I’m upset that you didn’t call me when you said you would”, rather than “You always do this, just like when you forgot my birthday last year”.

Bringing up the past can make your partner feel overwhelmed, confused, or resentful, and it can also distract you from finding a solution for the present problem. By staying on topic, you are keeping the conversation relevant and productive.

Rule 6: Use positive and constructive language

Another rule of fair fighting is to use positive and constructive language, rather than negative and destructive language. Positive and constructive language is language that is respectful, supportive, and solution-oriented, rather than language that is rude, hostile, or pessimistic. For example, you can say “I appreciate that you are trying to make more time for us”, rather than “You are wasting your time on useless things”.

Negative and destructive language can hurt your partner’s feelings, damage your relationship, and undermine your chances of reaching an agreement. By using positive and constructive language, you are showing that you value your partner and your relationship, and that you are willing to work together to find a way out of the conflict.

Rule 7: Acknowledge and validate your partner’s feelings

Another rule of fair fighting is to acknowledge and validate your partner’s feelings, even if you don’t agree with them. Acknowledging and validating your partner’s feelings means that you recognize and accept that they are real and important, and that you don’t try to change, deny, or minimize them.

For example, you can say “I understand that you are angry, and you have every right to be”, rather than “You are overreacting, it’s not a big deal”. Acknowledging and validating your partner’s feelings can help them feel heard, understood, and respected, and it can also reduce their emotional intensity and defensiveness. By acknowledging and validating your partner’s feelings, you are showing that you care about their well-being and that you are not dismissing their perspective.

Rule 8: Apologize and take accountability

Another rule of fair fighting is to apologize and take accountability, when you have done something wrong or hurtful. Apologizing and taking accountability means that you admit your mistake, express your regret, and show your willingness to make amends. For example, you can say “I’m sorry that I raised my voice at you, it was wrong and disrespectful”, rather than “I’m sorry, but you made me do it”.

Apologizing and taking accountability can help you and your partner heal from the hurt, restore trust, and move on from the conflict. By apologizing and taking accountability, you are showing that you are humble, honest, and responsible, and that you value your partner and your relationship more than your ego.

Rule 9: Ask for and offer feedback

Another rule of fair fighting is to ask for and offer feedback, during and after the conflict. Asking for and offering feedback means that you check in with your partner to see how they are feeling, what they are thinking, and what they need from you. For example, you can say “How are you feeling right now?”, “Did I understand you correctly?”, or “What can I do to make you feel better?”.

Asking for and offering feedback can help you and your partner communicate more effectively, clarify any misunderstandings, and adjust your behavior accordingly. By asking for and offering feedback, you are showing that you are attentive, curious, and flexible, and that you are committed to improving your communication and relationship.

Rule 10: Take a time-out when needed

Another rule of fair fighting is to take a time-out when needed, if the conflict is getting too heated or overwhelming. Taking a time-out means that you and your partner agree to pause the conversation and take a break, to calm down, reflect, and regroup. For example, you can say “I need some time to cool off, can we talk about this later?”, rather than “I can’t deal with this right now, I’m leaving”.

Taking a time-out can help you and your partner avoid saying or doing things that you might regret later, and it can also give you a chance to think more clearly and rationally. By taking a time-out, you are showing that you are mature, respectful, and self-aware, and that you are not giving up on the conflict or the relationship.

Rule 11: Use humor and playfulness

Another rule of fair fighting is to use humor and playfulness, when appropriate and mutually agreed upon. Using humor and playfulness means that you and your partner inject some lightness and fun into the conversation, to ease the tension, reduce the stress, and remind yourselves of the positive aspects of your relationship.

For example, you can say “You know I love you, even when you snore like a chainsaw”, rather than “You are so annoying, I can’t sleep with you”. Using humor and playfulness can help you and your partner relax, laugh, and bond, and it can also make the conflict less intimidating and more manageable. By using humor and playfulness, you are showing that you are playful, creative, and optimistic, and that you are not taking the conflict or yourselves too seriously.

Rule 12: Be respectful and avoid name-calling, insults, or threats

Another rule of fair fighting is to be respectful and avoid name-calling, insults, or threats. Being respectful and avoiding name-calling, insults, or threats means that you and your partner treat each other with dignity, kindness, and courtesy, and that you don’t use words or actions that are abusive, demeaning, or intimidating.

For example, you can say “I disagree with you, but I respect your opinion”, rather than “You are stupid, ignorant, or crazy”. Name-calling, insults, or threats can hurt your partner’s self-esteem, damage your relationship, and escalate the conflict. By being respectful and avoiding name-calling, insults, or threats, you are showing that you are civil, polite, and compassionate, and that you are not trying to hurt your partner or end the relationship.

Rule 13: Compromise and negotiate

Another rule of fair fighting is to compromise and negotiate, when possible and appropriate. Compromising and negotiating means that you and your partner try to find a middle ground or a win-win solution that meets both of your needs and interests. For example, you can say “I know you want to watch the game, and I want to watch the movie. How about we watch the game first, and then the movie?”, rather than “You always get to watch what you want, and I never get to watch what I want”.

Compromising and negotiating can help you and your partner avoid a stalemate, balance your power, and strengthen your cooperation. By compromising and negotiating, you are showing that you are reasonable, flexible, and generous, and that you are not trying to win the argument or dominate the relationship.

Rule 14: Agree to disagree

Another rule of fair fighting is to agree to disagree, when necessary and acceptable. Agreeing to disagree means that you and your partner accept that you have different opinions, beliefs, or preferences, and that you respect each other’s right to have them. For example, you can say “I understand that you have a different political view than me, and I respect that. We don’t have to agree on everything, as long as we respect each other”, rather than “You are wrong, and I am right. You have to change your mind, or we can’t be together”.

Agreeing to disagree can help you and your partner avoid unnecessary conflicts, preserve your individuality, and embrace your diversity. By agreeing to disagree, you are showing that you are tolerant, open-minded, and mature, and that you are not trying to change your partner or impose your views on them.

Rule 15: Express appreciation and gratitude

Another rule of fair fighting is to express appreciation and gratitude, during and after the conflict. Expressing appreciation and gratitude means that you and your partner acknowledge and thank each other for the positive things that you do or say, and that you don’t take each other for granted.

For example, you can say “Thank you for listening to me and understanding my feelings”, or “I appreciate that you apologized and took responsibility for your actions”. Expressing appreciation and gratitude can help you and your partner feel valued, loved, and supported, and it can also reinforce your positive behaviors and outcomes. By expressing appreciation and gratitude, you are showing that you are grateful, affectionate, and generous, and that you are not focusing only on the negative aspects of the conflict or the relationship.

Rule 16: Celebrate and reward your success

The last rule of fair fighting is to celebrate and reward your success, after you have resolved the conflict. Celebrating and rewarding your success means that you and your partner congratulate and reward each other for the efforts and achievements that you have made, and that you celebrate the resolution and the improvement of your relationship. For example, you can say “We did it! We solved our problem and we learned something new. I’m so proud of us”, or “Let’s go out for dinner and celebrate our success”.

Celebrating and rewarding your success can help you and your partner feel happy, satisfied, and motivated, and it can also boost your confidence and trust in your relationship. By celebrating and rewarding your success, you are showing that you are proud, enthusiastic, and optimistic, and that you are not taking your relationship or your partner for granted.

Conclusion

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but it doesn’t have to be destructive or harmful. By following these 16 fair fighting rules, you and your partner can turn your conflicts into opportunities for growth, learning, and understanding. These rules can help you communicate effectively, manage your emotions, and solve your problems, while respecting and caring for each other. Remember, the goal of fair fighting is not to win the argument, but to strengthen the relationship.

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