There comes a time in any relationship when things don't exactly turn up roses. The honeymoon ends, and you're left with a fight. It's inevitable. No couple is perfect or happy all of the time. Speaking your mind, airing your grievances, working together to right your wrongs — these can all be healthy outcomes when fighting with your partner, if you're practicing the habits of couples who fight fair.
According to relationship counselor and psychologist Elisabeth Graham, fighting with your partner is considered pretty healthy. "People think that fighting is the sign of a bad relationship, but fighting is normal as long as you're fighting fair" Graham tells me in an interview. The alternative to fighting is holding your anger in, and that doesn't get you anywhere, especially in a relationship. "It's important to treat your partner fairly, even when you're fighting," Graham says. "Especially when you're fighting." Rather than holding onto all of your anger and resentment, Graham recommends letting it out — and the sooner, the better. "Being open and honest with your partner and their actions that have made you feel a certain way is the key to a strong relationship," Graham says. And doing it in a way that's fair is even more important to the health of a relationship. So the next time you feel a fight coming on, take out this list of tactics to help you fight fair.
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1. They Know Their Feelings
Before you start a fight, think about why you're really angry. Is it because your partner didn't take the trash out? Or is it because your partner made a comment three days prior and you're still stewing over it? "Knowing why you're angry and knowing how to present your feelings before you get into an argument with your significant other will help eliminate any excess variables," Graham says. Figure out why you're mad before you bring it to the table, and you'll be able to explain yourself more clearly.
2. They Fight By Mutual Consent
It's not always possible, but when you can, fight when you're both up for it. "Picking a fight with your partner when they're caught unprepared, tired, or otherwise, isn't fighting fairly," Graham says. Keep in mind that if you really want your grievances heard, you need to air them when your partner is prepared to listen.
3. They Don't Name Call
As enticing as it is to call your partner all the names in the book when they've done something you're not happy with, it's not conducive to a fair fight. "Keep it clean," Graham says. Think about it. You don't appreciate being called names in the middle of a fight, so why would you lean on that tactic in the first place?
4. They Stick To The Subject
It can be hard to stick to the subject at hand, but it's important to do. "Don't bring up past trespasses or grievances," Graham says. "Take one issue at a time, or else your issues won't be addressed." Making one issue into a bigger issue is tempting, but isn't helpful in the long run.
5. They State The Issue Honestly
This is where step one comes into play. Figure out your feelings before you go into a fight, so that you can accurately state your issue. "Being honest with your partner about why you're upset can be difficult, but it's the only way to resolve a fight," Graham says. Be bold, be brave, be honest.
6. They Don't Evade The Issue
Don't make the fight about another issue. Maybe you're embarrassed or sad about why you're angry, and it seems like it's easier to blame it on something easier. "Don't try and push the blame of your anger onto another issue," Graham says. "Being vulnerable and raw with your partner will only make you stronger."
7. They Don't Hit Below The Belt
In the midst of a fight, stay away from petty jabs at your partner. "Don't call your partner names, and don't bring up weaknesses just to hurt your partner," Graham says. "Keep your fight focused, and keep in mind how you'd like to be treated when you're at fault."
8. They Let Their Partner Respond
Don't just talk their ear off. You've got to listen to them, too. "Without listening to your partner, you can't grow or learn from the altercation," Graham says. Listening is a key part of every relationship, and a key part of every fight. "It can be easy to tune your partner out during a fight, but it's important to listen to what they have to say."
9. They Keep Their Fights To Themselves
Don't live tweet your fight, y'all. "A fight between you and your partner should stay between you and your partner," Graham says. Broadcasting your dirty laundry to the neighbors, your friends, your family, puts you and your partner at a disadvantage. Keep your fights to yourself to keep your friends and family out of the fight.
10. They Fight Behind Closed Doors
"Finding a safe place to verbally spar with your partner is important," Graham says. You can't always plan when a fight occurs, but you can recognize that the produce section at the grocery store isn't the best place to have it.
11. They Implement Changes
What's the point in fighting if nothing changes? "When you listen to your partner during a fight, you hear their grievances," Graham says. "When your partner listens to you, they hear yours. In order for a fight to be fair and worthwhile, you need to work together to implement changes." Fixing the problem, and really fixing it, will help you and your partner both grow and mature in your relationship, making your bond stronger than before.