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What is “fair fighting” in a relationship?

All successful long-term relationships have their fair share of conflict. Conflict is a natural component of emotional intimacy.
But too many people shy away from raising their voices or asserting their needs. There are multiple reasons for this, including fear of abandonment, a belief that fighting is a sign of weakness, or simply a desire to not be like other couples who are constantly screaming at each other.
At the other extreme are couples who cannot control their emotions — couples for whom every day brings a new, explosive battle. And of course, there are also relationships where one partner is a fighter and the other a peacekeeper.
Anger is part of the human condition, and can push us to break free from negative situations. Every healthy relationship involves conflict. That said, when anger occurs over a long period of time, resent-ment and bitterness result.

Here are 9 tips to help you and your partner “fight fairly”:
1. Check yourself.
Are you angry because your partner left out the milk, or are you upset because you feel like you take care of “everything” and this is one more piece of evidence? Think about what the issue really is before starting an argument.

2. Focus! Keep the argument on track.
Talking about money can easily turn into an assertion that your partner doesn’t care about family. When an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong.

3. Watch your language.
Discuss the issue, not the person. No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling. Degrading language is often an attempt to express your feelings while trying to attack your partner.
4. Express feelings with words
and take responsibility.
Starting with “I” is a good technique to help you take responsibility for your feelings (no, you can’t say whatever you want as long as it starts with “I”). For instance, “I feel angry.” “I feel hurt when you ignore my phone calls” are good ways to express feeling.

5. Have good manners.
Be careful not to interrupt your partner. If this is difficult set a timer for 1 minute for each person to speak without interruption. But really listen during the minute— not spend the time formulating a rebuttal. Listen!

6. Resist stonewalling.
At times retreating and refusing to speak seems like it is the best approach—but this refusal to communicate is called stonewalling. Although it might feel better temporarily the issue will remain unresolved.

7. No yelling.
Sometimes arguments are “won” by being the loudest but most times yelling leads to the problem getting worse.

8. If it gets too hot, take a breather.
If an argument starts to become personal or heated, take a time-out. But it is critical to come back and discuss the problem after everyone has cooled down.

9. Compromise or attempt to understand.
There isn’t always a perfect answer to an argument and one person is not always “right.” Try to come to a compromise, meaning this takes giving from both sides.

For more help with fighting fairly, contact Dr. Lisa M. Webb at the Body & Mind Consulting Associates Group: www.bodymindtn.com. Her latest book: “Boardroom to Bedroom, Using your Executive Success for your Marriage” is available at www.amazon.com

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