Principles and Guidelines for Fair Fighting in Relationships

Arguing with your significant other, or even a companion or family member, can often be troubling. In many situations, you may feel that you are getting nowhere. Consider the following points and see if you are attacking the argument in a fair or unfair way.

  • Be specific when you introduce a gripe or problem.
  • Don’t just complain, no matter how specifically; ask for a reasonable change that will relieve the gripe.
  • Ask for and give feedback of the major points, to make sure you are heard, and to assure your partner that you understand what he wants.
  • Confine yourself to one issue at a time.  Otherwise, you may skip back and forth, evading and overshadowing the hard ones.
  • Do not be glib or intolerant.  Be open to your feelings, and equally open to your partner’s.
  • Always consider compromise.  Remember, your partner’s view of reality may be just as real as yours, even though you may differ.  Try to think in terms not of “right and wrong” but, “different than…”
  • Do not allow counter-demands to enter the picture until the original demands are clearly understood, and there has been clear-cut response to them.
  • Never assume that you know what your partner is thinking until you have checked out the assumption in plain language; or assume or predict how he will react, what he will accept or reject.  Mind reading and fortune telling are out.
  • Do not correct a partner’s statement of his own feelings.  Do not tell a partner what he should know, or do, or feel.
  • Never put labres on a partner.  Call him neither a coward, nor a neurotic, nor a child.  If you really believe that he was incompetent or suffered from some hopeless basic flaw, you probably would not be with him.
  • Sarcasm is dirty fighting.
  • Forget the past and stay with the here-and-now.  What either of you did last year or last month or that morning is not as important as what you are doing and feeling now. Hurt, grievances, and irritations should be brought up at the very earliest moment, or the partner has the right to suspect that they may have been saved carefully as weapons (brown-bagged).
  • Do not overload your partner with grievances.
  • Meditate. Take time to consult your real thoughts and feelings before they speaking. Your surface reactions may make something deeper and more important. Don’t be afraid to close your eyes and think.
  • Remember that there is never a single winner in an honest intimate fight. Both either win more intimacy or lose it.