Fighting Fairly

A major stumbling block in any relationship can be settling disagreements, which often reduce to emotional shouting matches rather than caring problem-solving. Basic ground rules for effectively facing conflict in a relationship include:

  1. Maintain a spirit of good will - remember: you care about this person.

  2. Avoid attacking one another - discuss behavior, not personalities.

  3. Share your feelings - explore and discuss them.

  4. Focus on the present - past disappointments cannot be changed. Concentrate on here and now.

Specific Techniques of "Fair Fighting"

  1. Choose a time to have the discussion - make it an appointment. Avoid those times when either of you are fatigued, ill, or under pressure.
  2. Be specific: take time to reflect on what you are upset about and focus on specific actions, feelings, and attitudes.
  3. Listen carefully. Allow each individual uninterrupted time to explain his/her viewpoint.
  4. Work on one issue at a time. Decide what is the main concern and discuss it.
  5. Ask for reasonable change. Determine what you really want from the person, then ask yourself if it is realistic and authentic. Give the person a chance to correct the situation.  Or if the situation cannot be changed, learn to soothe yourself – calm your own emotions.
  6. Try to accept: be open to the other person's feelings and accept them without being judgmental.
  7. Be willing to compromise: avoid trying to win. Try to find a solution that is satisfying for you both.
  8. Realize the need to accept an incomplete resolution of a conflict. At times, completely resolving an issue is impossible.
  9. If you have extreme difficulty expressing your feelings, try writing them down in a note or letter.
  10. After the discussion is over, EXPRESS YOUR APPRECIATION for the other's listening to and discussing the issue with you. Reaffirm your respect and affection for each other. Finish on a positive note.

These strategies can help you establish an atmosphere of cooperative problem-solving. If you feel the relationship has deteriorated to a point where these methods can't be tried, you may want to consider a neutral, non-judgmental third party to mediate the discussions.  Or seek couples counseling at CLU’s Student Counseling Services.