All Couples Fight – 6 Steps to Fighting Fairly
It has been a busy couple of months for Tom and Katie. Tom has just gone back to school to finish his degree, and he often studies late. Katie works two jobs, but she has more time than Tom to grocery shop, clean, and cook dinner.
Normally Katie doesn’t mind the extra work-load. She’s proud of the hard work Tom is doing and knows how much it means to him to get his degree; but this morning, Katie was late for work, having lost track of time cleaning up the kitchen after Tom made himself breakfast. Later she turns down weekend plans with a friend, knowing Tom won’t be available to take care of the dog if she’s gone.
So when Tom gets home that evening, Katie is feeling irritated and drained. Tom can tell that Katie is upset, but he feels mentally exhausted. He also feels defensive—he helps out whenever he can. Tom doesn’t understand why all his efforts to show Katie how much he appreciates her don’t seem to be working. The air in the house is tense.
Katie and Tom need to talk, and it will likely involve some arguing. How can they fight in a way that’s fair and preserves the love and trust at the heart of their relationship?
6 Steps to Fighting Fairly
1. Talk about how you fight at a time when you’re not actually fighting.
If you’ve been together for long, you can likely list several things that do and don’t work for you when you’re arguing with your partner. Do you feel like your partner is closed off to you emotionally during disagreements? Maybe you’re naturally somewhat defensive, and it would help you open up to him when you’re fighting if your partner tried not to raise his tone of voice.
Everyone has a different style of arguing, so simply understanding what conflict feels like to the other can make your fighting more fair.
2. Know your own feelings.
Being in touch with your own feelings brings a sense of clarity and calmness to a disagreement. Even if you’re still frustrated after identifying your emotions, you’ll be better able to address the specific issues at hand rather than allowing your anger to dictate where your argument goes.
3. Don’t try to read each other’s mind.
When you’re tired, hungry, or stressed, little things are more likely to set you off. Trying to extend your patience during an argument instead of assuming the worst regarding your partner’s intentions, helps make fighting more fair.
4. Let each other finish speaking.
Listening might sound easy enough when you’re not escalated, but in the moment, listening can feel almost impossible. If you both commit ahead of time to trying not to interrupt and allowing each other time to finish speaking, you can nudge yourself into a natural listening position.
5. Find a neutral place.
If you feel an argument boiling just under the surface, trying to find a space that’s safe and balanced for both of you can draw the conflict onto an even playing field. Arguing in a space that’s more yours than your partner’s can put your partner on the defensive.
6. Be present.
When you’re upset with someone who means a lot to you, overwhelming emotions can lead you to withdraw and withhold affection. While shutting down might help you avoid some emotional pain in the short-term, disconnecting from your partner delays the meaningful resolution of a conflict.
Light touches and hand-holding can help center you when you fight. Being present helps keep the focus of your disagreement where it belongs—on your relationship rather than on your anger.
Learn How to Fight Fairly
If you and your partner get stuck in blame, defensiveness, contempt or withdrawal patterns when arguing, you might consider marriage counseling. These behaviors have been shown to be destructive in relationships. A marriage counselor can help you find ways to discuss your disagreements in a manner that preserves your relationship. Contact us in Houston to find out about relationship counseling, call us at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
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