Does having an argument mean you have relationship issues? It’s normal for couples to fight every once in a while, but sometimes your method of arguing can be worse than the frequency of them.
Specialist John Gottman suggests that it isn’t what you fight about, but the way in which you approach having an argument that will determine whether your relationship is successful. Fighting dirty means dredging up the painful past, yelling and name-calling, and attacking your partner. Fighting fair means listening respectfully, staying calm, and speaking to solve.
So how can learning to fight fair contribute to healthy relationships? We’re looking at 7 ways it helps and how you can learn to fight the good fight.
How Fighting Fair Strengthens Your Relationship
Relieves Stress: It is not good to bottle up your feelings. Fighting relieves anxiety and lowers stress in your relationship. So long as your arguments are respectful and you communicate openly.
It Boosts Trust: Trust is essential for healthy relationships. When you argue, communicate, and problem-solve together you build trust with your spouse. You know that you will not abandon one another just because of a disagreement and that you will always be able to communicate with one another no matter what the problem.
Stimulates Arousal: When you fight you release hormones and raise your blood pressure. This burst of passionate emotion can sometimes be intertwined with sexual feelings. Arguing with your spouse can trigger feel-good makeup sex, boost oxytocin, and help you and your partner move on after a disagreement.
Displays Commitment: In a way, arguing shows each partner that they care about what’s happening in the relationship. If something isn’t working, both spouses want to fix it, not walk away from it. When you argue fairly and make successful changes, arguing can actually help show your commitment to making one another happy.
Tips for How to Fight Fair in a Relationship
Fighting fair means approaching an argument with the idea of solving it, not just arguing for the sake of arguing. Here are 6 ways you can learn to fight fair.
Honesty truly is the best policy when it comes to communicating with your partner. First, you need to be honest about your thoughts and feelings during your discussion. This will help your partner understand you better.
Second, you need to be honest with your reactions. Do not put on a performance for your partner, merely saying what you think they want to hear. Be truthful about your stance, your feelings, and your reactions.
Relationship issues are common when partners stop listening to one another. If your partner is trying to explain their side of things to you, stay quiet and listen. Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying. This shows respect and helps you understand where they are coming from.
Do Not Use the Silent Treatment
Using the silent treatment is one of the bigger communication/relationship issues couples face. This is unhealthy behavior commonly referred to as “demand-withdrawal”. This occurs when one partner makes a request or demand of their partner. An example of this might be
The other partner then withdraws their emotional, verbal, and physical involvement with the situation by switching to the silent treatment. The refusal to talk to their partner about an issue, or perhaps ceases speaking to them at all.
Studies show that when the silent treatment is used in a relationship, partners are more likely to report fewer instances of intimacy with their partner, relationship dissatisfaction, and poor communication in their marriage.
This is an emotionally harmful tool for arguing and can make the affected partner feel unworthy, unloved, or helpless to fix the situation.
Staying Off Topic – The Good and the Bad
The quickest way to escalate an argument into a blow-out is going off-topic. It can be easy to do when you are frustrated or emotionally charged, but don’t let one issue blow up into a character assassination of your partner.
Instead of bringing up past mistakes or other issues you have with your marriage, stick to the topic at hand. That said, it’s important to know when an issue does deserve your attention.
Perhaps you are having an argument about your spouse coming home late again, but you find yourself coming back to the fact that you are spending enough time together. If this topic keeps coming up, it may be the root of your problem. If this is the case, know when to give other topics your full attention.
Don’t Raise Your Voice
Relationship issues often stem from overreactions during arguments. The quickest way to lose your partner’s respect and their attention is when you start yelling. Your spouse may raise their voice in retaliation and are likely no longer paying attention to what you are saying.
When you are upset it can be hard not to raise your voice or lose your temper, but yelling, screaming, and name-calling are all unnecessary. If you find that you are both becoming too frustrated with one another, call for a 10-minute break. Then take 10 minutes to cool down and reconvene with cooler heads.
Use “I feel” Statements
Great communication is essential for healthy relationships. Knowing how to approach a subject with your partner will have a direct impact on how smooth or difficult your discussion goes. Consider the difference in these statements:
“You never help me around the house! You’re so lazy!”
“I feel really overwhelmed taking care of the house this week. I know you’re tired, too, but do you think you could help me fold the laundry/empty the dishwasher/dust?”
Both sentences get the same message across, but the first message is criticizing the spouse instead of truly asking for help. The second example is mild and humble, acknowledging that the spouse may also be tired or busy, but asks for assistance around the house kindly and politely.
Which option do you think is more likely to get a result?
Resolve and Apologize
Remember, you’re partners, not enemies. After you have listened to one another and communicated both of your viewpoints, it’s time to resolve things. Compromise, cooperate, and if you are in the wrong, apologize.
Fighting fair isn’t always easy, but it leads to healthy relationships. Learning to show respect, to genuinely listen, and not attacking your spouse’s character are all important aspects of fighting fair.