If you are in a relationship, of any kind, especially if you are married you are going to argue – that’s just a fact. Sometimes it will be over what’s for dinner (the main source of fighting in our house – true story!) and sometimes it will be for more serious things.
When you are in the middle of those arguments you are always faced with a crossroad – that moment where you decide to either fight fair or that the gloves are coming off.
It’s easy to do because you know this person, well. You know just the right buttons to push and how to push them to turn this silly dinner debacle into a full-blown, WWIII type disaster. However, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Here are my 5 rules for fighting fair that will change the way you argue – for the better:
- Don’t keep score –
This may come as a shock but I hate when my husband tells me I’m right and he is wrong. You may not believe me, but its true, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t about who is right or who is wrong or who made the better point. It’s about resolving the issue and making sure each of us feels heard and that our feelings are validated. Keeping score creates a hierarchy that is unhealthy and has no place in a relationship. So when I say I really don’t want the better scorecard, I mean it. I’d much rather have the stronger marriage.
- Don’t fight to win –
The point of any argument should always be to resolve an issue, not to win the round. Both you and your partner are on the same team, after all! If you are fighting to win you really aren’t gaining anything because you are ultimately just beating up on your own teammate. So make sure to avoid attacking your partner personally – don’t let it get to the point of bashing or name-calling or any other low blows. Remember: once something is said it can’t be unheard.
- Privacy please –
This one may be a no brainer but make sure to keep fighting behind closed doors. Don’t ever argue in front of children, no matter how young, or old, they are. Have the self-control to table an issue until bedtime or when kids are out of the house. Fighting in front of them is both confusing and emotionally disturbing and no one wants to submit their babies to that. So no matter how upset you are in the moment make sure to grit your teeth and put on a smile for the sake of your children.
Also, make sure that all aspects of your argument are kept in a vault, meaning don’t go blabbing to your family or best friend about the details. While its normal to feel the need to vent there are plenty of other ways to do it without getting loved ones involved in the drama. Remember what I said about words not being unheard? That rule still applies. Once you air your dirty laundry people may not look at things (or people) the same way. They also may not forgive or forget as easily as you do – so it’s often best to just leave them out of it altogether or else you may be stuck with some uncomfortable Thanksgivings in your future. If you need to get things off your chest try journaling or having that venting session with yourself in the car. I know it sounds crazy or even clichéd, but I promise it does the job.
- Stay on track –
When you fight its really important to stick to the topic and not veer off track. Its easy to do, but don’t bring up old grudges or soft spots that have no relevance in the particular argument. Once those floodgates are open the fight becomes a free-for-all where nothing is off limits and nothing gets accomplished. Then emotions start to get the best of you and voices are raised and yelling ensues and the result is complete mayhem. Instead try to set boundaries and rules for the conversation. If issues get brought up that are off topic agree to calmly acknowledge that fact and redirect the conversation back to the issue at hand. I will admit that this takes some practice, but it is worth it in the long run – I promise.
- Know when to walk away –
There are two types of arguers: the one who wants to confront and purge out every thought and feeling and emotion and the one that needs the time and space to think so they walk away. I am a confronter. Once I am in an argument I want to get it all out – I want to talk about ALL THE THINGS until I feel better, but my husband sometimes needs to walk away.
It took me a very long time to learn that sometimes its best to walk away from a disagreement and take some time to calm down instead of saying things in the heat of the moment. My rule of thumb however, is that if you opt to walk away you both must agree on a time frame to reconvene and resolve the issue. Otherwise you aren’t taking a break to calm down as much as you are running away from the problem and hoping it goes away – and let me just tell you it isn’t going away, in fact the longer you run from it, the bigger it gets. Best to just deal with it, no matter what the issue is, so you can move on and forget about it.