Fighting Fair in Your Relationship

As unpleasant as it can be, conflict is inevitable in any kind of relationship. No matter how much we love someone, it’s just not possible to avoid conflict from time to time. Or, if you are, you are likely not comfortable expressing when you’re upset–which is a different problem! 

So the presence of conflict in itself isn’t a bad thing–it means you and your partner are being honest with one another, even if it’s not what the other person wants to hear. Where it can become a negative experience is how we respond to that conflict. 

That’s why today we’re talking about ways to “fight fair” in your relationship. 

Since we can’t avoid it, it’s important to know how to handle conflict when it comes up. That way, we can trust that our relationship is strong enough to navigate those disagreements, with trust and vulnerability. Being able to come out of conflict on the other side will only strengthen the intimacy and connection in your relationship. 

First: remember when conflict comes up it’s not you vs. your partner, but the two of you vs. the problem. 

While it might feel like one person is right and one person is wrong, that probably won’t actually help you resolve the conflict at hand. Instead, put aside your desire to be right, and focus on your desire to solve the conflict. If the two of you agree that solving the problem so that you are both content, rather than trying to prove you are right, you are much more likely to find a way to resolve things in a way that works for you both. 

Focus on the issue at hand.

The current conflict might bring up old feelings that weren’t addressed. While bring up everything you think of can feel like being “honest” it can actually just feel like you’ve been waiting for an opportunity to lay into your partner. If there is something else that needs to be addressed beyond this conflict, give it it’s own, devoted time to address instead of tacking it onto another argument. 

Recognize when you need time to cool off. 

Not every moment is the right moment to address a conflict. This doesn’t mean you should put it off until it feels “good” or “right” but it does mean that you shouldn’t jump into a conversation while your emotions are running high. Or, if you’re in the middle of talking about it with your partner and you feel yourself getting heated, let them know. Say something like “I want to finish this conversation, but I’m feeling myself get worked up. I’d like to take a little break to cool down before coming back to this with a clear head.” 

Take time to gather your thoughts.

Lots of people clam up or freeze during conflict, so if you’re one of those people who needs to prepare what you want to talk about beforehand you’re not alone! And it’s not a bad thing. It shows that you care enough to give time and thought to the issue at hand. It also helps you focus on what you feel the problem really is before accusing your partner of anything. Give yourself some time to ask yourself what the core of the issue is for you, why it’s an issue, and something you think would help. Reflect on how the issue makes you feel so you can share that with your partner, and remember to give them the same opportunity to share as well. 

Remember you want to “win” together.

You don’t want the conflict resolved with one person feeling great and one person feeling terrible. What you want is for the conflict to be resolved in a way that works for the relationship–which means you will probably have to compromise a bit. The “win” at the end of the conflict is the two of you feeling like you have reached a solution that addresses both of your concerns! 

If you need more support figuring out how to fight fair in your relationship, our therapists can help you. Get in touch with us today!

-Brice N. Sanner, LMFT