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10 Keys to Fair Fighting


  1. Focus on solutions, not on winning
    • If you 'win' an argument at the expense of your partner, then you both 'lose'.
    • Instead, focus on finding a solution that allows both partners to get what they want.
  2. Respect yourself and your partner
    • Avoid name-calling and blaming. Be polite!
    • Never use violence (i.e. hitting, slapping, shoving, etc.)
    • Remove yourself from the situation if things get too heated or you feel unsafe.
  3. Find a time that is convenient to talk
    • Verbalize an interest in having a conversation, "I would really like to discuss ____ . When would be a good time for you?"
    • Find a time and place that is free from distractions (i.e. quiet room, turn off TV, etc.)
  4. Focus on one issue at a time
    • Avoid flooding your partner with a list of complaints (No one wants to hear about the million things they have done wrong in the last week!)
    • Stay on topic and actively listen, problem solve together.
  5. Be brief
    • Stay to the point and keep your statements short.
  6. Check in/reflect back what you hear to ensure you hear your partner accurately
    • Before responding or getting defensive, make sure you understand your partner correctly.
    • "Let me make sure I understand you correctly. What I'm hearing is that you feel...."
  7. Be clear about what you need
    • What do you need from your partner? What do you need to do differently?
    • Use assertion "I" message. Avoid "you" messages that communicate blame.
    • Example: "I need help with washing dishes after dinner" versus "You never clean up after dinner- you are such a slob!"
  8. Have a time-out rule
    • Do your disagreements often escalate? Implement a time-out rule!
    • You and your partner can agree to call a time out (i.e. hands in the shape of a "T" for timeout) if/when either party feels flooded. The person calling the timeout then designates a time/place to continue discussion (i.e. "We will meet back in the living room in one hour).
    • Avoid utilizing the time-out to avoid discussions. Make sure you come back after you have calmed down to identify a solution.
  9. Be prepared to compromise
    • Committed, valued relationships usually involve 'give and take'.
    • Stay flexible and open to new ideas, suggestions.
  10. Forgive
    • After a disagreement, allow yourself to forgive.
    • Forgiveness means letting go of resentment, grudges, or need for revenge.
    • Remember: forgiveness does NOT mean that you are saying that a person's actions are acceptable, but instead that you are choosing to not allow their actions to have power or control over your life.