Fights happen! All couples fight. It’s just that couples in healthy relationships fight better. Unhealthy relationships or marriages with a high degree of conflict suffer because the partners don’t know how to fight well.
- THE GOODNESS OF THE OTHER: Fighting well means holding on to the fundamental goodness of the other even when you’re hurting and heating up.
- CONTROLLING YOUR URGE TO DESTROY: Fighting well means resisting the urge to let the rage fly, and refraining from lashing out or obliterating the other in an attempt at making him or her feel as bad as you feel. It goes without saying that self control includes controlling your urge to act out your anger by physically hurting the other.
- LISTENING CAREFULLY AND ACTIVELY: Fighting well means listening to what’s being said. It means engaging in affirming and recognizing gestures such as repeating what you’ve heard, asking for clarification, and requesting more details of your partner.
Here are some phrases commonly used in healthy fighting that show careful and active listening:
-I can see how upset you are with me. Please tell me more about that.
-I want to understand what you’re saying. Can you clarify what you meant by “x”?
-I’m so sorry that I’ve made you angry. I know I’ve done this before and you’ve gotten upset then. I understand how upset you are now.
- MODULATING YOUR ANGER: Fighting well means modulating your anger. It means framing your distress in reasonable, non-polarizing and non-extreme terms. Stay away from always and never and other words that inflame conflict.
Here are some phrases commonly used to represent upset but that don’t fan the flames of conflict:
-I want to let you know how upset I am.
-I’m worried that you’ll take offense and won’t fully hear me. Will you signal to me when it becomes too much?
-I know you have your version of what happened here and I want to hear it too.
- ADMITTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR PART OF THE PROBLEM: Fighting well means keeping it fair. Arguments and distress are rarely one-sided. In most cases both partners have contributed to the problem. Fighting well means owning your part. It means admitting responsibility for part of the problem.
NEED HELP FIGHTING FAIR? A good marriage counseling or couples therapist can help you and your partner fight fair. He or she can teach you the skills you need to control your anger and help your partner to control his/her anger too. You can also learn how to listen actively and how to demonstrate to your partner that you’re truly hearing what’s being said. A good marriage counselor can teach you how to hold on to the essential goodness of the other even when you’re heated up, and how to take responsibility for your part of the problem without feeling shame or embarrassment.