The rules of fair fighting include giving your spouse warning, picking a neutral spot, and getting mutual consent. Also, allow each person equal time to talk and give feedback. Don’t be afraid of conflict, express your honest feelings, avoid personal attacks, and don’t fight when tired or rushed. Stick to the point, admit you’re not perfect, avoid keeping score, compromise, and never use violence.
1. Give Your Partner Warning, Meet in a Neutral Room, and Get Consent.
Don’t surprise your spouse. Let him/her know you have something important to discuss, get agreement about a good time to talk, and meet in a neutral spot such as the kitchen or living room.
2. Give Each Person Equal Time.
Agree up front that the fight isn’t over until each person has said what’s on his/her mind. Allocate a third of the time to each person and the final third to negotiation and compromise.
3. Listen and Give Feedback.
During a heated dispute, it’s hard to listen to the other person because you want to convince him/her you’re right. However, you should listen to what your partner is saying, give feedback about what you hear, and clarify any confusion.
4. Don’t Fear Conflict.
If either of you is afraid of conflict and wants to avoid fighting, take time to discuss the fearfulness and agree that neither of you is trying to win the fight. Rather, you are trying to resolve a dispute. Fighting to win produces resentment and withdrawal.
5. Express Honest Feelings.
Never play games during a marital dispute–say what you mean and mean what you say. Express your true feelings, not what you think your partner wants to hear. Share honest thoughts and feelings. If you have made a mistake, let them hear it from you–apologize.
6. Avoid Personal Attacks.
You may be angry about the dispute, but don’t attack your spouse personally. Use “I” statements, and never blame the other person. Don’t hit below the belt at your partner’s vulnerable spots–that’s not fair.
7. Don’t Fight When Tired or Rushed.
Agree on a quiet time to talk about your concerns. Find a time when you’re not busy, tired, or drinking. Never fight in front of the children. Pick a week end when you have nothing planned and allocate enough time to express your thoughts and feelings completely and reach a compromise on the issue.
8. Stick to the Point.
If you have several issues you want to resolve, pick one and stick to it during the fight. Leave other issues for another time. If you have an unresolved issue that keeps recurring, put it on the agenda, but don’t bring it up in the middle of a dispute about something else. That creates resentment.
9. Admit You’re Not Perfect.
Be open to criticism from your partner, remember neither of you is perfect, and disputes are never all one person’s fault. Couples share responsibility for the problems in their relationship. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, but point out when you think he/she is overstating something.
10. Don’t Keep Score.
Don’t keep a running balance sheet of hurts and grievances. Remember, you love your partner and want to stay married. Don’t hold a grudge–forgive, forget, and look to the future. Try to work toward a satisfactory outcome that meets the needs of both parties.
State your issue in a clear neutral way, give your spouse a clear and fair request for compromise, and gently ask for agreement. Be specific and realistic about what you expect to happen. For example, if you tend to withdraw and stay silent when angry, agree to discuss the issue and try to reach a satisfactory resolution.
12. Never Use Violence.
Stop and cool–off if you find yourself yelling, getting really angry, or threatening your partner. If you’re yelling or pushing, you’re not listening, and nothing is getting accomplished. Always take a break if you see the fight getting out of control. That’s never acceptable.
To fight fairly, you need to give your spouse warning, pick a good time to discuss the issue, and meet in a neutral room. Give each person time to express themselves, listen to your partner, don’t be afraid of fighting, be honest, avoid personal attacks, never fight when tired or in a rush, stick to one issue, don’t bring up other disputes during a fight, don’t blame each other, don’t keep score, learn to compromise, and never use violence.