How to Fight Fair

Oct 9


Rinatta Paries

Rinatta Paries

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Every couple fights, but the fights of most couples rarely resolve either the issues they are fighting about or the underlying problems.

Basically, How to Fight Fair Articles couples fight for two reasons. Couples fight because one partner does not like what the other is doing and wants the behavior to stop or change. And couples fight because one partner does not like what the other one is feeling or thinking, or what it looks like the person is feeling or thinking, wanting feelings and thoughts to change.In either case, a fight often starts when one partner approaches another with “feedback” about perceived feelings or behavior and wants to “talk about it.”  Most people, when given feedback about their behavior or feelings and thoughts, become defensive.  They either try to explain why they are this way or do what they do, or they outright try to shut up the source of criticism.  And most people, when approaching their partner with a request for a change in behavior or feelings, get riled up emotionally, feeling as if they have to marshal emotional forces in order to get what they want.It is difficult to take feedback, especially in an intimate relationship in which we are so very vulnerable and so very much want to be loved and accepted by our partner. And so the reaction of defensiveness is understandable. And it is difficult to give feedback or ask for change in an intimate relationship in which you take a huge risk of being dismissed or your request rejected. Both of those outcomes may make you feel unloved and unappreciated.Yet, without taking or giving “feedback,” without talking about what’s going on in the relationship, we have no hope of genuine connection with our partner.  OK, you probably know all this.  The ultimate question is, do you know how to take feedback when it comes at you, without the conversation dissolving into an ugly fight?  Can you give feedback, or talk about what you need and want without attacking or demanding, without the situation or yourself getting out of control? To learn to fight fair, first let’s learn how to change your perception of what is going on so that you minimize your hurt feelings in the process of interacting with your partner.Assume that what happened – what your partner did to you or what your partner is saying to you – that none of it is intended to hurt you. Do this even if you feel deeply hurt. You already know how to this. Let me show you what I mean.Let's say you are in the kitchen with your partner, making dinner or washing dishes. Suddenly, a heavy pan falls on your foot. Your foot is not broken, thank goodness, but you end up in lots of pain.    Would you immediately assume that your partner dropped the pan on your foot intentionally, to hurt you? Of course not. You would most likely not even know whether your partner dropped the pan at all or if it fell by itself. You will need to talk to him or her to find out what happened.In either case, you would know for sure that even if the pan was dropped by your partner, it was dropped by accident.You will end up feeling the pain in your foot, and maybe being annoyed at your partner. But you will not feel the emotional pain and distress you would have felt if you thought your partner did this on purpose.That is exactly how you may want to react in situations that involve emotional "blows." You may feel hurt, but assume that your partner did not hurt you intentionally.This shift in thinking will not stop you from feeling the hurt, but you may stop feeling hurt over the situation being designed to hurt you – that will be about 50 percent less pain right there.Now you are almost ready to “fight fair,” or, more accurately, to have a calm, healthy discussion about what may be on you or your partner’s mind.If you are the person initiating the conversation – starting the fight – here’s what you need to do:Breathe and calm yourself. Intend that the situation will be resolved no matter what stage it is in. When you are the least emotionally charged or more emotionally under control, request time to talk with your partner. Decide how you want to feel during the conversation and what you want the outcome to be. Now follow the “request” script:The Request Script:1. Can you listen to me? Yes or no.  If yes, let’s talk. If no, when can you listen to me?2. Here is what I observed that happened___________________. List only the facts about the situation in question.3. Here is how I feel as a result of what happened, or as a result of what I observed____________________4. Here is what the situation is costing us emotionally ______________. 5. This is important to me. Here is what I want from you ___________.  Be very specific here. Give examples of how it would look if you were getting what you want.6. Can you tell me what is going on for you? How do you feel?  What led you to take the actions and say the things you did, etc.?  This is where your compassion needs to come in. You want to understand your partner.7. Ask your partner: How can I support you so that you give me what I want? Is there something you’d like me to do or not do? Listen for what your partner needs in order to give you what you want. If your partner can’t or wont give you what you want, start to think about how you can meet that need or want yourself, or how you can shift your perspective so that the thing you want loses some of it’s significance and intensity for you.If you are the person on the receiving end of the conversation – getting dragged into the fight – here’s what you need to do:As you see your partner coming toward you with that look on his or her face, breathe and calm yourself. Intend that the situation will be resolved no matter what stage it is in currently. Try to reduce your emotional charge. Decide how you want to feel during the conversation and what you want the outcome to be. Now follow the “reply” script:The Reply Script:1.    Ask your partner to warn you that a conversation is coming and to give you a few minutes to prepare for it.2.    Prepare yourself. This is different for every person, but there has to be some way of communicating to yourself, your body and your mind, that what’s about to come at you is not an attack, even thought it may feel like one.  3.    Breathe and say nothing as the feedback is being given.  Your partner does not need you to defend or explain yourself.  Your partner needs to be heard and understood.4.    Remind yourself that you are still an OK person.  Even if something needs to change about your behavior, you still deserve love and positive regard.5.    Take in the feedback.  Is it true?  Could it be true?  What parts are the most difficult to accept?  What does it trigger and remind you of?  What’s coming up for you?  What do you feel?  Keep taking it in and allowing it to awaken and move things inside you.6.    Communicate to your partner what’s happening inside of you.  Make sure your partner knows that he or she has been genuinely heard.7.    Agree on an action plan together.  Make sure that his or her needs are clearly integrated into the plan.  But, more importantly, make sure you want to and are willing to take action on the feedback, because you can see the value of it for yourself, even independently of the relationship.It is critical that the two of you stay calm and do not allow your tempers to flare during this conversation. It is important to stay in the conversation, but at the same time, if you can’t stay calm, it is OK to take a “time out.” Let your partner know that you will need to go calm yourself and would like to resume the conversation later. Do make sure you resume the conversation, as it is imperative to keep your trust intact in the relationship.Now you know how to fight fair, but I will let you in on another secret about fighting that most couples tend to ignore. Most couples fight over and over about the same issues, never resolving them. These repetitive fights cause much more damage to the relationship than if the fights were about new and different issues. This is because the person that keeps asking for things to be different keeps feeling less and less heard and important with each repeated fight. And the person being asked for change keeps feeling more and more hounded with each repeated fight.The answer is to resolve issues as soon as they arise, thus preventing repetitive fights. Here’s how to do just that:1.    Take the action you both agreed would resolve the issue(s). Both of you should take more action than you promised – really outdo yourself.2.    Go back to your partner and talk about the same topic.  Ask for further feedback, reactions, impact. Ask how you are doing on creating change. Ask for further course corrections, thoughts, feelings, etc.  Stay in communication and in connection as you together improve your relationship.3.    Have a deeper conversation about the same topic. Talk to your partner about the issues brought up by the earlier conversation(s), and how and why they touch you. Encourage your partner to talk about what was brought up for him or her as well. If the two of you can touch on deeper issues being triggered in your relationship, you are again less likely to have the repetitive, eroding fights that kill most couples.You can learn how to “fight fair” and how to resolve issue in your relationship once and for all. This will take work on both of your parts, but the result of a more harmonious and more connected relationship is well worth the effort and the self-restraint.© 2007 Love Coach Rinatta Paries.  All rights reserved.