Fair Fighting Rules for Relationships

by | Feb 15, 2012

by Nancy Travers,LCSW

Fighting is normal within any long-term relationship, but when you fight are you acting out on revenge? Fighting for revenge might bring out escalated fights with negative responses that can destroy any marriage because they spiral into anger and frustration. Or do you avoid fighting? If there isn’t any fighting, then long-brewing resentments may boil over and eat at the relationship like a cancer.

There is a solution to this and it begins by fighting fair and sticking to these following ground rules.

The Rules of Fighting Fair

Maintain control. Keep your voice calm and use statements such as, “I feel diminished when you say that my job doesn’t matter,” instead of saying, “You always,” “I’m the only one who does any work around here,” and “You never.” Don’t call your partner names, don’t imitate threats or ultimatums. In short, don’t say harsh words that may not be taken back. Fight away from the children Fight in private, not outside in the street. Also, don’t fight in front of the kids. Keep it relevant. Don’t bring up slights from ten years ago. Keep the argument to the point, be specific and have a goal in mind of why you’re fighting in the first place. Try to deal with one issue at a time. Your goal should be win-win and/or it should involve a compromise.

Use your active listening skills. Ask your partner to share his/her views while listening carefully and not interrupting. Then restate what your partner just said in way so that he/she knows you understand what was expressed. Have a time-limit to the fight. Agree that your fighting will have a definite stopping point so that you’re not carrying the argument into your workday or into the next week.

Don’t withdraw. Don’t walk away from a fight; this is cowardly and doesn’t resolve anything. If you need a break, that’s OK, but after your time-out resume your fight.

Appreciate the other person when necessary. Acknowledge if the other person is right on the issue so that you have more leverage when you need to critique your partner.

And finally, you and your partner should resolve conflicts as soon as they arise and not wait until the time is right. If you are both busy, schedule a time for a discussion when you are both available, both mentally and physically. Fighting fair is the smart way to preserving your long-term relationship and to keep your own personal needs voiced.


Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
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