Relationship Conflict Counseling

by | Sep 1, 2015

12 ‘Don’ts’ for Fighting Fair

Conflict is tough for most people. We don’t like it. It threatens us and makes us feel bad. Makes us feel defensive. But we can feel a whole lot better about fighting if we have rules to guide us.

When the same rules apply to both you and your partner, you have something you both can depend on. There’s a safe feeling when you both know what’s going on. And then even though you have conflict, you can come out of it with a better understanding of each other. There’s a feeling of mutual achievement when you resolve a conflict successfully. There’s even the possibility that you will grow as a couple and become more intimate.

So resolve to fight fair, and follow these basic rules:

  1. Don’t let things fester. When your anger builds up inside, you are less likely to be able to keep calm. And you need to be calm to fight fair.
  2. Don’t talk when you’re not fully focused. Schedule a time when both you and your partner can pay attention to the issue at hand. When the children are in bed. When the TV’s off. And turn off all other electronic devices.
  3. Don’t insult your partner. Your partner needs to feel safe and he cannot if you belittle him. If you use sarcasm or any other kind of put-down, you have forfeited your right to a fair fight.
  4. Don’t insist on being right. Your goal, after all, is not to prove how right you are, but to resolve conflict. Let go of your need to be right.
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions. It is tempting to want to ‘fix’ the problem and move on to something more pleasant. But let the discussion with your partner run its course before you slap a Band-Aid on the problem.
  6. Don’t blame your partner. Even if she is at fault, it won’t help solve the problem, and it will put her on the defensive. Focus, instead, on finding a solution.
  7. Don’t dredge up the past. When you accuse your partner of ‘always’ acting that way, you’re using his past faults against him. That’s not fair to him and it doesn’t solve the present situation.
  8. Don’t put words in her mouth. You say how you feel. But don’t ascribe motives to your partner. You don’t know how she feels until she says how she feels. Give her a chance to say it.
  9. Don’t interrupt. Take turns. When he’s talking, focus all your attention on what he’s saying. When he is clearly done speaking, acknowledge that you heard and understood what he said. Don’t formulate your answer while he’s speaking.
  10. Don’t raise your voice. It escalates the conflict and pretty soon you’re yelling at each other and nobody’s solving anything.
  11. Don’t make empty threats. Don’t say something in the heat of the moment that you cannot follow through on. Especially don’t threaten divorce when you’re really just trying to find common ground.
  12. Don’t forget why you’re with your partner. You care about him. No matter what your conflict is about, you don’t want to hurt him. So be careful. Words can leave indelible scars.

It goes without saying that no physical violence should be tolerated. That’s the kind of conflict from which you should extricate yourself and seek help. And sometimes it makes sense to seek help when your and your partner disagree on a regular basis. But sometimes, just following these rules can help.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:


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