I find myself regularly fielding this request from couples in my office, “Zach, we fight too much, teach us how to stop fighting.” I always find that question interesting, don’t you? If any relationship has a pulse, we’re going to conflict. If you’ve been in a relationship of any kind, you know this is true. I usually respond with this, “Our goal here is not to cease all fighting in your relationship, that would be silly. It’s part of any healthy relationship. Our true goal, when we fight, is to fight fair.” For conflict in of itself is not unhealthy. It’s what we do with it that determines its quality. Unresolved conflict creates distance and independence. Resolved conflict, on the other hand, creates intimacy. Here are 3 ways to fight fair and, in the end, turn the conflict into intimacy:
1. Give them the benefit of the doubt: Don’t you want that? So many times we simply feel misunderstood. I can promise you, your partner feels the same way. So let’s not jump down each other’s throats the moment we feel we can “get” our partner or “catch” them in their logical fallacy. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Hear them out. They might have a valid point. If they feel heard, they will be much more likely to give you their ear.
2. Passive-aggressive is so 1997: Isn’t it the worst when someone is passive-aggressive towards you? Yeah, so unfair right? Let’s have courage to speak forthright. Be bold and bring up tough subjects. Frustrations come out one way or another, don’t let them ooze out sideways. Meet them head on, bringing them up to you partner with grace and humility.
3. Put down your sword, shield, and claws: I don’t know about you but when I get in any kind of conflict, as soon as I feel defensive, I begin pulling out my sword and shield to go to battle. Usually from that point on, all and any possible productivity is now utterly thwarted. It’s because I feel threatened. When I feel threatened, I go into “BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES AND PROTECT ZACH!” mode. So, as much as you humanly, possibly can, RESIST going into defensive mode. RESIST pulling out your weapons. Fighting in a relationship is not to win or be right. No, our sole purpose in fighting should be to resolve.
Now go out and fight fair! You can do it.