Rules of Fighting Fair: How to Respectfully Argue With Your Partner

In a perfect world, you and your significant other would never fight, but that’s not reality. It’s normal and real to argue from time to time, but it also doesn’t have to get ugly. Couples are bound to face challenges that spark disagreements. Navigating these conflicts with mutual respect is the key to maintaining a healthy and strong connection. In a mature relationship, both parties need to be able to express negative feelings fruitfully. Having rules for fighting fair is essential and can transform disagreements into opportunities for growth and understanding. By embracing the principles of fighting fair, couples can not only solve issues but also foster a deeper understanding and respect for each other’s perspectives. Here are some fighting rules to help you concentrate on the problem at hand effectively and respectfully.

Rule 1: Know what you’re fighting about.

Before you start arguing, make sure you know exactly what you’re arguing about. Be clear about the specific aspect you disagree on. So many arguments between partners are simply a misunderstanding of what your other half is trying to communicate. If you’re not clear, the argument can get confusing, and you might end up going in circles.

When you’re clear about what you’re fighting for, it makes the conversation focused and increases the chances of finding a solution that actually solves the problem. So, before you dive into an argument, take a moment to understand what the real issue is. It makes the whole process smoother and helps both of you get on the same page.

Rule 2: Don’t use insults or name-calling.

Character attacks or name-calling doesn’t solve any problem; it creates more. Devolving to name-calling is a clear sign that you don’t have a sufficient base for your argument…and really are we twelve? Your goal should always be to find a peaceful resolution, one that works for both parties. A loving partner does not beat or insult their significant other into submission. Leave the name-calling or insults out.

Rule 3: Avoid yelling.

Alright, let’s get the big one out of the way. Yelling only escalates the argument. There should be no shouting, and definitely no degrading language in the heat of an argument. Using mean words or turning up the volume only makes things worse, like adding gasoline to the fire, not the best way to resolve the issue. So, next time you feel the urge to scream or unleash a verbal storm, take a deep breath, and remember, kind words get you a lot farther.

Rule 4: Skip the silent treatment.

While you should avoid yelling, giving your partner the silent treatment is equally destructive. It essentially conveys that they are not worth your time or your words. How can the problem get resolved if your partner doesn’t know what the problem is? The silent treatment is just a way to manipulate your partner and is not a respectful arguing technique. Keeping concerns bottled up inside usually leads to explosive arguments in the future. This technique may feel powerful for you, but it is harmful to your relationship. Instead of making your spouse figure it out, choose a time and place where you can discuss the issues civilly.

Rule 5: Seek solution, not victory.

This should really be rule number one! Imagine arguments as friendly ping-pong matches, not heavyweight boxing bouts. The goal is not to knock your partner out with your superior debating skills but to work together toward a resolution. I know not trying to win is a hard concept to grasp, but most times compromise is the best way to move forward, especially if you don’t want to fight about this again next week. Seek solution!

Rule 6: Pass the baton.

One of the best ways to argue with respect is by taking turns talking and presenting your thoughts and feelings. When your significant other is trying to explain their point of view in an argument, it’s not the time to interrupt with yours. This shows you are not trying to understand their side and only care about yours. Practice active listening by asking pertinent questions to ensure you understand their grievance. Repeat important points out loud to make sure you’re getting it right. Make sure your partner feels heard, and do not use this time to formulate your rebuttal!

Rule 7: Keep the past in the past.

Bringing up someone’s past during an argument is like digging up fossils when you’re supposed to be building a sandcastle. It just doesn’t make sense. Fighting fairly involves focusing on the issue at hand and resisting the urge to bring up past mistakes. That can be hard when your partner (or you) has a habit of repeating the same offense, but try to stick to recent offenses.

Rule 8: Take responsibility for your actions.

The reality of most fights is that both parties had some hand in the problem. One way to avoid placing blame is to avoid “always” and “never” statements. Instead of saying, “You always do this,” try “I feel hurt when this happens.” It’s a game-changer. How does it make us feel right now? Avoid making sweeping statements about your partner’s behavior and concentrate on the present situation, taking responsibility for what is affecting you, instead of throwing shade at your spouse. This way, your partner is less likely to feel attacked and more inclined to join forces in resolving the issue.

Rule 9: Don’t use sarcasm.

Avoid using sarcasm when you’re in the midst of an argument. Sarcasm may seem like a quick and witty way to make a point, but in reality, it’s often immature and insulting. Sarcasm tends to escalate tensions and can make your partner feel belittled or dismissed. Opting for clear and direct communication, without the veiled humor, ensures that your message is understood without causing unnecessary friction. Remember, in the heat of an argument, sincerity is your ally, while sarcasm tends to be a slippery slope that can derail the path to resolution.

Rule 10: Take a time-out.

When the argument is getting out of control, it’s time to cool things down. Call a time-out, step back, and take a breather. This doesn’t mean saying “I’m not talking about this anymore,” It’s more like “I’m getting too mad and need a few moments to cool down.” It’s not running away; it’s a strategic retreat for the sake of peace. Use this time to gather your thoughts, regain composure, think about what is being said, and return to the discussion with a fresh perspective. If you need a time-out make sure to come up with a time to follow up, best within 24 hours. Letting fights carry on for days is not good for your mental health, but it’s okay to step away for a few hours and regroup.

Rule 11: Find common ground.

Think of your differences as puzzle pieces that, when combined, create a beautiful picture. Instead of focusing on what sets you apart, explore the common ground. It’s the glue that holds relationships together. So, roll up your sleeves, grab a cup of coffee, and let the puzzle-solving adventure begin. There are likely several aspects of the situation that you do agree on. Focus on the those aspects and look for reasonable compromises that get you to a place you can both live with.

Rule 12: Don’t use force, emotional intimidation, violence, or threats.

Using or threatening to use force of any kind is completely unacceptable. Avoid engaging in such behavior, and make it clear that you won’t tolerate it from others. Violence or the threat of force has no place in resolving conflicts and can cause serious. If a partner is threatening your physical or mental health, it’s time to consider leaving.

Rule 13: Don’t get defensive.

When your partner says something that hurts or makes you feel negative emotions, take a moment to process the information. Remember to “respond, not react.” Reacting defensively can escalate the argument and sidetrack the conversation. Give yourself the space to think before responding, ensuring a more thoughtful and constructive exchange instead of a heated reaction. Don’t ignore insults or hurtful comments. Let your partner know that you don’t appreciate that tone or that their statement hurts you, but don’t allow your pain to determine the tone of the conversation moving forward.

Rule 14: Control your body language.

When couples are trying to fight fair, body language matters. Keep your body positioning open and relaxed, so you seem approachable. Look at your partner to show you’re paying attention, but don’t stare them down. It’s good to nod to show you’re listening, but don’t cross your arms because that can make you seem defensive. Use gestures that show you care and are open to understanding. The way you use your body can help create a supportive atmosphere where both of you feel respected and heard during a fair fight.

Rule 15: Don’t argue in public.

Avoid arguing in public- it’s just not the best move. Public places are for shared experiences and positive moments, not for a couple hashing out their private business. When you argue in public, it not only makes you both uncomfortable but also everyone else in the vicinity. People who heir their private grievances in public are often trying to embarrass or shame their spouse rather than solve the problem. Save the heated discussions for a more private setting where you can talk openly without putting on a show.

Rule 16: Stick to one issue at a time.

Fighting about multiple things at once can get confusing and overwhelming. Focus on tackling one problem, discuss it thoroughly, and find a solution before moving on to the next. Start with the most pressing issue. Once you’ve solved that, you can move on to smaller and less demanding problems. Often multiple issues can entangle themselves into one larger problem, but try to pull it apart and deal with the greater issue in small bits.

Rule 17: Keep in mind you are fighting with someone you love.

The most important thing to ensure effective communication in romantic relationships is to remember that you’re having a disagreement with someone you love. Being polite and showing respect are just as important when you’re arguing as they are during pillow talk, possibly more so. Keep in mind that this is the person you chose to be with, you obviously see value in them and their opinions, so try to keep things fair. The goal is to come out on the other side of a fight feeling stronger together!

Final Thoughts on the Rules of Fighting Fair

Fighting fairly is totally achievable, but it requires patience and good communication skills. Mutual respect and personal growth are achievable goals in a mature romantic relationship. You’re not a robot. You feel emotion, and feel it strongly. However, intense emotions do not have to control your behavior. So, the next time a disagreement arises with your partner, use these helpful rules to keep the situation under control.

If you’re not sure where to start, it’s best to discuss your fighting rules when you aren’t actually fighting. In short, set the parameters of how you will handle disagreements when you’re in a good place. Write them down. This way, when things get heated, you have a plan to follow. Discussing fair fighting rules with your partner can transform conflicts into opportunities for growth and understanding. Remember, it’s not about winning or losing- it’s about having effective communication and moving forward in love.

About Author

Ryan is a professional travel and relationship writer, originally out of Arkansas. Educated as a health and physical education teacher, he sold all his possessions, uprooted, and went on sabbatical in 2020 to go exploring! He's spent the last four years traveling the world, living and working in more than forty countries. At his side, is his wife of 19 years and fellow travel writer, Abby. Aside from being a sports fanatic and Jesus lover, he's uncle extraordinaire to 14 of the greatest creations on Earth. His passion is sharing cultural finds and encouraging men to experience a more fulfilling life by loving, serving, and understanding their partners better. Ryan is often published on Adventures From Scratch where he shares his relationship advice and family adventure tips, and on Let's Roam, where he details his travel experiences. You can find more from Ryan on he and his wife's YouTube Channel- LostAmongLocals.

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