Article written by: Paul W. Anderson, Ph.D.
Fair Fighting In Relationships? Why Even Fight At All?
Wait a minute:
How come it's okay to fight to get to the top of your class but not okay to fight with your best friend or confidant to get to the best outcome regarding
a difference of opinion you two have over something you both care about? Just as there are "fair" ways to fight with cancer (i.e. chemo therapy rather
than a shot gun), there are fair ways to fight with your spouse or boss.
Friends, siblings, business partners, lovers and mates need to learn the art and skill of fair fighting. If you donít, youíll fight unfairly and that is
destructive. If you donít fight, youíll miss the healthy benefits of fighting.
It is human to have conflict. It is okay when we hear of a person who fought and struggled or strived to get to the top of their field of
endeavor. We cheer for the person who has won their fight with cancer. We donít so much like to root for the friend who argues with or contends
with another friend of ours. Kids donít applaud their parents when fighting. Mothers, unlike football coaches, donít video tape their childrenís quarrels
with each other and afterwards give them pointers as to how they could do better arguing. Whatís going on here?
So long as we follow the rules of the game, itís good to have a competitive, heated tennis match with an vopponent. The same holds true for an
emotional match with our spouse. It toughens us, makes us better in that arena, and teaches us a great deal about the other person and how they
function. Fighters know each other about as well, perhaps better, than passionate lovers.
Relationship conflict helps to keep up boundaries. With healthy boundaries we are better able to co-exist with another person and not be threatened
or insecure. Basically when we speak of a person winning a struggle with cancer, what has happened is not the elimination of cancer cells from their
body. Rather, the cancer has been put in its place, back into a low level of prevalence to keep the body balanced and healthy. We all have some
cancer cells in us at all times. Healthy struggle with cancer cells keeps them from growing too fast and taking over parts of the body.
Fair fighting in relationships ventilates grievances so resentment stays down, increases coping abilities and keeps power differentials at manageable
levels so that the relationship stays balanced. Done right, conflict can solve problems and fix disorder.
Here are basic rules for fair fighting:
No physical violence or emotional abuse while talking/fighting.
- No name calling or cussing out the other person.
- Stick to the topic of contention. No bringing up the past, unless thatís the topic.
- Avoid lying and exaggerating as in ďYou always......Ē or ďYou never......Ē or ďIím the only one who ever......Ē. Statements such as these are useless
untruths and do little to enhance problem solving.
- No walking or running out of the fight. If you need a break because youíre getting too emotional to think clearly and remember the fair rules of
fighting, ask for a break and agree when the fight will resume. You do not have to say this relationship is over or ask for a divorce just to take a time-out.
- No ultimatums or threats. The point of fair fighting is not to win but to struggle with your partner until you can come to win/win solutions or
compromises. In the meantime enjoy sparing with the other person and sharpening both of your abilities to stay afloat in the world of human realities.
A licensed psychologist, Paul W. Anderson, Ph.D. has coached people in their careers, relationships and business aspirations for many years.
He helps women believe in themselves and men use their emotional intelligence. He is experienced in working with family business snarls and
people in personal chaos who need strategies that will turn their best into success. You may reach him at