The Dos & Don’ts of Fighting Fair in Your Relationship

It definitely sucks, but if you’re in a relationship, you’re going to fight — it’s inevitable. No matter how well you and your partner get along usually, there are things that are going to come up that you’re going to disagree on or situations that lead to the two of you getting mad at each other. Not only is this normal, it’s also healthy. But just because fighting is a part of any relationship doesn’t mean that it gives you and your partner an excuse to hurt each other. There are definitely ways to fight fair, and if you’re able to have productive arguments with your S/O, it can be a major game changer.

We’ve all been there: standing in the middle of the kitchen, screaming (or getting screamed at) about something so irrelevant that it probably isn’t going to matter in a few days. There are a lot of factors that can cause us to fight with people we truly do love, like outside stress or letting small issues build so long that eventually, you explode. But if you find yourself hitting that breaking point, just remember there is a way to let out your frustration without totally losing it or damaging your relationship permanently, especially if you know what to avoid when you’re fighting.

According to what marriage therapist Casey Caston told NBC News, there are certain things you need to keep off limits when you argue, and one of those things is bringing up the past — instead, you should be focusing on the problem at hand. You should also remember not to interrupt your S/O while they’re talking and let them be heard, and that name-calling and personal criticism is never okay. What you should remember to do, however, is to apologize, even if you don’t feel like this particular fight was necessarily your fault.

“We need a proper apology that acknowledges the hurt, the pain, that accepts responsibility, being held accountable, problem solves, and asks for forgiveness,” Caston said. “When you apologize, like for so many couples, they’re no longer the enemy. Defenses drop, you’ve taken responsibility, you’ve acknowledged their hurt, and connection is restored and trust is built, too.”

“They may say, ‘I know you see it differently than me, but I appreciate that you are listening to my perspective,’” relationship expert Diane Sawaya Cloutier told The Huffington Post. “These positive moments decrease defensiveness and allow for a more productive conversation.”

She also mentioned that you should try to avoid bigger fights by not avoiding having a discussion about topics that could lead to issues down the line. Open lines of communication are key, even if it’s something you might not want to talk about.

“When taboo or uncomfortable topics remain unaddressed, they can turn any benign event into a big drama that could have been avoided in the first place,” she said. “Couples who talk about it can manage potential dramas.”

When you and your partner fight, it should be you two against the problem, not you against your partner. As long as you keep the mindset that you’re a team tackling this together, it’ll be easier to remember that this person is on your side, and you’re on theirs, so why tear them down? And of course, don’t be afraid to take a breather if you need to. A lot of people swear by never going to bed angry, but if you feel like you need to sleep on it and discuss it again in the morning with a clear head, that’s okay, too.

And even though fighting is normal, fighting a lot isn’t — and if you find that you or your S/O aren’t able to fight clean, it’s a problem. If your gut is telling you that your relationship can’t (or shouldn’t) survive whatever it is you’re arguing about, remember that it’s always okay to walk away. You deserve a relationship built on trust and respect, and that is something worth fighting for.

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