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Fair Fighting – Part II

A Modern Perspective on Mental Health
By Peggy Defazio LPC
Coastal Counseling & Consulting
541/819-2121

Peggy Defazio, PhD
Licensed Therapist
Newport

Last time, we talked about how fighting with your partner, or anyone you have a close relationship with, is a normal part of life. We also reviewed that to improve our chances of finding a resolution; we must stay on the original topic – no bringing up all the dirty socks when you’re arguing about money!

Another important aspect of fair fighting is for each person to stay calm during the conversation. If someone becomes angry, a time-out needs to occur. Yes, a time-out. A time-out is where each person takes a physical break from the other and the topic is put on temporary hold. When we get angry, our brains shift from the thinking part over to the primitive part, which doesn’t allow us to think logically. And, if we can’t think logically, we are unable to fight fairly. So, if someone is angry, agree to stop talking and cool-off. Once everyone is calm, cool, and collected, you will return to your conversation on the topic in an attempt to find a resolution.

If you are getting irritated about your partner’s behavior and feel it’s important enough to bring up, you’ll have to start a conversation, on a topic that might be sensitive. An excellent way to do this is to use “I” statements. When we use “I” statements, we take responsibility for how we’re feeling in response to a situation or specific behavior. In the case of the dirty socks, you would want to start the conversation with something like this: “I feel disrespected/irritated/annoyed when you leave your dirty socks all over the house.” Starting a conversation like this identifies the problem from your perspective and how you feel about it. “I” statements reduce the chance that your partner will become overly defensive and allows the two of you to work out a compromise. You’ll also want to avoid using absolutes – words like “all,” “never” and “always.”

The final thing to remember about fair fighting is that “timing is everything.” You’ll want to pick the time of your conversation at a time when your partner is most likely to be open to your perspective. For example, if your partner is not a morning person, don’t try to have a conversation about dirty socks first thing in the morning. It’s likely to end up with more anger and hurt feelings – not a resolution to the problem, which is what you’re looking for in starting this conversation in the first place.

Good luck and fair fighting!

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