The Right and Wrong Way to Fight

Young couple arguing on bed in bedroom

Even the greatest of love stories has to navigate the storms of life. No matter how touchy-feely, kissy-face-happy you and yours might be, there will come times when the sky turns dark and the relationship rains begin to absolutely pour. And yes, there will be fighting.

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Obviously, these dust-ups can vary in both tenor and intensity, not to mention their overall impact on your particular union as a whole. That’s to be expected, of course. You can’t ever eliminate fighting. You’re both individuals who have unique issues, problems, and needs that are not always met, addressed, or even respected. But if you don’t stand up for yourself, things won’t change. That means a fight now and again is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to destroy your relationship.

Believe it or not, there does exist a sort of “Queensbury Rules” for couple-fighting. It’s not official per se (as in, I’m only now just writing it down), but once followed, they should lead said couples to sunnier skies and legitimately brighter days together. At least that’s the idea. Am I crazy? Have a look and see what you think…

Couple Fighting DON’Ts

DON’T GET PHYSICAL. There is never, ever any excuse for raising a hand (or punching, throwing, grabbing, or similar) at any time. This is someone you love and care for. If you can’t get your point across without a shove or breaking something, then you’ve already lost the argument. Truly, if you allow any room in your relationship for violence, I would suggest it’s clearly doomed, and one or both of you should get to safety as soon as possible. No hitting or throwing things—period. You learned that lesson way back in kindergarten, and it should still hold true today.

DON’T BE PETTY. When you feel hurt or wounded, the temptation to lash out and cut (metaphorically) the other person is irresistible. But you can’t give in to the urge. Thanks to the closeness you share, you both possess an absolute mountain of dirt on the other person, and if you decide to start flinging it just to win an argument, you are being petty and playing really, really dirty. Ultimately, that will damage whatever trust you have in each other, which is fatal for any relationship. Remember: Play fair, keep your complaints to the question at hand, and resist the urge to attack a weak spot just to score a point. If your argument isn’t going anywhere, maybe it’s because it wasn’t that good in the first place.

DON’T PIGGYBACK. When the knives start flying (again, metaphorically speaking!), it can sometimes seem like a good idea to haul out all of your accumulated grievances and dump them on the table. Inevitably, what was a pointed discussion about who cleans the kitchen (or not) suddenly morphs into an all-out war about relatives, money, personal hygiene, bad habits, old indignities, missed birthdays, and more. Don’t do it. Resist the urge to pile it on. Focus on the issue at hand and try your best to keep it there. The bigger the mess you make, the harder it is to clean up. Keep it small and specific, and work on finding your way through that one first. There will always be time to address the other issues…later.

DON’T HOLD GRUDGES. Part of fighting is that once the issue has been torn apart you both have to let it go and move on. Keeping the hard feelings alive for weeks or months (or years) on end will do nothing to strengthen your bond and will actually weaken it. Learn to let it go. Once you’ve said your piece and the other person acknowledges your issue, that should be enough. It’s time to move forward, which should always be the main goal of any couple seeking love from each other.

Couple Fighting DOs

DO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.The point of fighting in the first place is to get the things that are bothering you out into the open. If you start to give in before things even really get going, you’re not going to help your issues one bit. Speak your mind and make your point. Yes, the situation is heated and uncomfortable, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get what we bury deep up to the surface. If the person you love actually cares about you, he or she will be glad you did—eventually.

DO LISTEN TO WHAT THE OTHER PERSON SAYS. In the heat of battle it can be hard to focus on anything other than the emotions flying around and the words streaming out of your mouth. The thing is, to be an actual fight, there has to be another person present, and if he is, you have to make an effort to listen to what he’s saying too. That doesn’t mean he’s right, or even that you’re wrong, but when both of you are speaking from the heart in a supercharged setting there is a chance that something worthwhile will be said. Listen for those nuggets, and pay attention to the points being made on both sides. You might find that you share more common ground than you realized.

DO KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR (ABOUT YOURSELF).When emotions run hot, it’s easy to lose your sense of humor—and even become extra hostile when someone tries to tweak it. Avoid going fully dark (if you can), and try to keep one eye on the silliness that often permeates the things that somehow trigger us the most. Yes, it drives you crazy when she says, “You’re just like your father…” but you have to admit, sometimes you really arelike your father—and it’s kind of funny! If you allow that tiny smirk of humor to get through your outer shell of anger, you might just bring the whole fight to a close on a happy note vs. a bitter or sour one.

DO ADMIT YOUR FAULTS OR MISTAKES.When some people fight, they consider it a signof weakness to admit fault of any kind. Avoid this trap if you can. Being able to admit when you messed up can give the other person the freedom to admit such things too. Keeping an eye on our own screw-ups—and being willing to admit to them—can help us to understand where the other person is coming from. Do that, and you might just find yourself constructing the sort of adult relationship that can stand the test of time, which really should be the point of all this anyway, right?


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