Friday, February 23, 2007

How to Fight Fair in Relationships

I was reading Crankster yesterday in the piece where he was exposing that men don't get treated very fairly these days. This is nothing new. But it made me think of a similar problem that occurs in relations, and they need not be only marriages, and that is how do we fight fairly? No two people are ever going to agree on everything.

If we ignore the things that irritate us, we doom our relationships. Below is an article that was sent to me by a friend who is a therapist. I'd be interested in knowing what you thought afterwards.

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.
Assume the right mind set: so long as you follow the rules of the game, it’s good to have a competitive, heated tennis match with an opponent. The same holds true for an emotional match with your partner. 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.
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 that’s the topic.
Avoid lying and exaggerating as in “You always......” or “You never......” or “I’m the only one who ever......”. Statements such as these are useless untruths and do little to enhance problem solving.
If you've forgiven them of something, it's not fair to bring it up as ammunition.
No walking or running out of the fight. If you need a break because you’re 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.

Remember that there's a purpose(s) to fighting with your relationship partner: it may be to ventilate grievances so resentment stays down. A relationship fight can increase coping abilities and keep power differentials between partners at manageable levels so that the relationship stays balanced. Done right, conflict can solve problems and fix disorder.

Don't fight in a relationship unless both partners agree to use the ground rules mentioned above.

Things You'll Need
A designated time and place set aside for the "fight", agreed to by both partners and not likely to be interrupted by kids, TV or phone.
Also, an agreed upon amount of time for the fight. Stop when time is up. If not finished, get agreement when and where to continue.


Matt said...

The worst is when she says, melodramatically, "We're over!"

That move should definately be banned.

Claudia said...

Kitty really hasn't learned how to argue very well. :)

Wicked H said...

The article makes perfect sense.

However, I have a few comments. Not everyone in the heat of the spar would be able to follow the rules to the letter. Let’s face it, heated banter is really a part of one’s personality that is innate. I don’t believe it can be taught to someone. That being said, if both parties are in agreement, then an impartial moderator needs to be present for the first few “debates” to objectively re-draw any lines that will get crossed. Once both parties understand and are comfortable with all the parameters, then let them debate on their own.

Great post.

mist1 said...

Why must there be rules to everything?

Lee said...

Seems like talking out a problem with some ground rules makes long as I always win no matter what. Ummm...I think I'll just stay single.

The CEO said...

I saw this a little differently. Once you introduce the concept, you are telling someone that you want to correct small problems before they get out of hand, and you are proposing a framework that focuses on solving the problem and not killing each other.

Congress needs to try this in private to start.

And Matt's right, when one person says that's it, it's no longer a discussion, they have just hijacked the process, and in essence, stolen the opportunity from the other person to even be involved.

tkkerouac said...

And what did your therapist say back to this letter?
I guess when I told my guy friend to fuck off this morning, I wasn't fighting fair.

The CEO said...

Hi tk, welcome to the blog. The therapist is a friend of mine. I probably need some time with a good therapist.

As for your guy friend, I don't make judgments that fast. You might not have been fighting at all. You may have been inviting instead, but only you know for sure.

cmhl said...

I am NOT good at this type of thing. I prefer the withdrawal technique, which admittedly doesn't work very well..

Echomouse said...

Ugh...I hate fighting. But this is good advice and it's right. It's just that, sometimes, the other person is such a complete moron, it's not worth even trying. Level of stupidity bears considering I think :)

Glamourpuss said...

I refuse to argue. With anyone. Unless it's academic.