10 Fair Fighting Tips

When you feel yourself becoming emotionally dysregulated during an argument with your partner, here are 10 suggestions:
1. Take a break; practice a calming technique, such as a walk around the block, before you engage.
2. Avoid name-calling and swear words; they are insulting and cause embarrassment, or worse, shame.
3. Avoid the words “always” and “never”; they are examples of all-or-nothing thinking and generalizations, which are two thinking errors.
4. Avoid yelling and interrupting; let your partner finish and use a calm voice when it is your turn to talk.
5. Avoid projecting your negative feelings and thoughts onto your partner; projection is a defense mechanism and is counterproductive – it will lead to escalations, not solutions.
6. Avoid “you” statements; they are offensive and lead to defensiveness. Instead, start with an “I” statement, then add a feeling word, and finally, keep the issue in the here-and-now and specific. For example, “I (I statement) am feeling anxious (feeling word) right now (here-and-now) with you driving 95 miles an hour on the highway” (specific), instead of “You (offensive) always (cognitive distortion) drive like a maniac (name-calling) on the highway.
7. Listen to your partner, and once your partner is done talking, repeat back what you heard them say. For example, “What I heard you say is that you get scared when I drive too fast on the highway”. Paraphrasing is the best way to validate your partner.
8. After validating your partner, show curiosity. For example, “Can you tell me more about your anxiety; what does it feel like?”, or “Do you always feel scared when I drive at this speed”? or “Are there other things that I do that scare you?”, etc.
9. Avoid “moving on” from the issue until you are both okay with letting it go. Usually, the partner, who was most hurt, needs more time to recover, so let them call the shots when it comes to the amount of time it takes to repair the relationship. Don’t shut your partner out by withdrawing and emotionally abandoning them.
10. Whenever you can, schedule heated topics at a time that suits you both, so you have control over when (e.g. after the children are in bed), where (e.g. in the privacy of your own home), and with who (preferably just the two of you) the argument occurs. Remember: your partner is not the enemy; they are your ally and you belong on the same team!