November 14, 2023

How to Fight Fairly in An Argument: Conflict Resolution

Is there a benefit to fair fighting? Is it possible to end an argument with a positive feeling toward the issue and the other person? The answer is YES. Fighting fair not only reduces conflict between couples but also increases the level of intimacy and connectedness with each other. Couples who engage in healthy conflict resolution report a higher level of satisfaction in their relationship. Let’s define Fair Fighting before we go further.

What does fair fighting mean?

Fair fighting, also known as healthy conflict resolution, refers to the practice of addressing disagreements and conflicts in a relationship in a respectful, constructive, and considerate manner. It is about engaging in disagreements in a way that respects the feelings and opinions of both individuals involved, with the goal of finding solutions and strengthening the relationship rather than causing harm or damage.


10 common barriers to fighting fairly.

Evaluating most couples and relationships have heightened several barriers to communicating effectively. In this section, we will list a few that are often explored in couples therapy and relationship therapy.

  1. Emotional Involvement: When individuals are emotionally invested in a relationship, they may become more vulnerable and sensitive to the issues at hand. Emotions, such as anger, frustration, hurt, and fear, can cloud judgment and hinder the ability to communicate calmly and rationally.
  2. Past Baggage: Personal histories, past experiences, and unresolved conflicts from the past can influence the way people approach and engage in conflicts. These unresolved issues can add extra layers of complexity to present conflicts.
  3. Communication Skills: Many individuals may not have been taught effective communication and conflict resolution skills. This lack of skills can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and ineffective communication during conflicts.
  4. Ego and Pride: Personal egos and pride can often get in the way of fair fighting. People may struggle to admit their mistakes, apologize, or compromise because they fear being seen as weak or wrong.
  5. Misunderstandings: Sometimes, conflicts arise due to miscommunication or misunderstandings. When partners don’t clearly express their feelings, thoughts, or needs, it can lead to confusion and frustration during a disagreement.
  6. Escalation Tendencies: Some individuals have a natural tendency to escalate conflicts rather than de-escalate them. They may become defensive, lash out, or use hurtful language, making it difficult to maintain a fair and respectful conversation.
  7. Fear of Consequences: Some individuals may be afraid of the potential consequences of addressing certain issues in a relationship, such as the fear of a breakup or damaging the relationship irreparably. This fear can lead to avoidance of important conversations.
  8. Unresolved Resentment: When there is unresolved resentment or a history of conflicts that were not properly resolved, it can create an underlying tension that affects the ability to fight fair in subsequent disagreements.
  9. Stress and External Factors: External stressors, such as work, finances, or family issues, can spill over into a relationship and contribute to heightened conflict. These external factors can make it harder to remain calm and focused during disagreements.
  10. Differences in Conflict Styles: People often have different approaches to conflict resolution based on their upbringing, personality, and past experiences. These differences can lead to clashes in how conflicts are approached and managed.

Fair fighting is a skill that can be developed and improved over time. For example, in individual and couples therapy, most of the work involves increasing self-awareness, empathy, effective communication, and a willingness to work together with your partner to create a healthier and more harmonious relationship.

The most dangerous behaviors that could end relationships.

John and Julie Gottman, leading experts working with couples, identified four core ingredients deciding the future of a couple’s relationship. With much accuracy, they could predict the future of a couple’s relationship ending in a breakup by identifying any of the four ingredients. They call this The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Let’s look at each of these briefly.


Criticism: This involves making negative judgments about your partner’s character or personality. It goes beyond expressing a complaint about a specific behavior and involves attacking the person’s character.

Contempt: Contempt is characterized by a sense of superiority over your partner, often expressed through sarcasm, mockery, cynicism, or eye-rolling. It conveys a lack of respect and can be particularly damaging to the emotional connection in a relationship.

Defensiveness: Defensiveness is a response to perceived criticism. Instead of taking responsibility for one’s actions or considering the partner’s perspective, a defensive individual often deflects blame, makes excuses, or counterattacks.

Stonewalling: Stonewalling occurs when one partner withdraws from the interaction, shutting down emotionally and physically. This may involve refusing to engage in conversation, avoiding eye contact, or giving the silent treatment. Stonewalling can make it difficult to address and resolve conflicts.

The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse

What are the key ingredients to fair fighting?

Fair fighting requires that both partners commit to a healthy conflict resolution style. This means that if they engage in unhealthy patterns, they would be willing to acknowledge their responsibility in the argument and promise to change their unhealthy jabs and passive-aggressive tendencies. Below is the compilation of key ingredients making up a fair fighting rule.


Being Gentle with Each Other: In fair fighting, a fundamental element is approaching disagreements with gentleness and kindness. It involves recognizing the vulnerability that arises during conflicts and choosing words and actions that promote understanding rather than harm. Gentle communication fosters an atmosphere of emotional safety, allowing both partners to express themselves without fear of judgment or rejection.


Active Listening: Active listening is a cornerstone of fair fighting, emphasizing the importance of truly hearing and understanding your partner’s perspective. It involves giving your full attention, asking clarifying questions, and demonstrating empathy. By engaging in active listening, you create a space for open and honest communication, laying the foundation for resolving conflicts constructively.


Use of “I” Statements: Employing “I” statements is a key communication strategy in fair fighting. By expressing feelings and concerns from a personal perspective, you avoid sounding accusatory and encourage a more collaborative dialogue. This approach promotes self-awareness and helps to convey your emotions without placing blame on your partner.


Emotional Regulation: Fair fighting necessitates emotional regulation, acknowledging and managing your own emotions during a conflict. This involves staying calm, avoiding outbursts, and refraining from impulsive reactions. Emotional regulation enables a more rational and focused approach to problem-solving, preventing conflicts from escalating unnecessarily.


Finding Compromises: A crucial aspect of fair fighting is the willingness to find compromises that benefit both partners. Rather than pursuing a win-lose scenario, seeking common ground fosters a sense of collaboration and mutual understanding. Compromises contribute to the resolution of conflicts in a way that strengthens the relationship.


Taking Responsibility: Taking responsibility for one’s actions and acknowledging mistakes is a vital ingredient in fair fighting. This involves owning up to errors, offering sincere apologies, and actively working towards positive change. By taking responsibility, individuals contribute to an environment of accountability and growth within the relationship.


Respecting Differences in Conflict Style: Recognizing and respecting differences in how individuals’ approach and handle conflicts is essential for fair fighting. People have unique styles and preferences when it comes to addressing disagreements. Respecting these differences fosters understanding, reduces misunderstandings, and allows for more effective communication in navigating conflicts.


Willing to Seek Outside Support: Couples often find themselves in such an unhealthy state that it becomes nearly impossible to communicate effectively. Seeking outside support not only disrupts these destructive patterns but also helps in acquiring new skills for effective communication. Both individual therapy and couples therapy serve as valuable sources of support, offering guidance and tools to navigate challenges and strengthen the relationship.

The importance of fair fighting in relationships cannot be overstated. It serves as the linchpin for building and maintaining a strong, healthy connection between partners. By recognizing common barriers, understanding the destructive behaviors that can lead to relationship breakdowns, and embracing the key ingredients for fair fighting, couples can navigate conflicts successfully and create a foundation for lasting intimacy. 


It’s not about avoiding disagreements but about addressing them in a way that strengthens the bond rather than weakens it. As couples commit to the principles of fair fighting, they pave the way for a relationship that thrives through challenges and celebrates victories together.

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