The Art of Fighting, Part II

Welcome to Format Free Fridays at, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life:  Unsolicited Advice.

And welcome to part two of The Art of Fighting.

Last week I discussed the importance of communication as a preventative approach to fighting (click here to read that post). Unfortunately, sometimes there is no avoiding a good fight regardless of our best efforts.  Yet despite this unavoidable aspect of life, very few people are ever taught how to fight appropriately.

Today I’m going to teach you some basic rules to fair fighting.

I find that the vast majority of people tend to fall into one of two categories as it pertains to conflict:

1.     Those who believe that being in a loving relationship gives them license to speak openly about any thought that crosses their mind.

2.     Those who avoid confrontation at all costs.

As I mentioned last week, neither response is ideal.  Group One tends to act first and consider the consequences of their actions later.  People who fall into Group Two are invariably attracted to people who fall into Group One, and although outwardly they avoid conflict, they behave passive-aggressively until their partners (members of Group One) explode.

Let me start by dispelling a few fighting myths:

Myth: If my partner truly loves me, she should be willing to deal with the real me and I shouldn’t have to edit my thoughts; I should be allowed to behave in a way that comes naturally to me.

Truth: No one wants to hear your unedited thoughts. And as far as nature goes, you were born incontinent, and hearing your unedited, natural thoughts is about as about as attractive as it would be to see you shit in your pants.

Myth: Relationships aren’t supposed to be so much work.

Truth: Three truths here:

  • The higher-maintenance your relationship is, the greater your personal baggage is. If you were so evolved, you wouldn’t be with such a difficult person to begin with.
  • Relationships are only “so much work” for people who haven’t done their own personal work.  The reason why your relationship appears to be so much work is because you’ve avoided doing your own for much of your life.
  • Like everything in life, relationships do require work.  Constantly.  So save some steam for when you walk in the door at night, because that’s when the real work begins.

Myth: I hate negativity and conflict and I shouldn’t have to be in a relationship that’s so riddled with uncomfortable discussions.

Truth: Most of the discussions that you feel are negative don’t have to be.  It’s your avoidance of discomfort that actually creates the discomfort in your life.  Another person would have no hesitation to express the things that you attempt to avoid, and because of the spirit in which theirs is shared, it doesn’t result in conflict for them the way it does for you.

Enough myths.  Let’s focus on how to fight.  Below are my 7 Basic Rules of Fair Fighting:

1. Do take turns speaking.

Do Not speak over or interrupt one-another.

2. Do speak only about yourself and describe your feelings.

Do Not recite facts, or discuss the other person.

3.   Do choose your words carefully, as though they were being recorded.

Do Not use profanity, call the person names or insult them.

4. Do discuss the specifics of this situation.

Do Not use words like always and never.

Do Not bring up past arguments or hold grudges.

5. Do give the person your undivided attention and remain in one room.

Do Not touch your phone or computer or even think about walking away while the person is still talking.

6. Do remember that the goal is Peace.

Do Not attempt to win the discussion or to be right.

7. Do look for opportunities to validate the person’s feelings.

Do Not look for opportunities to dispute the person’s perspective.

Follow these rules and you will experience infinitely more peace in your life.  And if you haven’t already done so, get into therapy.  You are no healthier than the rest of us.  Your choice to avoid it thus far borders on grandiose.