Many couples believe that in order to be a “healthy couple” conflict is to be avoided at all costs. While it is risky to fight every day, conflict can actually help a couple to be happier and healthier! By stating your needs or getting out in the open what is really bothering you, you are helping your relationship to grow. Conflict is a natural part of relationships, but knowing how to fight fair is critical to survival. Here are some things to keep in mind when a conflict comes up:

Don’t Run from Strife – Take time away to cool down if needed, but always return to address the issue when both of you are feeling calm.

Choose your Battles Carefully – Don’t sweat the small stuff! However, if you are noticing patterns that are a problem for you, speak up.

Define the Issue Clearly – Many fights are started over issues that aren’t really the issue. Before you let your partner know what is bothering you, take the time to be sure that is REALLY what the issue is.

State Your Feelings Directly – Try to frame your feelings this way: “In situation X, when you do Y, I feel Z.” This approach is gentle and specific.

Rate the Intensity of Your Feelings – Knowing how strongly each person feels about the issue can help solve the disagreement. When each person rates their feelings about the issue on a 1-10 scale, it becomes more clear how important the issue is.

Give Up Put Downs – Avoid attacking your partner’s character. Remember you are upset with their behavior and not who they are as a person.

Don’t Dwell on Downers – Focus on the issue and resolving it, and not on your partner’s past transgressions or mistakes.

It can be difficult to stay calm and keep an open mind when upset, but if you are able to keep some of these concepts in mind in your next fight, you just might find yourself closer to resolving the argument. And always keep in mind that if things are becoming especially difficult for you and your partner, one of the strongest decisions you can make together is to ask for help. Good luck fighting a good fight!

Source: Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Kristy Dreisewerd is the Graduate Counseling Intern with in the Stepping Stones program at Step By Step Counseling, LLC.