Fighting Fairly

It’s inevitable that you and your partner will have conflicts and disagreements. Everyone does. In fact, conflict is a natural consequence of any intimate relationship. Expect to have differences of opinion and sometimes major eruptions with your partner, but learn to fight fairly.

Never say hurtful things when you fight. It’s hard to show restraint in the heat of an argument, but it’s important that you make an attempt. Fights are part of a relationship and they can actually be productive. However, when fights include words designed to hurt, they can poison a relationship. Think about what you say in an argument. Even when you’re angry, avoid using the words that you know will hurt your partner.

Find the strength to apologize after a fight. You probably said things you wish you hadn’t and it’s sometimes a matter of foolish pride to wait for the other to apologize first. Find the strength to say you’re sorry. It will do wonders at smoothing over the rough feelings left after the fight.

When you’ve had an argument, schedule a time to talk about what happened. Choose a time that’s convenient for both of you and a place where you can really concentrate and hear each other. Sometimes it helps to get out of familiar surroundings to review a conflict. It can give you perspective. Go for a walk in the park. Drive to different part of town. Go to Starbuck’s or Caribou Coffee.

Take turns explaining why you’re angry -- and listen to each other without interrupting. When you are talking, make an effort to keep your tone neutral -- use about as much emotion as you would to say, “Please pass the salt.” Be respectful. Listen courteously while your partner expresses feelings or needs and acknowledge them. Don’t belittle his/her perspective. Make “I” statements that express your feelings (“I feel hurt when you leave the dinner table without thanking me for cooking”) instead of “you” statements, which assign blame (“You’re selfish because you leave the dinner table . . . “). Never give advice, unless your partner specifically requests it. Avoid words or phrases you know are offensive to your partner and have made fights escalate in the past. Keep your focus on the issue at hand. Avoid the temptation to resurrect events and “evidence” from your history as a couple.

If you are in the wrong, practice the lost art of apologizing. Simple words like, “What I did was not OK. I’m sorry,” can often dissolve resentment on the spot. Brainstorm together and decide on two or three constructive solutions for your current problem. Once you agree, make a plan and put it into action for a specific period of time. Check in with each other to see if the plan is working.

Learning to fight fairly is an important skill in a relationship. Mastering this skill is crucial in maintaining happy and lasting relationships. With Valentine’s Day approaching, mastering this skill will keep the peace and your love life alive!

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Bonnie Morét is an award-winning photographer recognized by The Georgia Council of the Arts as "an exceptional representation of contemporary Georgia art work." Her photography is featured on Georgia Public Broadcast's Georgia Traveler. Her exhibitions include Fifth Annual Exposure Awards at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France, Art Takes Miami at Scope Art during Art Basel Miami, Metro Montage XIII at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, World of Water at the Georgia Aquarium, Open Walls at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon, Wholly Georgia: A Look at the Effects of Southern Religious Culture, sponsored by the Art History League and Georgia State University, at Mint Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, 6x6 at the Rochester Contemporary Arts Center in Rochester, New York, @Phonography: Dialogue in the Wireless Age, at 3 Ring Circus in New Orleans, Louisiana, and About Lands and Lives of the Civil War at the 6th Cavalry Museum in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. Her photography appears in Modern Luxury/The Atlantan, Jezebel Magazine, and hangs in the executive offices at the Georgia State Capitol as part of the Art of Georgia exhibit. Corporate clients include Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta History Center, Chanel Cosmetics, Christian Dior Cosmetics, Sharp Mountain Vineyards, PM Realty Group, Granite Properties, Road Atlanta, Patrón Tequila, Georgia's Own Credit Union, StubHub, CBM Records and The Washington Auto Show.