Individual Counseling, Couples Counseling and Sex Therapy

How to Fight Fair

How to Fight Fair

Developed by CounselorBarb

Tampa, FL

1.  Pick your battles.  Decide what is really important, and what isn’t.  This will take a bit of work but it will be worth it.  Examine your values — what can you “give” on and what is “completely unacceptable?”  Give in to your partner when appropriate, and negotiate the rest.  Would you rather be right or be happy?

2.  Pick your times.  Think about the household schedule and what time might be best for an intense discussion.  Think about your own, and your partner’s, temperament to determine what time of day might be best.  Do not discuss or argue when either of you are tired, or after you have been drinking, or when you are on a “date night.”  In fact, reserve a few hours once or twice week for a “business meeting” to discuss issues or logistical things like who is going to pick Johnny up after soccer practice.  Let the rest of the time with your mate be fun and relaxed.

3.  Be respectful.  Do not raise your voice, use a sarcastic tone, or become silent as a way to punish your mate.  Do not belittle or use profane language.  Also be mindful of ways in which you may be communicating disrespect in non-verbal ways, such as sighing or rolling your eyes.  Do use statements that describe your feelings (“I feel….”) and specifically what your partner has done to cause these feelings (“…when you…”).

4.  Stay on topic. Do not air old grievances from the past.  However tempting it may be, do not bring up unrelated issues.  In fact, try to avoid bringing up old issues at all.  When couples do this it is usually an indication that resentment has built up because the issue was never resolved.  The goal is to discuss and resolve issues as they happen.

5.  Show understanding. Listen to your partner sympathetically.  Even if you do not agree with his or her point of view, try to understand it.  Demonstrate that you are listening by paraphrasing what they are saying, for example, “You sound really angry.  It must have been really frustrating for you when I…”

6. Do not argue when you are angry. If you are too upset to follow these guidelines, it is time to cool off until you are.  My couples will often agree to call a “timeout,” where one of them goes to another room or for a walk for a specific period of time (usually about 20 minutes).  Then, they promise to get back together to continue the discussion after they have cooled off.  Do not argue when you are upset — you will be more likely to say something to hurt your partner and damage your relationship.

7. Develop a good repair strategy. Although at first glance it may seem a bit insensitive, a lot of partners will crack a joke when things get too heated.  This can work if the other partner laughs, thus breaking the tension.  Anything couples can do to calm the tension and reunite is considered a good repair strategy.

8.  If you are still having trouble, enlist the help of an experienced relationship counselor.

Note: This list was developed by CounselorBarb, after consulting similar lists by Lambos, W.A., & Emener, W.G. (In press) Cognitive and Neuroscientific Aspects of Human Love: A Guide for Therapists and Researchers. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science, Publisher; and Horton, Lee. Crumbling Commitment: Surviving a Marital Crisis.

For more information on CounselorBarb, visit


  1. counselorbarb

    Thank you for the mention.


  1. ET EXTRA: Protecting Your Relationship: How To Fight Fair « Engineering Thinking

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