What Does “Fighting Fair” Mean?

Fighting fair, what does that mean?  I mentioned this word recently, and someone said, “isn’t that just a discussion then?” After a laugh, I thought about what it means to fight fair, why we react the way we do, and if it was achievable in marriage. To determine if you fight fair, here are a few questions to ask yourself.  

  • How often do you hide hurts in your back pocket only to pull them out during an argument and smack your partner on the head with them?
  • Do you resort to extreme, and often irrational tactics (slamming doors and objects around or making snide remarks), to signal to your spouse that you are frustrated?
  • When angry, do you play the “alienation game,” withhold affection, or refuse to cooperate to punish your other half when they have wounded you?

Yes? No? Maybe?

If you can answer yes to any of the above questions, then you are not fighting fair.  Perhaps you do not even realize you are not fighting fair.  Past experiences often trigger emotions when an argument arises, and our innate nature takes the wheel.   We are hardwired to respond in three ways: fight, flight, or freeze.  The goal is to recognize our response and find a better solution. If we do not work on fighting fair, then we risk punching gaping holes in our marital intimacy.

Planning a Healthy Battlefield Strategy

Conflicts in marriage can be building blocks for a stronger, healthier relationship if we learn to fight fair. To do this, we have to devise a strategy, and the first step is to discuss and plan your strategy together.   We have provided a few ideas to get you started.fighting

  1. FOLLOW THE RULES.  This one is the most important.  If you made the plan together then following the rules of engagement can grow a marriage even in conflict.  If one breaks rank, then it can lead to an unfair fight in which no one wins.
  2. STOP, THINK, PLAN.  If you have a grievance, write it down on paper before bringing it to your spouse.  Doing this will allow you to process what the root of the issue is before you present it to your partner.  In some cases, you may even realize it is not a problem you have with your spouse.  If it is, then you can communicate it better without emotions flying around.
  3. IF YOU ARE A “FLIGHT” RISK, make a point to plant your feet firmly in the room despite the urge to run away from conflict.  Some believe that taking a time out means leaving the room to cool down.  However, If you are out of control, take a timeout, but agree to come back and resolve the issue.    
  4. RESIST THE URGE TO KEEP SCORE.  Do not keep a tally of who wins and loses. There are no losers in the battle if you focus on resolving the issue and improving the marriage rather than winning. The goal is mutual understanding not winning.
  5. STICK TO THE PLAN.  Some people are “carpet bombers” in arguments, meaning that they begin with one issue, then drop all the bombs of their past hurts or unresolved issues all at once.  Deal with one struggle at a time, and do it before it stacks up.

Build Blocks, Not Walls by Fighting Fair

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Damage can occur when husbands and wives allow unresolved issues to build up.  It leads to reacting out of emotion and ending in an unfair battle.  If you are not fighting fair, and cannot jump off the vicious cycle, then consider seeking marriage help or a relationship coach.      

It is no secret that conflict WILL arise, but it does not have to be a destructive force.  It can be a building block for stronger, healthier marriages. Excellent communication skills in marriage build a foundation for secure relationships and fighting fair.  In fact, communication is so important, we wrote about it on our blog last month.