Avoid Power Struggles In Your Relationship And Learn To Fight Fair

Power struggles erupt in relationships for any of a number of reasons. It could be the clash that often happens when two people attempt to co-mingle their lives. It could happen because one person feels threatened by a decision the other has made. And – especially in economic times like we’re facing now – it could happen over money.

One of the most important things for a couple that is in a power struggle, is to learn to fight fair. This is especially crucial now, as it’s likely that more and more couples ARE fighting about money, and these arguments are likely to become more and more heated. Fighting fair does NOT mean avoiding conflict in favor of polite discussion. Conflicts are inevitable and it is the way that couples work through them that influences how they relate to each other emotionally. That’s why I’ve set forth several rules for fighting fair:

How To Fight Fair

1. Ask permission. Make sure that now is a good time to talk about that crucial issue. If not, make an appointment to do so.

2. Reschedule if necessary. If it’s not a good time – or if your partner is likely to stonewall to avoid conflict – get them to commit to a time within 24 hours that you CAN talk about the topic at hand.

3. Put time limits on the fight. If the topic becomes too sensitive, allow for either person to take a “time out.”

4. Don’t ignore. Even while you’re fighting, maintain eye contact, acknowledge what they’re saying, let them finish their thoughts, and listen to them. Get rid of distractions.

5. Use “I” sentences. Don’t blame, criticize or be negative. Bring it back around and take responsibility for your actions and thoughts.

6. Echo what you hear and validate feelings. It can be easy to get angry over the course of the fight to the point that you don’t want to communicate. But it’s important that your partner know their feelings are important to you, even if you disagree. Repeat what they’re saying to make sure you understand, and do so with out “editorializing” or adding your own spin.

7. Empathize. Saying things like, “that makes sense,” or, “ I can see how you feel that way,” go a long way toward diffusing a heated argument. You may still have a long way to go to come to a decision or compromise but if you each know the other person understands where you’re coming from, it’ll make the road that much easier.

8. Be honest, but don’t be hurtful. Go beyond your comfort zone to express how you are feeling and what you’re worried about, but choose your words carefully!

9. Detach from your emotions. I mean this in a positive way! When you argue, practice listening to the content, but not giving in to a knee-jerk emotional response.

10. Before, during, and after a fight, practice attachment skills. Touch your partner when making a point. Reconnect by holding hands or hugging after you’ve reached a compromise. Maintaining positive touch throughout this process can reframe the argument and the issue.


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