Couple sitting by a campfire on the beach discussing how to fight fair in marriage.

10 Tips & Guidelines For Fighting Fair In Marriage

Anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship knows that conflicts are part of the package. These disagreements, however, needn’t be destructive. On the contrary, when handled properly, they can become catalysts for a deeper understanding and a stronger marriage. This is where the concept of “fighting fair” in marriage comes into play.

“Fighting fair” doesn’t mean eliminating conflicts altogether. After all, every couple, no matter how compatible, faces disagreements from time to time. What matters is not the presence of conflict, but how we navigate these challenging moments. The art of fighting fair involves active listening, respect for each other’s perspectives, and a willingness to find common ground, even amidst heated discussions.

What follows is a guide of 10 effective strategies for fighting fair in marriage.

With them you can transform moments of contention into opportunities for growth, enhancing the connection between you and your partner, and promoting a communication style that ensures everyone feels heard and respected.

  1. Embrace the Conflict

    Conflicts are not signs of a doomed relationship but part of any thriving, evolving marriage. Even the strongest marriages encounter conflicts from time to time. They act as catalysts for growth and change, fostering deeper understanding and intimacy. When you encounter disagreements, view them as opportunities to learn and grow together rather than seeing them as threats to your relationship.

  2. Listen Actively

    In the midst of an argument, it’s easy to get caught up in formulating your response and just waiting for a break in your spouse’s commentary to interject your thought. But true dialogue requires active listening.

    When you can give them your undivided attention, you show your spouse that you value their feelings and perspectives. You can let them know you’re listening by nodding to show understanding and paraphrasing their statements to ensure you’ve understood them correctly. This mutual respect can lead to a more productive discussion and a stronger marriage.

  3. Find Common Ground

    Despite the disagreement, try to identify areas where you both agree. Focusing on your shared perspectives can help reduce tension and cultivate a collaborative atmosphere. By creating a sense of unity, you are both reminded that you’re on the same team, working towards the same goal: a happy, healthy relationship.

  4. Stay Focused

    This is arguably the most difficult tip to employ, yet it’s essential to keep the discussion concentrated on the matter at hand. Refrain from dragging past errors into the current argument, as this can lead to defensiveness and move you further from resolving the present issue.

    And the rewards are commensurate with the difficulty. By concentrating on the current disagreement, you will be creating the space for more effective problem-solving and preventing the argument from escalating unnecessarily.

  5. Use “I” Statements

    To express your feelings without blaming or criticizing your partner, use “I” statements. This can be a difficult shift for many to make.

    For example, instead of saying “You’re always late,” say “I feel frustrated when I’m kept waiting.” This simple shift in phrasing can open up a dialogue by focusing on your feelings rather than attacking your partner’s behavior.

  6. Take Breaks as Needed

    Arguments can often cause emotions to skyrocket. Recognizing when this happens and agreeing to take a break can prevent hurtful words and actions.

    When you allow yourselves a pause like this, you both have the space to calm down, gather your thoughts, and approach the conversation with a clearer, more rational mindset.

  7. Learn to Apologize

    Learning to apologize sincerely when you’ve made a mistake is vital for any relationship’s success. A sincere apology is more than just saying “I’m sorry.” It also requires acknowledging your mistake, understanding its impact on your partner, and expressing your commitment to avoid repeating it in the future.

    This honest, vulnerable act can help mend emotional wounds and rebuild trust.

  8. Develop Problem-Solving Skills

    These skills necessitate that you cultivate a problem-solving mindset. This will allow you to focus on finding a solution rather than proving who’s right or wrong.

    When you employ problem-solving skills, you will be able to brainstorm possible solutions together and evaluate them until you find an agreement that you can both accept.

    Shifting from blame to collaboration can dramatically improve how you handle disagreements.

  9. Practice Respect

    Above all, you will want to ensure your communication remains respectful, even during disagreements.

    Without a focus on respect, it can be way too easy to fling derogatory remarks, name-calling, or other language that aims to hurt or demean your partner. Setting ground rules of respectful communication is the bedrock of fighting fair in marriage.

    Setting and respecting these boundaries can create a safe space where constructive dialogue can flourish, even during arguments.

  10. Seek Professional Help

    If disagreements become too frequent, intense, or destructive, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Relationship coaches, therapists, and intensive, private couples retreats provide guidance and tools to help you navigate conflicts more effectively.

    These professionals can help you understand underlying issues that may be influencing your conflicts and provide strategies for healthier communication and problem-solving so that fighting fair in your marriage will become natural.

Conflict is a natural and unavoidable part of any relationship. However, it’s not the disagreements themselves, but how we handle them, that truly shapes the health and longevity of our relationships. By embracing these 10 guidelines for fighting fair in marriage, you’re taking the first step toward transforming disagreements into opportunities for growth and deeper understanding.

Even the most loving couples fight from time to time. What matters in the inevitable disagreements is the ability to stay focused on the issue, communicate respectfully, and work toward common ground. Remember, a healthy argument is one where each partner feels heard, understood, and respected.

Though it may feel challenging at first, with practice, these skills can become an integral part of your communication toolkit, fostering a stronger, more harmonious marriage. And keep in mind, there is no shame in seeking external help. Professional guidance can offer fresh perspectives and effective strategies to improve your marriage – and save you from the more dire consequences of prolonged unfair fighting.

Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats. If you feel you need help in navigating the complexities of marital conflicts, or you simply want to strengthen the bonds of your relationship, consider investing in their expertise. To learn more about working with Mary Ellen, contact her here.

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Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats