When was the last time you had a good fight with someone you care about? That’s right, two people in a relationship are going to fight from time to time, even if the relationship is healthy. But the point is, are you fighting fair? The way disagreements and conflicts are handled can be helpful or destructive. And you don’t want to regret what you may say, as those words are hard to undo.

When couples fight often and don’t do it in honoring ways, emotional distance is created. Emotional distance is a precursor for divorce. Thus, you don’t want to fight with negative tactics or, for that matter, avoid conflict altogether. Here are 6 rules of healthy fighting:

  1. Anger: One of the goals of good fighting is to not end the conflict feeling hurt or deeply wounded. This means you must be aware of your anger and not allow it to escalate. If you feel you are starting to lose control, take a temporary time-out and cool down. Deep breathing, prayer and distracting your brain with a brief mental exercise like counting to ten backwards will bring your thinking brain back on-line.
  2. Deal with issues daily: You can’t solve things you don’t discuss. In couples work, we often talk about taking a daily temperature. Each night, take a few minutes and ask, “How are we doing?” Hopefully, this leads to discussing issues as they come up versus allowing them to simmer and create resentment or even a blow up.
  3. Listen: Rather than defending your point of view and strategizing how you can convince the person you are right, listen. Wait your turn to speak. It’s best to hear the person out, give a brief summary of what you heard, and then ask the person if you heard it correctly. Doing this small step makes the other person feel heard.
  4. Be humble: Humility allows you to lower your need-to-be-right (defensiveness) and work with each other rather than against each other. Focus on solving the problem. If you can’t solve it, agree to come back to it at another time. Or simply agree to disagree. The bottom line of any argument is to discuss your differences, but value and appreciate the other person regardless of the problem.
  5. Show respect: Scripture is our guide as to how we are to treat each other. At the minimum, name calling, blame, swearing and being disrespectful are not the mark of a Christ follower. Your language, behavior and attitude should line up with the Word.
  6. Forgive often: All relationships require forgiveness and grace. I saw a woman in couples therapy who had been deeply and emotionally harmed by her husband. She was ready to walk away. But he had a change of heart and it seemed genuine. He was truly repentant. She wrote out all the ways he had hurt her through their years of marriage. The list was 25 pages single spaced. Then, in their time away from therapy, he read each one, apologized and they addressed issues in prayer. We came up with ways to repair and rebuild the relationship while holding his feet to the fire based on past behavior. He proved the change was real and they went on to have a solid marriage. However, she had to agree to let go of those hurts and forgive. Without that process, surrender, repentance and asking for forgiveness, it would have been hard to move forward.

Too many people won’t admit the hurt they cause or examine their heart and ask God to transform them. Consequently, they stay stuck in anger and resentment. Don’t be one of those people. Learn to fight fair and with respect.

How to have a good fight