Rules of Fair Fighting in a Relationship: Setting Boundaries in Conflict.

Oct 3, 2021

Every partnership and couple fights, and this is simply inevitable. Learning how to fight fair in a relationship is crucial for successful long-term partnerships. 

The rules of fair fighting in a relationship ultimately have to be negotiated between you and your partner with ample communication. The problem with that? How to fight fair in a relationship is a learned skill, and it’s really hard to learn in the throes of an existing conflict.  

One day you and your partner will be able to generate your own rules for fair fighting, but before you can use your own skills of negotiation and fairness in relationships, try out these rules of fair fighting in a relationship to get you started.  

Rule #1- No Blaming

Blaming is one of the quickest ways to escalate any conflict. When we hear our partners blame us, we recoil and anger quickly. Ultimately blaming is projecting our own inability to take responsibility for someone else. Use these tips instead as an alternative: 

  • Don’t criticize.

When we criticize one another, we’re not turning towards negotiation and fairness in relationships. Fairness in relationships is built by our partners knowing that we won’t just criticize them. By limiting blaming your partner, you’re taking a stand that you value collaborative solution making. 

  • Use “I” language.

Tell them about your feelings by saying, “I feel ___ when I see you ___” By highlighting that it is your experience and feelings, they’ll be better able to hear you. 

  • Take responsibility often

Build your partner’s trust by making sure you take responsibility for your words and actions. By taking responsibility often, you model how you want them to treat you. They’ll be more likely to also take responsibility when they know you’re doing the same. Practice the skill often to build their trust that you will adhere to the rules of fair fighting in a relationship. 

rules of fair fighting in a relationship

Rule #2- Apologize

One of the most important rules of fair fighting in a relationship is to apologize. It’s all well and good that we can hear their experiences and feelings, but if we’re not willing to take the step and apologize, your relationship will struggle to blossom. 

  • Listen for how you hurt them.

To be able to apologize best, you’ll need to really listen to how you hurt them. Fairness in relationships isn’t just listening to respond, but listening to understand. You’d want the same treatment in reverse. Give them time to speak their piece.

  • Share what you heard and take responsibility.

An unfortunate roadblock in how to fight fair in a relationship is our inability to really hear one another. It can be challenging to hear experiences and feelings different from your own. Remember that their feelings are valid, and yours are as well. There’s space for two experiences in one relationship. Repeat their words back to them to practice effective listening and take responsibility wherever you can for your part. 

  • Share how you want to treat them instead. 

Genuinely reflect and think how you’d want to love your partner instead. Negotiation and fairness in relationships are built when you honestly reflect how you want to love them as much as they tell you how they like being loved. You cultivate fairness in relationships when you both share your ideal way of caring for one another equitably. 

  • Ask for forgiveness. 

This final step may seem small, but it’s pretty crucial. Asking your partner for forgiveness creates a polite request to move forward. When you state your intentions to earn their forgiveness and bid for it, your partner builds their trust in you to work through your issues with them.

Rule #3- Forgive. 

Forgiveness is one of the rules of fair fighting in a relationship that will actually help you get started on your new beginnings. If you consistently don’t forgive one another for mistakes and hurt feelings, you’re not building fairness in relationships. A fight takes two people to put down their weapons and renew their faith in the bond you have together. 

  • Show appreciation for their apology. 

Even if their apology is a bit rough around the edges, showing genuine appreciation for their attempt at repair shows that you care and we’re listening. You’ll both gain skills in apologizing along the way. Tell them what you appreciate about it and give them positive feedback for caring for you. 

  • Express genuine forgiveness. 

Really sit back and let their apology land. If it does miss a crucial element that you want them to take responsibility for, you can let them know, but don’t throw the entire apology into the trash. One of the rules of fair fighting in relationships is that we assume the best of one another. Work to hear what apology they did give you and release some of your hurt feelings with a hearty, “I forgive you.”

  • Don’t punish, and work to let go. 

It’s easy for apologies not to work, especially if you’re used to not using some of the rules of fair fighting in relationships. If they’re something you’d still like an apology for, simply tell them. Don’t punish them for what they don’t know. Work to truly let go of your ill will. If you hold on to your hurt feelings, they’ll only bubble up into resentment. 

rules of fair fighting in a relationship

Rule #4- Make Something New

One of the great things about conflict in a relationship is that it can actually be a great place to start something new. Conflicts aren’t a bad thing; they’re simply learning opportunities. Without conflict, we wouldn’t be able to create the relationships we really want in our lives. One of the rules of fair fighting in a relationship you’ll both need to learn is that “fights” aren’t the end. 

  • Get curious about what happened. 

After you’ve expressed genuine forgiveness with one another, it should be easier to be genuinely curious about what happened. We can assume that you or your partner weren’t trying to hurt one another, so if that wasn’t their intent, what was? Ask questions to understand, not to judge and learn more. 

  • Express what your dream relationship could look like. 

Take the time to share what you would like it to look like next time. Think of what would’ve felt good in the place of the unfortunate event. Tell your partner what you’d like to see from them, and you, next time this happens. 

  • Create a new shared vision. 

Work together to create a shared vision. It’s great that you have a dream relationship model, but remember your partner does as well. One of the rules for fighting fair in a relationship is that you have to make something new TOGETHER. You’ll need to learn about negotiation and fairness in relationships for this to work. 

These rules for fair fighting in a relationship are a great place for you to get started working together. Not every relationship is the same, and you may learn that you or your partner have nuanced rules or strategies. While you continue to work to build your relationship, keep writing down your own rules of fair fighting in a relationship together. You can have your own playbook for success in no time. 

Ultimately following the rules the both of you create together for fair fights will ensure you both spend more time loving one another just the way you deserve. 

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