How to fight fair

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I often tell clients that conflict is unavoidable. It’s natural to disagree at times. However, there are some better ways to manage these conflicts. Some tips on how to fight fair:

1. Stay on the subject at hand. Don’t bring up all of your partner’s past failings.

2. Keep it time limited. When discussions are no longer productive or have degraded into hurtful, call it quits. You can always revisit the topic at a later time.

3. Timing is crucial. Don’t try to discuss important or sensitive issues when you or your partner are over tired, distracted, or in a bad mood.

4. Don’t make assumptions. But if you do, assume your partner has good intentions. Be curious about your partner’s thinking and behavior. Avoid assumptions, by asking.5. Deal with issues as they come up. Don’t let resentments build.

6. Remember you are on the same team. You are in this together.

7. Use “I statements”. These are simply: I feel __________ when you __________ and I would like __________. By focusing on your own feelings (not blaming), you reduce defensiveness.

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.

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