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Can a Good Fight Save Your Relationship?

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Can a Good Fight Save Your Relationship?

With all the ups and downs in life, even the best relationships knock heads once in a while. Cyber talk is streaming a pop culture belief that long term relationships are just not viable. In this shifting climate, can we reliably build the skills to weather the natural storms of everyday life and still come out on top? With all the temptations, struggles and conflicts, can we maintain a loving relationship in the current environment? Let’s face it – most serious relationship problems occur because people just don’t know how to fight fair. They take the gloves off or walk away when the going gets tough.

Good fights require rules of engagement. So what might those be? Well, first off, it’s always a good idea to cool off first. Take a good 20 minutes and agree to come back to the table. John Gottman writes, in The Science of Trust, that when we are upset our blood pressure spikes and we stop thinking rationally. The best trick I know besides when to keep my mouth zipped is to acknowledge and validate first, before I make my point. What does that mean? It means taking a moment to let the other person know that they were heard and understood. This does not mean agreement but letting them know they got through. Then make a plan, find a solution, make it work then turn the conversation into something constructive. This may sound simple but it’s not. It takes time to make this stuff work, but it’s the bare bones of conflict resolution 101.

How about those rules?

1. No hitting below the belt. In the midst of an argument is not the time to bring out your list of injustices and misgivings about your relationship. “Well, maybe we should just end it right now” is not a good problem solving technique. Make a pact to not throw down the end of the relationship card during an argument. Also, those little secrets that were shared at tender moments, family, friends, old history are big no no’s during a skirmish. Saying things that are intended to hurt the other person is called hitting below the belt. Keep it simple. What works for me, what I want, what would work next time are the best ways to avoid defensive responses.

2. No yelling, screaming, name calling or swearing. We all know the right and wrong things to do; the trouble is remembering them when we’re angry. Victor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, said that “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” The goal is to elongate that space by calming down first so we can think about what would be a good way to express what we are thinking and feeling. Usually, there is more than one reason why we are angry. How many of us have regretted what was said in anger? How many arguments are productive when we are upset? The answer is none.

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Dr. Bill Cloke

Dr. Bill Cloke has worked with individuals and couples for 30 years. He received a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California and holds a PhD in psychology from California Graduate Institute. A frequent talk-radio and TV psychologist, he is also a contributor to and other popular websites and has lectured at UCLA. Bill Cloke lives with his wife in Los Angeles. To learn more about Bill Cloke, and for more resources on creating healthy, happy relationships, visit


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11:31AM PDT on Sep 1, 2012

good reminders

1:10PM PDT on Mar 29, 2012

I don’t like arguments. Someone could get hurt emotionally and physically and emotions, (if the wrong thing is said) take a lifetime to heal because what was said comes from the heart of someone. If couples would practice what Michele W wrote, you can get a lot solved without getting out of control.

10:19AM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

This is awesome. Thank you!

4:23AM PDT on Mar 21, 2012

A fight could be the chance too restart or to end a relation

2:40PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Instead of fighting deal with things as they come up. Good way to handle others around you is to be true to yourself...don't get made at yourself,don't cuss at your self,show compassion to it for yourself first makes it easier to show it to others...always forgive yourself.

2:03PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

I like the end bit about about fair fights being able to end humorously. My partner and I often end up laughing together after a fight, and those are definitely the best ones to have.

Of course we also have our share of 'bad' fights, where we both need to cool down and regain some perspective and love!

2:01PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

I hate arguing. Luckily, my husband hates it too, but that is not to say we don't disagree at times.
We find the best way to deal with disagreements is to sit down together, have a cup of tea, and talk over whatever the problem is. All points of view are discussed, and we can usually find some compromise.

1:49PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

Thank you! I know when I get into arguements I just need to cool of for a while, and then start discussing again.

12:47PM PST on Feb 16, 2012


12:40PM PST on Feb 16, 2012

It's true; good love means good fights.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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