Six Rules for Fighting Fair

How to keep a lovers' quarrel from turning into a knock-down, drag-out fight.

(Image credit: B2M Productions)

Disagreements are unavoidable in relationships, but you don't have to fight until the bitter end. We asked the members of Marie Claire Ask & AnswerMarie Claire's online Q&A community for dating, sex, and relationship advice—what they do to make sure they're fighting fair with their significant others. Like Answerology member Anonymous enthusiastically advised, "As the old saying goes, in a good relationship, you have to keep the sex dirty and the fights clean!"

1. Take a Time Out

When you feel a fight brewing, put yourselves in time-out to collect your thoughts. Psychoticbabe1 says "we both know anger gets in the way of sensible discussions so next time you are angry at your significant other, tell him you are going to take 10 minutes to calm down before sorting out your problems." The key? Let your partner know you need a few minutes, don't just flee the room and slam the door shut.

2. Set a Limit

Answerology member 7879386 sets a limit on rehashing old relationship issues. "If it happened after 48 hours ago, you can't bring it up. Works OK for us. Unless you ASK permission to talk about something very specific. Has worked over 35 years." Don't bite your tongue if you're having the same problem over and over again, but keep the fighting to the issue at hand.

3. Stay On Topic

Answerology member Anonymous reminds us not to hit below the belt. "It's simple, we don't ever resort to name-calling or saying nasty things in the heat of the moment." CursedRomantic agrees, adding "In my view to fight/argue fairly is to at least take time and hear out each side, don't name call or bring up past mistakes." It's not the time to mention how much you can't stand his mother or that time that he made you late to your sister's wedding three years ago.

4. Know What You're Fighting For

"The bottom line is that we fight because we love each other," adds Anonymous, "so whatever we are fighting for, it's because we want each other to be better and understand us, and not do whatever it is that is upsetting us. In which case, name calling and swearing would just be pointless." Remind yourself and your partner that you're fighting in order to solve a problem, not merely to yell at each other.

5. Lighten Up

If you feel yourselves getting too heated, try lightening the mood. Don't do so at your partner's expense, but cracking a joke can force you both to regroup and look at the big picture. Cjs1991 shared her trick for getting her boyfriend to crack a smile and lighten the mood when they're arguing: "I tease him and tell him if you want to fight you will have to do it with no cloths on."

6. Give In…a Little

It's a sign of bigger relationship trouble, CursedRomantic says, "if neither side can give a little for a mutually positive outcome." Psychoticbabe1 says that ideally, "you take notes of each other's feelings and decide together what you are going to do!" Anonymous adds, "It feels great to say I'm sorry and hear it back, and understand what has just happened, and figure out a resolve." Fight according to the old campsite rule, and leave the issue better than you found it.