Fighting fair

Arguments can help resolve conflict

It’s only natural for couples to occasionally butt heads when facing issues involving finances, home care, chores, children, and the in-laws. What matters is how you approach fighting.

If you approach the argument logically, most likely your partner will too, says Riann Smith, former deputy editor of She recommends trying to stick with the topic at hand, because dragging in issues from two weeks or a year ago will only escalate the fight.

The drama that can accompany any argument – everything from raised voices, to hurtful words, aggression and violence – gives arguments a bad name. But there is such a thing as a healthy argument.

“I personally do not like the word argument because it infers a negative process,” says Noel E. Holdsworth, a certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner for Winter Haven Hospital’s Center for Psychiatry. “If an argument is more like a skillful debate, where issues, and opposing opinions are explored, expressed and resolved, then yes it is VERY healthy.”

Expressing feelings are important in any relationship, Holdsworth says. It is actually a good way to nurture the relationship. “That expression can come in the form of words, actions or even just body language,” Holdsworth says. “Reading someone’s heart and mind is much easier when words and actions accompany the process.”

Holding in your emotions can be detrimental because it damages your authenticity. “Being real and honest in any relationship offers opportunities to grow and develop depth,” she says.

Keeping the peace at all cost can in the long run be destructive. “What looks like peace now may turn into a war later,” she says. “Keeping temporary peace at the dinner table, or in a public forum may be appropriate, but if left not dealt with for extended periods of time can build and accumulate and develop into something irreversible.”

Sometimes misunderstandings arise that require you to ask forgiveness. If you are forgiven, you need to “let it go, and ask them to let it go, and never bring it up again,” she advises.

“If a person cannot forgive you,” she continues, “you need to be aware of that. And then decide consciously how important is it for you to have someone in your life who can not forgive you.”

She suggests forgiving yourself or asking God to forgive you. “But once you do: let it go, never bring it up again, stop feeling guilty, and never do it again,” she offers.

To deal with conflict, Holdsworth advises:

  • Make sure your discussion is with the right person in the right place, at a mutually convenient time;
  • Know the issue, the facts and what you want to achieve, but be willing to compromise;
  • Be willing to take time out because of fatigue, emotions or other difficulties;
  • Aim for a win/win resolution;
  • Accept responsibility where appropriate;
  • Listen;
  • Be open to spoken or written communication. Be willing to rephrase yourself to ensure you are understood;
  • Never minimize or try to change their feelings;
  • Don’t accuse or attack;
  • Be willing to rely on a third party as an arbiter;
  • Be willing to agree to disagree if necessary, and don’t criticize the disagreement.

“Pick your battles: in the long run, 20 years from now is it going to be all that important?” Holdsworth asks. “Never force a resolution. Some of the best resolutions take time and attention.”

Trish McDermott, who helped launch and served as vice president of love for the online social dating community,, agrees time is often the best remedy. “It’s a cliché device to say that you should never go to bed angry,” McDermott says. “It suggests that you should be able to go from zero to 60 between the fight and brushing your teeth. But you usually can’t solve major issues in 10 minutes.”



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