How to Fight With Your Partner


Arguments. Conflict. Fights. Disputes. Disagreements. They're an inevitable part of romantic partnership. And often they can be the part of relationship you hate the most. Especially those fights that are repetitive, never get anywhere, and just don't ever feel resolved. Ugh. I had a front-row seat to one such argument recently. My partner and I were on a 3-hour flight sitting directly behind a couple having a very heated dispute. I could hear almost every word and was struck by the way they fought. They did everything wrong!

See, conflict can serve to distance us from each other and potentially drive a permanent wedge between us (thus the repetitive fights as we try to resolve it), or it can actually be a doorway to more intimacy and bring us closer to one another. In fact, I believe that's actually the purpose of conflict in relationships and it's why we fight. It's an opportunity to go deeper and get even closer, challenging though it is. But the frustrating part is that no one ever taught us how to do conflict well!

So, my friends, here it is. The process and ground rules for how to fight with your partner:

1. Name the Moment

As soon as possible and without judgement, pause the conversation and name what you're feeling in the air: that there's tension, an edge, it's getting heated, or that you feel like you're fighting. "Hang on. {breathe} Something is happening here."

2. Drop the Content

Whatever you were talking or arguing about can wait. Drop it. No really, drooooop it. (This is one of the hardest parts). Now, you do NOT need your partner to also drop the content, nor do you need to wait for them to agree to proceed in this way. They can still be fighting you. You drop it. Instead, check in with yourself and see how you're feeling.

3. Share Feelings and Impact

From a place of being in touch with your own heart, share your experience in feelings and impact. These are statements that can't be argued. "I feel defensive and sad and protective" not "I feel like you're not listening."

4. Share with Neutrality

The purpose of you sharing your feelings is not to get the other person to stop "making you sad." Detach from needing them to be different so you can feel better. You'll never be able to control them anyway. The purpose of sharing is to reveal yourself vulnerably to the other person, opening your heart so you're beginning to pave the way for being available for connection.

5. Listen with Neutrality

Your partner will be speaking about their experience. Even if in the past they've shared that to try to manipulate you into acting differently, be willing to listen to them now. Hear them and bring your curiosity. What must it be like for them to be feeling defensive and sad and protective? Do you know how that feels? (Note: this step is receptive and is pretty hard to do if you're feeling a lot of intensity. It's a practice. Keep practicing.)

6. Be Rigorously in Your Heart

Arguments are compelling. They can suck you in FAST. Be rigorous about staying in your heart, dropping the content (it'll keep weaseling its way in if you let it), sharing yourself, and listening.

7. Consider...

Not making your partner wrong or blaming them. Assume that there's a positive intent behind how they're being.

You are not the authority on their experience. You only know what they're experiencing or feeling or doing if you ask.

They're arguing or pushing back because they're hurting or feeling unsafe, unheard, etc. They're likely hurting just as much as you are because you're fighting.

It's highly likely that both of you would prefer to feel connected, intimate, playful, heard, attracted (or whatever other yummy stuff) rather than in conflict with each other.

If your partner is repeating themselves or says they don't feel heard or gotten, you're not getting them. See if you can ask directly for them to show you where you're missing them. Be willing to attempt hearing them until they agree you've got it.

Asking to be seen or understood about something about yourself is totally fair game and can create opening.

Look for connection points. Seek shared reality. "Does it seem to you like neither of us want to be fighting?"

Track the flavor and intensity of your disconnection or connection. If you keep connection in your sight and if something you say or do seems to create more disconnection, change course. Hone in on that which creates connection and learn from it.

Practice seeing where you're fighting nastily (guilt tripping, blaming, avoiding, etc) and name it.

Finally, learn where your boundaries and edges are. As you practice this, you'll at times draw too much into yourself or extend too far out beyond your capacity. Practice. Keep practicing.

I hope this helps! Leave a comment and let me know how it's going. Wishing you productive conflict.