La Coop P.A.- General and Forensic Psychiatry - Boutique-Private Psychiatric and Forensic Practice in Tampa-Clearwater-Florida


April, 2011


I hope that this newsletter finds you well. Spring is definitely in the air and Tampa is as beautiful as ever. We are lucky to live in this place!

As promised, this newsletter is a continuation of the last one in the sense that we will talk about how to fight fair in a relationship. This is a common problem in relationships and it's something that's easy to address with a few simple ground rules.

Now, I'm not encouraging fighting all of the time, but the reality is, when you're in an intimate relationship - people have disagreements. It's the way that the disagreements are resolved that's a real gauge of the strength of a relationship.

Please let me know if there are any other topics out there that you'd like me to address via email or in session.

Dr. L

Learning To Fight Fair

It's a fallacy that "good" couples don't fight. In fact, when I talk with patients and learn abut their relationships - that is how a lot of divorce stories begin, "I don't know what went wrong - we never fought." The reality is that the passion that people have for one another in a couple leads to arguments at times because there is caring involved.

The problem is not that couples fight, but how they fight. If you fight unfairly, then you destroy trust. If you fight fairly, you build trust (see March 2011 Newsletter).

Here are a few important pointers to make sure that when you fight, you fight fair:

  • Don't start a fight at a bad time - We all have "bad times" when we know we are at our weakest. Our spouse knows it too. Whether it's a Friday night and you've just gotten off of work and you barely can move, or you've been out on the town and had a few drinks, or your wife is premenstrual. Don't set yourself up for failure. A classic move is to start a fight right before someone has something important (big meeting, before sleeping, family reunion, vacation) to do and they are off guard. DON'T DO IT! You wouldn't want them to do it to you. If it's really something that needs to be discussed, mention it and then say that you'd like to talk about it after this big meeting, etc. is done when you can focus on the issue.
  • Don't resort to name calling or put downs - I know it's easy to do because the ones that you love are closest to you and know everything about you, but we need to keep perspective here. We are trying to be heard - alienating someone doesn't allow them to hear you. They will be too busy licking their own wounds from the zinger you just hurled at them.
  • Don't use phrases that are absolutes - "You never" or "you always," do these sound familiar? The reality is, no one ALWAYS or NEVER does something. You may see it that way, but it's rarely the case. Once one of these words are said, it puts the person on the defensive. This continues to whirl around in their mind and builds resentment and anger because they can come up with times when this wasn't the case.
  • Keep to the issue at hand - Don't bring up old stuff that may be unresolved. I know it's tempting to do and I have been guilty of this with my own husband. The way we rationalize this is because they are related offenses and "examples." However, we need to keep to the subject at hand. This will encourage you to bring things up as they bother you and not wait for a battle royale to bring all of the stuff up at once.
  • Don't bring the other person's family into the issue to support your case or to attack your spouse - your spouse, though they seem like an extension of their family (some are moreso than others) they aren't them and can't be to blame for a family member's faults. Resist the urge to do this!
  • Make an escape plan - Sometimes a fight can get too hot to handle and you need to stop. At a time when you're both together and are able to talk (like when you are reading this newsletter!) come up with a way to have a "time out" if one of you feels that the fight is getting out of hand. Whether it's a code word, a hand signal, or a behavior - make it something non threatening and something that both of you agree on.

Quick Tips for a successful argument

  • Use "I" statements rather than "you" statements which feel like an attack. ex. "I feel scared when you yell at me."
  • Bring up Issues as they occur. Say something when it's on your mind or when it just happens. A lot of arguments happen after the fact when resentment and anger have gotten big.
  • Listen respectfully. Save your point of view until after you've let the other person know you understand that they feel intensely about the subject, even if you don't get it.
  • Talk softly. Taking the volume down makes it possible for your partner to focus on the issue instead of reacting to the noise.
  • Get curious, not defensive. Even if you don't personally get it, there is some basis for your spouse's complaint. Try to figure out why they are upset. Not only will listening develop empathy, but it will also make the other person feel cared for.
  • Find points of agreement. You both are reasonable people and there is a common ground (even if it's agreeing that there is a problem). You will find a resolution if you look for commonality.
  • Ask for a solution. Careful consideration of options shows respect. Listening to their opinion shows that you are willing to try something new. You are with them for a reason - let them be useful!
  • Make concessions. Small concessions can turn the situation around. If you give a little, it makes room for the other person to make concessions too. Small concessions lead to larger compromises. This isn't about scorekeeping. It's about finding a solution that is workable for both of you.
  • Make peace. After every argument, my husband hugs me. That makes everything better. It reminds me how much he loves me, and it also physically feels good. Try it! It may work for you too.

Until next time!

Dr. L

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