The Art of Fighting Well


We will hurt each other but 99.9% of the time it will be unintentional... 

One of the greatest contributors to conflict in any relationship is the inability to communicate clearly with one another. In the early days of dating, Nick and I discussed what we now like to call, ‘The Art of Fighting Well’. We came up with two absolutes:  

  1. We will hurt each other
  2. 99.9% of the time, it will be unintentional

Our conversation progressed to this, “If we know at some stage in the future we will hurt or offend each other, then why don’t we now, at the outset of our relationship, create some parameters of how to fight well.” So… here are our ‘Rules of Engagement’. 😉 

1. Decide outside of the heat of the moment how you are going to deal with conflict.

Sit down with your loved one and discuss expectations of what will happen when one of you is hurt or offended by the other. How do you normally react to hurt - are you confrontational, passive aggressive, manipulative? Be real with yourself and with each other about your weaknesses. Decide on a better response. Do this together and help each other commit to a healthier response.  

2. Bring up your hurt or offense without attacking the person.

Accusation from one person only leads to defence from the other. Take time to gather your thoughts of why you feel hurt. Calmly discuss the principle, not the person. E.g. “You may not realise this, but when you [did/said this] it made me [feel like this]. What are your thoughts?” Questions diffuse accusation and create a team approach towards resolution.   

3. Seek to understand, not defend.

If you are the ‘offender’, do not defend your actions. Listen and take time to understand the other person’s hurt. The space for you to explain your actions comes after genuine listening and understanding – and as with point two, cannot be accusatory.  

4. Realise you’re on the same team.

There is no win when one person walks away feeling like a villain and there is no satisfaction playing the victim. The only win is a commitment as a team to pursue resolution – and to achieve this it to communicate hurt whilst maintaining dignity and love for one another. 

5. Foster Affection.

Withholding affection after resolving conflict is a tell-tale sign that one or both of you are not ‘over it’, Sometimes there is further hurt to discuss, other times its simply pride getting in the way. A true sign of resolve is that you can look each other in the eye and smile, hug or laugh at yet another moment of ‘flawed humanity’. In the words of the Psalmist Elsa, ‘Let it Go’.


Kirsty Emery