The Cardinal Rules for Fighting with Your Lover

First things first, are you on the same side? If not, then why be in the relationship? Establish that you basically want to be together and live your lives together with a common path in front of you. You see each other as partners not as adversaries, competitors or the thorn in your flesh.

Call your partner your lover, this helps to remind both of you of some of the reasons you are together, which is – one, you loveeach other, and two, you make love to each other exclusively (hopefully). If neither are true, then to be honest, there’s no relationship.

If your lover is your main antagonist, you will have to change your perspective or your partner. In my upcoming book, there is an exercise on how to appreciate your antagonists for their endearing qualities and how to find attributes to be grateful for.

Let’s face it, it is a blessing to find someone to love who loves you back. I have had my time being on my own, in one-sided “relationships”, in truly bad and dysfunctional ones and when you find something good, don’t risk losing it to your own bad habits of reacting, pushing people away or simply bad behaviour.

How can you be on “opposite” sides with your lover? Quite honestly, it is impossible; so change your perspective and remember why you are in it together in the first place. Make sure you change it from a “have to” to a “want to”.

Once this is clear and established, fighting becomes fair and can also be fun. There is no real threat, all is good. It is like sparring with a partner in your martial arts class; you know that rules will be abided by and that there will be no low-blows, name calling or any kind of abuse.

Cardinal Rules of the Fight



  • Never fight when intoxicated.
  • Never insinuate breaking up or ending it in a fight.
  • Always have a “safe word” to interrupt the fight and remind each other that you do care for and love each other.
  • You should always remember never to use never and always. It is a distortion of the truth, can you think of the last time you used either, or it was used on you. Nine out of 10 times it was not the truth. Remember to be factual when you “fight”. So when you say to him,  “You NEVER listen to me when I speak,” that is an exaggeration. Be specific about the time that he didn’t listen and explain how you felt.
  • Do not blame him, instead use words like “I” – “When you do this, I feel that…” Instead of “You are always on the phone when I call you”, it would be nicer if you said, “Please call me back when you see my missed call.”
  • Do not give ultimatums or make threats. In fact, the best thing you can do is the reverse ultimatum and only use this for your absolute “non-negotiables.” The reverse ultimatum is when you take responsibility for what you are able to or unable to accept in the behaviour of your life partner. So for example, “After losing my cousin to a car accident, I vowed to myself to never be in a relationship or get in a car with someone who drinks and drives. It would go against my own values and what I believe in and it would be a disrespect to my cousin’s life.” (Her non-negotiable is his drunk driving.) In that way, you have made your stand clear; you are not threatening to leave but you are stating why you can’t stay if this one behaviour does not change. If you are or the relationship is important enough to your lover, he will understand and CHOOSE the change.
  • Fight for win-win, no one will be happy if either feels like they are getting the raw end of the stick.
  • Don’t mind-read, as this is so annoying. Ask questions and wait for the answers, do not finish sentences or assume what the other person is thinking. I am so guilty of doing this myself in my personal relationships, probably because when I am coaching my clients, I am so aware of listening actively that in my own relationships, I become impatient.
  • Listen. The meaning of listening is to actually truly hold your thoughts and judgments, stop thinking of what you are going to say in your defense and planning your rebuttal, but truly stop and listen to him as you would to a stranger. Isn’t it ironic that we sometimes have more respect and regard for strangers than we do the people we love? This is because our conversations with people we know well are very distorted and generalised. We build one event on top of the other, treat each fight or difference of opinion as separate and handle them independently.
  • Remember to choose your battles; things that are not that important, let them slide and let him “win.” The more you let him win, the better your chances of negotiating the things that truly matter to you. Otherwise you will be accused of always complaining or never compromising.
  • Be vulnerable and show him how much you care about him, the relationship and the issue. Men, are wired to usually respond to the tail end of the arguments instead of taking the whole conversation in its entire meaning, and we are wired to assume negative connotations. “Are you wearing that?” is often interpreted as “You look fat!” When he could have meant to say that you look gorgeous.
  • Find out what your partner’s trigger button words are and please delete them from your vocabulary at least when talking to him. We all have them, mine are “Allow”, “Let”, “Permission” and when anyone uses any of these on me, it sends me reeling on a downward spiral of defensiveness and aggression. This is what you don’t want to do, identify your trigger button words and let your lover know too not to use them if the two of you want to fight to win.

When you are sure that you are here to “relate lovingly with each other” because it brings joy, intimacy, fun, sex, happiness, a sense of belonging to each other, then you will choose to respond rather than react to each other.

Having said all that, it can be very healthy to fight. A fight is a “breakdown” and an opportunity to clean what had been swept under the rug, deal with it and move on. Fights have a way of taking away the grey areas and white elephants from your relationship, making the two of you MORE intimate than before.

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom. 

– Viktor Frankl



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