This Wednesday: 21 phrases to use to help you FIGHT RIGHT with your sweetheart.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 21 phrases to use to help you fight right with your sweetheart.

Almost all couples fight; the secret is to fight right.

I’ve posted before about what NOT to say during a fight. Here are some phrases that will actually help.

When the Big Man and I are arguing, I find that the single best technique to apply is HUMOR. If one of us can laugh and joke around, the crabby mood lifts instantly. But during an argument, it can be hard to see the funny side of things.

Failing that, here are twenty-one phrases that help turn down the heat of anger:

Please try to understand my point of view.
Wait, can I take that back?
You don’t have to solve this—it helps me just to talk to you.
This is important to me. Please listen.
I overreacted, I’m sorry.
I see you’re in a tough position.
I can see my part in this.
I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
I could be wrong.
Let’s agree to disagree on that.
This isn’t just your problem, it’s our problem.
I’m feeling unappreciated.
We’re getting off the subject.
You’ve convinced me.
Please keep talking to me.
I realize it’s not your fault.
That came out all wrong.
I see how I contributed to the problem.
What are we really fighting about?
How can I make things better?
I’m sorry.
I love you.

I actually get tears in my eyes when I read this list. Such is the uplifting power of fighting right.

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  • Oh, I love this list. These are such good suggestions. Thank you, thank you!

  • Doug

    This may well be the best item ever posted on the internet.

  • MJ

    Yes, I have found that “jackass” only works when the other party is clearly in the wrong, has admitted it, and thinks that the wrong/admittance is funny. Otherwise don’t use it.

  • Debra

    I heard somewhere that during an argument, couples spend the first 15 seconds on the actual reason for their disagreement and the remainder fighting over how they’re fighting.
    Thanks as always Gretchen!

  • This is one of the best things you’ve written so far, and it inspired me to write about The Happiness Project on my own blog:
    http://ourodyssey.blogspot.com/2008/01/website-wednesday-stretching-myself

  • Science of Happiness, winner of a 2007 Science-in-Society Award
    http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/andthewinneris_20080116_4449.mp3
    We all know that money can’t buy happiness. But new research into the science of happiness has revealed some more surprising results. For instance, did you know that we’re programmed to seek happiness, but not to find it? Did you know just how tightly linked your health and your happiness really are? And did you know the worst threat to your future happiness might be a traffic jam? It’s The Science of Happiness, winner of a 2007 Science-in-Society Award from the Canadian Science Writers Assn.
    http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/andthewinneris_20080116_4449.mp3

  • EAC

    “You don’t have to solve this—it helps me just to talk to you.”
    This phrase helps PREVENT fights in our household, and should be mandatorily uttered before any time I want to complain to my husband about something. (Except when it’s about something he’s done 🙂
    When I complain, I want a shoulder to lean on, I want a chance to explain my feelings. He wants to fix my problem immediately, to make it go away. I felt like he wasn’t listening, that he was minimizing and shutting me down. He couldn’t figure out what the hell I wanted, when he was offering so many good solutions. Aha! I realized – he’s not my girlfriend, he’s my husband! He operates differently, but his goal is to help.
    In general, assuming loved ones have the best intentions for us seems to prevent a lot of conflict too.

  • Cara

    “You don’t have to solve this—it helps me just to talk to you.”
    Heh. I had explained this to an ex of mine and he dutifully kept his mouth shut and listened, then he bitched about not being able to express himself. He acted like biting his tongue and just listening was a HUGE accommodation to me that encroached on his right to say whatever he wanted.

  • mel

    I wish I could download this helpful little list directly into my brain!

  • I read once that you should incorporate compliments into your arguments, like, “If you weren’t so used to being right about everything…” “I know it’s hard for someone as smart as you are to…” “I value your opinion, but…”
    Your suggestions are very good. My husband usually says, “I don’t want to argue. If it’s that important to you, let’s do it that way.” He leaves me dangling with comebacks I’ve been planning all day. It’s sometimes frustrating, even though I get my way!

  • Barb

    When our son came along, we developed a system we call “Do Overs”. Anybody, in any argument or when they realize they’ve done something they wish they hadn’t, can call a “Do Over” to give them a chance to do it again a better way. Do Overs help the hurt party realize that they truly wish they had done better to begin with.

  • Thanks for the list! It is very timely for my husband and me- tomorrow is our 11th anniversary. Hope you don’t mind, I linked to this post in my blog.

  • anishka

    Because 1/2 the time I react rather than listen and find myself down a path arguing a point of view I don’t even believe… “You’re right” helps quell things.

  • @Barb: I totally love that! Thanks for the idea, I’m gonna try that.

  • Nice list. You’re familiar with Gottman’s research on marriage, right? This directly pertains to a lot of his observations about how couples in strong, lasting relationships communicate.
    You might also be interested in a post I did a while back on how to apologize effectively…
    http://www.nicebutnubbly.com/2006/10/how-to-apologize

  • Brilliant. When my husband and I were going through a tough patch we posted a list of “fight rules” on the fridge. Now, it is almost second nature to “fight” fairly. Almost.

  • I looooove the idea of the “Do Over.” also, the Big Man has a great habit of saying, “Are we in harmony?” after a fight is over. That always shows that the fight is really over, and that we’re back to normal.

  • “You’ve convinced me.” This line really stood out for me, since it’s so disarming.

  • evilbunnie

    “You don’t have to solve this”
    This is really freeing to see this in print, because too often, I just need to unburden myself of feelings, guilt or frustration or whatever, and I don’t want a bunch of “solutions” offered to me to brush those feelings under the rug. Having to consider and debate the “solutions” is a detour from the cathartic work of expressing frustration/anger whatever.

  • evilbunnie

    “You don’t have to solve this”
    This is really freeing to see this in print, because too often, I just need to unburden myself of feelings, guilt or frustration or whatever, and I don’t want a bunch of “solutions” offered to me to brush those feelings under the rug. Having to consider and debate the “solutions” is a detour from the cathartic work of expressing frustration/anger, or whatever’s bothering me.

  • Lois

    What wisdom! Looking forward to your book in 2009.

  • anonymous

    Once, i was fighting with him because of my insecurities, i said “I just want you to know i’m trying”.
    he said he was thankful I said that, and that’s what’s important in a relationship, that you’re both still trying.

  • This is a great list, and one I try to conjure up in the midst of a marital spat myself (I especially like “This is important to me. Please listen.”). Sometimes, however, in the heat of the moment, when you feel the rage boiling to the surface, it can be difficult to remember what you should say: in these cases I find it best to just walk away. Nothing is so important that it can’t be resolved later, if not entirely forgotten. Go to the next room. Walk around the block. Just get out of each others’ spaces.