How to fight fair

Because just “sharing your feelings” doesn’t cut it


Super handy guide if you get frustrated that your partner “stonewalls” — or shuts down — during discussions.

When it’s your issue:

Know how you *feel*

Actually take the time to assess what emotions you’re experiencing before coming at your partner.

Your partner is not your therapist. It is not their job to sit there and listen while you massage the issue and help you “figure out” how you feel. That’s your job.

This includes understanding (a.) your actual emotion (anger almost always covers something) and (b.) the actual issue (is this really about the cupcakes?) Your partner isn’t here to mind-read.

If you don’t take the time to understand how you feel, don’t expect someone else to, either.

Know what you *want*

“I just want to tell you how I feel.”

Dude, you’re cool and all, but going in just wanting to “share your feelings” is half-baked at best.

You’re wasting people’s time here.

Nobody is ever going to care as much about “how you feel” in a vacuum as they do about what this means for them — either what you want out of them, what they can do that you’re not asking for, or what negative impacts this may mean.

Don’t just bring your partner a problem — offer a solution. Some of the most successful and toughest execs I’ve ever worked with refuse to hear out an underling’s problem unless it comes with a proposed solution. They make it very clear that they are nobody’s therapist or babysitter, and if you’re upset about something, it’s your job, not theirs, to state a desired outcome — not just whine or complain.

Communicate your issue clearly, and cleanly

Here are the tips most articles will cover:

  • Attack the issue, not each other.
  • Attack outcomes, not character. (Don’t generalize. Avoid “always;” “never”)
  • Stay with the issue at hand. (Don’t bring up old or unrelated shit.)
  • Don’t yell. (If you’re yelling your point, you’re not ready for this convo.)
  • Don’t insult, name-call, or hit below the belt.

Don’t act like an asshole.

Accept that just because you feel and want something doesn’t mean you’re right

Just because you feel or want something doesn’t make it mature, healthy, or valid.

If you can’t go more than a few hours without a text from your partner, that’s a “you problem,” not on them.

A lot of people violate boundaries in relationships — they nudge and prod their partner, trying to get their own emotional needs met through another person, or change who their partner is. This isn’t okay.

When you get what you want, fucking.stop.discussing.

HINT: if you’re repeating yourself, you — not them — are fucking up.

If your partner isn’t getting it, state your issue in another way (either other words, or more calmly.) Don’t chase someone verbally. Don’t bully.

If your partner already apologized or agreed, then shut. the. fuck. up.

If you continue to “argue” or “vent” or “share your feelings” beyond getting an apology or agreement from your partner, then you are acting like an asshole. And you’re using your partner as a verbal punching bag to “vent” your own insecurities and inability to emotionally self-regulate.

Anybody who talks more than an hour to “restate their point” after their partner has acquiesced is just power-playing and being manipulative.

Listen to what the other person has to say in response

Take a breather, champ. Quit fuming for a hot second, set your shit down, and actually listen to their response.

I know, this is the part everyone hates. They all think that their point is fragile and has to be vehemently protected, lest it disappear into the wind when listening to someone else.

If your point is that weakly-seated, it’s probably not strong in general.

When it’s not your issue:

Listen

With the intention of understanding, not getting it over with — or responding. Be attentive.

Reserve your right to postpone the convo

If my partner is not ready for an adult conversation, and comes at me with anger, toxicity, half-baked emotions, or a lengthy rant with no clear objective, I have no issue asking them to assess this and regroup. If one or both of you is hungry, tired, or drunk, it also makes sense to regroup.

You are not your partner’s therapist — or punching bag. And they are not yours.

Don’t discount or downplay

If you respond, “no you’re not,” “that’s not true,” “that’s not happening,” “can’t we just have a nice time?”, then you’re being an asshole.

Don’t get defensive, usurp, or pile your own shit on

You didn’t have a dog in the fight, remember? Now’s their time, not yours.

Repeat their issue back to them

Without parroting like an asshole.

If you’re wrong, apologize

Here’s the universal way to apologize: “I’m sorry that I ____.” (Full stop.)

If you apologize by saying “I’m sorry that you ___” or “I’m sorry that I __, but…” then you’re being an asshole.

Make them feel heard and understood

Want discussions to end faster? Never, ever skip this step. It’s the real issue a lot of the time.

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