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Conflict Within Marriage: How Do I Fight Fairly?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

We can all agree – arguing stinks. Although marriage can be one of the most wonderful and rewarding parts of life, it can also be challenging and it’s something that has to be constantly worked on. All close and intimate relationships experience conflict sometimes. It can be healthy and productive as long as we go about it in the right ways. General, agreed-upon rules can help! I always tell my clients that it’s important how we decide to recover and remedy the relationship after the conflict. This makes the biggest difference. Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Author of Marriage in Modern Life shares her best tips with us as we learn how to fight fairly. 

This blog post will provide you with four easy tips to utilize when amidst conflict with your partner. Creating a safety zone, engaging in active listening, limiting the time you spend discussing an issue, and avoiding dragging other arguments into the current one can make all the difference in how conflict or argumentation works out amidst relationships. 

  1. Create a safety zone 

When discussing complicated issues, set yourself up for success ahead of time by proposing a day, time, and agenda. There should be agreed-upon rules that both partners can follow. Also, it must be the right time and place that works well for both of you. 

  1. Engage in active listening 

To slow down the conversation or prevent escalation, use the “speaker/listener” technique. Typically, this can aid you in preventing conflict escalation. This can be done easily, but we have to be intentional about it. Partners can take turns being both the speaker and listener. The speaker begins by expressing their concerns in two to four sentences at a time. Then, the speaker can check in with the listener to make sure the other person understands the message that is trying to be conveyed. It’s always a good idea to ask clear questions and paraphrase back what you believe you have heard. Then, partners switch roles and continue the conversation from there. 

In doing this, when focusing on only what the speaker is saying, the listener is discouraged from being reactive or worrying about how they plan to respond. Meanwhile, the speaker focuses on organizing their thoughts and communicating clearly and authentically. 

  1. Limit the time spent on discussing an issue 

Begin utilizing the speaker/listener technique and set a timer for 30 minutes. See how far this gets you into the conversation and you can either both agree to add more time or continue the conversation at a different time. If one of the partners begins yelling or getting angry, table the discussion for another time. In stopping the conversation, you are acknowledging that things are getting heated. Be sure to agree to a future time when you are both more level-headed and make a plan to continue the conversation before walking away. 

  1. Don’t drag other arguments into your current argument 

Subconsciously, this happens frequently and couples tend to argue about the same things over and over again. Make a conscious effort to stick to the agenda and don’t let the conversation drift into other areas of disagreement. This makes things less clear and can get confusing for both parties. If you can’t get to a resolution for a particular issue, sometimes it makes sense for partners to take turns in making the final decision. 

Hopefully, in reading this blog post you have some new ideas for how to manage and handle conflict within your marriage. It’s never too late to implement useful strategies that can help to benefit one another as we strive to be heard, understood, seen, and validated. Good luck everyone! 


Temple, C. (2015). How to fight fair: dealing with conflict in your marriage. Retrieved from: 

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