Sonya Thomas lcsw

Fighting Fair 101 – Part 4 of 6

Back to our rules for fighting fair. The below are important to follow.  Let’s look at why.

RULE # 2: NO BLAMING – Author and therapist Terrence Real has a saying that I frequently share with clients when I see them locked in a battle over who is right and who is wrong.  I will say to them “you can be right, or you can be in relationship.”  The problem with blaming is that it leaves little room for the often complex nuances that are inherent in interpersonal conflict. If  one person is right (the blamer) then other person is wrong (the blamed).  When two people with two distinct personalities, backgrounds, values, and ways of seeing the world come together, there is lots of opportunity for differences.  Allowing each other to have ones own opinion or perspective is important if you want a climate of respect and mutuality in your relationship.  The alternative is to gridlock around who is right, which means the other must be wrong.  This does not make for a pleasant experience, particularly for the partner who is always wrong.  If you find yourself always needing to be right, please consider how unsafe and uninviting you may be to your partner. Also, please recognize that we are all responsible to some degree in many instances for the conflicts in which we find ourselves.  If our MO is to resort to blame, we lose the ability to own what is rightfully our part of the problem.

RULE #5: NO USE OF FORCE  – It goes without saying that any threat or use of force is unequivocally unacceptable in all circumstances.  There can be no safety when any person in a relationship is living in fear.  Beyond being illegal, it is also inhumane.  If you find yourself as either the perpetrator or victim of domestic violence, PLEASE get help from a trained mental health professional immediately.  Couples therapy is often contraindicated if there is active domestic violence.  Call the National Domestic Violence hotline if you believe your partner is abusive or may become abusive.  Their number is 1.800.799.7233.  They can also be found online at  There is a wealth of information and resources on this site.  Use it if you need it, PLEASE!

RULE # 6:  NO THREATS OF DIVORCE/LEAVING THE RELATIONSHIP  – Imago Relationship founder Harville Hendrix uses what is called the “no exit” decision with couples to ensure that they stay together while working through their issues.  Essentially, both partners agree to stay together for a specific duration of time without planning or threatening to divorce or leave the relationship.  This creates a sense of security for each partner to then stay present and actually work on the relationship without fear of abandonment.  Beyond being manipulative, it is completely counterproductive to threaten your partner with relationship demise as a means of trying to instigate change.  In Gottman’s Sound Relationship House, one of the walls of a sound relationship is commitment.  When threats to leave are part of the mix, there can be no real sense of commitment, hence no structural support to your relationship house being sound.  If you truly are considering leaving or divorce, there is an appropriate time and way of addressing this very big decision.  In the midst of a fight is not the time or way to explore this potential reality.

Until next time, take good care of you and yours . . . and keep it fair when fighting!