Whether you're living with friends, strangers or your (usually) sweet and good-tempered lover, disagreements are part of life. Most of us hate confrontation, but it's pretty unavoidable - much like taxes, reality tv, and your cousin's boring wedding.
Here are a few ways to fight fair:
Avoid words like "never," "always" and "hate"
If you really think about it, it's unlikely that your boyfriend never, ever, ever picks up his wet towels or that he avoids doing the dishes 100% of the time. Even if that is actually true you won't engender much goodwill or get anywhere by saying these things.
Use "I" and "me" statements
Instead of "You never pick up after yourself! You're making me crazy - you dirty, dirty monkey!" Hows about "I feel overwhelmed with the state of the house. I have a hard time concentrating when things are messy." People aren't as likely to feel attacked when you talk about *your* feelings and how *you* feel about a situation.
Do your best to keep your cool
I was raised with the belief that the first person to raise their voice loses. Yelling makes everyone feel bad and makes you look like a jerk. When you raise your voice, things are more likely to deteriorate into "Stop yelling at me!" "I'M NOT YELLING AT YOU!" If you feel yourself or your partner heading towards a shouting match, say "I can see that we're both getting a bit wound up. Why don't we take a break and come back to this when we've pulled ourselves together a bit."
Name-calling and expletives are for angsty teenagers
Everyone has their own style of fighting, and if your everyday speech is peppered with cussing, it's probably not the end of the world if you say "I don't f*cking want to talk about this right now." But when emotions are running high, it's easy to loose our footing and slide into statements that are more cuss-filled than productive. A good rule of thumb? Cussing about a situation or an inanimate object = not the end of the world ("I feel like I'm doing more than my share of the f*cking dishes. And I'm really frustrated by that shitty washing machine.") Swearing at someone or about someone = yuck ("You're a f*cking bitch and I want to bite out your throat.")
Also - and I'm sure you know this - if your partner-in-arguing calls you a "f*cking slut" or a "stupid bitch" or any variation of those? Get the eff out. Someone who talks to you like that doesn't respect you and doesn't deserve to be in your company.
Take a break if the argument isn't going anywhere
If you've been bickering back and forth about the bachelor party for two hours, stop. Hackles are up, nerves have been got on and you've both probably exhausted all of your arguments. Go for a walk by yourself. Read in bed. Check out Cuteoverload. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes you can go to bed angry. My personal rule is that if I'm still mad about it in the morning, it's something that needs to be revisited. But more often than not, I was actually mad about the five pounds I gained and my flatmate just happened to be in the kitchen at the wrong time.
Talk about how their behavior makes you feel
"I feel like you don't respect me when you "borrow" my clothes without asking." It's hard to argue with someone's feelings. I can argue that I didn't actually take your sparkly red ballet flats, but I can't really argue with the fact that you feel disrespected by that. "No you don't! You don't feel disrespected! Whateverrrrrrrrr!" See? Ridiculous.
Tell them what you'd like them to do instead
"I feel disrespected when you borrow my clothes without asking. I'd like you to ask." Now that you've told your mate how you feel, tell them what you'd like to happen in the future - otherwise they'll probably just stand there feeling terribly awkward and not quite sure how to proceed. So tell them what you want. And then make a joke or do a little dance to break the tension.
Be prepared to compromise
Even if you are totally, totally sure that you're right, you should be prepared to occasionally compromise, particularly with your partner. Compromise is part of every relationship - nobody gets to have their way all.the.time. Just make for sure that your partner is equally willing to compromise for you. If you're the own who's spending your weekends watching him play soccer but he never wants to hang with your friends, maybe you need to have a big think about what Capt. Inflexible is bringing to the table.
Be prepared for sulking
Even if you "win" an argument, your friend/roomie/lover might engage in a few days of half-hearted silent treatment. If you're one of those people who can cut tension with jokes, inappropriate dancing or singing - it's go time. I've been known to jump on people and bear hug them while trilling "Let's not fiiiiigggght! Let's wrestle!" Because I'm very, very subtle.
Realize that the way people interact with you is 95% about them and 5% about you
If your roomie is always, always on your ass about that one unwashed tea cup, it's probably because her mom used to hassle her about her tea cups. If your boyfriend is suspicious or possessive, it's probably because someone cheated on him in the past. Do you best to realize this and don't allow someone to make their issues your issues. And if you're with someone who is jealous and possessive has a really, really big think about if you want to stay in a relationship with someone who doesn't trust you.
Ask yourself "Do I want to be happy or do I want to be right?"
Because you can't always have both. Sometimes you just have to smile and let it go. Winning the argument about the dishes won't feel that good when you're in bed by yourself and your boyfriend is scrubbing away in the kitchen all by himself, sulking at you.
What's your style of fighting? Are you a good fighter?
image by jd hancock, creative commons liscense