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A Fair Fight

February 25, 2010
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So I got into a disagreement recently that has me wondering about another aspect of interpersonal relationships: what makes a fight fair? I mean it isn’t like boxing where you have clear rules about to punching your weight and you know that you aren’t allowed to hit below the belt in order to ensure a fair fight.

It just highlights something I was working through back when I was dating Daniel. I don’t know how to fight fair. Not when it comes to the crap between people in romantic relationships.

I mean either I am very consciously trying not to react out of anger so I don’t react at all and I just listen or I feel completely attacked and end up trying to get out of the conversation.

“Can we talk about this later? I really can’t handle it right now,” I said from the kitchen as I was plating up dinner. He had been picking at me about the news anchor the entire time I’d been making him dinner.

“But you can’t really take this guy’s opinion seriously. He’s obviously a propagandist,” Daniel shouted from the living room.

“I really don’t want to talk about it while I’m making dinner. Besides, I like him and I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t treat me as though that is a bad thing,” I said as I carried our plates in and sat down at the coffee table. “Let’s just watch something else.”

“No, if you want to watch this it’s fine with me. I just don’t know how you can believe anything that comes out of this smug bastard’s mouth,” He said. “He clearly has an agenda.”

“Well it is a news commentary show, not the nightly news. They’re analyzing it…they need to have opinions for that. Maybe even agendas,” I said as I nudged his plate closer to him. “Can we just eat?”

“He’s such an uneducated idiot. He has no idea what he’s talking about.”

“Daniel, please, stop! I don’t want to talk about this. I just want to eat dinner and watch the show. If you’re going to keep this up I’m going to have to make you leave,” that’s when I dissolved into tears, turned off the TV and ran into the bathroom.

The night didn’t get much better. He said I overreacted (um I’m a girl — that’s what we do). I explained to him that I felt like he was attacking me. He basically admitted that he was, (how did I overreact then?), but that he thought it was fun to fight about politics and such. (By the way, I don’t.) When the conflict arose I tried to be as honest as possible. But it just escalated into a fight, and I didn’t know how to deal.

I’ve had a lot of conflicts lately. And honestly, I know how to WIN a fight — that is if winning means beating your opponent into a fine pulp. I can manipulate the points, throw out personal attacks, debate the issue and generally out smart most people. At least, I used to be able to do all that back when I didn’t care about having a fair fight. But it never resolves anything, and everyone is usually more angry at the end.

Actually, my sister was usually more angry at the end, because she’s the person who has suffered this treatment from me most often. And since high school I have realized that this kind of behavior is mean. And it makes me the bad guy — even if I do beat my opponent.

So, I’ve tried to stop doing all that. When a conflict arises I would prefer a compromise or resolution nowadays. Plus, I’m honestly just too lazy to really go at it. All the cajoling and posturing — it takes so much energy that would be better spent in other ways.

Like making out with your boyfriend. Or cooking your friend dinner.

I try for honest, calm and positive nowadays. But things still don’t always turn out so well. Even when I try to be very clear about what I need, think and want (like in the example above) I still dissolve into tears.

Or the other person can’t handle the truth — like in a recent e-mail exchange. I was thoughtful, open, honest, as fair as I could be from my perspective and still no compromise. No happy resolution. It all ended with the total dissolution of the relationship — and then a bit of retaliation against me.

So, fighting fair. It’s something I am still trying to learn and I know it will make parts of my next relationship difficult. I have also learned that fighting fair only works if the other person is trying to fight fair as well. I hope the next guy is interested in fighting fair. I think it’s a deal-breaker for me nowadays. I also hope he is patient with me while I learn to be more fair myself.

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