This NebGuide is one in a series of six addressing the personal and working relationships between family members.
Kathy R. Bosch, Extension Specialist, Family Life Education
Current Contact: John D. DeFrain, Family and Community Development Specialist
- Fair Fighting
- Choose When Children Should Hear or Be Involved
- Self-check on Couple Conflict
Even the most compatible, passionate, energetic and loving couple will have conflict at times. Conflict itself is not bad. It is the way people deal with conflict that may cause problems. If conflict does not serve a purpose or solve a problem, it can cause disruption and chaos. However, couples who do not have open conflict probably ignore issues that need attention. Couples with a strong relationship can handle conflict, negotiate and resolve some problems, and agree to disagree on some issues.*
Children should not be purposely used as an audience or for support during parental fights. However, children can learn some valuable skills when watching their parents “fight fairly.” What does “fighting fairly” mean? Check to see if you are using some of the techniques in “fair fighting.”
|Not putting each other down|
|Not devaluing each other|
|Not being demeaning|
|Not calling names|
|Not withholding discussion or affection|
|Not losing your temper|
|Not getting physically hostile|
|No verbal abuse|
|Looking at both sides|
|Allowing some time to deal with the conflict/problem|
|Taking some time to cool down|
|Determining the main cause of conflict|
|Dealing with conflict instead of avoiding or ignoring it|
|Having mutual respect for each other|
|Being willing to share your feelings|
|Listening to the other person|
|Asking for your partner’s opinion|
|Caring about your partner’s feelings|
|Standing your ground for beliefs and values you hold dear|
|Recognizing that some difficult problems will not be solvable|
|Disagreeing only over the things that really matter|
|Taking care of yourself|
|Getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy foods|
|Having a friend or counselor to talk with|
|Tackling the problem and not each other|
|If necessary, being willing to get some help from a third party|
Children have a special knack for hearing things through walls and around corners! Make sure you have most of your heated arguments in private. However, there may be some occasions when you choose to involve your children in the discussion. Remember, though, that children should not be treated as adults or given adult responsibilities or concerns. You are the parent and therefore responsible for taking care of your children. Conversely, pretending things are always okay is not the best way to go either. Use your common sense. Children need to feel loved and secure and want to know that their parents love them and love each other. Children also need to learn how to handle conflict.
When love and mutual respect are present in a partner relationship, you will not intentionally devalue or hurt the other person. Occasionally, you may say or do something that hurts the other person. Be willing to say you are sorry for what you have said or done. It will be helpful for you to do a self-check on how you handle conflict.
- How do you treat each other when you disagree or fight?
- How often do you fight or disagree with each other?
- What issues appear to cause conflict?
- What are some of the core issues or underlying causes of your conflict or heated discussions?
- What behaviors or patterns have you seen emerge before/during conflict?
- Are you proud of the way you handle yourself during conflict or heated discussions?
- Do you share your feelings or do you feel as though you give in too much?
- Do you try to bully your partner into doing things you want done?
- Is there equality in your relationship and in the way you deal with conflict?
- Do you find alternative solutions if you cannot agree on something?
- Do you basically feel good about the decisions made?
Conflict need not be avoided because children are present. When witnessing their parents disagreeing, children can learn how to appropriately deal with problems, conflict and anger. This is an opportunity for parents to role model techniques that demonstrate love, respect, commitment and trust between family members. Problems and conflict can be managed effectively so partners do not hurt or devalue each other. Partners will enhance their relationship when they tackle and resolve problems that can be resolved, agree that some issues may not be resolved, and respect each other throughout the disagreement or conflict. In addition they will be teaching their children valuable skills that can be used throughout life.
*Note: The partner relationship discussed in this series of NebGuides is assumed to be healthy with no abuse or mistreatment present. In the case of partner abuse, this information does not apply. In order to rehabilitate, the abuser must willingly seek counseling and therapy. Parents always must look out for the best interest and safety of minor children. If abuse is present in the relationship, the interests of the abusive partner should not be put above the well-being of dependent children.
For help call the Nebraska Statewide Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 876-6238 or National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 (voice) and (800) 787-3224 (TDD).
Bosch, Kathy and Strasheim, Cynthia, (2007). Supporting Stepfamilies. University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Gottman, John Mordechai, (1994). What Predicts Divorce? The Relationship Between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes. University of Washington; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, New Jersey.
Hyde Martin, Mary, (1991). Rural Task Force Resource Packet: Reflections of Rural Realities. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Oregon.
Marotz-Baden, R., Hennon, C., and Brubaker, T. (1988). Families in Rural America: Stress, Adaptation and Revitalization. National Council on Family Relations, Minnesota.
Shoup Olsen, Charlotte, (1997). CoupleTALK: Enhancing your relationship. Kansas State University.
Shoup Olsen, Charlotte, (2001). Basic Family Communication. Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service.
Smith, Charles, (2001). Basic Parenting. Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service.
This publication has been peer-reviewed.
Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Publications Web site for more publications.
Issued January 2008