I recently heard someone say, “Get the lesson. Then the cost of your mistake is just tuition.” That’s a great way to look at life because undoubtedly, you will make mistakes, but if you learn the lesson and change your behavior, the benefits will almost always outweigh the costs. I’ve paid a lot of tuition in my life, but one particular relationship comes to mind when I think of expensive lessons. Yet in hindsight, I’m completely grateful.

More times than not, we, as women, know when we’re in an unhealthy relationship. We know that it makes sense to leave; however, we often choose to stay in an effort to demand a return on our investment (ROI). We don’t like to think that we’ve wasted months, years, money or energy on someone who wasn’t worth it, who produced no results. So we stay in hopes of eventually getting a ROI. That’s what I found myself doing in 2004…2005…2006…2007. When I finally realized the relationship was going nowhere fast (or slowly) in 2008, I felt defeated, not because the relationship was over, but because so many of my prime years had been wasted. One day as I was wallowing in self-pity, I began to see all the lessons I’d learn from the relationship, the lessons that had empowered me as a person and would be invaluable in my future relationships. One of the most powerful lessons I learned during this four year period was how to fight fairly.

Like most people, life taught me to go for the jugular when fighting. In the midst of an argument, I’d hear the Mortal Kombat soundbite encouraging me to “finish him,” and whatever it took to destroy my opponent, that’s what I did, not considering the carnage I’d leave behind. But in this relationship things were different. I cared about the carnage I was leaving behind. I thought this man was going to be my husband, so no matter how angry I was, I didn’t want to jeopardize our forever. So I learned these rules of fighting:

1) Don’t say things you’ll regret. Words are powerful. They wound and they destroy. So be mindful of what you’re saying. Don’t say anything that will destroy your opponents self-worth or the relationship you have with them. Don’t say things just to be hurtful. Don’t say things just for attention. Choose your words carefully and make sure you are purposeful and intentional with what you say. And always, ALWAYS consider the consequences of your words.

2) Stick to the issue at hand. So many disagreements become brawls because we break this rule. We bring up old stuff. We begin discussing things the other person didn’t even know was an issue. Now instead of one issue, you’re discussing 10. It’s overwhelming and draining, and there’s absolutely no solution in sight. When this happens, you’re destined to fail.

3) Listen! In the heat of an argument we are so caught up in communicating our feelings that we fail to comprehend what our partner is saying. Get quiet and take a deep breath. Listen to what is been said. Then repeat it back to your partner. “What I heard you say…” Often what we hear is not what the person is attempting to communicate. Get clarity. Then respond.

4) Focus on solving the problem. Release the need to be right. Let go of the desire for an apology. Focus on solving the problem. This is going to require you to swallow your pride, which can be difficult, but is your pride really worth it?

5) Talk like the Jacksons. Have you ever noticed that all of the Jacksons, sans Joe, whisper when they talk? Michael, Janet, Latoya, Jermaine. It’s like their voice is incapable of going above a certain decibel. This is a concept that my son, Cameron, and I have adopted. Whenever we get upset we purposely lower our voices. Raised voices change the tone of a conversation and one’s reaction to what is being said. Whispering like the Jacksons removes the emotionalism from the discussion and allows the individuals to concentrate on the content without being offended by the tone.

6) Be done and let it go. When it’s over, let go. Don’t bring it up later. Don’t discuss it indefinitely. Once you’ve solved the problem, once the discussion is over, release it.

7) When all else fails lock yourself in a room, blast this Beyonce song, and tear his stuff up. Not really, but do enjoy the video. 🙂