It’s inevitable: you’re in a relationship with another human being, you fight. You can’t avoid it, and in fact, if you’re in a relationship where everything is “perfect” and you never fight and life is like a fairy tale…it’s either the first week, or you’re not letting your “real” you show through.

I’m not cynical, and I believe in love. I just also believe that if two people have a committed, close relationship, they are occasionally going to butt heads – and that fighting is actually a healthy, normal part of a relationship.

It’s how you fight that matters, and it’s very easy to get into unhealthy patterns.

For everyone else, unhealthy patterns include doing things like giving the silent treatment, dredging up everything that has ever happened in the relationship over the last several years, or playing the passive-aggressive game. For fighting to be good for a relationship, it has to be healthy fighting.

You’re going to disagree with your partner, and you may even get angry and yell at each other. What you have to be able to do is stay focused on the issue you’re fighting about. Your argument should not become a personal attack. In fact, you really shouldn’t say anything about your partner. Instead of saying, “You always do this,” say, “This is important to me and I feel like it’s not a priority.”

If you’re the kind of person who needs time before you can discuss things rationally, that’s fair … but the silent treatment is not. You supposedly care for this person, so punishing them by not speaking when you’re angry isn’t a good way to handle your anger or frustration. Instead, explain it: “I really want to talk to you about this, but I have to have some time first to deal with my emotions and clear my head. I promise we can talk about it in a couple hours.”

No matter how angry you get, it’s really not fair to dredge up the past, especially if you’ve already gone there, hashed it out, and put it away. Bringing stuff up from the past is a relationship killer. Never be purposefully hurtful or derogatory.

When you’re done being angry, make up. Say sorry. You don’t have to be wrong to be sorry. You can be sorry because you feel bad that you fought. Compromise and listen. Don’t go to bed angry – and never fight in your bedroom. If you think you’re too angry to control what you’re going to say, take time to cool off first. Things said in the heat of the moment often lead to big regrets.