Bedroom Politics: Leading Couple Therapist Dr. Stan Tatkin Explains How to Fight About A Favorite Presidential Candidate and Come Out Winners ... and Still in Love

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3 Ways to Master the Art of Fighting Well

As the upcoming months can spur heated political arguments due to the personal opinions and viewpoints of our partners, it’s critical that couples know how to diffuse conflict and build secure relationships,” says Dr. Stan Tatkin.

The conventions are swiftly approaching and fighting can be heard all across the land… and in the bedrooms. Politically sparring couples are getting hot under the sheets and it’s not for the reason they hope. Whether one is for Clinton or Trump, romantic partners are bickering over their favorite presidential candidate and the frequency is increasing. Leading couple therapist and author of Wired for Love, Dr. Stan Tatkin, advises couples that one of the keys to a successful partnership is not figuring out how to avoid fights, but rather becoming adept at the art of fighting well.

“The art of fighting well sounds like a paradox,” Dr. Tatkin explains. “And it is. I can honestly say that if you learn to fight well, you and your partner will be happier together and your relationship will feel more secure.”

Wave the Flag of Friendliness

Tatkin advises that before focusing on how to fight well, it’s important to consider what it takes to avoid a fight. While it’s worthwhile not to avoid all fights, nipping the unnecessary ones in the bud is something to consider.

One of the best ways partners can avoid war, especially when distress is mounting, is to quickly wave the flag of friendliness. All it takes is for one person to make the move. Consider the following to tone down an emotionally-charged setting:

  • Voice modulation (be aware of the tonality and sound level and take an extra second before speaking to notice this)
  • Be aware of facial expressions. Don’t make it too still or one partner may incorrectly imagine that ther other's thoughts and feelings are negative
  • Step into someone else's shoes. Reassure a partner that their fears, wants, and needs are understood. Calm down the primitive areas of the brain. If distressed, they are scanning for any signs of threat and will shoot first and ask questions later
  • Use familiar terms of endearment, physical touch and the basic facial expression of a smile to demonstrate that love hasn’t been lost in the shuffle

Catching the Blah-Blah-Blah

Next time a fight ensures, turn it around by catching the blah-blah-blah. When an impasse is reached, the most effective thing a person or his or her partner can do is just… shut up. Stop speaking. Recognize that nothing is going to be accomplished by continuing the rant.

Scientifically speaking, the left brain is wired to be highly verbal and logical, processing all the minutiae that goes into an argument. At its worst, when a couple is in distress, what comes out of their mouths is garbage, useless blather. When both partners’ primitive brain regions are at work, there’s no evidence of flexibility, complexity, creativity or contingency and all that will be left are the hurt feelings created by what was said. Closing the mouth and taking a deep breath will hopefully avoid a much larger fight. Or better yet, immediately relieve each other of perceived threats, wrongdoings, or misunderstandings. Neither person will be able to think clearly until that happens… and that is a fact.

What if Avoiding a Fight or Catching Oneself in a Blah-Blah-Blah is Impossible?

Some fights are simply unavoidable. A few things to consider before, during and especially after a disagreement with a loved one:

  • Never ever threaten the relationship. That will lead to a host of other problems.
  • Stay within the play zone: Fights shouldn’t get ugly. A sense of playfulness has to be maintained with a tone of genuine friendliness. If one is afraid of conflict, he or she will be unable to be playful. Conflict is not war but it will go there if neither partner has a sense of play and humor.
  • Reading one's partner: Be aware and know, in any given moment, what he or she is feeling, thinking and intending. Visual connection allows us read our partner – moistness in his or her eyes, a hint of a frown, a curling of the lips. Couples in distress often look away from each other, and a minor issue can escalate quickly into a major one. Keep your eyes on the ball – and that would be your partner’s eyes.
  • Digital fighting: Don’t do it. Discussing sensitive issues via text or email is bound to create trouble as couples cannot read each other’s tone, intention or feeling. Humans are primarily visual animals.
  • Seek a win-win deal: Expecting a partner to share your values at all times, and in all ways, leads to great disillusionment, disappointment and anger. By balancing self-interest with the greater good of the relationship, the fine art of bargaining and support - everybody can and should win. If one person loses, the couple lose.

“Couples who are in it for the long haul know how to play and fight well, remain fearlessly confident in the resilience of their relationship and don’t try to avoid conflict. As the upcoming months can spur heated political arguments due to the personal opinions and viewpoints of our partners, it’s critical that couples know how to diffuse conflict and build secure relationships,” says Dr. Tatkin.

Dr. Tatkin has a clinical practice in Calabasas, CA and is best-selling author of Wired for Love and Wired for Dating. Dr. Tatkin and his wife, Tracey Boldemann-Tatkin, PhD, are cofounders of the PACT Institute. They travel the world training therapists in their unique approach to couple therapy. The Tatkins also provide Wired for Love and Wired for Relationship retreats for couples and individuals. Learn more about Dr. Tatkin at

About Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, has a clinical practice as a couple therapist in Calabasas, CA, and is an assistant professor at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. He and his wife, Tracey Boldemann-Tatkin, PhD, founded the PACT Institute and lead therapist training programs in cities across the United States and around the world. Tatkin is the author of three well-received books about relationships—Wired for Dating, Wired for Love, and Your Brain on Love—and is coauthor of Love and War in Intimate Relationships.

About the PACT Institute
The PACT Institute is a leading global organization that offers trainings for clinical professionals in a method designed to help secure-functioning relationships flourish. The Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy® (PACT) draws on more than three decades of research on developmental neuroscience, attachment theory, and arousal regulation. Since 2008, the PACT Institute has trained more than 1,000 practitioners across North America, Europe, and Australia and has expanded the training to three levels. PACT has gained a reputation for effectively treating even the most challenging couples. For more information visit

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