Fair Fighting: 7 Steps

Jenny and her husband George both said, “we never fight,” like it was a good thing. We explored further why they didn’t fight and found out that they didn’t really know how to fight fair, so they all but gave themselves an emotional hernia trying not to. However, what they did do on the rare occasion they met with disagreement is give in immediately to the other’s point of view and resented it silently for days, weeks, and even years.

Fair fighting is a must for a healthy relationship to exist, and those who do it well and employ the following guidelines, will increase their chances greatly of having a long and loving time together.

  1. No laundry list. The past must stay in the past. Fighting in a functional way consists of staying current with our issues and conflicts. Confrontations must be about what is happening in the present, i.e. what you are upset, angry, frustrated or hurt by what was said or done, not said or done yesterday, last night, this morning, etc. When people fight and keep referencing the past hurts, slights, a wound there is no way out of this verbal, emotional, and damaging cul-de-sac.
  2. Abusive language must never be used. No one has the right to curse another regardless of the issue at hand. While writing a letter expressing your anger and rage is acceptable, it must never be sent. Telling a friend or therapist about your issues and using strong language can even be advisable, but face to face, the language must not be abusive.
  3. Putting agreed-upon limits on the fair fight is highly advisable. Example: Let’s talk about this for thirty minutes, and if we have not reached an acceptable resolution, then we will take it back up tomorrow, and then following through with the agreement.
  4. Getting rid of the word, “You.” When most people disagree or argue they often pull out this word, cock it, and fire it straight at the heart of their loved one. “You” should, “You” ought to, why didn’t “You?” “You” can’t handle the truth, etc. The word “you” always creates defensiveness in the listener.
  5. Use the word, “I”. As I said before, “Intimacy begins with ‘I’.” In fair fighting I am going to tell you how I feel, what I think, what I need to change, what I want to happen.
  6. Fair fighters never bring the other person’s parents and their childhood into the discussion. This is off limits. I can tell my partner about my dysfunctional childhood, but I am to never tell her about her’s unless she specifically asks for my take on them.
  7. If you recognize that you are regressed and catch yourself before doing too much damage, you take a time out and “grow yourself backup” (see my book Growing Yourself Back Up: Understanding Emotional Regression), and then come back to the subject at hand thinking, speaking, and acting like a mature adult.Many men and women are conflict-avoidant because they do not know how to express anger and hurt in a functional way so they gunny-sack, stuff, swallow, or repress until they explode or implode. Learning how to express anger appropriately increases the likelihood you will be heard and thus arrive at a solution to the distress.


For more information on expressing anger appropriately, see The Anger Solution: The Proven Method for Achieving Calm and Developing Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships or Facing the Fire: Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately.

Asking the Important Questions – Part II: by John Lee

In celebration of my 65th birthday in October, I’m going to post a couple of poems – given that I still want to be a poet when I grow up. Also in October, to celebrate getting Social Security Retirement, I’m going to be more social than usual for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

I will be giving a public reading entitled WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS: SPIRITUAL POETRY FROM EASTERN AND WESTERN TRADITIONS — with a few of my own poems on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Moon Lake Community Library, located at 5866 E River Road in Mentone, Ala. 35984 (256-634-4113). I hope you all will come from the East and West Coasts, or at least the same county, to hear it.

I hope the library attendees, and my readers here, will like the poems.

I will go back to my more helpful posts next time.

Following, you will find “Asking the Important Questions” – Part II.

Thanks for your support.


The sumac announces the truth

with its first flush of red.

In the evening the Canadian geese

say it loud and clear.


The cicada’s mournful singing

announces summer’s end.

Nature tells itself when it is

time to let go.

Lovers should have such clear

changing colors and sounds.

Cold husbands and wives would

know when to head South.

We’d fly in formation right into

the warm wind of the future.

Asking the Important Questions – Part I: by John Lee

In celebration of my 65th birthday in October, I’m going to post a couple of poems – given that I still want to be a poet when I grow up. Also in October, to celebrate getting Social Security Retirement, I’m going to be more social than usual for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

I will be giving a public reading entitled WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS: SPIRITUAL POETRY FROM EASTERN AND WESTERN TRADITIONS — with a few of my own poems on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. (Central Time) at the Moon Lake Community Library, located at 5866 E River Road in Mentone, Ala. 35984 (256-634-4113). I hope you all will come from the East and West Coasts, or at least the same county, to hear it.

I also hope the library attendees, and my readers here, will like the poems.

Following, you will find “Asking the Important Questions” – Part I.

I’ll go back to my more helpful posts next time.

Thanks for your support.



I asked the mountains

So what do I do now?

“Sit down, be silent and

Wait like I have for a thousand years.”

I looked to the sled dog at my feet. cropped-blog-header-template1908x26002.png

“And you? Anything to contribute?”

“Learn to pull something

Ten times your own weight.”

I stared at the chess board,

“Sometimes the king is the first to go.”

And the novels on my shelf,

“Love has no clean-cut beginning, middle, or end.”

So I turned to the poet who said,

“Once you have loved someone

You will always love them and

All you can do is say, ‘amen.’”


Symptoms of Depression and Passivity

  • Sadness that does not abate

The passive person is often sad in part because they do not actively grieve their missed opportunities, sabotaged relationships, passed over for promotions and much more. When depression is not bio-chemical it is usually brought about by repressed and denied emotions that continually build into full-blown depression.

  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed

When people feel like they are not going to succeed, or have been told since a young age that they can’t succeed, eventually they withdraw from social, sports, and recreational activities and become more and more sedentary.

  • Unintentional weight gain or weight loss

The more they withdraw, the more their weight becomes a problem, and the more their weight becomes a problem, the more they withdraw. Passivity is a real Catch-22. Comfort food—which is packed with calories and sugar—becomes increasingly important. Sugar is a contributing factor in depression and passivity.

  • Difficulty sleeping, or continual oversleeping

Insomnia plagues the passive person. As lethargy sets in, sugar intake increases, sleep cycles get out of whack. Many passive people find the only time they are comfortable is when they sleep and sleep and sleep.

  • Energy loss

All of the above ends up in energy loss. They feel tired and drained and since energy is the key to active engaging of life they feel life as abandoned them. The feelings of worthlessness increases, they become irritable and hard to be around. They lose interest in sex and become constant complainers with unexplained ailments and excuses as to why they cannot be more engaging.

Because those around the passive person eventually becomes frustrated with the passive person who usually has so much unrealized potential they also become uninterested and eventually avoids the passive person. As Edrita Fried, author of the book, Active/Passive, points out, this includes the therapeutic community who withdraws from treatment and refers their clients to other clinicians.

The passive person who is depressed finally receives some help from non-therapy psychiatrists or personal physicians in the way of anti-depressants that mostly mask the real problem sometimes for decades.

If a person is living a half-lived life, not achieving, not engaging life, experiencing little or no success in career, relationship, or creative endeavors how could they not be depressed. If the passive person is going to therapy say one hour per week and taking a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor once a day but are living their waking life with a less than satisfying relationship, going to work that holds little or no passion, wanting to be something they feel forever alludes them, how could they not be depressed by the passivity that plagues them?


2016 Minnesota Men’s Conference

The Minnesota Men’s Conference is near and dear to my heart, and this link will take you to an exciting and worthwhile opportunity to help others. I hope you will consider giving back to this cause. Please click here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/2016-minnesota-men-s-conference-poetry#/

Announcement – I will be offering 2-Day Intensive Sessions in Austin, Texas beginning September 1, 2016

I’m pleased to announce that after a break from offering my 2-day Intensives in Austin, Texas, I am now making those available again starting September 1, 2016 at the Austin Men’s Center, thanks to Director Bill Bruzy.

As most of you know Austin is not only charming and beautiful, it is a convenient location for clients especially from the Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast.

I will continue to offer the Intensives at my Mentone Cottage in the mountains of Northeast Alabama.

I hope you will pass the word along to clients or friends who would like to engage in my nontraditional approach to coaching, counseling, and teaching.

HOW to Tell the Difference Between Anger and Rage

A woman called me the other day for help. When I asked her what the problem was, she didn’t hesitate. “I am living with the angriest man in the world.” I said, “Tell me how he expresses his anger?”

After four or five descriptive sentences I said, “I hate to interrupt, but everything you’ve said so far is rage.” And she said, “What’s the difference?”

Anger is about the “Here and Now;” it is an active response to issues and situations occurring at the present time. You feel anger because of what your boss said to you this morning or because your spouse incorrectly balanced the checkbook this week.

Rage is about the “There and Then;” it is about our past. Rage is a reaction to what your boss has said to you every morning for the last year. What you’ve stuffed and bottled-up all this time, suddenly comes gushing out like a geyser. Likewise, rage occurs because the checkbook has gone unbalanced for two years; seemingly warranting a deafening silence to correct or punish your spouse’s behavior.

A feeling A reaction
A primary emotion Stuffs or masks emotions
It is neither positive or negative It is negative and inappropriate
Anger is energy Rage is exhausting
Meant to be given away Meant to be given up
It doesn’t hurt anyone Hurts everyone involved
Anger clears the air Clouds communication
It increases understanding Adds to confusion
Helps communication Increases conflicts and misunderstandings
Rights injustices and wrongs Is an injustice and wrongs people further
It increases energy, intimacy, and peace of mind Decreases energy in people, increases the distance between them and causes discord
Healing Damaging
Contained and controlled until proper time, place and person Pervasive, out of control, and misdirected
About the present About the past
About “Me” About “You”

Anger lives in the present and so takes minutes to be felt and expressed. Rage sticks around because it is grounded in the past. Because anger lives in the present, it takes moments or minutes at the most to be felt and expressed. When Jerome’s wife was late for a special luncheon they’d planned, Jerome said, “I’m angry. Now, I only have forty-five minutes left for lunch before I have to return for work. Let’s eat and make the most of our time.”

Rage lives in the past and takes a very long time because it is grounded in our personal life history, and once unleashed, the result is that no one wants to eat with anyone because no one has an appetite left. Sandy’s now ex-boyfriend was chronically late; Sandy’s response was, “I’m tired of you always putting everything before me. Didn’t your mother teach you it is rude to keep people waiting? I got here on time. I can’t see why you can’t!” …And she was just getting warmed up. Clearly, there was more than anger going on.


Rage is what constitutes most marathon arguments. You know the ones that begin at eight o’ clock after dinner after the kids are put to bed and is still going strong at one in the morning until someone cries, “Uncle,” and says, “Does anyone know the original point of this?” or attempts to just share some feelings.

Anger is about me and rage is about you. If I express anger, I am telling you about me. Anger is revealing. If I am raging, I’m telling the other person about them and thus I am concealing what I am really feeling and going through. What many people do when they rage is this: They tell the other person about them. What they didn’t do and shouldn’t have done; why what they said is wrong, crazy, sick, and messed up. When they finally finish their diatribe, then it’s the other person’s turn to tell the first person about them and how what they said doesn’t apply, and that if they’d said it differently, maybe they could be heard, and if they’d only read more self-help books they wouldn’t have said it at all. After that, then it’s the first speaker’s turn again, and then the second, and we affectionately call this marriage, and then very often we call it adversity and grounds for divorce.

Rage has moved more people out of relationships than U-Haul. It shoves everyone out the door, out of lives, or out of business. Rage pushes everyone away because no one wants to be around it.

On the other hand, anger expressed in present time and in an appropriate manner, actually draws people to you. If a man says to his wife, “I’m angry and I need to talk,” nine times out of ten the wife will respond with something like, “Okay, tell me more,” or “I’m listening,” or “What’s going on?”

If an employee says to a fellow worker, “I’m angry about what went on in the staff meeting this morning,” most fellow employees will say, “Tell me more,” or “Let’s talk about it this afternoon over a beer.” In other words, if I do not rage at you, you have no reason to run—indeed anger can create the beginning of many productive dialogues and initiate problem solving. 887697_73689303

Rage engenders defensiveness, distance, and the feeling of being in some kind of danger; it shows disrespect and disregard for both the speaker and the one pretending to listen. Anger shows appreciation and respect. If one’s boss is angry and says so and follows that statement with something like, “…and I’d like for you to meet me for lunch so we can discuss the issue,”—this says I value you and our relationship enough to make some time and request that you make some time to resolve the issue at hand.

Rage basically says —in no uncertain terms— I do not value you or this relationship enough to warrant an expenditure of my time or energy to try to achieve resolution.

Anger is a response to injustice, rudeness, impoliteness, impoverishment, impudence, and abuse. Rage is a reaction to situations, circumstances, people, processes, and problems. Responses are generated by present stimuli. Reactions are a re-activation of one’s history and memories about people, processes, and problems.

These rage reactions are almost always disproportionate to what is being said or done or not done or said to one’s satisfaction. Angry responses are proportional to what is coming towards us or being taken away from us.


These reactive behaviors and actions warrant these types of reactions from others: “Where is all of this coming from…?” or “Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill?” In other words, the person might be angry at a pounds’ worth, but is dumping a tons’ worth of rage on them.

Rage incorporates statements like “You always,” or, “You never.” They often include ultimatums and threats. The one raging believes in a black and white mentality, all or nothing, or my way or the highway.

Anger uses words like, “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “every now and then.” Anger is comfortable with some gray areas.

Anger engages conflict and rage runs from it. The angry men or women are in essence saying I have a problem and I am seeking a solution. Rage says you have a problem and that’s the problem—no solution in sight.

Anger says let’s confront these divisive issues; rage says let’s further divide. A CEO who attended one of my corporate anger presentations, stood up during my talk and said, “I never run from confrontations. I stand toe to toe with anyone. I get in their face no matter what I have to do or say to get my point across.” The sturdy, sixty-year-old with a crew-cut haircut sat down with a satisfied look on his face.

I responded, “Does that include yelling, calling people names, and other like behaviors or actions?”

“Whatever it takes!” he replied.

These actions and behaviors often employed in conflicted situations are self-defeating. One reason is that many people (including the aforementioned CEO) are avoiding conflict, in spite of how things may appear on the surface. They hate confrontations because in the past this meant they felt defeated by their parents, coaches, teachers, ex-wives or husbands.

But perhaps a more significant explanation for so much avoidance is that most people have not been taught how to do it with a win-win attitude. Instead we’re taught there can only be one winner or one loser; an approach grounded in rage.

When we realize that it is inappropriate actions and reactions that cover our emotions, a new freedom is developed to speak out our feelings without fear of retaliation and retribution. And now that our responses are proportional to people and circumstances, neither the speaker nor listener has anything to fear.


  • You always _____.
  • You never _____.
  • Why can’t you _____?
  • If only you _____.
  • It’s all your fault.
  • Shame on you.
  • You’re lying.
  • When are you going to _____?

For more information and insight, please visit the bookstore:

the anger solution book by john lee