Communication 101: Learning How to Fight Fair
by Black Love Team



July 26, 2019


8 Minute Read


Communication 101: Learning How to Fight Fair

Jamela Green shares the four rules of love and engagement she learned at the 2019 Black Love Summit. 

Only in love and war are you supposed to kiss and make up at the end of the night. And only in love and war do you love as hard as you fight. 

For some, the Fireside Chat: Communications 101 panel at the 2019 Black Love Summit with moderator Jasmine Nicole and married couples Mattie and Chris James, as well as Quincy and Deondray Gossfield, was a refresher course on how to effectively communicate with your partner. And for others, it was all new information. 

See, there are rules to love, and fighting fair in a relationship is probably the #1 rule in the book. For Quincy, who’s been with his partner Deondray for 23 years, this is still a work in progress, as he very transparently admitted, “I’m still learning how to fight fair.” 

At that, we all felt a sigh of relief. If, after 23 years in a committed relationship, you’re still learning how to communicate and not hit under the belt with words that you know will make your partner feel small, then there’s hope for us all. 

“Being in relationships, you start to discover things about yourself you didn’t think you were capable of.” — Quincy Gossfield

Black Love Summit

Communicating can go from 0 to 100 pretty damn quick if you don’t know how to navigate your emotions. During the panel, Quincy and Deondray opened up about the earlier stages of their relationship and admitted that a conversation could go nuclear and become an all-out fistfight. Imagine going on a romantic evening stroll, having a great conversation, and by the time you get to the end of the path, you’re trying to throw your boo in the bushes. Yeah, that really happened. Quincy shared, “Being in relationships, you start to discover things about yourself you didn’t think you were capable of, and I found myself not knowing how to express myself or my feelings. I would immediately go to anger.” 

The thing is, we all come from different environments, with different rule books, and different ways of playing the love game. We make up our own rules and get totally pissed off if our partner isn’t following the rules we’ve created in our head. Quincy went on to say, “As far as not being ready to talk… [If] I’m [at] a hundred, I can’t talk at a hundred, so I need to remove myself from the situation.”

RELATED: How to Find Black Love, Because You’re Worth It

When relationships do go “there,” it’s hard to recover, and fortunately for Quincy and Deondray, learning how to properly communicate through therapy was their saving grace. 

Chris and Mattie’s marriage is also a true testament of not giving up or quitting on each other when the outlook is bleak. They separated for a time, realizing their marriage couldn’t be fixed while they were together. Chris shared, “The honeymoon phase is fun, it’s full of passion and everything is passionate. But the downside [to that] is you fight passionately too.” 

Fighting is a form of communication, so if you don’t master that it will slowly bleed into other aspects of your relationship.” — Mattie James

Finding that balance and learning how to fight fair are growing pains. Learning how to engage your partner is rule #2. Mattie shared, she doesn’t come from a family of fighters. Her background is West African, and she says, culturally, they swept a lot of things under the rug, so she never knew how to fight. When they argued, she would want to fall back, but her husband wouldn’t let her. Chris would say, “You need to learn how to fight. You’ve got to figure out your fighting style, and learn how to fight.” Mattie’s first response was, “I don’t want to.” She went on to say, “I think the issue was, I didn’t know how to fight him fair… Fighting is a form of communication, so if you don’t master that, it will slowly bleed into other aspects of your relationship.”

An extremely shiny jewel was dropped when Jasmine added that having a fight is an indicator that there’s a communication issue. A fight doesn’t mean you end a relationship.

“If you can identify the triggers in your relationship, it’s a huge game-changer,” Mattie said. This leads us to rule #3, which I think we all can relate to… we all have triggers, so don’t push me. 

RELATED: Sex, Laughs and Lasting Love at the 2019 Black Love Summit

All is fair in love and war, but when you’re married or in a relationship, you have to realize you’re on the same team. “In relationships, there is no individual win, it’s either WE win or WE lose,” Chris said, and the panel agreed with a collective head nod. Mattie added, “And that’s what Chris taught me. I realized that marriage is a team sport. I was so focused for, like, the first half… if I’m being really transparent with y’all, [for] the first six years of my marriage… I was trying to beat Chris at marriage. Then I was like, but girl, he’s on YOUR team!” 

Write your own playbook!

What worked for our mothers and fathers may not work for our generation. Sometimes we have to rewrite the rules, and that’s rule #4. Write your own playbook! “Everybody has to write their own relationship handbook… The game always changes, financially, emotionally, socially, so it’s been a process… sometimes you have to go revisit that playbook,” Mattie shared. Doing this gives your relationship the freedom to grow and to evolve into a healthy relationship full of good, hair-pulling, back-slapping, ‘til the cops come knocking sex.

The bottom line is, if you can’t remember any of these rules of engagement and want to just hit your partner in the throat several times, remember the golden rule Deondray offered up… don’t fight to win (verbally or physically) fight to stay together.

Be sure to check out more stories from the 2019 Black Love Summit here, and tune in to season 3 of Black Love, premiering on OWN Saturday, August 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.