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20 Rules for Fighting Fairly in Relationships

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20 Rules for Fighting Fairly in Relationships

Is there more yelling and screaming than you’d like going on in your house ?

Do you both swear to stop but somehow it happens anyway?

As all members of the military know, when at war armies must follow certain rules of engagement. Likewise, in all sports and martial arts, there are intricate conventions and rules, and penalties for breaking them. Why then don’t some couples take off the gloves when they argue? Anger fuels bad behavior. Some people learned fighting from their parents. Others don’t know any other way and find it difficult to control their anger. Unresolved and pent-up anger turns into rage which ramps up any conflict fast. When rage is present, it’s time to stop.

To avoid the kind of fighting that causes irreparable damage, couples are wise to agree to rules of engagement. Here are the classic 20.

1. Maintain control of yourself.  Don’t let your anger consume you.

2. Don’t dredge up the past. Avoid old grudges. Stick to the issue at hand.

3. Avoid name calling, threats or abusive behavior or violence of any kind.

4. Don’t hit below the belt. Don’t take something your partner shared with you in confidence (i.e. a vulnerable point) and use it against them.

5. Tackle one issue at a time.

6. Dial down the volume.

7. Be direct and honest.

8. Take turns speaking. Work at listening to what your partner is saying.

9. Never argue in front of your children.

10. Don’t make hurtful statements that you will later regret.

11. Don’t include other people’s opinion of the situation.

12. Use time-outs when necessary.

13. Speak without accusations or judgments. Focus on yourself, make “I” statements.

14. Don’t be afraid to apologize.

15. Never threaten separation or divorce.

16. Avoid generalizations like “you always” or “you never”.

17. Know what you want and need.

18. Don’t try to win. Seek solutions that are mutually beneficial.

19. Never argue when you or your partner is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

20. Don’t compare your partner to other people.

Abiding by these 20 rules will make a big difference. Your “fights” turn into “discussions” and your conflicts are more likely to be resolved.  Adopt the mantra “I’d rather have peace than be right”.

You and your partner are unique individuals.   No doubt, there are times when the two of you disagree. It‘s just human nature.  Conflict is a necessary and essential component of even the most harmonious relationships. You are two people with your own thoughts and feelings, needs and wants. Sometimes those needs and wants get out of synch.  The ability to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner is crucial to the health and vitality of your relationship.

*****

Jerry Duberstein, Ph.D. is the co-author with Mary Ellen Goggin, JD of the book , Relationship Transformation: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too-A Practical Guide for Couples Who Want To Be Free and Connected. Jerry and Mary Ellen offer couples counseling retreats in the quaint seacoast town, Portsmouth, NH, located 50 miles north of Boston..

Get in touch to find out how they can help you make your relationship better.

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