I spent my morning consoling a friend who is going through a tough spot in her relationship with her husband. While there are a lot of factors causing friction in their marriage, I was particularly aware of her description of a recent fight. It reminded me of why Mr. Sanity and I use the rules we do.
Fighting, better described as having disagreements loudly, is a natural part of any relationship. If you’ve experienced one without it, you have to at least admit it’s pretty rare!
My husband and I are closely aligned in most areas of our lives. Despite this, there are always times that we see things differently based on our own unique experiences and personalities. It doesn’t feel good to fight, but we consider it a necessary evil. Instead of letting emotions and words fly, we use these rules of engagement when we do have a fight.
Don’t Say Anything You Can’t Take Back
This is the most important rule, and if you only remember and use this one, you will see an improvement in your relationship. I have to credit my husband with this gem, and admit that I was not particularly good at this earlier on in our relationship. (Hey, no one taught me!!)
You can say things in anger that can cause permanent harm to your relationship. Even after making up, certain words or statements can echo through your partner’s head, continuing to hurt them or cause a sense of insecurity in your love.
Fight the urge to speak in anger. Think hard before you spout off, and if you feel like you can’t control your tongue, excuse yourself and come back to the topic when you are calmer.
Don’t Name Call
This could potentially go under the rule above because once you’ve called someone a name you can’t take it back. Didn’t we all learn this in elementary school? Names are directed at the core of a person. As in “Stop being such a jerk!” Instead, describe to the other person which actions are bothering you or causing a problem.
As Mr. Sanity always says, “There may not be an excuse, but there is always a reason.” Taking time to try to put yourself in your partner’s position will help you understand their point of view. Consider what their thoughts and feelings might have been, as well as any particular triggers from their past that may have influenced their decisions or behaviors.
Focus on One Subject or Incident
Another rule of ours is that we don’t weigh down the argument with lots of other issues we are upset about. Try to focus on the main incident without dragging other issues from the past, especially if they have already been resolved.
Put The Subject of the Argument into Context
Ask yourself, what are you really arguing about? How big is it in the scheme of your lives together? Don’t let one small negative experience ruin a week of good times. As we progress in marriage, I find I am less willing to discuss what I consider the smaller grievances of cohabitation/coparenting. In fact, unless something still bothers me after a couple of hours, I simply let it go.
Another point to remember regarding context is that you and your partner are a team. You have chosen a life together, and it is important to remind yourself of this especially when a disagreement puts you in opposing camps.
Waiting for the catch? The catch is fighting fair is extremely hard to do in the moment.
You are asking your brain to override a strong emotional response and potentially bad habits. If it does get heated, the best thing to do is to walk away, think through the concepts above, and revisit the discussion afterwards.
Share these rules with your partner to get on the same page or create your own rules for fighting fair!