When you have a conflict, what are the agreed upon “Rules of Engagement”?
If, as a couple, you have not taken a few minutes to decide on what your “Fight Rules” are, sit down and do it now. This is a powerful way to protect your relationship from conflict pain. When you engage in a conflict with no rules, it is frightening, you often hurt each other and your relationship.
You may even hesitate to bring up a frustration because of the fear. Feelings get stuffed down and your hurt accumulates until you suddenly explode in anger. Agreeing what is “Acceptable” and what is “Off Limits” in your relationship, will quiet the fear of discussing frustrations and problems and lead to solving issues, as they come up.
Have Your “Fight Rules” Prepared Before a Conflict Happens
Here is an example of what my husband and I decided on when faced with conflict. Feel free to use this proven effective list or make modifications and additions to it to create your relationship’s “Fight Rules.” I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a plan and rules to guide us when we are upset. It is freeing to know we will not be hurt by one of the “Off-Limit” behaviors.
Our Agreed upon Helpful Behaviors for Our Marriage
- Wait, if possible, for the right time to discuss the issue. When we are both calm and not exhausted, it makes it so much easier to solve a problem.
- Define the problem, using calm, respectful, non-attacking words and tone. Then explain how the frustration made you feel. EXAMPLE: “When we are late for an event, I feel embarrassed.”
- When Listening to a complaint, don’t become defensive. After all, we all have frustrating behaviors. Instead, look for a solution to the problem. Attack the problem, never each other.
- Listen and echo. After listening to a frustration, repeat it or echo it back, so the Speaker knows you get it.
- Often an apologize is called for at this point. Saying a genuine, “I’m sorry” is a powerful way to show you understand they are hurt and you want to help solve the issue.
- Large or stressful problems may need more than one discussion to find an acceptable solution. Whenever the discussion stalls or becomes too heated, either partner can call for a “Pause”. SAY- “Pause”, let me consider your thoughts and think of a compromise.” Then resume the discussion when you’re ready, 10 minutes, an hour, even the next evening if necessary. Must be within 24 hours to make progress on the problem.
- Listen as much as you speak. Speak slowly in calm, respectful tones and words. Speak only three or four sentences at a time, before you stop and listen for their response.
- Use first names or pet names for each other. This helps calm each other and reminds everyone how valuable your loving relationship is and that you are a united team to solve this problem.
Our Off-Limit Behaviors, Unacceptable Behaviors in Our Marriage
- Shouting, attacking, hurtful or belittling words about us personally.
- Quarreling about more than one issue at a time.
- Retaliating behavior, like the silent treatment or angry rants, whenever negative issues are brought up, not allowing complaints or voicing of frustrations.
- Getting defensive and then bringing up the other person’s negative issues.
Using the other person’s painful, tender areas as weapons to win an argument, is unacceptable. You may win the argument, but you hurt your relationship and broke the trust between you. We must trust our husband/wife will never try to hurt us. Since we know each other’s vulnerable areas, we need to protect them and each other from hurts in these sensitive areas.
The Most Important “Fighting Rule”
Finally, here is one of the most important rules: You can’t refuse to discuss a frustration or problem the other person is having. You are a team and their problem is also your problem. The quicker it is discussed and settled the better for both of you. We are all busy, tired, and often selfish, but the relationship comes first.
Learn More Ways to Build a Strong Marriage
Whatever time you spent deciding on your “Fight Rules” will be repaid 100-fold in the time and hurt feelings saved as you engage in all of lives conflicts and decisions. For more ways to build a strong unbreakable marriage, check out, BECOMING ONE, The Couple’s Marriage Planning Kit”. Plan and prepare—then you can expect a healthy marriage. May your marriage be blessed with contentment and joy.