Fair Fighting Rules for Relationships

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay


“An eye for an eye will only make the world blind” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Arguments and relationships go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. Unfortunately, arguments are not as sweet as jelly and don’t go over as smooth as peanut butter. When we argue with our loved ones, it is important to remember that it’s not necessary to deliver a knock out blow. Think of the argument as a heart to heart conversation and not a bare-knuckle showdown.

Here are some simple steps to remember when arguing:

1. Pause
Before you engage in an argument with your loved one, take a moment to reflect on your feelings. Ask yourself, “Why are you upset?” Are you really upset because he or she was late or could it be your partner has not been giving you enough attention? It is important to know why you are upset so you can communicate this clearly.

2. Discuss one issue at a time 
Once you clarify your feelings you can begin to discuss why you are upset. Many times in the heat of the moment we bring up past digressions and end up arguing about something else entirely except the matter at hand. Try to keep the argument about the current disconnect by remembering to discuss one issue at a time.

3. No degrading language
Discuss the issue, not the person. All attempts must be made to keep the conversation civil. It is important to avoid name calling, swearing or put-downs. Keep in mind that negative words are a manifestation of negative feelings. There is never a good enough reason to call your partner a derogatory name. There are unpardonable words that can leave a partner feeling emotionally scarred making it harder for them to receive your love. Remember, this is someone you love and you really do not want to hurt them.

4. Express yourself
Use words to express how you feel and take responsibility for those feelings. Start your statements with ” I.” I feel angry. I feel hurt. By starting statements with “I” you are able to connect with your words with your emotions. Avoid using statements beginning with “You.” Statements starting with “You” tend to make the other person feel attacked which often leads them to shut down emotionally.

5. Take turns talking 
It is important to take turns speaking. Once you have had your turn, it is important to listen to what your partner has to say. If this is difficult, use a timer and a set amount of time for each person to speak. You can also designate an item to use like a talking stick. Whoever holds the item can speak. Just make sure you remember to pass the item! The talking stick method has been used for hundreds of years by indigenous people. The “Talking stick” can be any object.

6. Knock down the walls
Stonewalling is the refusal to communicate or express emotions. It is very common during conflicts. People often do this when they want to avoid an uncomfortable conversation or prefer not to engage in an emotional discussion that may lead to a fight. Stonewalling can include a refusal to discuss feelings or walking out of a conversation. When you are both in a “sober emotional state,” make a pact with one another that you will not stonewall and will engage in a meaningful discussion no matter how challenging it may be. If one of you feels the issue warrants a discussion, the other person must respect the request by engaging and listening.

7. No Yelling
It may feel great to unleash your frustration on your partner by yelling at them, but many times this only adds fuel to the fire. When a person is yelled at, they tend to yell back in self-defense. This often results in an escalation of self-defensive responses from both parties. Yelling typically results in further alienation and frustration. Sometimes, a partner will not engage in the yelling but will passively accept the treatment. This only leads to fostering resentment by the person being yelled at. Remember, remain calm and use words to make your point, not volume.

8. Take a timeout
In a perfect world, we would all be able to communicate effectively with each other and have no need for rules. You are not expected to print up this page and follow each step while you are arguing. This is not a script for the perfect fight. In the real world, voices will be raised and perhaps a few hurtful words will be used. When you feel that the temperature is rising, take a time out until both parties cool off. Agree on a time to continue the conversation. It is important to agree on another meeting to continue the discussion so one or both parties do not attempt to stonewall.

9. Compromise 
If you reach an impasse in the argument, try to come to a compromise. If you can’t reach a compromise then agree to disagree. Try to understand each other’s point of view. Discussing and attempting to understand will help soothe negative feelings. Communication is one of the strongest pillars of the house of love, so it is important to reinforce and strengthen this skill whenever possible.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Kindly,
Dr. Perry


CREDENTIALS
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology


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74 responses to Fair Fighting Rules for Relationships

  1. Very well thought out and good words here Eric ….. excellent to strive for even if on occasion we fail to maintain all of these good goals

    Sucks having those human tendencies to imperfection lol!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. boomergirl47 says:

    When I’m angry or hurt, I tend to shut down. I can’t communicate rationally until I get my emotions under control. My boyfriend knows I’ll be back to address the issue as soon as I can and am not just giving him the “silent treatment” out of spite. Altho I have to admit it kinda feels that way when the amygdala is fired up! All I can really do is speed up the recovery time a little.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Patty J says:

    This is so timely, particularly with people being so strongly polarized with the outcome of the election. I have heard several people tell me they’re surprised by friends’ and family’s votes, which has caused division. Although it’s a frustrating time, discourse is more useful and important than expressing anger in unhealthy ways, which can lead right back to square one or worse, loss of significant relationships. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 4 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi Patty, I am glad this was helpful and thank you so much for your insightful comment 🙏🏼

      Liked by 2 people

  4. miss.eunoia says:

    I love this. I have found that more often than not, I’m angry because my “attention bucket” is empty. Remembering this helps me to take a deep breath and calmly express my feelings without attacking him, and ultimately that is the goal. Then the conversation goes so much more smoothly. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. celestialk1 says:

    I am very lucky to be in a relationship where we don’t really fight. We disagree, sure, and try to decide who wins certain arguments, but it’s hardly ever hurtful/yelling any of that nature. It wasn’t like this in my last relationship necessarily, so I’m truly glad I married the right man. 🙂 Your tips are great and can also help other kinds of relationship in life, like co-workers that you don’t really get along with.

    Liked by 3 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi 🙂 I am so glad you found this helpful and thank you so much for commenting 🙏🏼

      Liked by 2 people

  6. tigre23 says:

    Thanks for sharing, good tips and handy to be reminded although int he heat of the moment and when your emotions get the better of you, it becomes difficult to remember/ apply. My husband and don’t tend to fight often but when we do it is often a charged with emotion but we care deeply for each other and realise that is where the emotion stems from. We had been able to talk rationally afterwards – sometimes you have to know when to pick your fights and also agree to disagree! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. sandrasreid says:

    I especially like No. 6 – Knocking Down Walls. The ‘stonewalling’ act can be quite a stumbling block, but agreeing beforehand NOT to engage in that behavior is an excellent idea.

    Liked by 3 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi Sandra, I am happy you like the post and thank you for your comment And I agree it’s a big stumbling block !

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Aui V. says:

    Great advice! I realized this post is the rule I share with my husband. We will be 25 years together this coming July following this unwritten rules within ourselves. I do not remember having to compromise because we are doing the first 8!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Erin K. says:

    Thank you for this. I like how you discuss the way to handle an argument as a unit. You don’t address patriarchal gender roles and I with there were more articles such as this written. Ones that do not put an undue burden on the woman to bow out, but advice that is relevant to both parties.

    Liked by 3 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      I believe the expression “it takes two to tango” and it takes two people to have a successful dialogue 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Sammy says:

    He will still be here if we fought like this and not the other way round I guess! Thank you .. I’m taking this with me to the Next!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks for liking my post as it helped me trace back and find a fellow blogger like yourself dealing with subjects Iam equally passionate about.Good work and an interesting article !👍

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I think compromise is probably the most difficult. Many will agree to compromise, but regret when that do. I’m a very compassionate individual and very easy for me, but many are truly unwilling. Great post😀

    Liked by 3 people

  13. notdonner says:

    With newlyweds, those with 3 or 4 years experience, or even my friends who have been married 25 years, while I have learned a thing or two, my elder, dearest friends offer advice such as these truths. They encourage us with, “the first 30 years are the hardest”. But communication is key, taking personal responsibility and seeking to understand rather than wanting to be understood. In 17 years, my wife and I haven’t had a “fight”; we had enough of that in our first marriages when we were vastly different people. We may differ on views, but we always strive to work toward a solution.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I often find that if I don’t at least TRY to resolve a conflict with someone, in a calm mature manner, that I end up waking up the next day with regrets. “I should have done this,” “I should have said that,” etc., etc… For me, life seems too short to wake up with regrets, and I’m not really into scolding myself. I just always try to put my best effort out there, to love the people who can then treat me right, and to forget about the ones who don’t. Not always easy to do… Nice post, Dr. Perry.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Trupti says:

    Perfectly explained Dr. Perry !!

    World will be the most beautiful place and life will be perfect , if these guidelines practiced and followed by all humans☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great post. I really like the Pause and Time Out items. Too much can be said in the heat of the moment that can cause damage to the relationship that is not easily repaired. Life experiences have taught me this lesson. 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. dewofmay says:

    Great post Dr. Perry. I wish someone had educated me on these when I was younger. I’ve learnt all these things as I grew older and into my 30’s but I know I would have managed relationships better in a healthy way had I known these gems back then.. I see this as a rising need for youngsters. Its rather strange that we all go through this phase but nobody really bothers to share it with the teens/ young adults. I think they will be saved from a lot of heartache, especially in this day and age where everything.

    Liked by 1 person

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