One of the biggest challenges for anyone in any relationship is how to disagree. Everyone fights sometimes. Call it disagreement, difference of opinion, fighting — whatever you call it, there’s a right and wrong way to do it in a loving relationship. If you want to create a safe place between you and your partner in which disagreement is a chance to grow instead of wound, maybe our rules will work for you, too.
My husband and I have been married since 1997. It’s been a while, but I remember those early college years we spent living in married housing. We were young, in love, and a little clueless. We had to learn each other in every way. And we had to learn to fight.
It’s going to happen. You’re going to resist one another and have different ideas that won’t click. When it does happen? What are you going to do about it? Are you prepared? Here are the rules we stick to, so our relationship always stays safe.
The Rules for Fighting Fair
1. No Yelling
This is an important one for both of us. Raised voices immediately escalate any situation, and safety flies out the window. Defenses rise, passions flare, and feelings get hurt. Once the volume increases, understanding is hard to come by. Keeping control lets you both stay focused on each other instead of your emotions. In our experience, raised voices always leads to an out of control fight. So we don’t it.
2. No Running
One time, early on, my husband walked out in the middle of a heated disagreement. He came back about five minutes later feeling awful, and we both decided on rule number two. The minute someone walks out in the middle of a fight, it’s clear they’ve checked out, and it feels like they’ve given up on you. It’s a horrible feeling, and it’s not good for maintaining a relationship built on trust and safety. If we need to call a timeout, that’s fine. But we don’t storm out on each other.
3. No Threats
When emotions run high, it’s also easy to throw out empty threats. So we don’t threaten to leave for good — to end things forever — no matter how empty the threat is. Even if you know there’s no truth behind it, the words stick. If you hear it enough times, no matter what the intentions are, separating becomes an option. We decided to take the option off the table.
No empty threats. No separating. We work through the negative feelings until they’re gone — even if it takes days instead of hours.
So these are our rules. Maybe they’ll work for you, or maybe you have other triggers from your past that warrant creating your own set of rules. Whatever it is that makes you and your partner feel unsafe, take it off the table, and you’ll be surprised at how much trust will grow between you. Be that safe person you want your partner to be, and you’ll be able to fight without causing irreparable damage.
*Disclaimer – Nothing is fair about an abusive relationship. If you are experiencing any form of abuse in your relationship, please seek help.
More from Lori about relationships:
Date Night: Necessary or Nonsense
5 Ways to Make the One You Love Smile Today