Fighting Fair

I’ve written a few posts about marriage.  I believe in marriage, in supporting people who are married and who want to be married.  One abiding question is: How do you not ruin a marriage?  Here is some helpful material from Victoria Costello over at Psychology Today.  She offers ten rules for fair fighting:

If you wish to avoid conflicts in your life, you should stay single, or find a very submissive partner. To deal with disagreements in a constructive way, you need to establish rules for fair fighting. Any rules you decide on should be tailored to your unique relationship. Someone who can’t tolerate a voice raised in anger (many people) is going need a rule that both partners use a normal tone of voice when fighting. Once you’ve agreed upon your rules, it’s a good idea to write them down.  Then both sign and date this document as you would any binding agreement.

However, before you begin to review these rules, there’s one principle you should understand and think about how it applies to you and your marriage. That is, the difference between emotions and reason in marital disagreements. In most human beings, emotions affect decision-makingmore than logic does. When a woman says “You don’t love me anymore,” she is offering an extreme emotional reaction, also called a “You message,” when someone attempts to put total responsibility for a problem on her partner. Most likely, the woman’s response is provoked by something to which she incorrectly attaches an extreme reaction. For example, she may be bitterly disappointed on February 14th when her husband fails to come home with a Valentine gift. What else might she say that would be more appropriate to the situation? How about, “I’m hurt that you didn’t acknowledge Valentine’s Day by giving me a token of your love.” This “I message” would be both reasonable and appropriate. Especially if, by expressing this feeling, it opens up the subject of gift giving for this couple to discuss, including what holidays they jointly choose to celebrate, and what compromises they settle on if they don’t see eye to eye. Finding harmony within a relationship requires that each partner deal first with his emotions and then for both to explore reasonable accommodations or compromises in the marriage – without making either right or wrong, or making the relationship subject to the emotional swings of either partner.

The following ten rules for fair fighting are designed to help you create the boundaries needed to help you make room for openly acknowledging important emotions that may be lurking behind your behaviors (sometimes feelings you are unconscious of), but then invite in reason and compromise. Boundaries – another word for ground rules – are a safety net. If you cannot provide this safety net on your own, you will need an outside mediator to facilitate those disagreements that tend to generate deep emotional responses and destabilize your marriage.

Rule 1: Keep it private

Fighting by a married couple in front of other people is embarrassing to those around you and undermines your relationship. A sharp criticism or negative outburst made in front of other people is often a power play by the more verbally skilled spouse, or whichever one does not mind theembarrassment. By fighting in front of in-laws or friends, you risk giving them the impression that your relationship is in perpetual strife. This can then become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You also may get uninvited opinions on the issue under discussion. This will only roil the situation and make agreement more difficult. Resist the impulse to ask others’ opinions on your marital disagreements; certainly never call for a vote from whoever happens to be nearby. It may sound silly, but this is unfortunately not unusual in a dysfunctional relationship.

If a fight erupts in front of other adults and especially children make an immediate agreement to handle it privately at another time.

To finish reading click here.  I wonder if you’d add anything.

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