Are you fighting with your spouse all the time? Do you feel like you're alone? You're not! Here's how to manage arguments with these fair fighting rules.

Fair Fighting Rules for Couples

Relationships can be difficult. All of them have their ups and downs. And all of us, at some point or another, fight. Some fight a lot, some rarely do, but the difference between successful and failing relationships often comes down to how we fight with our spouse. Below are some fair fighting rules, that you can use to better your relationship. But first let’s just talk about how fighting effects relationships .

Isn’t fighting bad?

No, not all fighting is bad.

Couples who never have any sort of conflict in their relationships, begin to live in a fantasy world at some point. That’s not to say, couples who never fight, don’t have conflict from time to time. There are quite a few differing opinions on whether to call it: conflict, argument, or fighting.

Disagreements will happen in every marriage. No two people agree on everything. And if something is bothering you have to speak up. If you don’t, you are likely creating a breeding ground for resentment. But speaking up can certainly lead arguments. And that’s okay. It takes practice to speak up and be able to fix your problems without getting in a fight.

You can argue, make mistakes, say things you shouldn’t have, and still be perfectly happy in your marriage. It happens to most of us. Sometimes we won’t fight for months, and then fight for a few weeks more often. We just have to recalibrate. None of us are perfect. But the bottom line is fighting, is communication, and communication is essential in any relationship.

Yes, some fighting is bad

There are definitely times when fighting is unhealthy for your marriage. The way in which you fight is incredibly important. For instance, if you are in constant screaming matches all the time, there are some adjustments you need to make. If you are only trying to prove that you are right, that is an unhealthy way to fight.

These happen in a lot of relationships, and are relatively common traits. But they are frustrating to deal with, and they cause our partner’s to behave the same way out of self-preservation. This eventually will cause a breeding ground for resentment, and for constant blame of your partner. It makes it so that you both begin to only see the negative traits in each other rather than the positive traits that you both bring to the relationship.

*Disclaimer* If you are throwing things, slamming doors, or causing any physical harm to your spouse, even if its accidental, you need to seek immediate professional help for rage issues. Or seek help for protection if your spouse behaves this way.

Want free marriage advice?

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Fair fighting rules

Now that we understand what kind of fighting is healthy, and what it unhealthy, let’s dive into the fair fighting rules with more depth.

Listen to understand, not to respond

I can’t stress this one enough. Too many of us listen to respond and defend oneself, rather than to try and understand their partner’s perspective. If we are constantly only trying to get our point across, it only encourages our partners to do the same to us. This creates a breeding ground for resentment, and a continuation of bad fighting habits.

If you listen to understand instead, you find out what your partner is feeling. When you partner is done speaking/explaining their feelings, follow up with questions, rather than reactions. Ask what they need from you, ask what you can do to make the situation better for them. They will eventually begin to do the same for you.

Be solution oriented

What are you trying to achieve? What was the purpose of the argument in the first place. Chances are, you weren’t just arguing to create drama, or for fun. It’s likely that one or both of you had a need that was not being met. So, when you think about it, if that is the case, why would not try to find the solution?

I suppose that many times we think our solution is the correct solution. This usually creates a bias toward getting the solution we want, rather than the solution that the relationship needs. So when you think you have the better solution, really think to yourself, ” Am I just being biased for my own good, or will this work for both of us?” Chances are your partner needs something different than you, so the solution is going require brainstorming together, and coming up with a compromise.

Don’t escalate the situation

Sometimes we argue, not because there is not a need being met, but because one partner took something out of context. Simply put: a misunderstanding. Misunderstandings can get blown way out of proportion sometimes. Which is why it is important that you don’t escalate certain situations.

Here’s a scenario that you’re probably familiar with. You’re in the car driving together. Your partner says something in a strange tone. You take offense. They get upset with you because they think they’ve done nothing wrong, and begin to yell and get defensive. That begins to escalate the situation until a screaming match begins over something trivial. What they should have done, is say “Sorry if my tone was snarky, I didn’t mean it to be.” You could also choose to say, “I must have heard you wrong, I’m sorry.”

Do not say things that are untrue

This is directly related to not escalating arguments. Kill the use of the words always and never. i.e “you never do this, or you always do this.” These statement are rarely true. This will not only escalate your argument faster than most things, but it will especially create a breeding ground for resentment, anger, and defensiveness.

Don’t make up lies about your partner to make them feel guilty, or embellish truths to prove your point. A lot of us do this unknowingly, but it is important to realize if you do it, and adjust the behavior. It is just going to perpetuate poor fighting habits between you and your spouse, and you’ll end up saying things that your can’t take back.

Take your partner’s words at face value. Extend trust

So often, we try to read into what our spouse is saying, instead of taking what they say at face value. Here’s an example. Your spouse did not wash the dishes, again. You begin to accuse him/her of doing it on purpose just to get you back for something you did the other day. Your spouse assures you that was not the case.

Trust them. If your spouse is not trying to hurt you, they will say that they were not. It’s okay to be hurt that your spouse didn’t wash the dishes, but it is not okay to tell them why they didn’t wash the dishes. Believe what they say and communicate that to them. Trust that they are being sincere

Be quick to apologize

This is probably one of the most important rules. EVERYONE messes up in relationships. That includes you. It includes your spouse. When you mess up, apologize. Plain and simple. Even if your intentions were good, if you hurt your partner by accident, it warrants an apology.

A lot of us don’t allow ourselves to apologize because we think that it is always an admission of guilt. But that’s not always the case. When we think about it as a way to help our partner feel better about something we did that hurt them, it is a lot easier to apologize. Even if you didn’t do much, you’re moving forward as a team when you express empathy in the form of an apology.

Learn how to forgive

Remember the one horrible thing your spouse did to you? Chances are you do, and you will always remember it. But ask yourself, how long has it been? Does my spouse still engage in behavior like this? If the answers are ‘a while’ and ‘no’ then it is time to move forward. Forgiveness is not about forgetting (that would be impossible for most of us), but about moving forward.

If your spouse is constantly hearing about a mistake they’ve made in the past, they will never feel safe in your relationship. They will feel bad about themselves, and start to think, ‘why do I even try anymore.’ To not be forgiven for something that you have expressed remorse for is torture. Yes, it takes time. Sometimes feeling terrible about it helps your spouse learn important lessons. But there comes a time, that forgiving them is the only way to move on.

This is as much for you and it is for them. Holding a grudge is a terrible burden to bear. Once you set it free, you will also be happier.

Remember you are a team, not mortal enemies

This one is self-explanatory. You are a partnership trying to make things work in this huge world. So remember to act like it. If you treat you spouse like they are your biggest obstacle, they will eventually become that. If you treat them like a teammate, they will begin to treat you like a teammate, and you will become a team.

Do you follow fair fighting rules?

I want you to take an honest look in the mirror, and try to figure out whether or not you use fair fighting rules in your daily practice. It is important that you figure yourself out, so you can start to make the changes that help your relationship. Here are some questions to help you figure out if you fight effectively.

Do you:

  • Listen to your partner?
  • Apologize quickly?
  • Express remorse?
  • Empathize?
  • Freak-out before your partner finishes explaining themselves?
  • Frequently interrupt?
  • Bring things up from past arguments?
  • Try to be right?

If you answered yes the questions on the left, you’re in good shape. If you answered yes to any of the questions on the right, then you can use some improvement in that category. Most of us will have mixed responses, so you are definitely not alone if you need to improve.

Here’s why it’s important that you follow these fair fighting rules. You can’t control your spouse’s behavior. You can only control your behavior. For example, if your spouse brings up a problem, you can react appropriately. But where many of get caught up, is when we successfully bring up a problem and receive a poor reaction from our spouse. Many of us have a tendency to throw in the towel and say ” Well he/she reacted poorly. I did my part.” You have to continue to do your part for a long while before they catch on sometimes, but eventually they will.

Want free marriage advice?

Everybody has marriage problems, but most are afraid to talk about them. We are not. We do a weekly show – Marriage Unpacked – where we give free marriage advice on topics that you want to hear about.

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