Married Life

Fair Fighting Rules

How do you have a fair fight with your spouse? By following the fair fighting rules! I mean, nobody wants to have a fight with their spouse, but we all know they are going to happen. It is just not possible to share our lives with someone and not fight. The key is doing it in a productive way, where there is a happy resolution for both parties. Where both parties are heard and understood.

Here are the rules:

No Zapping. No name calling, snide remarks, putdowns, or negative facial expressions.

I feel like I will always need divine intervention when it comes to my facial expressions. But it really got me thinking about it too, and working on not just overriding what someone says to me while thinking they’re an idiot. This was helpful for several reasons. Because when I am thinking things like that, not only am I not actually listening to them, but it is evident in my facial expressions. That isn’t productive.

No Interrupting. Let the other person finish before you speak.

I get really, really irritable when I’m speaking and I am interrupted. My favorite phrase for the longest time became “it’s not your turn to talk” and just kept repeating it until we went back to it being my turn. I used this on a 14 year old in my family many times, and after me repeating it over and over, he would get mad. My response was, so shut up and listen, and that won’t happen. You’ll have your turn in a minute. Right now it is my turn. After about 6 arguments where I did that, he stopped and actually listened.

No Cross-Complaining. When the other person complains, don’t answer with a complaint.

That is kind of like answering a question with a question. That isn’t productive, so why waste the time doing it? Stick to the issue at hand.

No Bringing Up The Past. Don’t use “always”, “never”, “should”, “if only once you would…” stick to the present and not history.

The past is just that, the past. Leave it there, and focus on right now. Once it is over, I shouldn’t have to spend the rest of my life paying for that mistake or having to apologize for it. Nor should I expect anyone else to either. It really takes away from the present issue, and it prolongs the argument. This also prolongs a resolution.

Stick To The Issue. Don’t distract from the issue and don’t become distracted yourself.

Look back at the last rule before this. Bringing up the past is probably the single easiest way to distract from the issue going on right now.

No Physical Violence Allowed.

This should be a rule no matter what. Physical violence doesn’t solve problems. It simply creates more. Because long after those physical scars heal, the emotional unseen ones stay. No one deserves to go through that. Nobody has the right to put anyone else, especially someone they claim to love, through that.

Don’t Play Mind Reader. Don’t try to tell the other person what they are thinking or why the are doing something. Do not make assumptions. Read the first three letters in assumptions. Try not turning yourself into one of those.

No Emotional Blackmail. “If you really loved me, you would…” It is not fair to use love as a weapon or punishment.

This is one of those moves that never impresses anyone. Be who you are and own your experience. Not detract from the issue by going to the emotional blackmail.

Don’t Make Speeches. State your point and let the other person answer. If the other person states a point, respond to that before making another point of your own. Answer questions directly.

Speeches are long and boring. Halfway through, the other person has zoned out completely. If you want to be listened to and heard, stick to the point. Speeches are not the way to achieve that.

Negotiate. State your complaint, but say it in the form of a positive request, and not a demand. Report feelings and not just issues. Suggest alternatives, and be willing to accept alternatives as well. If you both see it in black and white, there’s no grey area and no ability to meet in the middle. Look for the positive and negative consequences of each alternative, then reach a solution. Instead of trying to win an argument, be confident that you can reach a solution.

Meeting in the middle is usually the best resolution for both parties. Everybody likes being right, I get that. But it isn’t all about you. Or me. It is about what is best for everyone. Relationships aren’t about one person dictating how it goes and the other one follows. It is a democracy, where decisions are made in the best interest of both parties involved.

Own You Problems, Feelings, and Behaviors. Use “I” messages instead of “you”.

Own your experience. It is just that simple. However you choose to react to something is just that, your choice. No one but you. So the whole “you made me do X, Y, and Z” doesn’t fly.

Time Out Is Okay. If things get too heated, ask to continue the discussion at another time. Specify the time.

This one used to be so difficult for me. My husband was notorious for not giving me space to settle and come back to it in a productive way. So me being the spiteful person I used to be would push back, and push back hard. But sometimes cooling down is the best way for everyone to gather their thoughts and really come back to be productive. In the heat of things, nothing comes out in a productive way. We revert back to anger and insults.

Be Accepting. Try to understand that both of you are different in the way you see things and in your emotional reactions.

Half the battle is understanding that your partner may not think exactly the same way you do. All of our experiences color how we see things and respond. It is so important to know and understand that our partner’s experiences are going to be different than our own. Be accepting of this because if we aren’t, things will never work out.

Paraphrase. Make sure you heard the other person correctly. Restate what you think you heard.

Making sure that you’re clear on what you heard is so important. This also shows your partner that you are actually listening and taking them seriously. I can’t even begin to explain how vital that is. It is a horrible thing to give someone the impression that they aren’t important enough to be listened to. That is why this step can often be the biggest de-escalating technique out there. Make sure you show your partner that they are important by listening and caring.

Be Willing To Listen. Sometimes just listening to the other person helps them to get their feelings out, and there is no need for arguing.

Again, de-escalation technique number one. Listen. Make sure your partner feels heard and that you care. Half of arguments stem from this. Not feeling like they are being heard, or important enough to be listened to.

Notes:

These are incredible tips to better communication, and they’ve helped me greatly. I can recognize the ones I have issues with, and I can easily point out the ones where my husband has issues with. With this, I can own where my issues are and improve them, and that is what I love about this list.

My husband and I are both really competitive people. Before sticking to these rules became a habit, we would get this list out when we started arguing. It almost became a game, where if one of us broke a rule, we’d point it out. Kind of like a little kid tattling on another. You broke rule number eight! Ha ha, you broke rule eight! Or whatever it was.

I hate being called out on something I’m doing wrong, so it compelled me to really stick to these rules. That was my start to better communication. Sooner or later, these things became a habit for both of us, and the result was really productive communication between us.

These are things that we’ve been putting into practice for many years, and it has been amazing. Our communication improved dramatically once we started this, and that is really the secret to staying married for so long without becoming either homicidal, or just giving up completely. Communication. Good, strong, productive communication.

If communication is an issue for you, I would strongly suggest printing out these rules and putting them into place. It takes practice, I won’t lie. But once it is done enough, it becomes a habit. These are the kind of good habits that will benefit you in everything you do, every person you communicate with.

28 Comments

    • The Prepping Wife

      Yes!!! Lol. So true. Ha ha. I love disagreeing with my buddy and then his girlfriend chimes in to agree with me. I always tell him, two women are telling him he’s wrong. There is zero chance of being right in this instance, so just shut up and do it our way!

    • The Prepping Wife

      My husband and I implemented these many years ago now, but it was a game changer. It really was. Because we were both terrible at listening to the other one. There was no such thing as compromise. I really hope this helps you as much as it did me and my husband! Feel free to come back and share the results with me as time goes on, Candace!

  • Lindsay Brown

    I feel like I might just print this list out and stick it on my fridge for the next time the hubs and I get into a heated debate. These are great rules and I admit that I find myself breaking nearly every one when I’m mad and wanting to win an argument.

    I’m going to keep this list in mind and I’m sure my husband will thank you for it! Ha!

      • The Prepping Wife

        Lee, that is so true! A wise person once told me “listen to learn, not to respond.” I have to admit, it is something that changed my perspective, and I have to say that I’ve repeated that little pearl of wisdom more than a few times to others.

    • The Prepping Wife

      That is exactly what my husband and I did too! We each had a copy, and when it became clear a discussion/debate/argument was going nowhere productive, we’d get the list out and go through it. It kind of became a game. Like we’re super competitive, so it was fun to be able to point out when my husband was breaking a rule. He’d do it right back at me too. Sooner or later, these things became a habit, and we didn’t need the list. It really was a game changer for us and how we communicated. Which is why I posted it. I came across it the other day, and wanted to talk about it in the hopes that it can help so many others the same way it did me.

  • Melissa

    These are such great points! It’s hard to look inward about what you’re doing in the heat of the moment that may be making it worse. I think a lot of these rules can be used for other relationships in our lives as well…even during arguments with other family members.

    • The Prepping Wife

      These absolutely come in handy for any kind of relationship! I definitely agree. I’ve noticed over time that once I implemented these and they became a habit, my listening skills changed dramatically with everyone I spoke to.

  • Johnny Quid

    The speeches thing has me feeling judged for sure, because I can’t put all my feelings into a couple sentences when I’m having an argument about something. I have an entire 2,000 word dissertation with Powerpoint slides, a graph, and this is all to support my 30 minute TedTalk. I gotta work on it for sure. Bottom line, listening and trying to keep the conversation geared to finding a compromise instead of letting your emotions lead is the best way to handle these heavy discussions..and that’s gotta happen on both sides.

    • The Prepping Wife

      Have you ever seen the meme that talks about when a woman says “first of all” followed by the warning about how she has charts, graphs, a speech prepared, and everything else to destroy a guy she’s arguing with? I feel like that might be you, Johnny! I know the meme is geared toward women doing this, but it may fit you too. Lol.

  • Nina Nichols

    I am blessed to be in a relationship that argument doesn’t occur a lot. It’s hard to argue with my husband because even when he’s not at fault, he takes the blame! These are awesome!

  • Live Learn Better

    Resolving conflicts is never going to be an easy peasy piece of cake. Coming to the understanding that whatever you’re going through is not enough to crumble your relationship will go a long way in coming to an agreement on how to tackle whatever issue a couple has going on.
    Great post!

  • Melody

    Awesome list! It’s so important to remember there are two sides to every issue. This will help keep things on track while you work it out. Thanks for putting it all together.

  • Tracy C

    Believe it or not, my husband and I have never had a fight. That aside, these are great tips for everyday communication. Many of the tips (such as not bringing up the past) show that you respect one another.

  • Ashli

    Great post!! These are definitely things they even after 7 years almost we need to focus on. It’s hard to communicate sometimes – but we definitely try!

  • Swagata Sen

    Being accepting, listening and not cross complaining are some of the must have of any relationships. But most often they are violated. We all are human beings and have a tendency to judge everything from our own perspective and put too much emphasis on our feelings. Great tips for all relationships. Thanks for sharing

  • Scott DeNicola

    My inner New York Italian comes out in arguments and I have to work hard to control that. I can accelerate from 0-100 very quickly. Luckily my spouse and I don’t fight often and for some reason I’m always in the wrong 😀 These are awesome tips to follow especially paraphrasing to make sure you are hearing the other person correctly and making sure you listen to what they are saying.

  • Lyosha

    great post! I still try to fully follow these points. my main issue is to make speeches (I am such a drama queen and I always feel so sorry for myself when I make the huge speech which always makes things worse, way worse) while my husband’s biggest issue is to bring up the past when I on the wrong (as if it helps the situation we are at the moment at all)

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