Fighting Fair, Part II

Building important survival skills that will set a couple up for success and break down behavioral patterns that have become destructive ruts requires rules and takes practice. Here are some simple rules for “How to fight fair.”

Choose words that reflect your love more than your criticism.  The number one reason I see for divorce are the hurtful words people choose.  They will eventually cause someone to walk when being around you causes more pain than being apart.  My homework for couples is to only use positive words with one another, for this is the first step in healing wounds, building trust, and moving forward.  This is challenging for couples in chaos, but an imperative first step in moving forward. 

Engage your Verbal Filter at All Times

For some people this is really hard for them to understand:  Just because you have a thought or feeling does not mean it needs to be expressed!

One of the gauges of emotional maturity is the ability to filter your words and emotions and control adolescent impulses.  In understanding your partner wants your approval, respect, and love; know that when you harshly criticize or spew unfiltered thoughts deep wounds are created and stockpiled with other unresolved hurts and relationship carnage continues without a chance to heal.  And if you’re one of those who proudly “tell it like it is” or takes pride in being “brutally honest,” other people may experience you as unpredictable or a loose cannon.  Frankly, people like a little varnish on their truth!  If you are perceived as more interested in being “brutal” than simply “honest,” eventually people begin to walk away rather than waiting for the next ambush.  Loving someone means committing to filtering your words so that your partner feels emotionally safe around you at all times, especially when they feel vulnerable.  Filtering gains trust.  A person who is unfiltered is untrustworthy. 

Never, Ever, Ever Raise your Voice… Ever

Unless someone is about to step in front of a speeding car (or something equally dangerous), there is no reason to raise your voice.  In an intimate relationship, a loud voice is used only to communicate physical danger. Conflict is never solved because someone talks loudly and fast.  Instead the other person begins to tune you out, raises their voice in return, or completely shuts down.  I instruct couples once a voice tone is elevated it is time to stop talking and to come back and try again later.  Nothing is going to be solved by talking over one another.

15 Minute Rule

When discussing a problem in need of a solution, try to keep all discussions to 15 minutes.  Once it goes past that point other issues start to enter the mix, confounding the problem-solving process as the discussion goes off-topic and increases frustration.  Set a timer.  Once it dings, walk away and come back to it another time.  The problem does not have to be solved in one sitting!  In fact, it likely won’t be.

After establishing these guidelines to follow the couple is sent on their way to “practice, practice, practice” these skills, setting forth the process of building a relationship that will succeed in solving challenges instead of staying stuck in destructive habits.  Intimacy is tender and loving.  Always treat your partner/spouse as someone you vow to love, honor, and cherish in all things you do.

 This is what will set you up to last.


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