There is not a couple that has not had disagreements. Some resolve them amicably, while others not so much. The latter may need a healthy dose of fair fighting rules to wade through this arguably (wink!) tricky territory.
The idea of fair fighting rules for couples is laced with plenty of questions. Why the rules? Or, is it possible to follow such regulations in a heated argument? It may feel overwhelming as a concept – a regulator for arguments. But, imagine what if we imbibe these early on in a relationship? Won’t the conflict reduce or at least get resolved without damage?
To elaborate more on this mature concept of fair fighting rules, I have roped in clinical psychologist Devaleena Ghosh (M.Res, Manchester University), founder of Kornash: The Lifestyle Management School, who specializes in couples counseling and family therapy.
The 9 Fair Fighting Rules For Couples As Per Experts
Devaleena says that communication is the key to setting fair fighting rules among couples. “Two partners can sit down at a peaceful time and set down some ground rules in a relationship. They can promise one another to not become completely uncivilized during an argument. Such a discussion will prepare them to control an argument, when or if they get into one,” she says.
Devaleena also says that rules, as a concept, provide structure to anything or a safe zone to operate in. This comfort, she says, also applies to relationships. “When the rules are broken, it can hurt somebody or unhinge the functioning of an institution. Something similar can happen to relationships – one partner may get hurt,” she says. Now that we have established why these are important, let us look at some fair fighting rules that can help couples rein in their disagreements:
1. Maintaining emotions and tone are among fair fighting rules
Any quarrel with your spouse or partner could be a scarring experience and can render you anxious. Without you having intended it, things could escalate and slither out of control immediately. Thus, maintaining emotional balance is simply imperative, and it is among the fair fighting rules that could potentially save your relationship from a bumpy road.
Fair fighting rules for couples who are looking forward to relieving the stress and perfectly balancing emotions involves a lot of talking. At all times, you must attempt to express your concerns in a balanced way before they snowball into a major issue.
Be mindful of your tone – it may become harsh if your emotions tip toward anger. It is advisable to keep the tone composed. Because when you yell, perhaps your partner could mirror your behavior. And, before you know, your argument could turn into a verbal war zone. If you feel like you are losing control in the argument, resort to sporadic breaks. These pauses too are among fair fighting rules for resolving conflict.
2. Do not rake up the past to resolve conflict by fighting fair
Bringing up past blunders does not amount to fighting fair to resolve conflict. It will only make your partner feel miserable and make them resent you. Resentment is the monster you do not want sitting in the middle of your relationship.
“It is essential to stay in the present while fighting,” says Devaleena, adding, “Past is a place best not visited because what’s done is done – there are so many things that cannot be undone. Regurgitating them will only create new problems.”
Further, digging up the past could have an undesirable effect on the partner, who may have worked on their mistakes. It may put them back in the zone that reminds them of the sting of their errors. So, it could be personally damaging. Fair fighting rules entail shunning all behavior that could aggrandize personal problems.
3. Be constructive and listen while trying to fight fair
A lot of fair fighting rules for couples involve the word “constructive” – your arguments need to be constructive and your end goal should be to achieve a constructive solution as well. After all, you just do not want to unleash your anger, using it as a trough to dig the progress of your relationship. So, to resolve an ongoing conflict, you may actually want to listen better to one another first.
Listening is among the hard fair fighting rules. It is perhaps easier to lose control (than to maintain restraint) and when that happens, it is difficult to see past red-hot anger. Moreover, you may want to assume what your partner would say in an argument because you believe you know them so well. This is an instance of flawed thinking and has no place on the list of fair fighting rules in relationships. Allowing your partner to express his or her feelings could release the trapped tension and gently guide you toward the end of the conflict.
4. Timing the arguments – an essential fair fighting rule for couples
If you have not kept fair fighting rules at the back of your mind while arguing, it may go out of control and tax you physically. Your mind and nerves can only take so much. So when necessary, do try to agree to take a break when you fight – it will not just help you clear your mind, but may also allow you to evaluate your thoughts.
It will not be wrong to say that one of the essential fair fighting rules for couples is setting a time limit on conflict-centric discussions. Jenna and her partner Sullivan did so after consulting with a psychologist, who told them that they could pause their fights for 20 minutes.
“It was pretty evident that our differences were not going to be resolved in one conversation and thus we needed fair fighting rules for resolving conflict,” said Sullivan, adding, “So, we decided to take breaks. It was difficult at first but works wonderfully for us now. After every pause, I wanted to hear what Jenna had to say and vice versa. We would often want to hug each other and move on for the moment.”
Even if you do not move on, you could still acquire enough composure to rethink the dispute. Jenna said that even if the matter did not subside during the pauses, it gave her a lot to think about and even helped her gain control of her anger. “I would often want to think about it for a few days before the topic is broached again,” she said.
5. Devise a safe word to stop arguments from escalating
Efficient fair fighting rules for couples include devising a safe word. This word – mind you, it has to be a word and not a phrase – can be used to stop an argument when you feel it is venturing into ugly territory. This word, however, must contain an absolute promise that you will either tone down or stop arguing when it is used.
This safe word must be agreed upon by both partners. It must be treated as a solemn contract. Because, if you do not abide by it in an argument, it would amount to breaching a promise.
6. Don’t drag children into the mess if you want to fight fair
If you have children, they could be the undesignated victims of your arguments. Your incessant fighting could have a rusty effect on their developing psyche – spelling out larger ramifications that could well stretch into their adulthood. Thus, children are one big reason why fair fighting rules for couples must be integrated into every relationship.
“Children can get insecure if they realize that they are being used as weapons in an argument. They may develop behavioral issues and may feel abandoned,” Devaleena says.
Fair fighting rules include not arguing in front of children. Kids often feel like they have scanty control over their environment, and when their parents enter into an argument, they could be easily overwhelmed – their whole world could take an uncertain tone. Also, if your marriage really comes to end, there are methods and rules about talking to kids about divorce.
But, if you keep arguing it is possible that the kids start believing it is their fault. This could potentially lead to a self-blaming cycle. Couple fair fighting rules could prevent this problem from taking shape.
Related Reading: 7 Strategies To Stop Fighting In A Relationship
7. Avoid name-calling while fighting fair to resolve conflict
Arguments could be compared to flammable substances, they require one spark or one wrong move to turn hazardous. In a fight, name-calling could play the role of the spark that could turn the situation volatile – to put it brief name-calling can damage your relationship further. Fair fighting rules dictate that one should not call his/her names – it can be construed as a horrific strand in the ongoing arguments.
Everything said or done during a fight can have a large impact. Even if you take their pet names sarcastically or patronizingly, you could end up scratching the problems till they turn into a gaping wound.
8. Stick to the issue at hand if you want to resolve conflict
The anger triggered by an argument can often spill in different directions. You may have started arguing about one thing and soon may find yourself fighting about a completely different issue. It could lead to a lot of resentment building up in a relationship.
“Before a couple starts fighting, there is a buildup followed by a flood of emotions. Consequently, a lot of unpleasant words are exchanged,” says Devaleena.
To prevent this from happening, fair fighting rules for couples include segregated arguments. Tackle one issue at a time if you aim to resolve it amicably. Linking the current argument to the errors of the past will disrespect the fair fighting rules that you may have set for yourself.
“A good way to stay with the issue at hand is to write it down somewhere. Some partners even exchange notes on what is bothering them. Talking to a friend or a family member about your topic of argument can also help you understand your own position and prevent you from digressing,” says Devaleena.
Also, try to avoid the my-way-or-the-highway attitude. One of the couple fair fighting rules is a compromise because not all arguments will end with a solution that augurs well with both the partners. Sometimes, the resolution can be skewed. And this is when you have to bring understanding into the conflict.
9. Seek counseling to know more about fair fighting rules for couples
If you have been unable to set fair fighting rules, you may want to seek help from counselors. They can often chart out ways for you to minimize your problems, to set the ground for your arguments so that they do not waver into problematic territories – in short, they will help you in fighting fair to resolve conflict. If you are having a hard time navigating the tricky space of relationship arguments, skilled and certified counselors on Bonobology’s panel are just a click away.
It is prudent to remember that disagreements are a part of life. However, there is wisdom in knowing how to negotiate or set fair fighting rules in relationships so that they can stay healthy. “Meanwhile, an argument can also be repaired midway if one partner decides to stop quarreling. It is for the greater good,” says Devaleena.
Fair fighting rules for couples can help them express themselves instead of avoiding conflict. Who knows, the resolution and the fairness may even help couples understand each other at a deeper level.