Couples fight. This is universal. Tempers can flare anywhere and at anytime. Having ‘fair fighting’ guidelines in place beforehand helps reduce emotional pain caused by what’s said or done during a fight. Couples can develop guidelines by themselves or with a therapist’s guidance during couples counseling. The following ideas can help:
It’s easier to talk about fighting fair when you both feel connected. For example, you can mention the idea when you’re comfortable watching TV together or while you’re taking a walk. Start with something like “Right now we’re feeling closer, and wouldn’t it be nice if we had more time like this? Let’s make time to talk about how we can fight fair so neither of us feels hurt or resentful.”
Plan to meet in person for about one hour in a place where neither of you will be distracted or interrupted. If necessary use video calling or speak in person by phone. Regardless, agree to take turns and to not interrupt. Talk specifically about words and behaviors that are not okay to use during a fight. Talking about how you’re feeling as you do this can also increase your connection.
Examples of hurtful words and actions include:
• Storm out during the fight
• Threats to leave the relationship
Agree to fight at home. Except for the bedroom, pick one area of your home for fighting. Be specific. For example, pick one room and the chairs you’ll each sit in.
Agree on what to do if tempers flare in public or in social situations. For example, agree to find a space to let out some steam until you can get home. Remember that fighting in a moving car can be unsafe.
Write down or record what each of you agreed to. (Having a record also helps if you can’t finish your guidelines in one meeting.)
Sign, date and if you wish, add a title to your guidelines Post the document in the area you chose for fighting. You can refer to during a fight if either of you needs reminding.
Within about (24) hours after the fight ends discuss what did and didn’t work, how you each felt during the fight and how you feel now. For example, did you feel safe during the fight? Understood? Heard? Is the fight resolved? Modify your guidelines as needed.
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