Successfully married couples have mastered the art of argument by following the 10 ground rules for fighting fair:
The meaning of your communication is the response you get
- Stick to the issue. Don’t let disagreements over Billy’s bedtime become debates over conflicting theories of child rearing, or disgress to include whose job it is to take out the garbage.
- Avoid verbal abuse. Name calling and personal attacks obscure the subject of the disagreement and create a bitterness that lasts long after the immediate problem has been resolved.
- Don’t use accusatory remarks and blanket condemnations. Marriage counselors suggest prefacing objections with “I feel bad when you…” instead of “You never…” or “You always…”
- Bury past transgressions. Don’t keep bringing up old arguments or past sins. Deal exclusively with the problem at hand.
- Disagree as a team, not as opponents. When winning is the objective, the subject of the disagreement gets lost, fighting dirty increases and the marriage as a whole loses.
- Employ compromise and tradeoffs. Compromising means that both sides give a little to get a little. Trade-offs mean one side gives in completely on one issue in exchange for the other side conceding on another topic.
- Work toward resolution. Just talking it out won’t solve anything unless follow-up action is taken.
- Communicate. Silence or stomping away never solves anything. It’s all right to have a pre-agreed upon time-out signal that indicates the need for separation and the temporary end to the debate. The person calling the time out, however, has the obligation to instigate a resolution later on.
- Never start an argument when there isn’t enough time to resolve it. There are good times to fight, and there are bad times. Defer the disagreement until there is a better time for both spouses.
- Never fight in front of the children when the argument is about the children. Marital conflict is a fact of life that shouldn’t be shielded from children. But disagreements over the kids should be resolved in private.
Keep these rules in mind when disagreements come along. As mentioned above, they will happen if you are in a relationship. We most likely will not be able to agree on everything and that is perfectly normal. Knowing how to handle a conversation when being in disagreement is something we all have to learn. Remember to be patient with your partner but above all show love and respect.