Have you ever gotten into an argument with your partner, and after you cooled down, you can’t even remember how it started?
Everyone has a unique perspective, so we’re bound to disagree sometimes. However, if disagreements become fights that harm the relationship, our remarks made while upset can fuel future hurt. When it comes to love and marriage, there are a few sacred rules of engagement. If you honor these, you’re halfway to a great relationship. If not, breaking these guidelines will divide you, rewound your partner, and diminish your love.
Instead, what you need to be fighting for is love. Fight each day to be more loving than the last. Battle the inner tendencies to lash out carelessly; resist the human propensity to prove you’re right. Love is worth fighting for. Nothing is worth destroying the love between two people.
Rules of Engagement in Conflict
RULE #1: Never use the “D” word.
When we take our vows, we say “for better or for worse.” So, don’t go throwing around divorce when a situation goes awry or when you feel hurt and angry with your partner. By threatening divorce, it creates a tremendous lack of safety in a marriage. It’s a form of mental and emotional blackmail, even if you don’t mean it. Agree with one another to avoid such threats. And if your fights are out of hand and frequent, get professional help. If you’re unhappy, remember happiness is an inside job and your responsibility, not your partner’s!
RULE #2: Avoid turning past vulnerable moments shared between you into poisonous darts.
Sometimes couples twist and sling at their partner things that the other shared when feeling safe, vulnerable, and connected. For instance, your partner discloses to you that her previous boyfriend used to make fun of her by calling her fat, and she hated it. So when you're angry, you poke and tease her for putting some extra pounds on. Or your spouse shares that there wasn’t any affection growing up, so showing affection doesn’t come naturally.
If you turn these tidbits into darts of sarcasm or zingers when upset, trust is broken. Your partner may be less likely to share their tenderness with you in the future. Chill out before you say something that you will regret!
Related reading: "How to Use Empathy to Strengthen Your Marriage"
RULE #3: Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Most fights in relationships are fueled by taking ourselves too seriously. We are all different, so conflict is natural. However, when we make being right more important than being close, we sacrifice understanding and an opportunity for emotional intimacy. Being right while making your partner wrong only creates distance, hurt, and an obstacle to meaningful conversation. And the more you fight, the less you listen and the taller the walls of protection you must scale.
When I got married, I had to learn restraint from scratch. Growing up in a family that waged elaborate, mean, and long-winded arguments trained me to wager intellectual battles. I made a single vow to myself that I would not use my razor-sharp, verbal artillery against my husband. This decision turned out to be instrumental in my personal growth as well as created much more safety in our relationship.
When communicating with him, one of the things that helped me to disengage in arguments was learning to say, “You might be right about that.” This little phrase diffused a disagreement while building flexibility, and dare I say a little humility. Trust me; my ego took quite a few hits before I was able to truly hear his perspective. However, calming my emotions, seeking to understand, and adding a dash of humor turned out to be a life-changing practice.
Choose actions that nurture your relationship instead of damage it.
Make kindness and respect a high priority—even a habit! Create your rules of engagement as a couple to nourish the love that brought you together.
Related reading: "Is Your Relationship Stuck in a Rut?"
And if you’d like some personalized support and greater emotional fitness in your relationship, contact Heartmanity today. Helping to create thriving relationships is what we specialize in!