QUOTE: “Your relationship should be a safe haven, not a battlefield, the world is hard enough already.”
When Joe and I started dating, I knew I wanted to communicate more successfully than I had in previous relationships. I experienced both ends of the spectrum, from someone totally ignoring me and not talking to me for days to someone screaming and yelling in my face and threatening me, and of course, everything in between. There were sides of myself I did not like to see, and I longed for ways to express what I was truly feeling and to be able to problem solve civilly.
It is unfair when someone ignores their partner. It is a way to control another as they never clearly state expectations, and the partner is left guessing what is wrong. In this scenario, the one doing the ignoring can stop talking for any reason, or not at all. The one being ignored is left in a constant state of stress and worry, walking on eggshells wondering, “is that why they’re mad at me?” In other words, it is a moving target.
In the second scenario, when someone is screaming or yelling, the other partner tends to shut down and may move into a corner; or they might come screaming back in a defensive mode. Neither partner can hear what is being said, and nothing but more hurt, anxiety and stress are put on the relationship. Often this leads to irreparable damage.
Wouldn’t you like an opportunity to communicate expectations and misunderstandings in a way that something action and/or change actually takes place?
ENTER: FAIR FIGHTING RULES.
Once I communicated to Joe that I wanted something different in this relationship, he readily agreed. If every sport and game have a set of rules of participation which creates emotional safety, fairness, and predictable outcomes, it seemed especially important that the game of love and communication would need the same kind of guidelines. Together, we created a list of “Fair Fighting Rules.” Each of us stated what we needed to happen or not happen when expressing ourselves from a state of frustration or anger.
We have broken up these rules into three parts. The idea is that you can take them in bits and pieces. You can then add on as the other rules become second nature, or as you see fit. The most important part in all of this is to ensure your strategies are landing with your partner in a constructive and healthy way. If either of you are not getting what you want or it’s not working, sit down and reanalyze things and try something different. Your communication is in a constant state of evolving.
Some of these you might relate to, while others you might not. See if any resonate with your or at least give you a springboard of ideas for your own set of rules.
1. No name calling. This is just mean and counterproductive… In the heat of the moment, even a pet name can be used in a negative way. It’s a direct way to hurt someone and puts a wall between you.
2. Don’t walk away. In other words, don’t leave the immediate area. Instead, ask for a “time out” and step into a neutral zone. By doing this, it will immediately diffuse the tension and negative energy.
We created this rule because when someone would storm off and leave the area, it can leave the other person feeling abandoned and hopeless things wouldn’t get cleared up.
By asking for a break and stepping to a neutral zone, it lets the other person know you need to regain clarity, understanding and perspective, while also offering the other partner emotional safety.
Give these two rules a try when you face the next challenge in your relationship. And stay tuned for part two, where we can dive into a few more rules and build upon these skills!