Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fair Rules Of Engagement

Fair Rules Of Engagement

The art of couples' conflict resolution

By Mark Allison MFT


A misconception couples often make when they come to therapy is that they are there to resolve differences.  They may feel having a third person i.e. a therapist come in between them to act as an 'emotional referee' may be helpful.  The reality is that any time two people choose to live and share their lives together there will be times that they will upset each other and ultimately have arguments about it. 

So the goal is not necessarily to prevent arguments but rather to learn how to argue or disagree in a away that is safe, productive and healthy.  There are different terms for this skill set, it is often referred to as conflict-resolution or how to fight fairly

Listed below are the 12 'Rules of Engagement' I often give couples to work on when they struggle with how to fight fairly.

  1. Don't bring up something that bothered you from days or weeks ago now.   The contextual meaning will be lost. After 48 hours you need to move on to something newer.

  2. If something bothers you and your partner does not want to discuss it, schedule an time within a 24 hours to discuss it.  You don't have to stay up all night debating an issue when the both of you need sleep.

  3. Keep to the issue at hand, fighting fairly means that the both of you will stay within the topic being discussed

  4. Keep the argument between the two of you.  Don't bring 3rd parties in like sister-in-laws, ex-boyfriends etc.

  5. Fighting fair means you don't bring up past history,

  6. Avoid name calling.  Good or bad.  Be respectful to each other.

  7. Avoid humor or sarcasm.

  8. Listen instead of waiting to talk

  9. Try to use “I” statements instead of “You”

  10. Don’t interrupt

  11. Avoid using “Never” and “Always” in your statements to each other

  12. Be aware of your voice tone and refrain from raising your voice or screaming.