3.1 Rules to Marriage Fights

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There is No One-Size-Fits-All Regimen to Marriage Arguments, but These Are a Few Recommendations.


Some of the most challenging parts of a young marriage are the biases and preconceived notions that a partner will bring to a relationship from his or her parents. Yes, we come into a relationship very biased on how it needs to function; and that prejudice usually comes from our experience and observations with our parents.

If partners come from families with very different marriages, undoing the 20 plus years of indoctrination from the parents is not easy. Many young couples struggle to realize and understand that healthy relationships do not have a one-size-fits-all regimen for success.

Early on in our marriage, my wife and I sat down and talked about behaviors we did not want to see in our marriage based on observations of our parents.I  cannot say that we have it perfectly figured out, but we have developed 3.1 key rules that seem to work well for us:

1. Always and never

Open verbal fights were a part of my parents’ marriage, and I did not agree with it. I never want to fight with my spouse and try to avoid it when I can. However, when an argument does arise, we decided the following quote would be a key element in our language:

Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.”

Watch for the next time someone uses those words. You will almost always witness a rebuttal. An immediate defensive posture. Never and always are fighting words. They are absolutes and leave no room for a middle ground. We agreed to change an argument if we found ourselves using these words.

2. No character attacks

We also decided that, much like debate class, a character attack was an unacceptable point of argument. Arguments must be based on the individual’s experience or feelings. We cannot question the other’s intentions, nor attack the way he or she feels. Feelings are personal and must be shared to build understanding. If the relationship does not allow for an open conversation of feelings, it is likely the relationship will not last.

3. Time-out is allowed for shouting

If an argument ever escalates to shouting, we know that listening is no longer part of the argument. At this point, listening to understand is long gone. So, we agreed we could take a time-out when either one of us is shouting.

3.1 An important footnote to Rule 3—the time-out must end

I enjoyed the time-out rule for some time because I do not like shouting—and, as I feel is common with most men, I am not a big fan of discussing feelings. On top of that, I used the time-out as an indicator of the argument ending. We added this footnote to Rule 3 because closure is very important.

My wife’s mind does not clear completely until closure is reached. So, we agreed that once we were no longer shouting, we must end the time-out and resolve the matter. As difficult as it was for me to implement, it has greatly helped.

I am curious to know if anyone else has rules of engagement that have helped their marriage. Comment below!



This post comes from one of our guest relationship bloggers and the contents are not based in research or validated by the Relate Institute. Dr. Brian Willoughby, marriage and family expert here at Relate Institute, shares his three secrets for a happy life here.

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