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Couples: Fair Fighting

January 16, 2007

Ellie over at Coffee and Diapers had a post recently that caught my attention and I thought I would share with all of our women readers (and guys, too!).

I’m not married yet, but I think this post also applies to those couples who are dating or engaged, since this is a crucial preparation stage for marriage. In the year and a few months that I have been dating Michael, I have to say that we have had very few arguments and the important thing is that when we have actually had them, we have not resorted to name-calling or unnecessary insults, which makes it that much easier to reconcile later, because we have not forgotten our reverence and respect for each other. Arguing requires maturity and, in my case, I have to admit that Michael is the most mature one and he has taught me a lot about not leaving each other angry or resorting to the silent treatment. So men are just as important as women in arguing positively in a relationship. There is a healthy element about arguing, because it lets us express our concerns and what has been bothering us; however, we cannot keep these to ourselves for too long, because that is when we can hurt each other instead of heal each other once the argument takes place.

Ellie’s post is more directed to spouses, but I want to direct it to dating couples as well. Learning how to argue during the dating stage is so important, because if the relationship would lead into marriage, knowing how to argue with your spouse can be very beneficial for your family. This learning process takes time and this is why I personally support dating for some time before thinking of marriage. If during the dating stage, you have learned to control yourselves and not insult or disrespect each other, children will not have to experience the insecurities associated with seeing the two people they love the most expressing words of hatred. Yes, the arguments may be more important and substantial while you’re married, but still, dating can be a training ground for arguing.

Believe it or not, Ellie actually encourages you to argue with your spouse! How can this be? Let’s Ellie explain this to us in her own words:

It can be very healthy to unearth feelings and expectations and understandings that are operating under the surface of day-to-day life. I mean this in a way that takes into consideration the “rules” of arguing.

The “rules” of arguing she is talking about are the “fair fighting” rules by Kris and Marty Franklin. They go like this:

1. We are on the same side. We are a team. The goal is not for me to win. The goal is to solve the problem and to love you better.

2. Your feelings matter to me even if they are very different from mine. I will not judge your feelings. I will try to understand them and I will try to help you understand mine.

3. I will not shout, throw, or slam anything.

4. I will not be sarcastic, call you names, or swear.

5. I will never threaten or even hint at the possibility of divorce. We are in this together for life. If I need space to think, cool off, or pray, I’ll ask for it and go to another room. I will not leave the house in anger.

6. I will not ascribe motives to your actions. I cannot read your mind and won’t try.

7. I will keep quiet when you talk and listen to everything you say.

8. I will stick with this discussion for as long as it takes. If we can’t finish right now, I will make a date in the very near future to pick it up again. I will not leave problems unresolved.

9. I will not give you the silent treatment. I will do my best to express my thoughts and feelings so you can understand. I will not clam up. I will not pout or manipulate through guilt.

10. I will ask for clarification when I don’t understand you. I will not jump to conclusions.

11. I will not throw old sins in your face.

12. I will apologize quickly if I break any of the above rules and I will try to do better as we go along.

13. I will admit when I am wrong. I will say I’m sorry. I will ask for your forgiveness.

14. If the children overhear us I will apologize to each of them and explain that married people argue even when they love each other very much. I will assure them that I love you and that our family is not in any danger whatsoever. I will never make you out to be the bad guy.

15. If we can’t solve a problem on our own in a reasonable amount of time, I will agree to outside help.


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