Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rules of Engagement

Even in times of war, there are specific rules about what you can and cannot do.  If there are guidelines for how to fight a battle with "real" weapons, doesn't it make sense to have rules of engagement when it comes to our relationships?  Don't we owe it to our spouse to fight fair? 

It's to be expected that couples will fight.  Let's face it; you can't live with someone and deal with all the stresses of life without having disagreements from time to time.  Now, I'm no expert on marriage by any stretch of the imagination, but I have figured out in my 5 1/2 years of wedlock that most fights spiral out of control and cause the most damage due to one thing:  selfishness. It can take no more than a second to go on the attack or to assume a defensive position of what is "yours."  Next thing you know, you're arguing about something completely different than the original conflict because it's become a battle where each party is defending themselves.

My husband and I don't live in a bubble where things are always perfect, so of course we fight.  Here are some strategies we employ to attempt to fight fair, our "Rules of Engagement."

  • No Name-Calling - The only names we should be calling our spouse are the ones on their birth certificate or a nickname of endearment.  Insulting or hateful name calling is a weapon of bullies and has no place in a marriage whatsoever. 
  • Listen - We try to listen to what the other person is actually saying without reading between the lines.  Assumption only leads to trouble.
  • Winning doesn't matter - Despite the opinion of the immortal Vince Lombardi, winning isn't everything when it comes to marriage.  If you reach a resolution calmly and lovingly, you both win.  Staying angry makes you both lose.
  • Confront the problem - Something we really struggle with is avoiding the conflict.  Avoid words like "whatever" and "if you say so."  These avoidance strategies do nothing but frustrate the other party and sweep the problems under the rug to fester for a later time.  Deal with it now and finish it before going to bed or one needs to leave.
  • Fight with Love - Even though you're worked up and angry during a fight, it is crucial to remember that you love this person.  Nothing helps quench the flames of a heated argument more quickly than love.  A fight of ours was once stopped dead in its tracks by a spontaneous hug.  Ten seconds later we were calmed down, discussing the problem rationally, and apologizing. 
  • Nobody over the age of 12 should wear glitter eyeshadow - Completely irrelevant, but important nonetheless.  :)
It's very easy to forget the rules when things are reaching a fever pitch.  Sometimes we just need to step back and remind ourselves that it isn't a competition of husband vs. wife.  We're in this together and we need to fight fair! 

P.S.  Check out Dustin's post on Engaged Marriage for his take on the rules of fighting fair.  I didn't read it until after I wrote mine at we clearly were thinking along the same lines! 

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