Ground Rules for Healthy Conflict
Every relationship has disagreements. It’s how we handle those disagreements that counts. A bad argument can turn even a little problem into a big one, making it emotionally charged and painful.
This is where fair fighting rules come in. Fair fighting rules don’t tell us we can’t argue. Instead, they tell us how to do it safely. They tell us what’s okay—and what’s crossing the line—in an argument.
- Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset.
- Are you really angry because the dirty butter knife was left out again, or is it safe to argue about that instead of what you’re really upset about? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument and consider the values and dreams you’re really arguing about.
- HALTS: are you hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or sex grumpy?
- Discuss one topic at a time. You can’t catch 5 fish by hand at one time.
- No degrading language. Of the 4 Relationship Poisons, contempt is the most indicative of divorce.
- THINK: are my comments thoughtful, helpful, insightful, needed, and kind?
- Express your feelings with words.
- The first 3 minutes of a conversation tells us how the rest of the conversation will go. Here’s the formula for a gentle start up:
- I feel [emotion] when [situation or event] happens, I need [what you need], I appreciate your help.
- Take turns speaking
- One person is the speaker, the others are listeners. The listeners goal is to actively listen and summarize what they have heard. If something needs to be corrected, the speaker will try again. When the summary is good, switch roles
- No stonewalling
- When we become overwhelmed or have a lot of hopelessness it’s easy to shut down. Try to stay in the moment or call a ~30 minute time out to recenter.
- No yelling.
- This shows you are flooded with emotions and not thinking well, and your partner(s) will likely be so as well.
- Take a time out if things become too much
- When we go into fight of flight mode, the part of the brain that thinks and forms memories shuts down. Not only are you not yourself in those moments, you’re not a self at all, but a reactionary animal. Find something else to do, knowing you’ll come back to this very important conversation.
- You body needs at least 20 – 25 minutes after you stop thinking about the thing you’re upset about to filter out the adrenaline.
- Work on understanding, then compromising
Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Broken link? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to me here.