Do You Have Boundaries for Fighting Fair?

Every marriage experiences some sort of conflict. We all differ in how we handle it. In some marriages, one person is aggressive, while the other is passive. In other relationships, both spouses do their best to avoid conflict, but they never address the underlying cause of arguments, instead merely sweep them under the rug.

For those who fight it out, or talk it out, or work it out, it helps to have a list of boundaries that are agreed upon ahead of time. Ideally, this list would be created early in a marriage, but if you don’t have one yet, use your personal history to guide you.

The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick recommends agreed-upon boundaries to prevent fracturing the relationship in a way you will regret when the heat of the argument cools off. When we are angry we can say very hurtful things, leaving a trail of pain and regret. The following are some of the book’s examples of boundaries both spouses might decide to follow:

1. We will never mention divorce.

2. We will not bring up old, unrelated items from the past.

3. We will never fight in public or in front of our children.

4. We will call a “time out” if conflict escalates to a damaging level.

5. We will never touch one another in a harmful way.

6. Failure is not an option. Whatever it takes, we will work this out.

The book also recommends creating your own personal list of to-dos, such as, “I will listen first before speaking,” or “I will keep my voice down when arguing.” At the end of a disagreement, you want to be healthier than you were before, not more splintered.

Some people need to be able to have time alone to think things through. For others, it’s important not to go to sleep angry. Decide what is helpful to you. Assess your relationship’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your own personalities. When have you become most angry with one another? Where might you need to agree on boundaries? Are there some areas you wish you had created boundaries?

When you need to reconnect after you have resolved a fight, consider the power of music.

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3 responses to “Do You Have Boundaries for Fighting Fair?

  1. Great post, Lori! I still need to read The Love Dare (we did watch Fireproof and really enjoyed it). These are fantastic examples of healthy boundaries.

    I wrote a post a few weeks ago with the “rules” for fighting fair in the form of an acronym. If you combine these boundaries with those rules, you should have “great” fights! :)

  2. Hi Lori, I found your site through The Marry Blogger contest. Congrats!

    I really like the idea of setting boundaries for fights. My husband and I have a lot of trouble fighting because we’re avoiders. Six years into our marriage, we’re now trying to learn how to fight so that things don’t go on suppressed. I think part of our issue is that we haven’t set boundaries–not that we would go too far with fighting but more boundaries to let us know how far we can go. We’re starting to learn what both of us need individually when we are “fighting”–like I need to be told that this fight doesn’t mean that he’s going to leave–so that we can feel free to say everything that has to be said to move forward. It’s very useful. Thanks for the great post!

  3. @Mrs. Levine Glad it was helpful. That reminds me of a couple I interviewed who separated after nearly 25 years of marriage. They had never learned how to fight, and both had some troubled childhoods that made them more likely to “stuff” their issues. After counseling and other significant changes, they rebuilt their marriage, and it now includes expressing their wishes as well as dislikes. They say that learning to fight was a big part of their healing.

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