Tag Archives: managing conflict

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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Turning Down the Heat in Your Marital Argument

We’ve acknowledged by now that every couple disagrees, but sometimes an argument gets out of hand and moves to another level you hadn’t intended. Gretchen Rubin lists “23 Phrases to Help You Fight Right” on a recent post, but says the best strategy is to use humor and joke around if things are getting to heated. If that doesn’t work, try one of these:

Please try to understand my point of view.
Wait, can I take that back?
You don’t have to solve this—it helps me just to talk to you.
This is important to me. Please listen.
I overreacted.
I see you’re in a tough position.
I can see my part in this.
I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
I could be wrong.
Let’s agree to disagree on that.
This isn’t just your problem, it’s our problem.
I’m feeling unappreciated.
We’re getting off the subject.
You’ve convinced me.
Let’s take a break for a few minutes. [If you can remember to do this, it’s extremely effective – especially if you’re having a big fight. After a break, it’s almost impossible to go back to yelling.]
Please keep talking to me.
I realize it’s not your fault.
That came out all wrong.
I see how I contributed to the problem.
What are we really fighting about?
How can I make things better?
I’m sorry.
I love you.

If you can’t see yourself willing to say many of these, perhaps that is part of the problem. Do you have a phrase or strategy that works well for you?