Couple getting marriage help in counseling.

In Part 1 of this post, we offered marriage help by talking about becoming aware of how you deal with conflict. Doing this informs what kind of ground rules and boundaries you should set up to make your arguments with your partner fairer.

However, even without those specifics, there are four general concepts that everyone should employ when trying to “fight fair” with their partner. When you can figure out a way to incorporate all of these techniques into your communication style together, we can assure you that you will see positive results.

Marriage Help: Four Universal Ground Rules for Couples Who Decide to Fight Fair

Remain Calm 

Although the initial release of an outburst can often feel better than refraining from it, remaining calm – expressing your feelings in words instead of actions – is always a more effective way to get your partner to consider your side of things.

Easier said than done? Of course it is. That’s why you’re reading this for marriage help! What can you do to maintain your calm?

One useful tip is to practice separating yourself from the situation. Imagine when conflict arises that it’s happening between your friend and their spouse instead of yourself. This technique can initially help ease the tendency to overreact in difficult situations. 

Work Fully in the Realm of Reality

We know… we just told you to imagine it’s not you in the middle of a conflict! How is that “reality”? Fair enough. But once you’re in a calm head-space, it is best to avoid “make-believe.” 

To reach a conflict resolution, you must be specific and honest about what is really eating at you. No superlatives. Stick to the facts about what really happens and the way it makes you feel, and provide your partner with suggestions that would make it better for you instantly. 

Pro tip? “Never” and “always” are rarely true when used to describe the way your partner acts. Worse, these kinds of exaggerations (even when they are unintentional) put success farther away from you and your partner’s grasp. Work hard to avoid using them.

Address One Issue at a Time 

Although this one issue may feel like the perfect time to point out five other things that have just been on your mind, don’t do it. Don’t convince yourself that those other things are kind of sort of related, either. They’re not, and your partner definitely won’t see it that way.  

Stick to the one, singular issue, and do not introduce any other things that are bothering you until the first one is fully discussed. 

When you’re just beginning to practice fighting fair, sometimes we tend to bring up all that we’ve been harboring in this new-found safe place for conflict resolution. But unloading everything at once is incredibly counterproductive. 

Somewhat related: if an issue hasn’t come up in quite a while, but it’s still on your mind, consider whether it’s really an issue any longer. With some things, there comes a time to just let it go. 

Don’t Let the Issue Get Buried

Sometimes, you and your partner won’t be able to fully address a singular issue immediately.

Don’t just drop it, put a pin in it – out loud – and set a time with your partner to come back to it if possible. This will help both of you to avoid stockpiling your grievances. Additionally, it gives you both the satisfaction of sharing and feeling heard in the short term. 

Finding Your Unique Boundaries Isn’t Always Easy

Here at the Center for Marriage and Family Relationships, we’ve offered marriage help for couples in every stage in their relationship. We understand that finding your unique boundaries and establishing an effective and fair way to fight isn’t always easy. 

If you and your partner – despite your best efforts – are finding your conflicts seemingly insurmountable, we might be able to help. 

An Imago-based couples workshop or a few private sessions can help guide you toward a strong, healthy relationship with both of you at the center of it.