Rules for Fair Fighting | Communication | Blog | Better Marriages | Educating Couples - Building Relationships

Rules for Fair Fighting

by Priscilla and Greg Hunt, PhD
Adapted from Ground Rules for Handling Conflict, John A. Larsen, PhD

In a close relationship, conflict is inevitable. In fact, if handled well, conflict can result in our becoming even closer. (see How to Use Conflict to Bring You Closer). A wise, pro-active approach to conflict is to discuss these ground rules in a relaxed atmosphere – before your next conflict has erupted.

The “rules” below are general rules that, if followed, will benefit all relationships. You and your spouse may want to include additional rules – rules customized for your relationship. Include rules that address your particular vulnerabilities – those especially tender places – and write them in the blanks provided.

You might find it helpful to post these on your fridge or mirror to be reminded of them often and to be able to refer to them when needed.

Rules for Fair Fighting

  1. Agree on a time and place . . . Don’t jump into conflict before both are ready, and don’t put off conflict indefinitely.
  2. Speak for self . . . Don’t put words in your partner’s mouth.
  3. Use self-disclosing “I” statements . . . Don’t make accusing “You” statements.
  4. Take responsibility for your feelings and actions . . . Don’t blame your partner or others for what you feel or do.
  5. Attack the problem . . . not the person.
  6. Take your partner’s point of view seriously [try to understand your partner’s point of view—their thoughts, feelings, and wants]. Don’t assume you have a corner on the truth.
  7.  Share your own thoughts, feelings, and wants . . . Don’t withhold important information.
  8. Put your anger into words . . . Don’t resort to force, intimidation, or violence – ever.
  9. Focus on the problem at hand . . . don’t bring up the past or bundle together a collection of issues.
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More Reading: Couple Conflict: Attitude is Everything