I first heard about the rules of fair fighting about fifteen years ago while attending a course on effective parenting. They made a lot of sense; name-calling is bad and so is keeping a list of past offenses. One rule grabbed my attention because it made sense and I have practiced it ever since, but let me tell you, that one rule has done more to convince me that fair fighting only works if everyone knows the rules.
In a nutshell, rather than criticize the actions of your partner, it’s better to say, “I feel x, when you do y.” It makes sense. I’m not saying that my partner is doing anything wrong by doing “y”. What I’m doing is describing my reaction, which I am responsible for, not my partner. The funny thing is that I’ve practiced this through three significant dating and committed relationships and no matter how carefully I word my “X/Y” statement, my partner always understands it as me blaming them for what is happening. Perhaps all the rule does is sugar coat it, without actually making it any easier to swallow.
Even therapists struggle with conflict in their relationships and don’t always manage to practice what they preach. So if they struggle, how to we manage conflict with our partners in such a way that we don’t tear apart the fabric of our relationship?
My partner in crime here at Tokii, explained a fighting fair rule that has worked for her and her partner for many years now. It’s simple, “Red, Yellow, Green”, if either partner is about to escalate in a discussion, the word “yellow” is a warning that it’s about to happen. That allows the other person, to make some choices about how to proceed. If the word “red” is used, the conversation must go into a “time out.”
It works for them. Would it work for me in my relationships? I don’t know I haven’t tried that particular one yet. What I do know is that both Tokii men (77%) and women (75%) think of importance to follow rules when arguing and if there is a way a couple can work resolving conflict, that’s got to be a good thing.
There are countless free resources on the Internet, suggesting an almost limitless number of ways to avoid irreconcilable conflict and they all won’t work for you and your partner. The simple answer is trial and error. Don’t be like me and latch onto one idea and work it for years, even though it didn’t work for me. Explore ways new ideas, try them out and if they work you great, pass them on to friends. If they don’t work, discard them and try something else until you hit on success.
I’d love it if you’d share what works for you, because when it comes to conflict, we can use all the help we can get.
*Statistics taken from actual Tokii community on January 26, 2012
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