Rebuilding Emotional Safety: Fair Fighting (Part 1)

Generally, rules and guidelines are designed to provide structure and a working understanding of how to act/behave in any given environment (i.e. rules for sports, traffic laws for drivers, and behavior expectations for employees).  The same principle applies to the rules for fair fighting when it comes to couples.  Fair fighting rules are purposeful and create an emotionally safe environment for couples when discussing important matters.  Moreover, with fair fighting rules in place, it allows couples to handle conflict cooperatively and respectfully, which long-term can help to build and/or rebuild emotional safety and connection. 

Below are some fair fighting rules intended to help couples have difficult conversations while still maintaining emotional safety:

  • Before entering the conversation, identify what you are feeling and what caused you to have that feeling.

  • Taking responsibility for your feelings by using “I” statements (i.e. I feel nervous when you raise your voice at me).

  • Do not use degrading or offensive language.

  • Be specific and concise. Discuss one issue at a time.

  • Take turns talking without interruptions.

  • Do not stonewall or shut down.

  • If necessary, take timeouts. Timeouts are necessary… BUT there is a difference between walking away and taking a timeout.

  • Be aware of your verbal and nonverbal language (i.e. no yelling or posturing with yours hand across your chest).

  • Try to negotiate or come to a compromise where both partners feel heard and validated.

Again, emotional safety is a key component of a long last relationship.  A licensed mental health professional can greatly help clarify the above rules and help you apply them to your relationship. If you and your partner are feeling disconnected, please give me a call and I would love to help you rebuild the relationship you want and deserve!