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.

Soft Start-ups

Research has shown that arguments that start off harshly will result in tension that is equal if not more intense than where it was when the argument began.  Starting discussions with your partner in a SOFT way is important and crucial to conflict resolution and maintaining emotional safety within the relationship.  Using a soft start-up is connected to happiness, emotional stability, and overall relationship success.

When you address something with someone in a less critical way by using a soft approach and do not place blame on the other person, that person is less likely to respond defensively.  When people feel attacked or blamed, they are most likely going to attack back or feel the need to defend themselves.

“94% of the time, the way a discussion starts determines the way it will end.”  – Dr. John Gottman

How does it work… a soft start-up?

  1. Use “I” statements. Starting statements with “I” feel less like a criticism (e.g. I feel hurt right now because of the decision made).

  2. Utilize the conversation to complain and share about your feelings, but do not blame the other person. No matter how wrong the other person is, approaching any conversation with criticism or blame is not productive.

  3. Describe what you feel and experience clearly and concisely, which can help your partner to understand your point of view.

  4. Be positive and polite. Adding in polite statements (e.g. I appreciate you really listening to me) can help in maintaining a positive connection between partners. Remember the rule of thumb, backed up by research, states having 5:1 positive to negative ratio is helpful in keeping a positive attitude during tough discussions.

  5. Address things as they come… don’t wait months and months to bring things up! If things are stored up over time, it can be overwhelming for both partners to address issues in an argument and increases the likelihood of escalation.

Soft start-ups and emotional safety are key components of a long-lasting relationship.

Strengthening Your Relationship by Accepting Your Partner’s Differences

In addition to using soft start-ups and practicing fair fighting, another effective tool to establish a healthy emotional environment and safety within a relationship is accepting your partner for who they are.  When stress is high or conflict is prominent, it can be easy to criticize your partner or point out their flaws.  However, for long-term relationship success, the practice of acceptance and accepting your partner for all that they are promotes understanding, respect, and relationship success.

Below are several ways that can help to promote acceptance of your partner:

  1. Treat your partner with respect, love, and care. Respect, love, and care for your partner as a human being. Remember the golden rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated.

  2. Accept your partner’s flaws and embrace their strengths. No one is perfect! Acknowledge your partner’s strengths and what they bring to the table.

  3. Respect your partner’s beliefs and value their opinions… even if they are different than yours. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and values. It is okay to agree to disagree.

  4. Encourage and guide your partner to grow. You cannot force your partner to change, but you can be their biggest cheerleader in supporting and guiding them to their goals.

  5. Do not compare. Do not compare your partner to others, especially those you cared for and loved in the past.

  6. Understand your partner’s story, experiences, motivations, and intentions. Understand what unique life experiences have guided your partner’s decisions and maintain a steady foundation of trust they will do the right thing.

  7. Love them for who they are. Remember what made you fall in love and the happiness their love has brought to your life.

  8. The past doesn’t define everything. People make mistakes. Don’t judge your partner based on their past. Focus on who they are now and who they are growing to be.

  9. Be patient. Long-term growth and maturity takes time. Guide your partner towards success.

  10. Acknowledge your partner’s growth and success. Knowing your partner’s past and personal struggles, be proud of the growth they have achieved!

Acceptance and emotional safety are key components of a long-lasting 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!

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