Creating Rules of Engagement
Setting the Stage:
(Suggestions for setting a safe environment in which an argument may take place.)
- The husband and wife should set all rules only. No third parties should be involved in setting or enforcing rules. No, “We’ll see what mother has to say about that”, or ‘My best friend George says a wife ought to…”.
- Discussing important matters in front of the children could be a useful teaching tool. It is important for children to see two people treating each other with respect and calmly settling/resolving a matter. However, remember children learn more from what they see/experience than what they are told. Therefore arguments/fighting (without respect for each other) in front of the children/teens should not take place since the child/teen will learn to resolve issues in a like manner.
- Discover and discuss any marital rules. Try to figure out what they are, how they are developed, how they are enforced. It is always best to approach this discussion at a time when each spouse is well rested and there is time available for the discussion.
- Set a time after which all heavy discussions are not allowed to begin or to be carried on, unless agreed upon by both parties. Arguing into the wee hours the morning, usually does not prove to be beneficial for either party.
- For example, no heavy discussions are allowed to begin or to be carried on after 10 o’clock at night, unless each party agrees the discussion is necessary at that time.
- Any discussion may be set aside and come back to at an agreed upon time.
- The moment one party begins to feel defensive, or to yell, or to feel very angry, it is okay for that person to say “I need to talk about this later” and take a break from the discussion. However, that person should express what “later” means. Once the argument has escalated into a yelling match generally, the issue that is being discussed is lost in the need to be right.
- For example, one party may feel they are too tired, too upset, etc., to continue the discussion and may express the need to talk about later, when they are able to think more clearly. However, it is at this point that they should let the other party know when they anticipate returning to the discussion.
- Never ask a “LOADED” questions 15 minutes prior to your (or your spouse) leaving/arriving from/to any particular destination. “LOADED” questions/conversations should be reserved for a time when each of you has sufficient time to process the issue at hand.
- No fair using love or sex as a weapon or punishment. No threats of or actual withdrawal of love or sex as a punitive measure.
- As soon as possible, get rid of any garbage pile of bad feelings from the past, by opening and talking.