Nearly every sport has rules in place to minimize the potential for injuries. Contact sports like football allow tackling, sacking, pushing and blocking. Yet, they don’t allow you to punch your opponent in the face during a play. They don’t allow you to kick your opponent while he’s down. It would be considered unnecessary roughness.
While there is some expected chaos, we see that there is also an order to it. This is what fans expect. In marriage, we can expect the same… some chaos. And if there isn’t an order to it, we may watch our relationships becoming excessively damaged. We must determine what “unnecessary roughness” is.
When we attempt to draw our lines, what should they look like? How far is too far? What is considered healthy and functional? What is potentially abusive or unfair? Let’s take a look at this.
Belittling or demeaning comments are never ok. We may even agree that it’s not ok to slam doors or throw things. We should agree not to stonewall someone even if we feel hurt by them. And of course, we should agree never to use physical power as a way of getting what we want.
Maybe “unnecessary roughness” can include sarcasm and exaggeration. Disrespectful looks, gestures and tones. Jabs at character. Threatening comments. You may even decide that if a fight gets too chaotic, that you or your spouse both have the right to respectfully walk away.
But I recommend that if you give each other the right to do this, you should preemptively establish when the discussion will resume. This will help you avoid sweeping things under the rug permanently, or prolonged periods of isolation. Just make sure that your rules are A. established. B. reasonable, and C. agreed upon.
When we’re hurting, we often see our hurt as justification to react poorly. But the simple fact is, no court of law justifies bad behavior by hurt feelings. You may feel someone has wronged you, but if you react poorly, it only puts you both in the wrong, and neither of you on the side of justice.
If you’re at the zoo and a monkey throws a banana at you, the remedy is never to start throwing bananas back. It doesn’t matter who started it. What matters is that you participated. When you participate in unfair gameplay, you only make a monkey of yourself.
When it comes to “fighting dirty”, perhaps the one rule you should have is; don’t participate! You’ll be glad later that you refrained from throwing your credibility away, even though in the moment, it was very tempting to do!
The sooner your boundaries are established, the better your “fights” will go, and the less your relationship will suffer. If you practice fair fighting, you’ll find there are always respectful (and more effective) ways to express your thoughts and feelings.
This post was an excerpt taken from my book, MARRIAGE IS WORK, which you can find out more about by clicking on the link below. I welcome any of your comments and, as always, greatly appreciate your interest and time!