Marriage is evolving. It is always changing in nature, and change is coming again. Women’s rights and anti-abuse laws gained key momentum in the last half of 20th century. This new “permission-based” marriage gave individuals the right to leave a marriage – a great tool to protect one’s health.
But the commitment to marriage is the same as before: creating a lasting partnership. So what’s next for marriage? A “skills-based” marriage. What if you could leave, but you’re not done playing yet? How do you overcome hurdles when you don’t want to leave? Try the ABCs of Fighting Fair in a 21st Century Marriage.
A – Approach with Skill
Diane Sollee at SmartMarriages.org coined the phrase ‘skills-based marriage.’ It means that you approach every problem with a question, “What can I learn here?” It means that marriage is improved dramatically by educating yourself. This revolutionary new approach will make you re-think marriage. It’s not about getting your way right now – It’s about learning something valuable from the situation you are in.
You will learn thousands of new skills from every relationship. The key is to shift your focus from your needs to your life lessons. What are you learning right now? What can you experiment with? What can you try out this time? Experiment and Practice till you master every skill you can.
B – Set Boundaries and Minimum Standards
A boundary is a line in the sand. No drugs. No smelling like smoke. No shouting in front of the kids. These are steadfast rules that establish your walk-away point in the relationship. If you don’t have the ability to leave, then you don’t have the ability to stay either. Boundaries establish a point at which leaving is acceptable.
A minimum standard is used when you have a spectrum or variable issue. Use a minimum standard with issues like the frequency of sex or how much money we make. You could say, “You have to make at least $1,000 a year, or I need to leave.” It’s not pretty, but it’s a bare minimum – a bottom line walk-away point for your relationship.
C – Use Similar Levels of Conveyance
Dr. John Gottman shows in his studies that some relationships have a high level of communication, and others have a more peace-keeping attitude. In my own marriage, I have a “tell all” policy. And that works great. I know of other powerful marriages with a “tell nothing” policy. According to Gottman, both approaches can work equally well.
I suggest that there is no ideal level of communication. But you must compromise and agree to keep the standard of communication level across the board. If one believes in full disclosure and the other in keeping the peace, you might find difficulties. Agree (verbally or non-verbally) on the same level of conveyance in your relationship.
D – Don’t Hit Below the Belt
What phrases are unacceptable under any circumstances? Have you said, “This phrase is unacceptable.” If not, then say it! Communicate clearly what’s below the belt, and stick by your guns. If you are a bit impish, and you like to push limits, then don’t push the limits of what’s below the belt. You will destroy your marriage.
E – End on a positive note
I always love the “sandwich principle” which I learned at Toastmasters International. The “sandwich principle” says that you should sandwich a criticism between two compliments. Now its true that you can mess this up. But the point of the principle is that the other person always walks away feeling positive. Be it from a compliment or just saying, I love you.
F – Forgive and Forget
This is easy to say, and hard to do. Check in with the frequency of the mistake. Does the mistake happen too often for you? What is the most you can tolerate of this happening? Once a week? Once a month? Once a decade?
If you continually embrace the moment, you will see your partner differently every day. You will learn how to fight fair and finally, learn to have fun being married!