couple-talkingHave you ever noticed that every professional fighting sport such as boxing or MMA has guidelines? These rules and regulations are put in place to keep the fight fair and safe. A few examples include not biting, kicking between the legs, gauging of eyes, etc. Obviously, conflict with your spouse is not physical but there is an ethical and an unethical way to approach disagreements. Arguments in the home have the potential to tear a marriage apart or even worse, divide an entire family.

The words that you speak are permanent and cannot be taken back. Here are 7 ways to fight above the belt that can help guide you and your partner through healthy conflict resolution.

1. Avoid dysfunctional communication.
Sometimes when we get offended or hurt, we lash out verbally. Name calling, swearing, insulting, demeaning, and blaming all fall into dysfunctional communication. It is impossible to have a clean fight when you are just to trying to get a reaction from the other person.

 2. Be willing to compromise.
Find win-win situations! You will never accomplish anything in an argument if you are dead set on having it “your way”! Resolving arguments takes compromise. You are combining “your way” and “your partner’s way” to make it “our way”. Regardless of what you might think and what stereotypes tell you, there is not one person who is always right in arguments. Each person is entitled to their position and how they feel, but you have to be able to meet somewhere in the middle. You both deserve to feel heard and respected in every situation.

3. Don’t verbally and emotionally withdrawal.
Lashing out verbally at your partner is one extreme to fighting dirty, but completely withdrawing from them is another. Sweeping the mess under the rug does not mean that the mess is dealt with. Actually, withdrawing and not resolving issues causes the mess to build up and will develop resentment in your relationship. If you are in a heated argument you can remove yourself from the situation to calm down and regain your cool, but it is important to resolve arguments before going to bed and beginning a new day.

4. Don’t bring up past offenses as ammunition.
If you are still hurt or offended about a previous situation do not use it in the current argument to make the other person feel guilty. Bring that offense up on another occasion when you are both in better condition to have a constructive conversation.

5. Learn to apologize.
Apologizing is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. It takes maturity, humility and self-awareness to admit your wrongdoing in a situation and apologize. There is a stereotype that men need to be macho and need to maintain a manly facade. Holding to this stereotype could cost you your relationship. Men and women both need to learn to apologize effectively to see their relationship grow and flourish. For more information, visit Dr. Gary Chapman’s website on the five languages of apology.

 6. Learn to forgive.
Have you ever had an argument with your spouse where you both apologized and you thought that the argument was resolved but you remained offended? This remaining offense lingers because you haven’t yet forgiven your partner. Forgiveness removes the wedge that a hurt or offense creates between you. It is the glue that helps to put things back to their original form before any cracks or blemishes were formed and can even make the bond stronger than it was in the first place. Instead of building resentment towards your spouse and acting out of spite towards them, try forgiving them and experience the wall that comes down both in your heart and in theirs.

7. Love unconditionally.
Love is not meant to have conditions placed on it. It is supposed to be freely given and freely received. You are not supposed to love your partner only when they are agreeing with you or making you feel happy—you must love them unconditionally. So often when fighting we find ourselves putting conditions on our love. I challenge you to examine your thoughts, have you ever done this? Have you ever withheld love because you haven’t gotten your way or because you were frustrated? Loving your partner includes loving them in their time of weakness as well as strength.

If you follow these guidelines when having a disagreement you may find it easier to maintain love and intimacy with your partner. Fighting above the belt doesn’t allow room for resentment and division but instead leaves both parties feeling heard, respected and loved.

This article was originally written for and posted on