10 Relationship Rules of Engagement to help your relationship to survive a disagreement
Why Do We Need Rules?
The military, the police, professional boxers, and martial artists, all must adhere to rules of engagement in their respective zones of conflict. These rules define what the acceptable use of force is.
If the military used nuclear weapons every time they wanted to achieve success, ultimately no one would survive. Similarly, you can’t “go nuclear” on your partner during a fight if you want the relationship to survive.
Rules of engagement are important in your relationship to create a sense of safety. When you know that no matter how heated your argument gets, your partner will not throw the meanest words or nearest object at you, you can engage with trust.
What Are the Rules?
In my book, Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less, I explain why we fight, how it happens and what to do about it. Right here and now my objective is to give you a specific set of rules that you and your partner can agree on, as a goal for your relationship.
It is true that how you and your partner treat and respond to each other will dictate much of how it feels to be in the relationship. It is equally true that how you treat and respond to each other during an argument will have a lot to do with your relationship’s long term success.
The following rules will help create the trust that is the foundation of a safe environment in which to disagree. They are written as promises you can make to each other.
The 10 Relationship Rules of Engagement
1. I will not raise my voice
2. I will not interrupt or talk over you
3. I will not criticize or call you a mean name
4. I will not issue an ultimatum in the heat of a fight
5. I will not blame you for my own behavior or reactions
6. I will not walk away before agreeing on when I will talk again
7. I will not threaten to leave, separate or divorce when I am upset
8. I will take ownership for the hurt I contribute to and apologize
9. I will work to avoid being defensive or justify my actions
10. I agree to keep the discussion focused on the topic issue
It might be stereotypical to suggest that women push for intimacy and men push for sex. Yet, there is some truth behind this. In romantic relationships, there is a pull and push dance that happens between intimacy and sex. To understand how this plays out in a relationship, let’s first let’s define what intimacy is.
Intimacy is . . .
- Emotional – sharing thoughts and feelings (aka vulnerability) and receiving empathy
- Physical – reaching for the other for closeness and reassurance, not to initiate sex
- Sexual – Yes, that means actual sex (as defined by each partner)
Men and Women Define Intimacy Differently
While I’m referring to the stereotypical male/female roles here, note that any gender could play either role. However, for the most part, women want and need an emotional connection with their partner to feel loved and secure. When they feel emotionally connected and safe enough, they will want physical closeness. When all that’s flowing, sex is a natural progression because of a desire for an even deeper closeness.
Men? Well, most men struggle to talk about their feelings. Hugs, hand holding, snuggles, and cuddles aren’t always easy to ask for or comfortable to do. Yet, men know how to ask for sex! When a man receives sex from their partner, they get a huge whopping dose of acceptance. Ah, good. This means everything is okay! Right? No. Herein lies the problem.
The Cycle of Neglect and Rejection
If she doesn’t feel emotionally connected, she will rebuff the man’s attempts to initiate sex. Why? She does not want to communicate that everything is okay! She’ll reject the kiss, avoid closeness, and be emotionally prickly – all attempting to communicate that everything is not okay. Most men do not cultivate the emotional safety and connection that women need in order to either want sex or want to give sex to them.
What happens next? The man feels rejected, pulls away and doesn’t cultivate emotional connection (and thus emotional safety). She feels ignored or abandoned and therefore hurt. Then when his libido builds and he attempts to initiate sex again, because he has been distant instead of focusing on connection, guess what happens? He’ll get rejected again! She’ll then trust his efforts to connect less and less.
This neglect and reject pattern quickly creates resentment in each partner and needs addressing.
How to Solve the Sex vs. Intimacy Puzzle
If sex is a problem in your relationship, start working to ensure the emotional connection is secure. Learn to share your thoughts and feelings. Learn to be an empathetic listener – empathy is the ‘magic lube’ of relationships! Be a kind and attentive partner. Be a devoted partner. This may not fix everything and it won’t be a fast fix. However, I’m sure if you do this, you’ll be in a far better place to work on the physical closeness and sex in your relationship.
Marlon Familton, MA LMHC is a relationship counselor working to help couples navigate the choppy waters of love and romance. Author of the book, “Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less!”
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Learn More
Resentment is a highly toxic poison that will kill your relationship if you don’t find a way to release it. When you feel unfairly treated, you’ll become angry. When anger is mixed with a sense of betrayal, you’ll feel resentment.
How Resentment Builds
It’s easy to understand how resentment can occur in a relationship after an event like infidelity. Resentment can also grow over time when your partner is unresponsive to you. Being rejected over and over, ignored over and over, or criticized over and over – these actions break the trust you thought you had. They key trust in any relationship is: you won’t hurt me on purpose. You’ll have my back.
If you’re feeling resentful, you’re also hurt, angry and don’t trust your partner. Your brain will start working to solve the problem because it doesn’t want you to be alone. Unfortunately, no choice seems to lead to happiness. A part of you may want to leave the relationship because I don’t deserve to be treated this way and I can do better. Another part probably wants to kick them out so they will feel the hurt too. There’s likely a part of you probably doesn’t want to leave because of the commitment you made. Still, yet another part of you doesn’t want to act in a way that is retaliatory because that’s not who you are. You’re hurt and you’re stuck!
The Best Way to Release Resentment
The best way through resentment is to be able to express your hurt and upset-ness with your partner. This means they must be able to listen, be empathetic, own their part, feel bad for that part and hurt they contributed to (or caused) and make a commitment to change that will put the rules of love and security back in place. If they can do this, you’ll start to believe they care about how you feel. When you feel understood, when they can own their part, you can start to believe they won’t hurt you again.
This is a tricky part because if when you express your true thoughts and feelings they become defensive, dismissive, blaming or move into their own guilt and shame, you won’t leave the conversation feeling understood and therefore better. The ability to put one’s own feelings aside to be compassionate with the other and take ownership for one’s contribution are key attributes of a strong relationship. You’ll think, if they don’t understand, they might hurt me again. You won’t be able to let the resentment go.
If Your Partner Won’t Understand, What Can You Do?
If you must deal with it alone because your partner can’t or won’t be compassionate, one way to work on resentment is by setting boundaries. You may need to make changes to the rules of your relationship or even make structural changes to your routine. You’ll need to figure out what you need to feel better and then go to your partner and let them know what you need to be okay again. Perhaps you need to take over all the finances, or perhaps you need a night out for “me” time. Whatever it is, what do you need to put trust and fairness back in place? Then with follow through comes trust, one bite at a time.
You Can Choose
Another way to work through resentment on your own is through brute force. Choose to take your power back by choosing to own your choice. When you accept a situation because you choose to in some way, you can feel better about the situation because you’re not powerless.
Make a decision by finishing the sentence, “I choose to _______________. “ “I choose to stay in this relationship because I love my partner and want to make it work.” Now you are making an empowered choice. Own that choice and don’t blame your partner for your own choices.
Resentment has the toxic potential to unwind your relationship because it blocks partners from moving toward each other to repair deep hurts. Many couples who come into counseling find they waited too long. Don’t let this be you! If you or your partner is resentful and can’t work through it together or alone, find a good counselor to help.
Working through this can be hard, and it is critical to your relationship’s long-term health, happiness and security.
Marlon Familton, MA LMHC is a relationship counselor working to help couples navigate the choppy waters of love and romance.
Author of the book, “Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less!”
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Learn More
Want to increase your relationship intimacy?
Ask, when is the last time you flirted with your partner?
Remember the honeymoon phase when you looked into each other’s eyes, shared vulnerable things about yourself, touched, kissed, and were intimate? If you want to increase your intimacy? It’s time to flirt with your partner! Flirting is part of the process that communicated I want you!
What happened to your relationship?
Life is busy, so at some point, you probably took your foot off the gas pedal and began to cruise. As a result, the little things that made your relationship extra special, such as flirting, probably stopped.
“I’m too busy!” is the mantra of our times. That’s a mistake. Time to get your mojo back!
What is flirting?
According to the Google dictionary, flirting is defined as “to behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone.” The rest is interesting, “…but for amusement rather than with serious intentions.”
Since we’re talking about flirting with your romantic partner, forget that last part. Focus on things that are about behaving as though you’re trying to attract your partner, and you’ll do okay. This is about increasing your intimacy and communicating I want you.
I know, you’re thinking, but I don’t know how to flirt? I just did a web search for “how do I flirt with my spouse” and received 2.7 million hits in 0.72 seconds.
So, “I don’t know how” doesn’t work in the age of the internet.
How to flirt with your partner
Here’s the short course on how to start flirting again:
1. Do it out-of-the-blue
2. Leave a note or send a text
3. Compliment them personally
4. Touch them non-sexually – be loving
5. Touch them sexually suggestive – if appropriate
6. Look into their eyes and say something about how much you desire them
In my book, Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less! I break fixing relationships into two parts. 1. Stop hurting each other. 2. Start connecting. If you work on this list, you’ll be on your way to keeping the honeymoon phase going forever.
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue Washington.Learn More