Rules of Engagement


Couples each have their own methods of communication. And there are multiple factors that go into how we communicate, especially in our marriages or partnerships. Personalities, family history, past relationship experiences and even our mood of the day can impact how we relate to each other. Some couples just fight. No holds barred and lots of subsequent moody silences where neither party feels heard or understood. Or there are those that choose passive aggressive comments blended with silences. Everyone has different rules.

My husband and I did not come from families that had healthy marriage examples to look to so when we got together, we decided the best thing we could do is learn from the things we had witnessed in our parents’ marriages.

Over the years, my husband and I have developed a specific form of communication. We use it to allow ourselves to be honest with each other, knowing that we have specific boundaries and that once the discussion is over, there are no repercussions or stony silences. We call it an “Immunity Discussion.”

Basic Rules of an Immunity Discussion:

  • Listen to each other. I know that this is almost a cliché but it is truly effective. Listen with an ear towards understanding and empathizing with the other person.
  • Be kind. You can be honest and share thoughts and feelings but there is no need to sucker punch or hit below the belt. For example, you can say “I felt really hurt when I made such an effort to spend time with you last night and you ignored me the whole evening to play on your phone.” On the other hand, you can NOT say something like “You never pay any attention to me. It must be a trait you learned from your mother and her 3 previous failed marriages.”
  • Do not attack the other person. Remember that this is someone you love and who loves you. You need to be able to live with each other going forward. Honesty does not have to be intentionally painful.
  • You don’t get to throw past transgressions in each other’s face. If an issue has already been dealt with in the past, you need to leave it there and stay focused on the current situation.
  • Finally, you have to be able to really look at yourself and have a little bit of a thick skin. When you partner says that they felt a certain way about something, don’t get defensive. Step back and see if you can see that situation through their eyes. No one is perfect and you each have a right to your feelings and perspectives.

This Topic is Important

We don’t use the Immunity Discussion for everything but we know that when we do, it is important. When we come across a disagreement or particularly sensitive topic, one of says “let’s talk but this needs to be an immunity discussion.” This is our signal that the rules listed above are in play.

How do you and your partner communicate more effectively?

Previous articleA Home for Hospitality
Next articleCOSMB Cares: Disability Awareness Month
Becky is a Colorado native who lives on the east side of the Springs with her 4 year old son Sam, her husband Matt, and 3 dogs and 1 cat. She has been married for 15 years. She has worked in healthcare management for her entire working life and transitioned to working for herself from her home office 4 years ago. She is grateful for the flexibility that self-employment offers but still wishes for more hours in a day to get everything done. Becky has trouble saying no and loves to be involved with a cause or a purpose. If you need someone for a committee or to get things done, she is your girl. She still makes the time to be there for friends and family. When she is not caught up in the busy-ness of her life, she loves to cook, bake, read, craft, watch movies and, of course, write. She is obsessed with cooking shows and loves to try new recipes. Her husband is her willing guinea pig for her creations.