ROE (Rules of Engagement)
by Fire God, Polyamorous Percolations member

Fire God is a member of this online community who frequently submits articles to us. While he does not submit monthly, his works are included here for reference.

Previous submissions from this author can be found in the Monthly Columns archives.

A nice military term applied to relationships. The rules of engagement (military/police) refer to when and how much force is to be used in given situations. Usually well thought out and in black and white with lots of research etc. behind it, a good thing overall.

The "rules of engagement" on a relationship level is another animal all together. Every relationship you have has them, you may not know it but they are there. Also known as conflict resolution and other names; they are the tools that are used in relationships, from when to talk about dinner to how to deal with kid issues. Here I am going to concentrate on relationship conflict resolution rules of engagement. These are the lessons that I have learned over the years from living for ten plus years with one of the best argument makers on the planet; not to mention a few therapy sessions. Your mileage may vary.

Respect, respect, respect

Treat all the parties involved with respect (read no personal attacks i.e. “you are a horses ass”). You must remember that to get respect it also must be given and in a conflict this is even more so the case. No respect means no resolution means game is over.

Common ground

Find the common ground from which to build on. The most common ground is that you want the relationship to work. From that extrapolate to where you want to go.

See the opposition’s view point

If you can see the opposition’s side of things then a true understanding can be reached and good things can come out of bad situations.

The past is the past

Unless the conflict is a repeating nature then let sleeping dogs lie. However if the dogs are eating at you save for another time to bring up and deal with. Stay on task/topic resolve the current before the past. If you are dealing with a recurrent nature issue, then get to the heart of the matter and stop getting the surface stuff mixed in with it. Also the recurrent issues tend to be really deep insecurities/wounds/phobias etc. that may need a professional brought in (not always but from what I have seen tends to run that way).


Listening with an open heart is required for a true resolution. What ever tools that are needed to make that a reality use them. I have used mirroring with success and other tools as well. What ever it takes to truly hear what is being said is what you need to use.

Speak without reservation on topic.

You are in a conflict and it is being fought over what is the worst that is going to happen if you let it be known that a particular thing (relevant to the discussion) bothers you? You might actually get to the root of the problem is what. Keep it on topic and relevant and see what happens.

Know when to break it off

Whether physically or mentally, there are times to break off the “engagement”. Other pressing issues like eating/kid needs to go to hospital/loss of control due to ANGER are examples. Agree to break it off to come at the issue again fresh later. When exercising this rule remember rule #1 do it with respect.

Variants of these rules are found in everyday life and in all relationships, now that you have them spelled out you can negotiate with those around you how to apply them.