In premarital counseling, in our session on communication, I give each person an invisible whistle or yellow flag–whichever they prefer. It’s for calling fouls.

Folks who thrive at healthy communication and conflict resolution are in the habit of practicing the fundamentals (e.g., eye contact, respectful tone, active listening, restatement, etc.), and work hard to avoid fouls (e.g., interrupting, name calling, biting sarcasm, condescending tone, etc.). They also gently hold each other accountable by stopping the play, apologizing for the foul, and then getting back to work.

When you’re experiencing a conflict–you’re not only a player in the game, but you are also one of the referees. You’re going to do your level best to play fair, and give the other person permission to blow their whistle if they feel you’ve committed a foul.

Keep it clean, folks. Game on.