The Relationship Rule puts it simply: "I only give and I only accept respectful communication." Put another way, "I do not give, nor do I accept, disrespectful (or abusive) communication."

Living by this rule goes a long way to ensure that one's relationships will be healthy and harmonious. It is a rule that one conveys through both actions and words. One who lives by the Relationship Rule is careful to speak in a pleasant tone of voice—even when rebuking others. All words must be "kosher" – no insults, name-calling or bad words. This person doesn't roll eyeballs, mumble under his or her breath, screech, yell or whine. Neither does he or she slam doors, hang up phones, stamp feet, throw objects, raise a hand or otherwise communicate utter disrespect for another human being. Nor does this person accept such treatment from anyone else.

The Relationship Rule helps keep marriage and family life safe and loving. But, because we're human, it isn't always easy for us to apply it.

We may have been raised in homes that didn't live by the Relationship Rule and our brains may be wired for drama or other forms of hurtful behavior. We may have to fight hard to maintain our human dignity and respect the human dignity of our partner. However, this is one fight that is worth fighting.

For some, the more difficult battle is boundary setting. These people have no trouble being respectful; it is the way they were born and/or raised. It is natural for them. However, they may be victims of abuse by others. (The Torah calls hurtful words and actions "abusive.") They may have to learn how to stop others from treating them badly. Doing so is an actual mitzvah, since it contributes to building shalom bayit (a peaceful home). It is, after all, impossible to have a happy marriage when one person is hurting the other.

Sometimes a course of individual therapy will help a person find the inner resources necessary for appropriate boundary setting. Sometimes the support of a third party in the form of a marital counselor or rabbi can be helpful for the purposes of boundary setting. There are times, too, when outsiders must be involved in order to set the appropriate boundaries.

Children benefit greatly from seeing their parents living by the Relationship Rule. They get to directly experience and implement the Relationship Rule in their daily interactions with their parents. And this exposure and experience will also help them to build loving homes of their own one day. Give yourself, your marriage and your kids the gift of The Relationship Rule.