How to fight with your spouse

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Relationship experts say the top three things that married couples fight about are sex, money and children.  These are heated topics, fraught with emotions and huge consequences.  So don’t be surprised if they come up often.  When emotions are running high, we’re most likely to say something we’ll regret later.  If your goal is to TRY to not say anything you’ll need to apologize for later, you’ll probably fall short of that level of perfection, but you’ll have to apologize a lot less often.

Regardless of how the fight starts (maybe one of you says something s/he shouldn’t have said) make note of how angry you and your spouse are.  If you’ve quickly escalated to the yelling stage, say something neutral like “Okay. I hear you.”  If either of you are not prepared to calmly discuss the matter, then it makes sense to buy some time.  Tell your spouse that you need a few hours apart.  Make a plan to talk about it in the near future (maybe that evening) so s/he doesn’t think you’re avoiding confrontation altogether.

When the argument starts, each person takes a turn stating his or her point of view.  The other person may not interrupt or make faces.  When the “opening argument” is finished, you two can discuss some of the specific points raised.  Soon after, it’s the other person’s turn to speak his or her mind without interruption.  More discussion of specific topics raised.

Some advice to keep in mind during this phase:  Try not to bring up old resentments or arguments.  State your feelings using “I” phrases and focus on how YOU see things, instead of how things definitively ARE.  Don’t get overly defensive.  Don’t use insults.  Remember that there are usually three sides to every issue: your side, my side, and the truth.  If you can’t reach a compromise or agreement, seek the help of a professional marriage counselor.


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