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Stop Your Squabbling!

10 Ways to "Fight Less, Love More"

Fights with your spouse can crop up when you least expect them. You're having a normal conversation and then, boom, you're heated over an issue you thought you'd already resolved and, soon enough, you're shouting at each other over who knows what. We asked divorce lawyer Laurie Puhn, J.D., author of the new book Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversation to Change Your Relationship Without Blowing Up or Giving In, for her tips on how to avoid, and get over, any spat.

1. Think First: "Before you start up a fight with your mate, ask yourself: 'Does this issue affect me?' If it only affects your mate, keep quiet. For example, if your mate gets a bad sunburn, it does not affect you. Instead of criticizing with a 'fight line' like, 'I told you to wear sunscreen!' (which is guaranteed to elicit a strong defense) offer up some compassion with a 'love line' like 'That must hurt. Can I get you some moisturizer?'”

2. Speak Wisely: "If the situation does affect you, then speak up respectfully. If your mate said something embarrassing to you in public, wait until you're in private to tell him or her how the comment affected you. Try saying something like, 'When you said that you've never met anyone as disorganized as me, I was really embarrassed. I'm sure you didn't intend to hurt me with that comment, but that's what happened. I would appreciate it if you would keep that opinion to yourself in the future. Can you do that?'”

3. Focus on the Good: "Many arguments start off as a general complaint about one's mate. You can stop that snowball argument by phrasing the complaint as something positive that you do want, rather than what you don't want. For example, instead of saying, 'Can you get off the darn computer already? You've been on it all night,' say the positive like, 'I enjoy spending time with you in the evening. Do you think you'll be off the computer soon so we can chat in the living room?'” ...Read More

4. Ask Questions: "If your mate neglects to follow through on a task, chore or other commitment he or she made to you, then this also affects you. But before you jump on him or her in anger, find out what really happened. Be a detective. A good detective never makes assumptions. Ask a neutral question like, 'Can you tell me what happened?' You might discover a very good reason for the task delay. At the very least you show your mate respect by listening to their side before you judge."

5. Set Goals: "Once you understand why your mate didn't follow through, ask him or her to set a deadline, as in, 'When do you think you can have it done by?' Research shows a person is more likely to follow through if he or she helps create the deadline or solution, as opposed to being ordered to do something."

6. Find Solutions: "Making joint decisions can be a source of battles. If one of you overspends or makes plans for both of you without asking the other first, don't get trapped in a “you shouldn't have!” type of argument. Instead, focus on a solution of creating a policy for the future, as in, 'How about if we agree not to invite people over in the future without asking each other about it first?' or 'What do you think about agreeing to a price limit on how much either of us can spend on a single item without consulting each other?'”

7. Don't Future Fight: "Smart people often get sucked into a 'dumb' premature argument. If you find yourself arguing about a decision to be made in the future, like who you will invite to your tenth anniversary party when you're only eight years into your marriage, or what you will serve for Christmas dinner when it's only October, then speak up and say, 'Hey, this is premature. Things tend to change over time. Let's put this on hold until we're closer to the actual decision time.'”

8. Apologize Right: "A bad apology can trigger a second battle. A good way to apologize is to connect the wrongdoing to a value, as in, 'What I did was disrespectful or inconsiderate or disloyal.' Most of the time when someone is angry at you, it isn't just because of what happened, it's also because they lost trust in you. When the listener knows that you understand that the mistake threatens a higher value, he or she is more likely to forgive you."

9. Help Each Other Stick to It: "A crucial part of a good apology is to offer a plan to prevent yourself from making the same mistake again. For instance, 'In the future, when I say I will do something, I will let you know that morning that I remember and I will do it. f I don't say anything about it that morning, please remind me, and I won't get annoyed at you for that.'”

10. Resolve the Issue: "Research shows that nearly two-thirds of arguments by married couples are left unresolved. That's because people have bad fights that focus on the past in an attempt to prove that 'I'm right and you're wrong.' The key to ending a fight once and for all is to focus on the future as you make it your goal to guide the conversation toward a compromise solution so that you don't have the same fight again next week."

  • Puhn's book is available now on Amazon.com.

    Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock
Stop Your Squabbling!
10 Ways to "Fight Less, Love More"
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