How do you handle conflict in your marriage?

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The following methods are quite useful in ruining your marriage. They are guaranteed to create more problems than they attempt to solve.

1. Timing: Pick the right time to begin an argument. Late at night, during a favorite TV show, after several drinks, or just before your spouse has to leave for work are options. As a general rule, look for the time your spouse least expects it, or is least able to respond.

2. Escalating: Move quickly from the issue, to the questioning of personality, to wondering whether you should stay together (issue -> personality -> relationship). Interpret your spouse's shortcomings as evidence of bad faith, and the impossibility of a happy relationship.

3. Brown Bagging: try to list as many problems in as much detail as possible. Don't stick to the original issue, but rather throw in all the problems you can think of. Don't limit yourself to the present. If your partner can't remember the offense, so much the better.

4. Overgeneralizing: Use words like "always" and "never" as in "you are always late." this is likely to distract yur partner into discussing the overgeneralization rather than the issue, and insure further misunderstandings.

5. Cross-Complaining: Respond to any complaint your spouse may raise with one of your own. For example, "Me late? If it weren't for the fact that you never have any clean clothes for me..." If done properly you can balance complaint against complaint forever, and never get any issue properly discussed so that a problem can be solved.

6. Crucializing: Exaggerate the importance of the issue with statements like "If you really loved us, you would never have done it." "This proves you don't care."

7. Asking Why: "Why didn't you clean up?" or "Why were you late?" will imply there must be something terribly wrong with your spouse, and that something is at issue more than a simple problem.

If s/he can be provoked to defend themselves rather than deal with the actual problem, you can then resort to multiple attacks on their personality, and keep that going indefinitely.

8. Blaming: Make it clear that fault lies entirely with your spouse, and that once again you are simply the innocent victim. Don't admit that any of your behavior could play any part in the difficulty. Make sure your spouse realizes that you will not change first.

9. Pulling Rank: Rather than depend on the merits of your argument, remind your partner that you make more money, have more education, are older or younger, or are wiser and more experienced in such matters. Anything that will enhance your status at your partner's expense should be considered.

10. Not Listening, Dominating: Any time you appear to be listening you run the risk of suggesting that you value your partner's opinion. Consider talking while your spouse is trying to talk, pretending to read, or falling asleep.

11. Listing Injustices: This is a great morale builder. By reciting every slight, injustice or inequity you have suffered in the relationship, you will experience a renewed sense of self-righteousness. You can use this approach to justify almost any activity you have always wanted to engage in. For example, "Since you bought that dress, now I can buy a new car."

12. Labeling: By labeling somebody in a negative manner, you can create the impression that that person is totally at fault. Psychological labels, such as "immature," "neurotic," "paranoid," or "alcoholic," are particularly effective in obscuring issues where you may be vulnerable.

13. Mind Reading: By deciding tht you know the real reason why someone is acting in a certain way, you can avoid having to discuss issues. For example, "You only said that to set me up" or "You don't really feel that way" are particularly effective.

14. Fortune-Telling: Predicting the future can save you the effort of really trying to resolve problems. "You will never change" or "It would be easy for me to change, but you wouldn't live up to it" are statements that can protect you from having to make any effort at all.

15. Being Sarcastic: If you can say, "You're so smart..." just right, you can imply that your spouse is stupid and deny that you said it at the same time.

16. Avoiding Responsibility: Although not a very elegant tactic, saying "I don't remember" can bring the discussion to an abrupt halt. Alcohol or fatigue can serve the same purpose as in "I must have been drunk."

17. Leaving: Walk out of the room, leave home, or just refuse to talk. Sometimes just threatening to leave can accomplish as much, without the inconvenience of actually leaving.

18. Rejecting Compromise: Don't back down. Why settle for comprimise wehen with a little luck you can really devastate your spouse (and destroy the relationship). Stick with the "one winner" philosophy.

19. Personalizing: Shift to personalities and you should be able to generate enough defensiveness to keep going forever.

20. Playing the Martyr: "You're right, dear, I am hopeless" can stop your spouse cold. A less subtle form is, "How could you say that after all I've done for you? An extreme form is to threaten to kill yourself if your spouse doesn't shape up.

21. Using Money: "If you made as much money as (...), or, "When you make as much as I do, then you can have an opinion," are old favorites.

22. Using Children: "If you spent more time with them, they wouldn't be failing" or, "Do you want them to grow up to be like you?" can always be used unless you are unfortunate enought to have perfect children.

23. Using Relatives: "When you do that, you are just like your mother" can be used to undermine confidence. The beauty of this one is, a person can't change who his relatives are, so you will always have it whenever you want to use it.

24. Giving Advice: By telling people how to act, think, and feel, you can maintain a position of superiority while insisting that you are only trying to be helpful.

25. Getting Even: Don't settle for a comprimise or an apology. Hold grudges for as long as possible; you might need those complaints in future arguments.

26. Using Terminal Language: For example, if you happen to be upset by the fact that the room wasn't straightened, start with, "You slob..." to suggest that is is your spouse's existence, and not behavior, that is at question.

27. Being Inconsistent: Keep your spouse off balance by changing your position. Try complaining that your spouse never talks to you and then ignore whatever your spouse may have to say.

28. Others: This list should only be considered suggestive of the range of tactics to be drawn from. With practice and creativity, you should be able to come up with numerous innovations.


Mutual Ownership ("WE have a problem")

Brief Description (Here is AN example of what I mean--not a full trial)

Present & Future Oriented ("Perhaps the next time that happens...")

Issue Level, Not Personality (The ISSUE seems to be...)

Issue Agreed On (It sounds like you agree on what the problem is.)


Listen (Observe, acknowledge, don't interrupt)

Check Out ("Let me see if I understand")

Validate ("I see how you could feel that way.)

Brainstorm (Let's think of all the possible options.)

Positive Presentation ("I see how you could feel that way.")

Comprimise (Adopt a two winner approach.)

Agree, Clarify ("Sounds like we have agreed to try...")

Repeat ("Let me make sure I understand what we have agreed...")

Congratulate ("We did a good job. Let's take a break.)


One can have high or low personal goals. One can have high or low relationship goals.

If one has high relationship goals, but low personal goals, s/he is a placator. They see the solution as to to yield and lose.

If one has low relationship goals, and low personal goals, then one is detached from the marriage. They would rather leave than engage in meaningful conflict resolution.

A person who has high personal goals, but low relationship goals can be called a Tough Battler. S/he is committed to winning, by making the partner lose. The clinker is that if the relationship is ruined, the Tough Battler often loses out on his personal goals, as well.

The trick is in seeing more than one step ahead, and considering the long run. A second trick is realizing that it's not when you were a kid, and your siblings had to be your brother or sister anyway, no matter what. Once you're grown up, nothing is guaranteed to be forever, and you really can ruin it.

The tough battler often misjudges how far s/he can push, and discovers too late that s/he has irreparably lost the relationship, and his/her personal goals as well.

A person with both high personal goals, and high relationship goals can be called a Problem Solver. The object is to find a way that both can win. A win-win combination is most productive to both the individual and the marriage.


1. Problem solving is a collaborative effort to resolve a problem.

2. Two-winner (win-win) tactics should be used.

3. Each partner should follow the "change first" principle. Each partner should be prepared to "pay in advance" by changing their own behavior first, rather than insisting that they will change when the partner changes.

4. Problem solving should consist of two distinct, non-overlapping phases: Problem Definition and Problem Resolution. There is no point in arguing, until you are agreed on what you are arguing about.

5. Problem definition should be BRIEF, positive, specific, and FUTURE -oriented.

6. Only one problem should be discussed. Throwing in every issue that exists practically guarantees that none can be solved.

7. The communication skills of Listening, Validation, Feeling-Talk, Positive Expression, and Negative Expression should be followed. The sense that one is being listened to and taken seriously may be more important than winning.

8. Problem solving should be modest and limited in focus. a.) One step at a time. b.) Recognize that you won't get 

everything you want. c.) The best solutions will come when both are invested in the change process.

9. Conclusions should be detailed and repeated by each. End on a positive note, so that both will understand that it is not a grudging end to the discussion.


If your quarrels tend to get out of control, give yourself time out in order to allow the discussion to cool off. This works best when both are committed to the process.

1. Self Watching. Pay attention to all the changes that occur in your thinking, acting, and feeling during conflict escalation.

2. Signaling. A time-out signal should be neutral and non-blaming. Either saying "time out," or making the T sign with one hand over the other are good signals.

A defiant tone or gesture is not a neutral, non-blaming signal. Neither is suggesting that the other needs a time out.

3. Acknowledging. Simply saying "OK" or returning the time out signal are good ways acknowledging that you will comply. Nothing more should be said.

4. Detaching. At this point, each partner should go to a neutral corner. Where to go and rules for time out should be agreed upon in advance.

Such issues as the car, drinking, talking on the phone and leaving the property should be understood beforehand. It is best to stay out of one another's sight but in one another's presence.

Alcohol should be avoided during this time. Slamming doors or spinning the car wheels does not detach in a constructive way.

5. Controlling Anger - Physical exercise such as walking can be used to distract yourself. So can a video game, listening to music, or engaging in some enjoyable activity. Deliberately avoid going over and over the conflict, and recalling past injustices during this time.

6. Returning - The person who signalled the time-out should take responsibility for getting back together. This should be in a reasonable period of time. Generally, it should be when you are able to admit that you were not 100% right.

Time out should not be used to avoid discussion. The original subject should be returned to ASAP.

If all else fails, you may be considering <Divorce.> (Click)

The number one predictor of divorce -- From Woman's Day