1. Fighting is healthy, if you do it right. The object should be to solve problems. Avoiding disagreement only makes things build up until one of you can't stand it. It is impossible for two people to live in one house for 50 years without disagreeing. The question is not whether you disagree, but how.

2. Discuss only one subject at a time. If a second topic is brought up, say, "we can talk about that later, if you wish, but for now, let's finish this." Write it down if you must.

3. Hurting is not problem solving. Name-calling, insulting personal flaws, etc. does not move you toward a solution.

4. Blaming is not problem solving. Be concerned less about fault, than about what to do to improve the situation. 

You're on the same team. Avoid taking opposite sides, as if you were enemies.

5. You are criticizing the behavior, not the person. Avoid phrasing your statements to say, "you're a bad person."

6. Try to understand how the other person would see it, in having done something, or in wanting to do something. Begin with, "I can see how you might want to... " Allow for the possibility your guess is wrong.

7. Avoid mind reading. Avoid saying, "You think... " "You're hoping..." Instead, ask. "Did you do that because you thought I was picking at you?" Allow for the possibility your guess is wrong.

Also, don't demand, "What are you thinking?" which can be taken as an invasion of privacy. Avoid judgment or broad labeling: "Why the attitude?" or "Why are you acting like a jerk?"

8. Avoid meeting criticism with counter-criticism: "Oh yeah? Well, what about the time you..." (Meaning, you're telling me I'm bad, and I'm saying you're worse.")

9. Avoid criticizing things that can't be changed: The past, physical features, who one's family is. The past won't change, no matter how many times you attack it. That makes it a convenient weapon, if a weapon is what you're looking for.

10. Don't just drop it, or it will fester and come back again. Continue *reasoning* until you have come to an agreement.

11. Avoid the word "but." Substitute "and."

12. Decide what your real motives are. If your motive is revenge, then you're reading in the wrong place. If your motive is to solve problems, and to preserve a relationship, then you have greater reason to follow these guidelines. Remember, your partner is not the enemy. If you disbelieve that, then your chances of success are reduced.

13. Look at your own feelings. Ask, why did you take offense? What did the other person's words seem to imply? Check to see if your perception might be wrong.

14. Consider the other person's perceptions. Did s/he possibly mistake what you meant? Did you possibly mistake what s/he meant? Is either of you referring to the past, when you *assume* that the other was probably implying this or that by a statement?

15. Keep in mind, this isn't about grudges and old grievances. It's about changing the future. Regardless of the past, what can you do about the present and the future?

16. Suppose you were speaking to a customer, a client, or an old friend. How would you phrase your statement? You would be able to find a way, so you know how. The trick is in being willing to use the same repertoire of behavior with your spouse.  

More Below Picture -- Time Out


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. Notice if you have shouted, or found it difficult to resist shouting.

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)