Every relationship has its spats. Psychologists once
thought that the best cure for anger was to get it out in
the open and say what you think. Today, we know that
letting anger out does not necessarily make you feel better.
If the battle is with a loved one, it makes you feel
After you've been with someone for a while, you begin to
know what things will start a fight. With my husband, the
ex-race car driver, all I have to do is criticize his
driving. That's guaranteed to start a battle. Knowing how
to set him off means I have a choice, to fight or not. You
too will have a choice in your relationship. Be aware when
you choose to start a fight.
When a disagreement becomes a bitter dispute over who's
right and who's wrong, things are said that you can't take
back. Harsh words spoken in anger are remembered long
after, corroding the relationship. Frequent battles
embitter the fighters. No matter who wins, both bear the
- Say Three Nice Things First...
- Always try to appreciate more than you criticize.
Still, something your partner does may drive you up
your tree and you just have to say something about it.
Pick your timing, making sure he or she isn't already
stressed out about something else, then say three nice
things before you criticize. It also helps if the
criticism takes the form of a suggested alternative.
"You know, it's very loving of you to always make breakfast
on Sunday morning, and you look so cute in that little peek-
a-boo cook's apron, and I'm proud of how well you make your
Mother's baked carrot omelette, but maybe we could just have
scrambled eggs today -- or maybe even go out to brunch. How
about it?" Sounds transparent, but it works. Like being
flattered, where you don't believe the words, but are
complimented by the fact that someone cares enough about you
to try to flatter you.
- Avoid Blame
- One way to keep a minor problem from escalating
into a fight is to avoid accusatory or threatening
words like, "You never," "You always," "Why can't you,"
and "If you don't..." Starting a conversation or
discussion this way definitely isn't romantic, and will
probably start an argument.
Even if you have a good reason to be mad, don't say,
"You made us late and now you'll have to call and tell
the Smiths we're not going to be there on time."
Instead, say, "Well, we'll have to let the Smiths know
we're running late. Who should call?" If your partner
made you both late, he or she knows it without you
pointing a blaming finger. Avoiding the "you" word
works like magic.
Always deflect the "blame" onto some other, preferably
inanimate object. Instead of saying "You made a horrible
mess in here with your makeup!" say, "There's so much makeup
in here I have no place to set my razor down!" Instead of
"You promised to take out the trash and you haven't done
it!" say, "The trash is really piling up!" You'll be
amazed at how far this small difference in words goes in
making your partner want to correct the problem instead of
- "Reflect" His Or Her Anger
- If anger flares, the best response is to "reflect"
it. My article on "Mirroring" points out the power of
being in agreement. This power even extends to heading
off a fight. So get into agreement, even about your
Remember to shift into his or her
"Inner Language", and if he or she is visual, say, "I
can see why you're angry." If he or she is auditory, say,
"I can hear how angry you are." If you have a feelings
partner, say, "I can sense how upset you are."
By "reflecting," instead of getting angry back, you're not
agreeing that your partner is right and you're wrong, you're
simply not disputing his or her feelings. This limited
agreement is generally enough to turn the dispute toward
discussion rather than escalation.
- Use "Self-disclosure"
- If, however unlikely, it is you who is clearly in
the wrong, an impending storm can often be averted by
adroit "Self-Disclosure." Say you're a half-hour late
(again), and your partner, doing a slow boil, starts up
with "You know I like to be on time, and you're always
Don't give excuses, and don't make promises. Jump
right in with, "You know, it drives me crazy, too. I
don't know how it happens. It seems that no matter how
early I start, I always wind up late."
Then ask his or her advice. "What do you think I
should do? Help me think of something. How do you
manage to always be on time?"
Your partner, previously ready and willing to fight, may be
skeptical and grumpy but will almost certainly calm down.
With all disagreement over the problem suddenly gone, he or
she is now involved with finding a solution.
Related Keywords: Making Love Grow, Keeping Love Alive, Criticism, Fighting
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