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Instant Fight Stoppers


WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Charlotte Latvala

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Sick of bickering? Keep the peace (and get even closer) with these tips.

After seven years of marriage, my husband and I have arguing down to an exact science. We choose from Argument A (who screwed up the checkbook?), Argument B (whose method of disciplining the kids is better?) and Argument C (whose turn is it to take out the trash?). We're still fighting about the same things we fought about years ago, but the bickering takes up less time; I haven't stayed up till 3am in tears for eons. Our secret? Argument shorthand. That is, instead of going on and on about whose fault it was, how he could have done this again, and why I am always the one to give in, Tony and I have implemented the Say It Once rule. Here's how it works: The injured party makes his or her point, the other acknowledges it (it doesn't mean you agree, just that you recognize the other person's opinion), and we move on. We both have dreadful memories of fights that dragged on for hours, and if we make a concerted effort to stick to Say It Once, we fight less, we fight quicker, and we get over it — fast.

Look, no one likes to argue, but there's no denying that even the happiest couples have disagreements. The trick is to learn how to stop them from morphing into all-out blowups. Read on to find out how men, women and relationship gurus around the country keep the peace — and how you can, too.

1. Be nice to each other (even if it kills you)

Don't overlook the importance of a kind gesture. When the two of you are in the middle of a spat, force yourself to do something nice for him — say, get him a cup of coffee, hand him his glasses or even motion toward a chair for him to sit in, says Michele Weiner-Davis, author of Divorce-Busting. These little icebreakers have tremendous psychological impact. Sondra Hays, 31, of Bloomington, IL, says when she and her husband are heading toward a confrontation, "I say, 'I love you, and I truly do not want to fight with you.' We end up in massive fights over such stupid things, and that brings us back to what's important."

2. Ask yourself: Is this really fight-worthy?

If you fly off the handle over every little infraction (dishes in the sink, giving the kids snacks before dinner), your partner will tune you out on the big stuff. Terry Lake, 35, of Rochester, PA, decided that eight years of nagging his wife about her lack of tidiness was enough: "I realized it's not something we will ever solve, so if I want the bathroom clean I can do it myself."

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