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The art of arguing with your spouse

What are the rules when you argue with your partner and what are the common mistakes?

Okay, so you've found the person you were always looking for and the two of you have embarked on a committed relationship.

In the beginning, it's a wonderful blur of romantic dinners, long strolls and meaningful conversations. 

And by the time you have a few months under your belt, it only confirms that you've picked the right partner, which makes you want to delve into the relationship even further.

But then the inevitable happens.


An argument breaks out and you soon realize that your perfect union isn't so perfect after all. And although you don't argue all the time, when you do things get pretty bad with a lot of yelling and name calling.

And you wonder to yourself, "How can I communicate my frustrations without things turning into a big fight; what am I doing wrong?"

It's a question plenty of couples have.

Marriage experts Sheri and Bob Stritof, who have been married for almost 40 years and conduct marriage workshops, say it's important to let your partner know when something is bothering you because holding it in will only increase the chances of a bad fight occurring.  

Get it out there

"Don't let little things that bother you build up until one of you explodes the issue into a large fight," the couple writes. "That's not fighting fair in your marriage. If you are angry about something and don't try to talk about it with your spouse within 48 hours, let it go. Otherwise, you are not fighting fair."

If you've ever been in a relationship, then you probably know that both sexes tend to communicate very differently. Some would say that most women need to communicate in order to get rid of their frustration and most men need to get rid of their frustration before they'll communicate.

This of course can create a lot of tension in a relationship, because one person is ready to lay everything out and the other would rather retreat and sort things out mentally first.

But that difference is okay, say the Stritofs. If one person doesn't want to discuss something on the spot, you should carve out a time within the next 24 hours to revisit it. 

Relationship myth

But isn't going to bed mad a big no-no, you might ask? Shouldn't you resolve things before turning in for the night?

That's one of the biggest relationship myths, says Dr. John Gottman, the author of "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work." He says one of the worst things you can do is force someone to discuss something when he or she isn't ready.

"The idea that it's helpful to air their grievances in the heat of the moment is probably one of the most dangerous marriage myths out there," said Gottman in a published interview. "Often nothing gets resolved -- the partners just get more and more furious."

Some may believe this piece of advice differs from what the Stritofs say about communicating your feelings on the spot, but it really isn't.

The Stritofs suggest that you simply tell your partner what's on your mind when something is bothering you. It doesn't mean that you have to have a full-on conversation about it.

And again, there will be times when the two of you will just have to go to bed mad.

The best medicine?

Dr. John Gray, author of the "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" books, says going to bed angry could be the best medicine for an argument.

"I shock couples when I tell them it's better to go to bed angry than force a make-up before bedtime," he said. "When tensions arise in a relationship, her hormones encourage her to talk more, but his hormones are designed for fight or flight, not a good combination when both of them are already tired. It's better to let things cool off and tell your partner you want to talk about it later, even if that means in the morning."

And when you do talk about it, do your best to be specific about what's bothering you. Don't bring up things from the past or bring up something that has nothing to do with the problem at hand. 

And of course no name calling.

"Relationships really depend on a deep reservoir of affection. The best couples have that all the time and every time you make those hurtful comments it drains that a little bit," said Andrew Trees, the author of the relationship book "Decoding Love," in a TV interview.

"So over time once that withers away, it really undermines the relationship, so that makes a huge difference. And being specific gives people something to respond to. Much healthier than saying 'You're a slob or you're so lazy.' There's no answer to that. There's no good response in a fight with that.

"Where if you say I need you to pick up more around the house, that's something you can talk about," says Trees.

Winning versus losing

Probably the most common mistake that couples make when they're arguing is trying to win the argument. Experts say arguments should be kept on the relationship, not on how hurt you are.

"When you fight to win, you get wrapped up in who's right and who's wrong," writes relationship expert Dr. Laura Berman. "Your strategy is in service of yourself. You keep tally of past wrongs, missteps, and hurts." your pride or your power than about your relationship. Fighting to win is the biggest mistake couples can make. It's also the most common, especially when in the midst of a passionate argument."

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