Call me old-fashioned, but I truly believe that when you marry, it should be with the intention of being with that partner for life. Sometimes I feel like my husband and I are a dying breed of dinosoars who can only stand by as our contemporaries drop like flies. In the year that I got married (1988), I attended at least 5 other weddings - I believe there were at least 8 couples in my circle of friends that married that same year. Out of that group, I can think of only 3 couples that are still together - including myself and my hubby. Several of those marriages broke up within the first 5 years.

It makes me sad to think that people can fall in love, and choose to spend life together, but as soon as challenges come up, they choose to walk away rather than staying together and working through each issue. It also occurs to me that most couples who split experience a great deal of anger and animosity throughout the breakup process. I'll guarantee you that the anger they are openly showing at the end was there for a long time, but they didn't feel safe in expressing their true feelings.

We know that anger exists, and that it is a basic emotion that is part of the human construct. It doesn't "go away" when we ignore it, and it is an emotion worthy of expressing. If left unchecked and unexpressed, anger can become like a bitter herb that sours the taste of everything you experience. It is like a weed that chokes the joy and excitement out of every experience. It will colour every interaction you have with your spouse - it dilutes trust, and spreads seeds of doubt everywhere - to the point that you can no longer make the distinction between genuine love and feigned affection. So what can we do about this problem? Here are 4 quick tips - ways to keep anger from wrecking your marriage or partnership.

Number ONE:
Openly discuss how you will communicate with each other when you are feeling angry. Set the parameters for that discussion when you are both calm and level-headed. The physiology of anger puts us in a state that is not conducive to making clear decisions with an eye for future consequences, so it is best to decide on how you will deal with anger BEFORE it occurs. Talk about the kinds of things that might spark anger, and how you can help each other to keep anger-inducing situations to a minimum in the relationship.

Number TWO:
Think before you act. This sounds like a no-brainer piece of advice but it amazes me how many couples take this forgranted. For example, I remember one friend exploding in fury at her partner for making a major buying decision without involving her. They had not discussed the idea, and he had not expressed his desire for the item to her - but just went out and bought it. Needless to say, the conversation didn't go well. In her mind, he hadn't considered her needs or the needs of their infant daughter, and he didn't respect her enough to ask her how he should spend their money... In his mind, why shouldn't he go out and make a purchase if it was a good deal and would have some benefit to the family? Had he taken a moment to call her BEFORE the purchase, and talk about his reasoning for wanting to do it now, the outcome might have been different. So take this one seriously - guys and girls alike! Talk to your partner/spouse about what you're thinking. Ask yourself, "what could happen if I do what I want to do?" - "What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best thing that could happen? Is this worth getting into a fight over?" If you consider the consequences and possible outcomes BEFORE you act, and make an informed decision, your outcomes will always be better.

Number Three:
Never play on opposing teams. When you enter into a marriage, partnership, or common-law situation, you are choosing your team. No matter what the issue, whether it is the house, the job, the kids, the dog, the cat, or the hydro bill, you MUST remember that you are playing for and fighting for the same team and you are on the same side. It is rare to see team members self-destruct on the baseball diamond or on the hockey rink and start fighting each other. They understand that in order to win, they must play together, and stand up for each other. Marriage is just like that. When you are fighting about how to raise your kids, remember that these are YOUR kids - you made them together, and you are raising them together. Your end goal is not to screw them up for life; it is to help them become responsible, contributing members of society. You are on the same team. When you look at it this way, it becomes easier to stay focused on the issue so that you can solve it together, rather than resorting to attacking the person for his/her beliefs or personality flaws. Never lay blame where it doesn't belong. You would be better to take responsibility for your own shortcomings, and trust your partner to do the same for his/hers. Even if you think you are justified in laying blame, go back to point number two: will saying, "It's your fault" make the situation better or worse? It might be better to ask, "Now that we are faced with this problem, what can we do together to fix this?" Work together - play for the same team - fight for the same army. Your marriage and your kids will thank you for it.

Number Four:
Be open and honest about your feelings. I'm not sure why, but it seems to get harder for some couples to share their feelings with each other - the longer they are together. You would think it would get easier, but not so. The fact is that in order for a relationship to work, there must be open communication about everything, not just about who is going to pick up Suzie from daycare, and who should take out the trash. When you're talking about the things that matter, it is imperative that you share how you feel, and what you want. If you don't say these things, your spouse will not be able to read your mind - no matter how long you've been together. You need to take responsibility for your wants, needs, thoughts, opinions, and feelings - and share them with your partner. S/he needs to do the same. Remove all doubt, and just say it like it is. Remember to OWN your feelings - don't lay blame (see previous item) and say, "You make me..." - just say, "I feel... I need... I want... I think..." This is called "sharing", folks, and if you remember - you used to do this all the time when you were dating. This is why you felt so connected, and why you decided to go ahead and make it official. Now that you are together in a "committed" relationship - you can't toss those communication tools out the window. You need them more than ever.

You'll notice that one word keeps re-occuring in this article: the word BEFORE. Ensuring that your marriage stays anger-proof is all about being proactive. If you anticipate what challenges could throw a monkey wrench into your relationship, and attack it head on before it creeps up on you, you have a much better chance of preserving your marriage partnership. Openness, honesty, vulnerability, and humility are all keys to making a marriage work. Most marriages fail due to lack of communication - so get those lines open, and keep them open. Stuffing your anger inside will only cause you to become sick, bitter, and lonely in your marriage - and will inevitably send you looking elsewhere for the love you lost. Truth is: the love you lost is in your house, probably stuffed under a sofa cushion, or tucked away in a box of love letters in the basement. It is there - and has been all along. By opening up your communication, and planning to play together, you can get it back before it's too late.

Author's Bio: 

An internationally recognized speaker and expert in the area of Anger Resolution and Stress Management, Julie Christiansen brings over 15 years experience in group and individual counseling, to your boardroom. Branded as “Oprah for the Office” by some of her clients, Julie educates and entertains audiences throughout Canada, and the United States, and the Caribbean. She is the author of several books including, "Anger Solutions", "Top Ten Lists to Live By", and "Anger Solutions at Work". Julie has successfully merged her previous career as a counselor for people with mental illness, brain injury, addictions, and at-risk youth with her passion for helping teams attain peak performance and productivity through enhanced communication models. Julie holds a BA in Psychology and is a Master Trainer in the Anger Solutions(TM) Model. She is a Certified Public Speaker, and holds certificates in Suicide Intervention/Prevention (ASSIST), Non-violent Crisis Intervention, and Bereavement Counselling. She is the founder of the Canadian Association of Anger Solutions(TM) Professionals.