Fighting a lot? Dr. Romance recommends:

No matter what you’re fighting about: money, sex, kids or something else, the fighting is an indication that your communication isn’t working. If this happens only occasionally, such as when one or both of you are tired or stressed; it’s not too big a problem. However, if you argue or bicker on a daily or weekly basis, or you keep fighting about the same thing over and over, then your communication is not functioning as it should, and you don’t know how to move from a problem to the solution. When this happens, problems are recurrent, endless, and they can be exaggerated into relationship disasters. 

1. Don’t participate: Disagreements always require two people. If you don't participate, your partner can't argue without you. If the issue arises at an inopportune time, you can just find a temporary resolution (temporarily give in, go home, leave the restaurant) and wait until things calm down to discuss what happened (the squabble may just have been a case of too much alcohol, or being tired and irritable.) Then talk about what you can do instead if it ever happens again.

2. Discuss Recurring Problems: To resolve recurring problems, discuss related decisions with your spouse and find out what each of you does and does not want before making important decisions. You have a lot of options; so don't let confusion add to the stress.

3. Seek to Understand: Make sure you and your partner understand each other’s point of view before beginning to solve the problem. You should be able to put your mate’s position in your own words, and vice versa. This does not mean that you agree with each other, just that you understand each other.

4. Solve it for the Two of You: Come up with a solution that works for just the two of you, ignoring anyone else’s needs. It’s much easier to solve a problem for the two of you than for others you may not understand. After you are clear with each other, discuss the issues with others who may be involved.

5. Talk to Others: If extended family members or friends might have problems with your decision, talk about what objections they might have, so you can diffuse them beforehand. Discuss possible ways to handle their objections.

Fights often happen because you’re following automatic habit patterns that lead to a problem before you know it. Using these guidelines will help you overcome negative habit patterns you may have built that lead to arguments or bickering.

How to Take a Time Out

Whenever an argument becomes too heated, and you are aware that you're saying the same things you've said before, things have deteriorated into blaming and defending, or someone is getting very upset, it=s useful to take a time out. This works very much as it does in sports, as in basketball, where everyone can be running full tilt down the court, but someone makes the "T" sign with one hand perpendicular to the other, and the action stops immediately. You can even use the same signal.

To Call Time Out:

1. Make an agreed-upon sign. Some couples use the "T" symbol made with the hands, some choose a "safe word:" a nonsense word that wouldn't be used often, like "rutabaga" or a word that has significance to both of you, such as "Palm Springs" to recall the time you stopped fighting on vacation, or "overload" to indicate that you think things have gotten too intense. When you're not fighting, agree on what sign you'll use during a fight, and honor your agreement; when one of you says the word, or makes the sign, both of you have to stop talking.

2. Walk away: Giving the signal means both of you agree to stop fighting immediately, and walk away. You can just go to separate rooms, one of you can take a walk or a shower, or just go sit and write out your anger. The point is to get out of each other's sight for an agreed-upon time. Built into your agreement about time outs is a specific break time. Twenty minutes is usually enough time for both parties to calm down, get past the reactionary anger, and begin to think more rationally.

3. Come back together: After your break, come back together and resume the discussion. It usually works well to make the agreement that the person who called time out will open the discussion again. It's important to come back to the problem, so the time out process doesn't become a way to win an argument. You may find it necessary to call time out more than once in a heated argument. Don't hesitate to do it as often as necessary. It's better to break up the discussion than to deteriorate into fighting. If you take frequent breaks, you'll change your pattern from arguing to calmly discussing the problem.

Adapted from Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage

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Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

Dr. Tessina, is CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for LoveForever.com, a website designed to strengthen relationships and guide couples through the various stages of their relationship with personalized tips, courses, and online couples counseling. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC News.