Channel those inevitable couples spats into constructive, conflict-resolution sessions.
Step 1: Take a time out If you feel yourself getting angry, gauge your emotion level on a scale from one to 10. Take a time-out if you or your spouse feels your emotions running too high.
Step 2: Have a schedule Schedule a time to discuss the conflict, so you can be civil. Avoid bringing up hot-button topics while one or both of you are running out the door.
TIP: Pick your battles wisely. The things you argue about should be things that really matter – try not to sweat the small stuff.
Step 3: Communicate When the scheduled time arrives, start by communicating your desired outcome, as well as your feelings and needs. Invite your spouse to brainstorm ways to fix the problem. Cooperating to find solutions will avoid urges to place blame and help satisfy a mutual goal.
TIP: Follow up at a later date on any resolutions made to avoid broken agreements.
Step 4: Use "I" or "We" statements Use I" or "We" statements and avoid using "You" messages. "We need to find a way to save more money," is more positive and constructive than saying, "You spend too much money."
Step 5: Affirm Acknowledge something positive about your spouse before segueing to the issue. Knowing they are appreciated may help balance any perceived criticism.
Step 6: Listen Listen to your spouse and make sure they feel heard. Acknowledge their point of view and validate their position before stating your own.
Step 7: Fight fair Fight fair. Stick to the argument at hand, and don't make generalizations or bring up past conflicts. Avoid yelling, dominating the discussion, and unconstructive criticism and insults.
FACT: A University of Michigan study found that earlier death is twice as likely in couples who suppress anger when unfairly attacked.