Friday, January 28, 2011

1. Become an active listener

"Many people don't listen to what their partners are saying during a disagreement, because they're too busy thinking about how to rebut them," says Gibberman. Before you begin, agree to take turns: One of you gets to speak while the other listens without interrupting. After each of you has spoken, show that you understand the other's feelings: "It makes sense to me that you think we're not saving enough money, and you're upset."

2. Complain without blame

Want your guy to stop leaving the TV remote between the sofa cushions? Ask nicely, using "I" statements: "I get frustrated having to search for the remote, so I'd like you to put it back in the end table drawer when you're done." Avoid critical "you" statements, like this one: "You always leave things all over the place!"

3. Own up to your part

Take responsibility for your contribution to the problem, hard as it may be: "I should have talked to you about the price of the sofa before buying it. Let's figure out ways we can cut back until the sofa is paid off." Denying it ("I didn't spend too much") or counterattacking ("Well, you spent a fortune on the flat-screen TV") will just lead to hurt feelings and flaring tempers.

4. Forget the past

When you're in the middle of a disagreement, stay on topic. Dredging up old conflicts ("This is just like the time you ...") could overwhelm and upset your partner -- not to mention put him on the defensive. Plus, adds Gibberman, skipping from one subject to another makes it hard to reach a resolution.

5. Take a time-out

"When a discussion isn't going well, many couples tend to keep barreling through, which makes things worse, not better," says Gibberman. The next time one of you gets emotional mid-conflict, put the discussion on hold -- whether it's for 15 minutes or five days -- until you're calm and thinking clearly.

6. Show gratitude

Every day, look for opportunities to acknowledge the things your significant other does right, instead of nitpicking about his flaws. Saying things like "Those lamb chops were delicious -- thanks for making dinner tonight" will go a long way toward strengthening the friendship in your marriage. And that, in turn, will make it easier to manage conflicts.

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