How to Pick Your Battles Wisely

If you're in a committed long-term relationship with someone, conflicts are going to arise, especially if you're living together. The key is to put things into perspective. Sometimes it helps the relationship to get whatever it is that's bugging you out of your system. Often a good healthy argument will lead to discussion that, in turn, will lead to the joy of makeup sex. However, you don't want to be a nag, always on your partner's case for the slightest infractions - keep in mind that you're not perfect either. Next time you feel yourself welling up with anger, follow these five steps to determine whether or not this is something that really deserves to become an escalated argument:

1. Take a time-out: If you come home and discover that your girlfriend used your favorite worn and ratty T-shirt to clean out the tub, try to bite your tongue and step into another room for a minute. Lashing out with insults and angry words is an impulse that will only lead to her being defensive. Take a deep breath, calm down and collect your thoughts before going back out there for a confrontation.

2. Determine if it's the action that's really annoying you or if it's something else: By taking a moment, you might realize that you're actually more furious at your boss for treating you poorly than you are at your girlfriend - but she's easier to yell at. Or maybe you were perfectly happy before you got home and you really truly are angry at your girlfriend for destroying the last T-shirt your mother gave you before she died. Either way, suggests David Stiebel, Ph.D. and author of "When Talking Makes Things Worse!", by thinking about what the trigger is to your anger, you'll be able to determine what move to make next.

3. If it is the action that's bothering you, figure out whether or not it's recurring: Maybe you've bitten your tongue in the past when your clothes have been used as various rags. Especially if you haven't said anything in the past, and this has been a repeat offense that's quickly becoming a pattern, now may be the time to finally break it.

4. Decide if it's really a big enough deal to warrant an argument: If the T-shirt can be washed, if this was an innocent mistake because you left it laying next to the garbage or if this is the first time she's ever ruined an article of clothing - all these are reasons to stifle your anger and get over it. "Bringing up every little thing that bothers you will simply give your [partner] argument overload," says Sandra Thomas, Ph.D. and author of "Use Your Anger: A Woman's Guide to Empowerment." "And when this happens, the effectiveness of your outbursts is diluted because he starts to block you out." Of course, keep in mind that pent-up anger tends to fester. If you're really upset but realize it's a relatively minor offense that you want to get over, talk - don't scream - about it.

5. Finally, think about where screaming will actually get you: Arguments are pointless without constructive criticism. You might feel better blowing off some steam, but your partner will be frustrated if he or she doesn't really understand why you're so upset and how they can change. Enter an argument with an attitude of compromise in order to get the best results.

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