Fight the Good Fight

Much like a thrilling movie or gripping novel, a relationship requires some degree of conflict to be any good. Fighting can be healthy: a University of Michigan study suggests that couples who don't air their grievances with each other die earlier than those who do.

So give up on trying to avoid those disagreements and instead learn how to give it - good.

Rules of Battle #1: Always know what you're really fighting about.

Often the common fight-makers - money, sex, household chores - are really just symbolic of a deeper conflict. A fight over who pays for what may be a power struggle. A row over the dirty dishes may be over the unfilled needs for respect or value. And spats over sex are almost always about one partner's need for more affection.

Rules of Battle #2: Don't keep score.

It can be hard to remember that fighting isn't about winning or losing. The goal is to reach a compromise, not to "win" the argument. Or would you rather be "right" - and be alone?

Rules of Battle #3: Watch your language.

Be careful throwing around "you" statements (e.g., "you always..." or "you never...); they can put your partner on the defensive. Instead of focusing on the actions that infuriate you, talk about how those actions make you feel. Explain how you feel disrespected by his or her constant tardiness, instead of accusing him or her of selfishly never showing up on time.

Rules of Battle #4: No "kitchen sink" fights.

It's not fair to drag your nosy mother-in-law into an argument over doing the dishes. It's not fair to bring up every little hurt and done-me-wrong in an argument. Stick to one issue and you'll both avoid escalating anger, impatience and confusion.

Rules of Battle #5: Apologize.

No need to take the blame for the entire blowout, but you do need to say you're sorry if you did or said something hurtful. "But it's not my fault," you whine. Fine! No one said you had to apologize for any actual wrongdoing. But it helps to say "I'm sorry," even if only to say "I'm sorry you feel that way." Acknowledging some fault in the fight will help you move past the screaming match toward reaching a resolution.

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