How to Fight Fair

Arguments are inevitable in a marriage. But disagreements don't have to drive a wedge between you two.

how to fight fairDisagreements don't have to drive a wedge between you, says Deborah Cox, Ph.D., who cowrote The Anger Advantage (Broadway Books) with Karin H. Bruckner and Sally D. Stabb. Here's how to even the playing field:

Don't equate anger with hostility.

"Too often men, and especially women, believe that expressing anger means they're going to appear explosive and unattractive to their partner," says Cox. If you¡¦re afraid of lashing out, first jot down your feelings on paper to sort them out. Then, practice what you're going to say in a mirror-you can monitor your facial expressions if they appear too harsh. This will also help you make your argument clear and reasonable.

Make "feeling" statements, rather than go on the attack.

For instance, don't say, "You're such a jerk; you're so irresponsible with money." This will just make your partner feel defensive. Instead, say, "I get frightened and angry when I see you spending so much money on a TV, because we have so little saved." A statement like this is not only more honest, it forces your partner to connect with you emotionally and deal with the issue at hand.

Learn how to be a good listener.

If your spouse is upset, it's important to validate those feelings with statements like, "I hear you" or "I hear that you're mad at me for hurting you, and I hate that you feel that way." You don't even have to apologize. Sometimes an acknowledgement that your partner has been heard is enough to diffuse his or her anger," says Cox.