couple-argue1Research shows it’s how we fight—where, when, what tone of voice and words we use, whether we hear each other out fairly—that’s critical. If we argue poorly, we may end up headed for divorce court. Yet if we argue well, experts say, we actually may improve our relationship. “All couples disagree—it’s how they disagree that makes the difference,” says Howard Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Denver and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies. For 30 years, Dr. Markman has conducted research that looks at how couples deal with conflict. A key finding: Couples who argue well are happier. Or, as Dr. Markman says, “You can get angry, but it’s important to talk without fighting.”

DO IT: The problem will not go away if you don’t talk about it.

COOL OFF: Pick a time when you can return to the argument with less emotion—ideally, within 24 hours and in person.

DON’T ASSUME: You probably don’t know exactly what your partner is thinking, even if you think you do.

FLEXIBILITY ISN’T WEAKNESS: You can change your position without “losing.”

SEE THE OTHER SIDE: This is the best way to downgrade a heated conflict into a momentary disagreement.

HOLD HANDS: Sit close, make eye contact, which can help make your interactions more positive.

ARGUE IN FRONT OF THE KIDS: Do this only if you’re modeling good argument techniques.

AGREE TO DISAGREE: Recognize that you are in a partnership. Look for the middle ground.

CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY: You can never take them back.

By Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein

“Any woman who is sure of her own wits, is a match, at any time, for a man who is not sure of his own temper.” – Wilkie Collins

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