Cease fire

A couple's guide to diffusing explosive issues

Even though The Beatles were still in their 20s when they wrote 'We Can Work It Out', they somehow understood that it is better to resolve issues than to trash the relationship.

Be humble and don't rub your partner's nose in a misstep. Be gentle when you share your feelings, especially if your partner is the offending party. This will make it much easier for him or her to realise the mistake and learn from it. Else, it will force the other to get defensive.

When you're having a difficult discussion, put your angry emotions aside. You can't be logical when you're mad. If you can't contain your ire, it may be best to put talking on hold till you calm down.

Don't be stuck with finding who's right or wrong. Blaming your partner or proving him wrong won't solve matters. You both have to take responsibility for getting your relationship back on a positive track.

Look for the high road and discuss what's best for both of you. Don't settle for anything less than equality and the knowledge that you are doing the right thing for yourself and your partner.

You can agree to disagree, but don't settle for less than a complete acceptance of each other's point of view. If you walk away disappointed, you have not resolved your issue. For a relationship to work, you both have to feel that you have each other's support.

Have difficult conversations in private, always. You don't want your kids or other family members to pick up the negativity; it can make them feel insecure. Remember, you can be heard behind closed doors, so keep the volume low and the vibe as calm as possible.

Before making a decision about how to handle a problem, make sure you consider all options. This requires some brainstorming and working together to create a positive solution. If done correctly, this process alone can heal the difficulty.

Don't rush to judgment. You may not be able to come up with the best answers in the moment, so sleep on it before you decide on a course of action. If you still cannot reach a meeting of the minds, put the issue aside and look at it again in a few days.

Trust that you can find an answer that will work for both of you. Going into the discussion with an optimistic heart and mind will make it much easier for you both.

Consolidate the gains of your discussion. Review aloud what was agreed upon between the two of you; put it in writing if it helps. Then, kiss and make up.

Most people avoid difficult conversations because they fear having an uncomfortable moment. But I feel that putting up with a few bad minutes is definitely better than enduring an uncomfortable life. Truth is that couples that embrace the desire to work things out have the best relationships. Period.

This was first published in the November 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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