Stop Fighting in 30 Days

Step 2: Eliminate Open Warfare

He piles his dirty underwear in a heap that's taller than Mt. Rushmore ...

He complains when you buy new shoes, but has no qualms about buying a new golf club for himself ...

You've been telling him for ages that you've seen rabbits with better foreplay skills ...

Millions of couples throughout the world are ringing their hands and each other's throats over issues like these. Conflict and the angry feelings that go with it are inevitable in marriage. It's how a couple handles angry feelings that determines whether or not their relationship will endure. The sad fact is that the majority of couples who wind up divorced report that they loved each other dearly at one time. So what went wrong? The answer is simple: Bitter arguing and unresolved conflict erodes love. When conflict arises, most couples resort to faulty fighting tactics -- what I call "Fight Traps." Fight Traps are divided into two categories: Open and Secret Warfare. In this step, I focus on Open Warfare Fight Traps, which throw oil on the fire, and cause tempers to flare and discussions to cycle out of control.

When a "discussion" blows up in your face, the natural tendency is to head for opposite corners with your dukes up. In this adversarial atmosphere, no productive discussion occurs and your issue remains unresolved. When your hot topic resurfaces, you are angrier than the last time, which means that you pull out even stronger guns -- more dirty Open Warfare Fight Traps. While you may feel "released" in the moment that you are shooting your ammunition, you are driving yourselves farther and farther from any hope of resolving your issues. When you dump raw fury on your mate, you are shooting yourself in the foot for two reasons: first, your mate won't be receptive to you, which means that your needs are going to remain unheard, and second, the "dumpee" feels enraged and gets even.

I'm not saying that you should swallow your anger or deny your true feelings. But if you want to preserve your relationship (and have your needs met), you both must vow to convert raw rage into constructive communications. I can hear you saying, "Forget this. If I'm mad, I want to scream, and that's that." I know that what I have outlined isn't easy. But the only way to experience the joy of being loved and avoid the agony of divorce is to make the choice to control your temper and get rid of your Open Warfare Fight Traps.

Which Open Warfare Fight Traps do you use? Click here to take the test and find out.

The following test will help you identify the fighting behavior that's standing between you and relationship bliss. Choose all the responses that apply.

You and your hubby are locked in a plumbing power struggle. In the middle of the night he always leaves the seat up. You invariably fall in, receiving an unwanted buttocks bath. Standing in the bathroom, your butt dripping wet, you begin to wonder whether a judge would consider chapped cheeks as grounds for divorce. What do you do?

1. Stomp into the bedroom, yank the covers off him, and shout, "Do the terms drenched derriere, dishpan buns or rusty rump mean anything to you?"
Open Warfare Fight Trap: Sarcasm

2. Stampede to the bedroom shouting, "You are such a pig! Where were you raised, in a barn?"
Open Warfare Fight Traps: Character Assassination, Name Calling

3. Enter the bedroom and say, "Not only do you forget to put the seat down, you leave your laundry on the floor, you forget to call me when you're going to be late ..."
Open Warfare Fight Trap: Kitchen Sinking (throwing everything that's bugging you into one discussion)

4. Tell him, "For 10 years, I've been telling you to put the seat down after you pee, which reminds me of the time you ..."
Open Warfare Fight Trap: Ancient History

5. Tell him, "This is the tenth time this month that I've had to remind you to put the seat down."
Open Warfare Fight Trap: Score Keeping

6. Say to him, "Since you can't remember to put the seat up, I'm calling Dr. Smith to have you checked for Alzheimer's."
Open Warfare Fight Traps: Dirty Pool, Hitting below the Belt

7. Say, "You're always forgetting to do what I ask. You never respond to me.
Open Warfare Fight Trap: Globalizing

8. Say, "You never have to remind me to make your dinner, yet you forget to put the seat down."
Open Warfare Fight Trap: I'm Right/You're Wrong

9. Tell him, "I'm sick and tired of telling you to put the seat down," to which he replies, "You should talk, you never remember to bring my shirts to the laundry."
Open Warfare Fight Trap: Blame Game, Counterattacking

No matter which of the above Open Warfare Fight Traps you and your mate use, you lose. No conflict resolution can occur as long as Fight Traps are on the scene. Identifying your Fight Traps is the first step toward eliminating them.

How do you eliminate your Open Warfare Fight Traps and save your relationship? Click here to find out.

Eliminating your Open Warfare Fight Traps won't be easy, I'm afraid. We are creatures of habit, which means that we seek the comfort of the familiar and avoid the discomfort of change. Even though fighting is uncomfortable, the effort to alter your way of handling conflict is even more uncomfortable. I want to remind you that the temporary discomfort you will experience in giving up your Open Warfare Fight Traps is nothing compared to the pain you will suffer down the line if you choose to keep your Open Warfare Fight Traps alive. Couples in chronic conflict risk physical illness, depression, domestic violence, divorce and even death. According to studies, couples that fight heatedly have much shorter life expectancies than couples who resolve their conflicts amicably.

If you are ready to lose your Open Warfare Fight Traps and save your relationship, then start practicing these principles:

1. The next time you're angry, vow to bite your tongue instead of your mate's head off. Walk away, take five -- or five thousand -- if needed! Never again allow yourself to react to a relationship problem impulsively.

2. When you are angry, remember to focus on saving your marriage, not on winning the argument. This means that you both must put the team ahead of the players. To make this tough goal a reality, you will need to develop what is called an "observing ego." The observing ego is the part of the psyche that can step back and analyze your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. The more you exercise this part of your mind, the more "muscular" it becomes. In a short while, your observing ego will guide you to focus on whatever goal you set for yourself -- in this case, making sure that you fight for the team, rather than on allowing your fury to take center stage.

Now that you have decided to trash the crash-and-burn fighting tactics that you have been using, we need to make sure that you identify and eliminate the Secret Warfare Fight Traps that may also be holding your relationship hostage. This is the subject of the next step. Click here to check it out

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