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Resolving Quarrels

Disagreements and grievances are normal in any relationship, whether it's between a mom and dad, or between two nations or peoples. All too often, though, they get out of hand, leading to hurt feelings, anger, and lashing out.

Your best chance of resolving a quarrel is to do the four things below, even if you just do them yourself. If your partner participates, all the better! But waiting for the other person to do the right thing only leads to gridlock - so your best bet is to take steps yourself, unilaterally if necessary, because that is the best way to evoke good behavior from the other person, take his issues with you off the table, and let you take your stand on the high moral ground.

Protect yourself
Anticipate situations in which you are likely to be let down by the other person, and try to avoid them by developing more support from elsewhere, like other moms. Eliminate abusive or inflammatory language by not using it yourself; instead, try to stay calm, be civil, and speak with good intent. Ask your partner to do the same, and if necessary, let him know that you will withdraw from the conversation if he speaks to you in a way that is out of line. Stop fights from escalating by agreeing in advance that either of you can call time out. And if there is any possibility of violent or threatening behavior, contact a therapist, woman's shelter, or the police.

Assert your needs
Get a reality check on the validity of your needs or issues by talking with people you trust who love and support you. Sort out any over-reactions on your part, and then get serious and determined about the legitimate needs that remain. Identify the specific behaviors from your partner that would address them - both his outward actions and his internal attitudes and intentions.

Then find ways to tell him what you want (while reminding yourself that what you want is legitimate!), such as in ordinary conversation, or by writing a note, leaving a message at work, talking in a neutral place like a restaurant, or involving a third party like a mutual friend, a minister, or a therapist. Stay on your topic and agree to address his issues later. Do not muddy the water by bringing in unrelated grievances, getting overly emotional, or overwhelming him with words. Be direct, succinct, matter of fact, and self-controlled.

Use genuine humor and warmth to lift the mood. Build on any positive moves he makes by being positive yourself and acknowledging progress toward getting what you want. State your understanding of how you each are saying things will be from now on; write them down if that's clarifying.

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