| June 22, 2012

Rachel Sussman is a relationship expert and author of "The Breakup Bible." For more info, visit her web page, RachelASussman.com.

I often joke that you can be right, or you can be married — but you really can’t be both.  There are many ingredients that go into a happy and healthy marriage, and a primary one is the ability to compromise and negotiate. You see, if someone really feels the need to win all the battles, that’s actually more of a tennis game than a marriage. But even in sports, it’s not always about winning.

All couples argue, and that is perfectly normal. It’s not the conflict per se that sinks a relationship; it’s how the disagreement is handled. When conflicts are poorly handled and fighting leads the way, this destructive behavior has the potential to cause great harm to a relationship and to the individuals involved.

I spend a lot of time teaching my clients how to fight right, and you’ll be doing yourself (and your relationship) a great service if you learn to follow these five simple rules:

  • Pick your battles carefully. Ask yourself, “Is this something that is worth getting into?” If not, take a breath and let it go.
  • Listen. When debating, remember that everyone has a right to say his or her piece, and everyone has a right to be heard and validated.
  • Never interrupt. It’s disrespectful and your partner will not feel heard. That will make him or her feel frustrated, which will escalate the discussion (or fight).
  • Always take the high road. Remain calm, civil, respectful and in control.
  • Talk in “I” statements. Use the phrase “I feel” and be mindful not to sound overly critical or angry.

If you follow these rules, no matter what the outcome, everyone is a winner. That’s certainly something worth striving for!