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Rules for fighting fair:

Every couple will have differences of opinion, experience personality clashes and enter into arguments.

The key lies in learning to manage those differences and to fight fair. The ability to talk over differences and find resolution depends on effective communication.

Nadine Hillesheim, councilor at The Village Family Service Center provides the basic rules for communicating about issues on which you disagree:

? Discuss one problem at a time.

? Choose a good time to bring the topic up. If your partner is feeling tired or irritable, it may be difficult for them to listen effectively.

? Set the ground rule that one of you "has the floor" at a time. The listener needs to put their opinions and counter arguments on hold until they fully understand the speaker. Many conflicts can be resolved by simply gaining a full understanding of the other's position.

? State your intent to understand and resolve the problem. The object of communication is not to win the contest of "who is right" but to understand the other's position and find a solution to differences.

? Agree to disagree. Sometimes the two of you will not be able to see things the same. It is okay to have different thoughts, feelings, and opinions than your spouse. Each is valid and healthy marriages can tolerate and even enjoy differences.

? Ask rather than assume. You may have some idea about what your spouse is thinking, feeling, r about the meaning of their actions, but it is unlikely you have a full understanding in every situation.

? Speak only for yourself. Each partner clearly expresses where they stand increases the probability that both partners will get their needs heard and met.

Beyond these communication guidelines, several other factors are very important in good communication. First among these is knowing and taking full responsibility for yourself. If you can identify and own up to issues that are yours, you can save much unnecessary and unproductive arguing.

Another important relationship skill is getting and staying in touch with your spouse's world. This will help you "read" the others more correctly.

Many conflicts arise out of misreading the other's intentions as a personal attack when they were not meant as such. When we don't have adequate information, we often assume the worst. This is true of countries, cultures, neighbors, and our spouses. If we have more information, we are less likely to make harmful and inaccurate assumptions.

Finally, it is a good idea to talk about how you talk. If the only time you look at this is from the middle of the argument, you are unlikely to make much progress.

Pick a neutral time and talk in general about how the two of you resolve things. Avoid the temptation to step into a specific conflict area. Communication is a skill that can be learned and it does not have to be perfect to make substantial improvements in your marriage.

If you and your spouse need help learning to communicate, or with other aspects of your relationship, call The Village Family Service Center at 701-451-1900. The Village's professional counselors are ready to listen and help.

Go to www.TheVillageFamily.org for more information about The Village, or to sign up for a FREE monthly Wellness e-newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly tips on topics like depression, dealing with your teenager, family communication, and the power of play.

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