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Watch the clock Diving into a major relationship crisis five minutes before your spouse leaves for the office is plain dumb. If you're going to raise a highly contentious issue, ensure your partner has time to respond. "Give your spouse a warning that something's coming," therapist Arlene Stiles says.

Consider fighting styles Some people like to get things off their chest right away and others need time to think it out. "Those opposites are often married to each other," says Ms. Stiles, adding couples should try to meet each other halfway. If you're really quick out the gate, consider biding your time with some journal entries - or a rigorous workout set to Rammstein.

Write a script Often, one partner can outtalk the other, who gets lost in the argument. "You might have to write it down so that you know what to say and read it rather than getting into the moment and freezing," Ms. Stiles says.

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Focused sparring Squabbling couples often have trouble staying focused on the current issue, taking cheap shots and dredging up the past instead. "It's like taking a rock and throwing it at their head when they're not looking," Ms. Stiles says. Some therapists recommend writing the issue down on a piece of paper and keeping it in full view to stay on track.

Argue in "good faith" Realize you ultimately have each other's best interests at heart. "I encourage not just listening to the words coming out of their mouths, but also the intent underlying them," Ms. Stiles says.

Wrap it up. A lingering fight drains energy and life force. Try to apologize to one another, have a hug and get on with it - the make-up sex, that is.

Zosia Bielski

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