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Five phrases to memorize if you want to fight less

We’re the first people to say that avoiding fights completely in a relationship is not a realistic — nor a particularly healthy — goal. In fact, studies have found that couples who can fight passionately but civilly tend to have stronger romantic connections, i.e. their relationships don’t turn platonic as quickly. In other words, it’s not necessarily how often you fight, but how you fight.

That all said, sometimes it’s nice to just get along. And for some couples, fighting less often means that when you do fight, you’re better able to fight fair. After all, how many times a day can you control your inner playground mean girl/boy? So if you’d like to fight a little less often, then you might find the following advice helpful — it’s adapted from the new book Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In by Laurie Puhn, J.D., a Harvard-educated family lawyer and couples mediator with a private practice in Manhattan. And no complaints that it’s cheesy — sometimes a little cheese can go a long way to smoothing a domestic crisis in the making. (By the way, new parents who are zombie-fied from lack of sleep may find these basic communication strategies particularly helpful as the bare minimum to keep a relationship going until you have time to actually, you know, spend quality time together again.)

Today’s busy multi-tasking couples have little time to invest in their relationship. In my couples mediation practice it’s no surprise that many people reveal they have lost that loving feeling for their spouse. I tell my clients: it’s only natural for love to disintegrate over time, unless you work at keeping it alive. Sound hard? It’s not.

You can keep the connection strong with 5-minute conversations and simple comments that show you care. You don’t need lots of quality time together. In fact, you and your partner don’t need to talk more, you simply need to learn to talk better. Below are 5 key phrases that will instantly ignite a loving bond. In my new book, Fight Less, Love More, you will discover many more simple strategies to give you the love, respect, appreciation and companionship you want, from the partner you have, for a lifetime.

Key phrase #1: “You are such a generous person”
Many people compliment the superficial things in others: “You look great in that dress” or “I love your new haircut.” External compliments are nice, but research shows that people prefer compliments for internal character traits such: “You’re such a kind, helpful or thoughtful person.” In the online survey we did for my book, we found that 84% of people want their mate to compliment them for being kind rather than good-looking.

Key phrase #2: “I never thought of it that way”
Want to put a smile on your mate’s face? That’s simple: After your mate has explained his/her viewpoint on anything from a current event to your child’s behavior, ponder the comment and say, “I never thought of it that way.” It’s the respectful way to say that their opinion matters to you (even if you don’t agree with him or her). Once someone senses that you respect their ideas, they are more likely to listen to and respect yours.

Key phrase #3: “Good night”
In our on-line study we found that 25% of the couples surveyed don’t bother to say “good night” to their partner. Fact: Of those who forget to say goodnight, 70% thought about ending the relationship in the last year. If you and your mate aren’t going to sleep at the same time, make it a habit to find your partner before you retire and say two caring words: “good night.” And why not add on “I love you”?

Key phrase #4: “Thank you for ____”

Each day find something to thank your mate for. If you have trouble finding something, ask yourself, “what did he/she do today that I didn’t have to do?” Answers could be: take out the garbage, help your child with homework, pick up a pizza, etc. When your mate does something you expect him/her to do, it’s still worthy of appreciation.

Key phrase #5: “How did it go?”
A little bit of remembering shows a lot of love. If you know your mate has an important meeting, doctor appointment, etc., be sure to follow up with your partner. Call, email or text, “how did it go?” This sends a clear message: I care about you.

The values we hold dear to us: respect, appreciation, compassion, loyalty and companionship are fostered or destroyed every day by our word choices and actions. If you use these 5 key phrases you’ll see a quick improvement in your relationship. Use more of the 5-minute strategies found in my new book and you can expect to get the love you want, from the partner you have, for a lifetime!

Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In is on sale now

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