Experts of wedded bliss have these suggestions:

  • Take a break. Even a 30-second break can help a couple push the reset button on a fight and reconnect when everyone’s a little calmer.
  • Own up to your part of the fight. Two things derail intense fights: admitting what you did to get your partner ticked off, and expressing empathy toward your partner. Brooke, author of The Blame Game, says this can be difficult but typically is extremely successful. “Letting down our defenses in the heat of battle, seems counterintuitive, but is actually very effective with couples.”
  • Find the humor. Pamela Bodley and her husband have also been married 23 years, “We have a great sense of humor.” Her husband, Paul, has kept the mood light by always saying he knows women keep skillets in their purse. So when he does something wrong, Bodley says, “I just pretend to hit him over the head with a skillet and say, ‘TING!'”
  • Shut up and touch. There’s a point where discussing the matter doesn’t help. So couples need to just hold each other when nothing else seems to be working.
  • Ban the “but.” Couples often derail a resolution when they try to acknowledge the other partner’s position, but then add a “but” in their next breath and reaffirm their position. An example: I can understand why you didn’t pick up the dishes in the family room, but why do you think I’m the maid?
  • Remember what’s important. Remember the key question: What’s best for the marriage?

And therapists also say that it’s important to realize that no marriage is perfect and that fighting is often part of the ebb and flow of compromise.