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One Small Thing

Follow this simple rule to fight fair with your spouse

As a dating and relationship coach at Smart Dating Academy, I help people find healthy, happy love by choosing the right partners. Part of having a good relationship is also knowing how to resolve conflict constructively. Any close relationship WILL have conflict, if it's a real relationship.

A rule that we practice in our own house (I've been married for almost 20 years and have a 13-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son) is called "de-escalation."

When a fight starts to get heated, voices and tempers rise, and cruel words are often rapidly hurled out. De-escalation is literally saying "time-out" to the fight. It's not walking out or quitting — it's saying, ''Let's press pause, and go back to our corners just like boxers do."

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In our house, we all get to call "de-escalation" when we want, and that means we're all going to separate spaces to cool off.

What does this do? It removes you from a volatile, angry situation — and lets you "cool off." It stops the fight dead in its tracks, as everyone takes a break. You don't go to those bad, dark places with words.

What do you think happens 20-30 minutes later? Usually, someone ends up nicely apologizing to the other person. What else happens? We don't push each other's hot buttons as much. We don't screech as many insults, criticisms and bad words. "De-escalate" means separate and cool off. Believe me, it's made a huge difference in our relationships with each other — not just between me and my husband, but also with the kids.

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Here's the key to making it work: You have to agree to the strategy when you're all cool, calm and collected. Then, implement it. Everyone gets the right to de-escalate! Try it, whether it's with your partner, tween, teenager, siblings or parents — and let us know how it works!

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