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Stopping Fights Before the Holidays
5 ways to get a jumpstart on a fight-free holiday season.

Brighten your winter by embracing your marriage, not fighting or avoiding fights.

With the holidays around the corner, and before the stress and panic really hit, make this a time to look at your relationship and take inventory to see whatís working and what isnít. Begin to nurture your marriage now, in new and more effective ways so that the holidays can be a time of closeness and connection, rather than fighting and resentment.

What are the issues that are bothersomeóthe ones youíve shoved under the rug? What are the issues that donít really work in your marriage, but arenít that bad? What are the fights that cause pain and frustration that keep on recurring with no resolution?

In my new book, "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting without Therapy," youíll be amazed to learn that fighting about the same thing, again and again, can finally be resolved through my First Argument Technique (FAT). Itís a three-step system of Peel, Reveal, and Heal that exposes the ghosts from your past that are the real reason for those painful fights. Then, by using the accompanying workbook, youíll get simple, yet effective tools, so resolution and healing can finally happen.

Below are five tips from my book to find the rust in your relationship so that you can knock it off, generating change and gratitude just in time for the holidays:

1. Donít wait until your relationship is really in trouble. Look under the rug and see what issues youíve swept there. If all the issues seem overwhelming, just pick one. With observation, youíll see that theyíre all connected.

2. Don't kid yourself, "This issue isnít that bad, I can live with it." That bad, compared to what? If itís not working, itís not working! Itís time to examine how things could work better. Instead, say, "This doesnít work in my relationship, so letís address it, look at it and come up with ways to change it." If you never look and talk about the conflict, youíll never find a solution!

3. Ask new questions. Recurring fights happen in most relationships, and most of us are clueless as to how to resolve them. Instead of asking the same questions and getting the same answers that donít resolve your arguments, ask some new questions to get some new answers.

4. Donít ignore any of the warning signs (even if they seem small and infrequent right now) that your relationship might be in trouble: fighting more than loving; sex patterns have changed; complacency has set in; your partner has become your enemy. Address them as soon as you can!

5. Know that it is possible to change old habits and patterns that donít work. The sooner you address your issues, the less anger and hostility in your relationship. Habits will repeat themselves and actually get worse as time goes on unless they are recognized, talked about and resolved.

Now, use these five tips to nurture your marriage rather than continuing to "put it on hold" because of busy schedules, children, fear of change and confrontation, or lack of tools:

1. Value your relationship and yourself enough to get help, whether by reading books, seeing a psychotherapist or minister or by joining a coupleís group.

2. Remember how sacred your wedding vows areótreat your marriage with that same respect and sacredness rather than taking it for granted and neglecting it. Commit to a weekly date and spend more quality time with each other!

3. Learn ways to fight constructively and learn better communication with each other.

4. Be grateful for your spouse and your marriage. Remember why you fell in love. Tell your spouse what youíre grateful for about them, rather than what is wrong with them.

5. Take responsibility for your part in the problems that you have. Itís never a one-way street in relationships. We both play our part. What could you change that would make the relationship more loving and less adversarial?

With the holidays approaching, give yourself and your marriage the greatest gifts of all: nurturance, time, energy, commitment, honesty and love. Re-evaluate whatís working and what isnít, and do something different! Make one significant change that could be the beginning of having the marriage youíve always wanted. Donít wait! Thereís no time like the present!

Sharon M. Rivkin, author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy," is a conflict resolution and affairs expert and marriage therapist. She has been in private practice for 28 years in Santa Rosa, California. Sharon makes regular radio appearances nationwide, and her work has been featured in several national magazines and websites including "O: The Oprah Magazine," "Readerís Digest," Yahoo.com, and Dr.Laura.com. For more information, visit www.sharonrivkin.com.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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