If there is one behavior that sinks relationships more often than any other, it's what people do to each other when they're angry.
I don't know what this is in your house, but the most common is the harsh word spoken in haste. Whether it's an insult, put-down, curse or criticism delivered without compassion, words can damage love.
Although anger is tricky to manage, it's not impossible. A couple who wishes to stand the test of time and promote healthy communication among their offspring would do well to observe a few simple rules:
Don't put off talking about it. Accumulated anger can assume frightening proportions. Better to frequently clear the air than to harbor a grudge that contaminates living.
Don't threaten divorce. Save it for after you've made a calm, cool decision of your own.
Don't leave the scene until you both agree it's better to do so. Leaving can be almost as threatening as screaming "divorce." Of course, it may be preferable to losing control of your behavior and hurting someone.
Don't attack your partner's character or personal worthiness. This is an escalation that gets you nowhere.
Don't attack your mate's family. Avoid shifting the topic, bringing up the past, dumping out the grievance bag.
Don't bring others in for support, especially your children.
Don't feign defeat in an effort to make your partner feel guilty.
Don't be defensive. This is a tough one. Defensiveness feels natural, but it never helps. It usually causes the aggressor to aggress harder and defeats your purpose.
Watch for and avoid "hot button" issues. These are the ones that come up repeatedly, but which never get resolved. Arguing about these one more time gets you nothing but trouble.
I will give a talk on relationship skills and conflict management (short version) at Jonathan Dickinson Park (U.S. 1 in Hobe Sound) on Feb. 3 after famed local yoga teacher Nicole Sedito's annual yoga hike along the Kitching Creek Trail at 9 a.m.
All will be followed by a picnic lunch (if you bring one) and after that, rent a canoe or just hang out.
Meet near the canoe livery. The program is free with $4 for parking.
Hugh R. Leavell has been a marriage and family therapist in Palm Beach County for 18 years. He offers free seminars on couples communication and conflict management. Call him at (561) 471-0067 or visit his Web site www.oneminutetherapist.com.