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Faith WoodThey loved each other so much. Everyone thought they were a perfect couple. Of all the couples in their circle, they definitely had the advantage, communicating so well with each other.

That’s what we all thought – until they got divorced!

When that perfect couple is at an impasse, why start fighting like children?

Communication can be a real challenge when the pressure is on. Resentment over perceived wrongs, disagreements over the kids, financial worries – these can be breeding grounds for some of the worst adult behaviour.

Even if you’ve managed to avoid being served a divorce notice until now, coming home angry from work every day can take its toll on even the most rock-solid marriage. Add infidelity or a lack of trust and you have a recipe that causes more than 50 percent of Canadian marriages to end in divorce.

Of all the challenges facing couples, communication probably tops the list. But there are several things you can do to deal with inevitable pressure in a positive, respectful manner. And it doesn’t matter whether you are attempting to get your marriage back on track or simply wish to navigate divorce with a little less antagonism.

Our first response to conflict of any kind is usually emotional and not typically positive. A breakdown in our relationship often causes the most resilient among us to feel the burn on our self-esteem. It’s best to expect this and recognize that your buttons are likely going to be pushed and your suspicious side will be on high alert.

Instead of resorting to childish communication – finger pointing and assigning blame – consider deploying more useful stress management strategies. For example, call for a time out when you feel your buttons being pushed. Go for a brisk walk and chill for at least 10 minutes before you re-engage in the conversation.

Make a commitment to not using every four-letter word in your vocabulary, screaming, tearing your hair and running out the door, despite your inclination to do so. These are not effective ways to deal with pressure. You are the only person who can determine the amount of stress you feel. Your partner or ex-partner is not making you crazy or explosive. But you can probably blame your negative fixation on the problems!

Remind yourself to be confident, stand tall and keep your head and eyes focused skyward. Maintain an air of curiosity to combat the tendency to wallow in emotional toxicity.

Act confident but not overbearing. We’ve all run into people who are so arrogant that we just want to shove a pie in their face. If you approach people with the attitude that you’re the only intelligent one in the room and everyone else is a buffoon, you won’t stimulate much productive communication.

Stop reacting and start responding. When someone makes a ridiculous or unfounded statement, don’t snort and say, “Seriously?”

Instead, take a deep breath and ask, “Can you please explain that a bit further?” or “I don’t necessarily agree with what you are saying because. …” Keep your voice light and your attitude one of curiosity for these statements to work the best.

Listening is a great way of communicating under pressure. As Jeff Daly, the chief designer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, once said: “Two monologues do not make a dialogue.”

And it never hurts to remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Even a couple at odds can communicate in a fashion that keeps the acrimony at a minimum and can lead to resolution, or at very least a peaceful parting of the ways.

Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

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