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How to fight with your spouse without ruining your marriage, in 9 steps

In "How to Be a Husband," journalist Tim Dowling offers strategies for surviving marital spats

It’s all right — you can go to bed angry. (iStock)

In his delightfully funny new book, “How to Be a Husband,” Guardian columnist Tim Dowling describes many — I mean many — arguments with his wife. Fortunately, for them and for us, he also recounts how he has survived them, and how his marriage has, as well. Below are just a few of Dowling’s strategies for making it through a marital spat:

1. Go to bed angry if you want to. It is often said that a couple should never let the sun set on an argument, but this isn’t practical. Some arguments are, by their nature, two-day events: Too much is at stake to set an arbitrary bedtime deadline. Faced with a stark choice between closure and a night’s sleep, you’re better off with the latter in almost every case.
2. When your wife carries on the next morning as if yesterday’s argument never happened, you should interpret her behavior as a willingness to forgive and forget, and not as a sign that she has actually forgotten.
3. Own your stupidity. Self-awareness is a reliably endearing trait, and over time your spouse will come to admire your willingness to recognize precisely when you have been/are being an idiot.
4. Naturally, there is a lot of disagreement in any partnership, but make certain you’re on the same side when battling outside forces: unfeeling authority, intractable bureaucracy, strangers who have parked stupidly. Mindless solidarity is vital under these circumstances.
5. The time-honored debate about leaving the [toilet] seat up or down is not a genuine source of friction in marriage. . . . The real rule, simple and inarguable, is this: Don’t piss on the seat.
6. Arguments often lead you down little strategic alleyways in search of short-term advantage, and it’s easy to lose your way, especially if feelings are running high. But it’s perfectly feasible to close your rant with the words, “and I’ve now forgotten why I even started this sentence!” If you allow your partner to reassemble the broken pieces of your argument for you, you will almost always end up with a more charitable interpretation of your logic than you deserve.
7. In the context of marriage, a moral victory is something you’ll invariably end up celebrating on your own. If you’re going to get on in married life — if you’re going to have sex ever — you’ve got to learn how to lose an argument. And to do that, you’ve got to learn how to be wrong.
8. It’s never too late to apologize. By which I mean, when it’s obviously far too late for saying sorry to do any good at all, you still should.

And my personal favorite:

9. Never underestimate the tremendous healing power of sitting down together from time to time to speak frankly and openly about the marital difficulties facing other couples you know.

“How to Be a Husband” will be published on Feb. 7 by Blue Rider Press. Look for a full review in this space in the coming days.

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