06/05/2014 06:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

One Question You Need to Ask to Stop Fighting With Your Partner

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We are all headed into a a long, hopefully gorgeous summer. Maybe a vacation. Time together with our partners.

Something sometimes we dread. Because we fear fighting.

Do you know it?

The question that helps you step out of fighting?

I learned it from working with people just like you.

It's simple.

A lot of fights occur because we have taken too personally what our partner has done. Or said. Or not done. Or not said.

"If he loved me more, then he would...".

"If she respected me, she wouldn't have...".

"If she knew how hard I was trying, she wouldn't have...".

"If he really cared about the kids and me, he would...".

We tell ourselves that the above are the reasons WHY our partners are acting the way they are acting.

Their actions are about US. INTENTIONAL actions to hurt us.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here's the $10,000 question to ask yourself. Before you allow yourself to think any of the above.

"What do I know about my partner that would explain his/her behavior that has nothing to do with me?"

That's it. That's the question.

Think about it. It's so simple.

I will give you an example. I will make it about me.

Last weekend, my husband and I were shopping at the grocery store. He then decided he wanted to go get some hanging plants for the deck. It was hot. We had cold groceries but as long as it was for a short time, I said, "Sure why not?" What I hadn't counted on was how many plants were going to be there.

Kinda dumb.

The place was stuffed with plants. Smells galore. Lots of colors. He was spending what for me was a long time looking and analyzing. I began getting just a little panicky. Too much stimulation. We were in the back of a warm tent. (I have panic disorder that is triggered by feeling crowded and claustrophobic -- not prepared).

I had to get out of there.

My husband could tell I was getting agitated. He was having a good time. There was tension.

He could have thought, "Well if she really cared about me... she wouldn't want to leave...." I could have thought, "If he really understood me, he would remember that this kind of situation makes me panicked..." and we would have been off to the races! Instead, I walked over and said something like, "I am freaking out a little. Sorry. Take your time."

I asked THE QUESTION. He was immersed in an activity. I realized he wasn't thinking about me or my panic. Plus it would never occur to him I would get panicked in a darn greenhouse!

It's amazing how in small situations like this, huge fights take place.

I know. I have had them.

So, next time. You have asked your partner to call you when he reaches his destination. He forgets. You immediately want to completely go nuts and feel abandoned. Ask yourself the question.

"What do I know about my partner that would explain his behavior that has nothing to do with me?"

"Well, he is forgetful. He forgets to charge his cell phone. It's probably dead. Or he gets really involved in whatever is going on around him. You are always the one who remembers to call. He will remember when he is going to bed. Why don't I call him?"

Anything but taking it personally.

The next time your partner overdraws her checking account. Instead of immediately saying that she is doing that to piss you off. That she has no respect for how hard you work. Stop. Ask the question. Remember that she grew up in a home where she was not taught anything about finances. That she has said more than once that she struggles with money and needs help. (Probably not from you but a more objective teacher).

Most of us do not wake up and think about how we can make our partner miserable today.

We just don't.

It's an easy question to ask.

It will cause remarkable change in your marriage or partnership.