Saralee Perel

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at 

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on

Fighting Fair, From the Queen of Unfair Play

Now that it’s the season of summer romances, it’s a good time to focus on what makes relationships work. I think a big part of that is how well we handle arguments. There are certain things I believe we should never say or do. I will point these out in bold print.

During our last fight, the issue (another word for what Bob has done wrong) was this: He didn’t rub my back when I overdid it on the treadmill.

Me: “Good-the-hell-night!” I angrily hobbled off to bed, NOT EXPLAINING WHY.

Bob: “Why are you GOING TO BED ANGRY?”

Me: “Why do you think?” Meaning, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO READ MY MIND.

Bob: “I don’t know!”

Me: “GUESS.” You’ll have to drag this out of me, while I SULK in bed.

Bob, sitting on the bed: “It’s better to tell me than have me guess.” Meaning – when I guess, I always pick something I didn’t think you knew about, like last night, when I forgot to put the cake away and the cat ate it and threw up.

Me: “I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO TELL YOU what’s wrong with me.”

Bob: no verbal response, but thinking, “If I ever made a list of what’s wrong with you, they’d have to print an extra supplement in the Cape Cod Times to finish this column.”

Me: “My back hurts, worse (LYING) than ever.”

Bob: “Why didn’t you just ask me to rub it?”


Bob: “Then how would I know?”

Me, TWISTING THINGS AROUND: “Because  . . .  you’re the one who bought the stupid highest tech treadmill they had.”

Bob: “You increased the resistance too high.”

Me: “Now it’s my fault.”

Bob, sighing: “What are we arguing about anyway, the treadmill, your back, everything being your fault, or what?”

Me: “So now everything’s always my fault?”

Bob, sighing louder, got off the bed.

Me, INSULTING: “Great. Walk away like a typical male who can’t handle talking about feelings.”

He sat back down. “Does a typical male do all the housework like I do?”


Bob: “We could barely afford this treadmill, but you wanted it.”

Me, SARCASTIC: “Oh that’s a good one. GUILT. How about – the dog needed an operation but instead you bought me the treadmill?”

Bob: “You’re impossible.”

Me: “NAME CALLING is so mature.”

Bob: “Last month you overdid it on the exercise bike and you blamed me then too.”

Me: “DREDGE UP THE PAST. That’s helpful.” I feigned tears. “I never (MARTYR) do anything right.”

Bob: “I’d love to massage your back now.”

Me: “Too little, too late (OBNOXIOUS). And why are you suddenly being so nice? I bet you did something wrong.”

Bob, blushing with shame: “So you know about the cake and the cat vomit.”


Conflicts are inevitable. What’s just as important as what is making you angry is how you express it. Remember - you are arguing with someone you love. So, as the wise woman you know that I am, I will now tell you the proper way to have handled our fight – with simplicity, respect and love.

Me: “If you rub my back, I’ll give you five dollars (BRIBE).”

Bob: “Make it ten.”

Me: “You’re on.”