One phrase every guy needs to memorize before he gets married.

I was hanging out with a friend of mine yesterday. She's tall and beautiful, and she's wearing this gorgeous diamond ring on her left finger. She throws around dates, vendors, designer names, and colors with ease, and jokes about the hoity-toity and high-falutin' wedding planner. And she mentions that she and her honey had their first fight. It's a beautiful time. IMG_1484

I found this wise man hidden in a bush when we cleared out our yard

I remember before Patrick and I got married, my middle sister asked—in particular—whether or not we'd actually been in a legitimate fight. The answer was no. We'd been to premarital counseling, we'd talked a ton about conflict, but when it came to a real knock-down-drag-out... it just hadn't happened. That concerned my sister. But it didn't concern me. I didn't think we were perfect—I knew that at some point we would inevitably disagree. But what I didn't know was that there is a magic phrase that would help about 80 percent of our fights end before they even began.

Imagine this.

It's five-thirty on a Tuesday and you're chopping onions. Eyes stinging, nose filling with the white earthy stink, your neck is stiff and your mind is on the fact that by seven o'clock you have to be out the door and on the other side of town. There are three e-mails you haven't sent, and one you're sure you've forgotten entirely. Your boss told you today that your evaluation is tomorrow, and because of the hectic schedule, you're not going to have time to solidify any plans for tomorrow. It's in this state that your husband/boyfriend/fiancé/friend walks in the door.

"Hey [insert cute nickname here]! How was your day?" he says with innocence. He's unaware of the trap he's walked right into.

"Well," you say. "I'm cooking dinner all by myself. We have to be across town in an hour, and my boss is worse than a dog in a cat parade. My evaluation is tomorrow and I'm not going to have any time to prepare." You throw down the knife and send daggers out of your eyes, too.

"Well, here, let me fix dinner," he says.

He's wrong. That's not the right phrase. He's immediately entered a fight.

Okay. So he tries something different.

"How about you just stay in tonight," he tries.

Now you're livid.

All he needs is one phrase. It's a really magic combination of five words that can help any woman at her wits end and save any man from the impending dog-house.

Do you want to know what it is?

"Gosh [instert name here]. That is awful." 

That's it. Five words.

Gosh babe, that is awful. 

Try it. Practice it. Mean it. Because most of the time we're not really looking for your help or your solution. We're just looking for some sympathy. Some compassion. Someone to share our no good very bad day with.

You might want to have a few versions of this phrase ready for whenever the time is right. Because if you say "awful" every time, she'll get that you're onto her and the phrase will lose it's magic.

Alternate phrases?

"Gosh, that's the worst."

"Man, I'm so sorry."

These will work, too. It might just save you. [Disclaimer. It may not always save you because us women reserve the right to react to phrases in whatever way we deem necessary and proper at the time.]