DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for three years. We moved in together eight months ago and have been talking about marriage as soon as we’re financially stable.

Abby, we both have hot tempers. We don’t get violent, but we flare up at the drop of a hat. We tend to take things personally and become defensive. When we fight, it’s all-out war. Neither of us seems to be able to stop until it’s too late, and by then, we have usually said hurtful things for which we’re sorry.

How do people learn to fight fair and control their tempers? We love each other very much. – HURT IN NEW JERSEY

Learning to “fight fair” is an acquired skill, and like any other skill it takes self-control and practice. When people disagree, it is helpful to stay on the subject when talking it out. That means refraining from dragging in baggage from previous arguments.

Another technique that can avert misunderstanding is to “mirror” what the other person has said. (“I heard you say you didn’t like my outfit. Did you mean I’m getting fat?”) In other words, the person might not have liked the color or style, but how will you know if you don’t ask?

Another helpful technique is to ask yourself, before venting, “Is it true? Is it kind? It is hurtful? Is it helpful?” A trial lawyer once told me, “You can’t unring the bell.” This holds true in relationships as well as courtrooms.

I have published a booklet, “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It,” that readers have told me is helpful. It may be ordered by sending a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

DEAR ABBY: I am a gospel minister, and members of the congregation are divided over whether to hold a baby shower for an unwed mother who is a member of the congregation. I have been told that it “is just not done.” The expectant mother has made it right by repenting and asking for prayer.

Is there any rule of etiquette that prohibits having a baby shower for an unwed mother?

I want to help the young woman because the long road ahead will be difficult. But I also want to keep the congregation from dividing over the matter. – MINISTER IN GEORGIA

There is no rule of etiquette that prohibits an unwed mother from being given a shower. And because of her unmarried status, she is going to need all the help she can get. Babies are expensive.

Since she repented, perhaps you should remind your flock of:

1. The Golden Rule. (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.)

2. Judge not lest ye be judged. And …

3. Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone.

Your work is cut out for you, because your congregation seems to have forgotten a principle of their religion: Love one another.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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