5 surprisingly useful lessons I learned from supermarket tabloids

Leafing through a trashy magazine in the grocery aisle is my guilty pleasure. One afternoon, I flipped to a story about a celeb couple, married for about four years with a baby. “Sources” were concerned about their arguments over child care and work schedules. Subtract a hundred million dollars or so and swap the Hollywood mansion for a townhouse in the ‘burbs, and the story could have been about my family.

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I’m not in the habit of referring to the tabloids for marriage wisdom, but as it turns out, celebrity scandals contain some valuable insights. For $3.99, a gossip magazine holds a surprising amount of advice for how to argue effectively with your partner.

1. There's more than one side to any story

Choose your own Hollywood divorce story: love is dead! Actress put on a brave face for the kids after her partner:

  • Had an affair with the nanny
  • Converted to Scientology
  • Shrunk her favorite shirt in the wash

Meanwhile, the partner says she:

  • Made out with a co-star off camera
  • Spent $100,000 on the twins’ third birthday
  • Insisted on plastic surgery for the dog

It’s easy to look like a hero if you’re willing to cast the other person as a villain. “Area Couple Both Have Reasonable Points About Whose Family They Should Visit This Thanksgiving” won’t make headlines, but the argument goes a lot better without the spin.

2. Choose your confidants carefully

The scariest phrase in any gossip article is, “a source close to the couple says.” Celebs seem to have an awful lot of friends willing to sell them out. Fortunately, subtle clues distinguish a reliable confidante from a TMZ aficionado. My best friend has known me and my husband for 11 years, so one “this man is driving me nuts” conversation won’t poison her opinion of my spouse. Guarding secrets matters to her. When I asked about how a mutual friend was coping after a breakup, she said, “I don’t know how much I should share,” and changed the subject. If the paparazzi ever start asking details of my life, she’ll slip on her coolest shades and walk on by.

3. Don’t leap to conclusions

Spoiler alert: supermarket magazines don’t always hold themselves to the strictest standards of journalism. “Baby On the Way!” a cover screams. Inside, the “expectant” actress admits that yes, she has thought about having kids; she’s not currently pregnant. “It’s Over” are the only two words an editor clipped from a quote that starts, “If he moves to Australia for 10 months while going out drinking every night…” Nothing sets me on edge like a testy, “Can’t you clean up? I’m beat.” You’re beat? I nursed a baby during a conference call! Once we both get a chance to share our day, it’s easier to decide whether to do the dishes together or just leave them in the sink and open some wine.

4. Take breathing room when you need to

When my husband and I have an argument, I like to take a private jet across the country to cool down in my New York City penthouse. (Or at least lace up my sneakers and walk a loop in the park across the street.) Either way, taking a mind-calming break can make it easier to be patient when working out a disagreement. What you do with your alone time matters. Take a walk. Meditate. Have a Disney movie marathon. If you learn anything from celebrity magazines, let them teach you not to go clubbing with a mystery someone when you’re mad … or in our case, don’t do something that may hurt the other person’s feelings.

5. You're not alone

You can have $20 million and abs as defined as an ice cube tray, you’re still going to get into arguments. I think it’s comforting that no amount of money, fame, or personal trainers can guarantee a conflict-free life. Disagreeing with your partner doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad match or that the romance is over. You probably grew up with different outlooks on money, family, and schedules. Maybe you both have strong opinions about whether forks should point up or down in the dishwasher. Chances are if you stay mindful and compassionate, this spat too will be gone with last month’s headlines.

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