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Updated 12 March 2014

10 questions guaranteed to start a fight

Ask any of these 10 questions, and the chances of a fight between you and your partner are huge. Steer clear of these landmines.

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You're so angry, you feel as if you could combust spontaneously. She's gone gambling with the rent; he forgot to fetch the kids from school; she invited her mother to stay for six weeks; he cancelled the holiday without telling you; she's kissed an old boyfriend. The list goes on.

And now you are squaring for a fight that's been brewing for months.

Partners fight. That's a fact. But what does it do to you to live under such unpleasant circumstances? Quite a lot, say researchers from the State University of Ohio. They found that hostile couples experienced healing rates that were only 60 percent of those experienced by less-hostile spouses.

And it can also harm a woman's heart health, according to researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle. They studied anger management among 54 couples during vicious verbal conflict. The women were less able to calm themselves down and reduce their heart rates.

Previous studies have indicated that this type of physiological response may be associated with heart disease and other health problems.

Everyone knows that relationships are, at the best of times, tricky things. And then there are those booby-traps. Sometimes they lurk beneath the surface and sometimes they are extremely obvious. But we all step in them now and then – even when we can see them coming. And then the last thing we're thinking of is wound healing or heart health.

Ten questions guaranteed to start a fight

What took you so long? Unless you were there yourself and saw the queue, or understood the complexity of the task instead of sitting on your backside in the car, you wouldn't be asking this.

Do you even know what day it is today? Birthday, anniversary, a year since the dog died. Your mind is racing, but whatever day it turns out to be, you are in the dog box.

Don't you think it's your turn to wash the dishes? Out comes a list of all the tasks you haven't performed when you should have, or performed inadequately. Good for at least a half an hour of fighting.

Do you know what you do that really irritates me? This one's good for a Wimbledon final of a fight. Who can resist a catalogue of the other person's shortcomings over the last 14 years – and rest assured, there is always a counter-attack.

Have you even looked in the mirror today? Well, it's implied, if you did, you would never have left the house – and you expect me to look at that all the time?

You know what gets me about your mother? Mothers are dangerous ground. You can criticise your own mother all you like, but not someone else's. Even if your wife thinks her own mother is up for the Dragon of the Year award, she can say it, but you can't.

When last did we have sex? There is always implied criticism in this question. What it does say is the last time we had sex, the Dead Sea was still only sick. Get a move on.

Did you see what your son did? Aah, so suddenly when something goes wrong, he's my son, isn't he? But when he wins the trophy for bilingualism at school, he's ours.

You didn't forget to pay that account did you? This question anticipates that you did. So even if you remembered, you will take umbrage at the tone of the question. And if you forgot, out come the boxing gloves.

Why are we having chicken again? This is only asked by someone who has not been into a supermarket during the last year. Food prices have risen sharply and many people are really struggling to make ends meet. If you are juggling a tight budget, criticism is the last thing you feel like.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated February 2014)

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