SideTaker.com: Mediate your disputes without spending a penny

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The ideal argument probably goes something like this: one person reveals a controversial act, feeling, or belief to the other. They discuss the issue at hand, get all their feelings out, reach some sort of compromise, and move forward together. The disagreement ultimately strengthens the relationship, and both parties end up feeling good about the outcome.

Even in the best of circumstances, though, there's always a disconnect in any real argument. Both sides are convinced that they are right, a feeling that is enforced by friends and allies, who have generally heard only one side of the story and consequently have offered total support. Even if one partner budges, there is usually a lingering sense of having been wronged; this, in turn, bleeds into future arguments. Before you know it, you're recreating Christmas at my Grandparents' house, complete with vows of vengeance, declarations of eternal hatred, and hurled chunks of turkey. All you need is my great-uncle Louie passing out at the dinner table to make the picture complete.

To keep things from getting to Watson Christmas meltdown level, couples spend hours discussing their issues with friends and family or drop thousands of dollars on mediators and licensed therapists. While this may help the situation, it often ends up alienating loved ones and creating a new set of economic problems. With that in mind, I was pleased to hear about SideTaker.com, a website that allows people to present their problems to an impartial panel of total strangers. The strangers, in turn, vote for whichever side they consider correct; if they wish, they can also leave comments.

While I'm not optimistic enough to think that SideTaker will resolve every argument, it seems like a good way for couples to get a sense of perspective about their conflicts. As for the rest of us, there's nothing like other people's problems to make our issues seem reasonable!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. Seriously, great-uncle Louie was FAMOUS for getting drunk and passing out while carving the turkey.

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