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Married with Problems

If you think there are problems in your marriage, you are probably right. Unless the problems are out of your control and threatening your wellbeing, you won't move toward a solution by announcing there are problems.

Instead, move closer. Look for things to love and admire about your spouse. Take a few extra seconds with your kisses, your compliments, and your thank yous. All three will make you feel closer and probably happier.

Let go of your expectations about how your mate would or should behave. Instead, find what you can to appreciate.

If something's missing, take the steps to add it. Don't mention that it's missing. Your spouse knows. If he or she also wishes it were not missing, your steps will be met with a huge sigh of relief.

When you mention what's bothering you, don't compare it to what you think is right. Compare it to what your spouse does wonderfully and make it clear you are asking for a favor. You are. Neither of you can lay claim to being right about how marriages should work. They only work when they work for both of you. Then follow up with gratitude for a past change or an expression of hope for a better tomorrow.

Not successful: "If you were a real man, you would have finished the bathroom renovation project by now. Don't even think about going hunting before that is done!"

A lot more successful: "I think you did a great job with the tile in the bathroom. It looks great now. It would mean a lot to me to have the new toilet in, too, in time for Thanksgiving. I know I'm asking you to change your way of doing things again, and I really appreciated when you did that for me while we were driving to Michigan. If you can, I think I'll be a much calmer hostess when your folks come to visit.

Will it get you a new toilet, less time on the computer after dinner, and a little more romance on your anniversary? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will get you a lot more than talking about your problems or snooping to confirm them will.

Comments

Somehow whether the toilet gets installed or not no longer is the most important thing. What is more important is the relationship between the two partners, the love expressed between then. Imagining myself as her, when I say those words, what matters is that I am someone who can say those words (that I can express that kind of love in daily life) and that I have someone who feels the same way. I was just with a 35+ year married couple, happy and thriving in separate businesses, and what you wrote sounds very much like the way they interacted with each other.

Patty thank you for being such a great teacher and for your devotion to your work. I've learned so much from you over the several years I have known you.

Thank you, Susan!

I cannot agree more with being gentle, but I do prefer a more direct approach. I really don'd mind having a problem announced as long as it can be done with tact, perhaps a bit of humor and a willingness to work on it. There is a fine line between feeling manipulated and appreciating your partner's tact in dealing with an issue. Tammy will let me know my driving is less than stellar by saying, "the curb, blinker, leave some space", then finally in exasperation after my 10th traffic violation, "Oh, wow." Then we both laugh. Perhaps not all couples can handle the kind of teasing we allow each other. It took a while to get to this point.

John Gottman and other researchers have gone looking for that fine line. What they found is that it takes a 5-to-1 ratio of positive interactions to negative ones (including teasing and warnings or corrections) to keep a relationship safe and healthy. From reading your blog, I'm pretty sure you two have no trouble maintaining that ratio.

Great post Patty. I agree with you that the way we speak to our spouse has a profound impact on our marriage and our sex lives. One thing that I have come across over the years are couples that don't realize that they have bad habits that need to be addressed.

I like to call these the brick walls of emotional intimacy, http://www.oneextraordinarymarriage.com/why-your-emotional-intimacy-has-hit-a-brick-wall.

I have seen that once couples understand where they can make changes the way they talk to each other changes as well.

Cheers.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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