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How women can save their marriages
June 1, 2014, 1:42 pm

It takes two people to get married, but only one to make a relationship better. Waiting for your spouse to change first is a recipe for unhappiness and divorce. Here are some surprising ways women can save their marriages.

Describe it in three sentences (or less): Your husband might say things like "I don't want to talk" or "I'm not good at talking." Usually, the real issue is that he gets easily flooded with too much information and shuts down. So, when bringing up an issue, end your description after three sentences. For example, cut off your point at "You said you'd clean up the kitchen, and you didn't." Don't add on all those extra but related issues.

Disorient him with praise: Surprise your spouse with praise just when he's most expecting you to criticize him. For example, if he has a tendency to be overbearing with his younger brother, and the two of you have fought about this, repeatedly, wait until you hear them on the phone together. After he hangs up, say something like: "I so admire the way you used humor to lighten things up with your brother. You can be so funny with him." It's disarming. It's unexpected, and it encourages new behavior—from both of you.

End the phony I-statements:  Many of us know about the value of an "I-statement," a technique that requires you to talk about your feelings instead of your partner's behavior. For example, if your partner is frequently late, instead of saying to him, "You're always late. It's so rude," you might say, "It's more difficult for me when you're late because I don't know how to plan the dinner." This way, you can talk about the issue without attacking him.

Invite what you dread:  If you're sick of hearing, say, your partner's repetitive worry about putting his mother in a nursing home, you need to initiate that very conversation. You may worry that you will open the emotional dams and have to talk about what you least want to hear about, but in fact, your partner will dwell on the issue less if you really invite him to tell you everything in one fell swoop. You don't have to come up with solutions or cheer him up. You just have to listen.

Put some limits on your listening: Listening is the ultimate spiritual act. It's the greatest gift that we can give our partner, and marriages need to do more of it. But sometimes you have to put a limit on when. If your husband wants to talk about how much the two of you spent during the holidays right as you're making dinner, supervising the kids' homework and watching the news, you're not going to be able to focus. You need one more quick (calm) sentence in which you articulate that you will listen later, just not right now.



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