Revolutionize Your Relationship
ven the most loving partner does annoying things (yes, you do them too!). Ignore them -- or handle them incorrectly -- and the tension can wreak havoc on an otherwise harmonious relationship. Barry McCarthy, Ph.D., psychology professor at American University and author of Getting It Right the First Time: Creating a Healthy Marriage (Brunner-Routledge), offers practical solutions to help you handle some of the most common problem spots.
Problem: You ask him to do (or stop doing) something and he doesn't do it.
Relationship Rx: Make a clear request -- not a demand -- and help him prioritize. Chances are, he's not trying to slack off or snub you. He probably just "hears this as one of the ten things you ask [him to do], so it isn't a high priority," says McCarthy. Try ranking your requests on a ten-point scale. That way, when there's something you really want your partner to attend to, you can emphasize in a non-confrontational way how important it is to you. If he can't do it right then, he may even suggest a manageable compromise.
Problem: He always makes you late.
Relationship Rx: McCarthy suggests tackling this issue with collaborative problem solving. Set aside time without distractions to brainstorm possible solutions. Every couple will come up with their own plan; the important thing is to find one that works for you both. You might adopt a system where one of you is in charge of getting the kids ready and the other is responsible for the "adult" stuff like keys, directions, etc. Or you could agree to start getting ready to leave 15 minutes before you need to walk out the door.
Problem: You have different after-work rituals.
Relationship Rx: Whether one or both of you work outside the home, you likely have different ways of unwinding when you come back together. Some people like to look at the mail or change clothes; others head straight for the kids. "It's very common that feelings get hurt when the [other] doesn't want to do it the same way," McCarthy says. Talk to your partner about what each of you needs during that time and try to reach a compromise. "When our kids were little, if it wasn't raining, we would reunite by putting the baby in the stroller and going for a walk," says McCarthy.
Problem: Your kids absorb all your attention during mealtimes.
Relationship Rx: Your relationship with your partner is the most important bond in the family -- even more than the parent-child bond, says McCarthy -- and it's critical to nurture that connection. But by nature children interrupt adult eating patterns, which can leave you feeling distracted and disconnected. "I'm a big fan of at least once a week...having one adults-only meal to remind you that you're adults and a couple," recommends McCarthy. If you don't have a relative or babysitter to watch your kids while you eat, wait until you've put them to bed and then enjoy a late meal together.
Julia Maranan, a former editor at Natural Health magazine, is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health and fitness.
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