12 Ways To Fix Your Marriage


What’s really going on?

We’re just going to come out and say it: Wanting to throttle your husband from time to time is perfectly normal. But if you’re constantly coming up against the same relationship problem—and experts say most couples do—then you’ll have to get to the root of the conflict if you want to move forward as a happier, healthier, more-connected couple. No partnership is impervious to these patterns, but they can corrode perfectly loving bonds over time, especially if you think your conflict is really about chores, or hygiene, or dirty socks on the bedroom floor. It’s not.

To prove it, we asked 12 real couples to spill their most persistent relationship woes and then we had experts explain what’s really going on. Here, a little real talk and a lot of relationship repair.

1. We drag each other down

“When we come home, I’m upbeat and my wife is tired and still stressed out from work. It ruins my mood, too. It’s so much easier to bring someone down than up.”

Says licensed marriage therapist Carin Goldstein: “He says it’s easier to bring someone down than up. True. But you have a choice not to sit under the black cloud with your partner. Most couples in this situation don’t realize how sensitive they are to the other person’s mood—and there can be a false belief that if they don’t descend to their spouse’s low energy, they’re not being supportive. In actuality, you need stay up even when your partner is down. That consistency will often pull them out from their slump.”

2. We always fight about the same silly things

“We’re deeply supportive of each other in a lot of ways, but when we fight, we are pitted against each other. We both get defensive, and we get nowhere.”

Says clinical psychologist Andra Brosh, PhD: “When couples have the same fight over and over again, it’s like a dance. They each repeat the same steps, making it impossible to resolve anything. Fights and defensiveness are usually fear-based, and deep down each partner is terrified of being abandoned, rejected, or seen as inadequate. Showing our warts in a relationship can only happen when there is complete trust and unconditional love. Otherwise each partner will do anything to hide what they deem will be unacceptable to the other. The only way out of the dance, the recurring fight, is to recognize the steps, and then to do something different.”

3. We’re too sarcastic

“Our problem is the overuse of sarcasm. It’s such a common way to communicate, but my wife and I forget how frustrating it can be when you actually need to say something.”

Goldstein says: “Sarcasm is a learned language and it’s passive-aggressive. People think it’s a safer way to express feelings, as opposed to just opening up to their partner, but it can come off as an attack. You’re hiding behind a feeling, and projecting something else—anger, frustration, irritation—instead of really expressing it. Be mindful of what you’re feeling and want to say, and express that. Don’t use words tinged with irritability or resentment.”

4. I’m concerned about his health

“My husband doesn’t take his health seriously. He’s diabetic, and refuses to see a doctor about problems with his feet. It’s driving me crazy.”

Says Dr. Brosh: “This is an example of a codependent relationship, where one person feels responsible for the other’s wellbeing. When one partner wants to control, and the other is settled on being a victim, it’s frustrating. The wife has a choice: Accept and live with a man who refuses to make his health a priority, or leave. Making him do something will only create frustration and resentment for both parties. Many couples feel like they need to be on the same page all the time to be happy, but we are all so different and need to be respected for those differences.”

5. Our “spouse-onomics” are out of balance

“We have double standards. He’ll say, ‘You can’t watch Gossip Girl if I’m around,’ but often flips to golf when I’m there. And when it comes to chores, he makes me feel like I’m asking for so much when I do most of the cleaning, all the cooking, social planning, etc.”

Says Dr. Brosh: “I ask couples if they are ‘showing or shoving love.’ Many times, couples do things in a relationship that they presume their partner is receiving as love: chores, letting their partner watch their favorite TV show. But not everyone gives and receives in the same way. Division of labor should be an agreement based on what is most important to each partner. If someone hates a full trash can, that should be the person taking out the trash. If the other person likes doing laundry, that person should take on that chore. Then, when agreements get broken, each partner needs to be honest and fess up to what they haven’t done. This creates honesty in the relationship and everyone feels validated.”

6. We’ve let ourselves go

“My husband burps, farts, clears his throat and makes loud noises around the house. It’s excessive. I’ve tried making a joke of it, but he knows it bothers me; he just doesn’t seem to care. If I’m feeling affectionate or sexy, there’s nothing like gas to extinguish the desire.”

Says Dr. Brosh: “Boundaries! A wife can’t be the permissive parent with an unruly child. His behavior is beyond unacceptable to her, and she needs to make that clear. She is not being assertive enough so he isn’t taking her seriously—as a result, he’s disrespecting her. Couples often play out old dynamics in a relationship, and there is something happening here that feels very old hat for both of them. They need to be mature and have a real conversation about respect and self-value.”

7. He gets mad at me for the same thing over and over

“A major hostility for us is that I always run out of the house without turning the lights off, and my guy gets mad at my ‘waste of money’ every time. I’m just forgetful!”

Says Dr. Brosh: “Remembering to turn off the lights should be a metaphor for her respecting him and holding him in mind. When she forgets, she is forgetting him, and this can be very hurtful. This is a good example of how the smallest things run so deep in relationships, and how different things are important to each partner. It’s essential recognize this and honor it.”

8. I feel a little resentful sometimes

“My husband travels a lot for work, and he gets to live this exciting life while I’m at home with the kids. I can get resentful, because I don’t get to do anything like that.”

Says Goldstein: “It’s interesting that the wife has a perception that her husband’s work life is glamorous 24/7. That’s probably not accurate, and this belief can bring up old abandonment issues: She’ll feel resentment or make herself the victim. That’s toxic. First, I’d ask the wife to look at herself and say, ‘Am I waiting for my husband to rescue me from this life?’ She needs to shift the focus from what he has to what she needs—and then tackle that. Often, just telling your spouse about little things that go on in your everyday life, no matter how great or boring, can fix the perception issue.”

9. We’re completely incompatible on paper—but we’re in love

“I love my husband, but we’re different. I like to take my time and think something out, whereas he already has the spreadsheet of pros and cons made up, with the best choice highlighted. I hate it. I feel like I have no time to process.”

Says Goldstein: “People have different wiring. Men often think very linearly. If a woman has complete opposite of a bam-bam-bam decision-making mentality, he’s constantly frustrated. For the wife, own your piece and say, ‘Hey, I need some time to come to a decision.’ He might not be aware of what he’s doing. If you both need to go through separate processes and then make a joint decision, then do that. You have to adapt. If you need it your way all the time, or if your goal is to win, you will lose.”

10. I have trust issues

“I struggle with abandonment fears from my past. Although I’ve been in therapy, it’s still an issue for us. I can be jealous and anxious. He is patient and understanding—but he also takes it personally. We don’t know what to do.”

Says Dr. Brosh: “Early traumas like abandonment can definitely linger and infiltrate present relationships. Abandonment fears can feel very real, even when they aren’t, and then they get enacted unconsciously. Being really honest and self-aware is the key in these situations. You should try to openly talk to your partner about the fear when it arises the next time. If everything is at the level of consciousness, there are no misunderstandings or projections.”

11. He’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert

“It’s impossible for us to share a social life. He has a tight circle, and he’s shy, so it’s hard for him to hang out with my friends. I’m hurt, and hate that he can’t be part of that aspect of my life. I want to share it.”

Says Goldstein: “First, there is a difference between introversion and the attitude he has toward your friends. It’s hard for introverts, and I feel for them. If he’s not willing to participate due to social anxiety, then that’s something that needs to be looked at and respected. What’s not OK is if he refuses to participate in things that are important to you because he has this ‘it’s all about me’ mentality. You should be able to go to some social events on your own, and that’s healthy, but you need to tell him this: ‘I am asking that you come with me and take one for the team because if we can’t share this part of our lives then we’re not fully connecting as a couple.’ He needs to step up. Every relationship is about compromise.”


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