You know what I am talking about.
So many couples reach out, looking for help with their communication.
Compromising is right up there, a close second. They’ll say they need help making decisions. They want to learn how to compromise better.
To compromise is by definition:
“To make a deal between different parties where each party gives up part of their demand. In arguments, compromise is a concept of finding agreement through communication, through a mutual acceptance of terms often involving variations from an original goal or desires.”
It’s what we all want when we are unable or unwilling to give up our end of the deal. It’s what we go to when we need to meet in the middle.
That’s precisely it. We expect it to be 50/50 – even if it’s unsaid.
Even though neither one of you dares say that out loud to the other.
I am only willing to meet you halfway. Halfway and not one inch further.
We expect to get half of our demands and only give in to half of what our partner wants.
And – you guessed it!
That’s where the shooting yourself in the foot comes into play.
Because that’s not what compromise is.
It doesn’t specify the percentages.
Somehow it’s been so engrained in our system that we don’t even know where it comes from.
While 50/50 IS what we expect, it’s not what’s often doable.
Or best for the given situation, for that matter.
Yet when we get less than that – OR – flipped on its head – when more than half is asked of us, we throw a fit.
And yes, compromising in a 50/50 way – it’s a tall order.
It doesn’t limit how many of what you get OR how many times you are out of luck.
Sometimes the split will be 90/10.
Other times it will be 60/40.
It’ll all depend.
No matter what the split is, you are best off letting go of the 50/50 paradigm and examining every situation as it comes up.
Even though sometimes – it may surprise you and be just that (50/50).
But that will be the exception rather than the rule.
There are three parts to this:
Because no matter how many fits you will throw, if you end up winning and your spouse loses, you both lose.
Same is true the other way around – if you lose and they win, you both lose.
You lose as a couple.
And that’s where it drags you down.
SO – Think about what’s more important – is it that it’s even and ‘fair’?
Or – is it more important that you both are able to walk away, knowing that you are good?
And next time you do this, let me know how it goes.
I was on the phone with my mom. She had just casually asked me how work was going, only to offer:
“It must be really rewarding to know that because a couple came to see you, they are not going to get a divorce.”
Yes. Yes, it is.
I’m not gonna lie.
In fact, I am not even sure that the word rewarding does it justice.
And yes, the couples who come into my office and end up not divorcing as a result of our working together bring me enormous joy.
Sometimes they walk in and they admit that this is their last resort. Things have been so bad for so long, they’ve lost sight of what it could even look like. They don’t even remember how at one point in time, the two of them enjoyed spending time together. Or liked venturing out into public, side by side.
So, yes, that is definitely one portion of the clients I end up seeing. And I love being the bearer of good news for them.
Sometimes, all they need to hear is that this – their situation – is salvageable, that I have done this with other couples before them, and that that it’s totally doable.
But – it’s not just the couples who, as a result of working with me, end up NOT being a part of the divorce statistic.
There are a lot of other couples who come in, knowing that they are not looking to divorce as an option.
The ones who come in because they don’t want to be miserable for the rest of their married lives. Those who come in, knowing that if nothing changes, things will just get worse over time. When it’s already been bad for a while.
And they fear that if nothing changes they will just dislike their spouse more and more each day.
The couples who know that their misery is rubbing off on their kids even if they never fight in front of them. Or they never fight at all – but there is a father elephant, mother elephant and three baby elephants all spread out unashamedly on their living room floor.
That’s the two.
No matter which one walks in, I’m honored to be in on the ride.
I can’t say that I have favorites. What I can say – Seeing the turnaround and watching husbands and wives work towards and become the couple they can be, their marriage transformed in the process, is unreal.
You didn’t know this was a thing, did you?
That you could get ‘fired’ from marriage counseling – Clients fire therapists, not the other way around, right?
Well, it happens.
Oh, and guess what-
I don’t even have to do the work.
“How come?” you ask.
Because your spouse sort of volunteers to do it for me.
At no cost.
(Can you believe it? – I KNOW, right?)
Without further ado, here is the recipe for you. Follow these tips and I guarantee it will work.
And I mean, all the time.
And when you waltz in, I don’t know, 10, 15, 25 min late, don’t say a thing.
Not to your spouse, not to your therapist.
You know, that thing people say?
“I am sorry. This or the other thing happened and I had no way of contacting either one of you because I forgot my phone at home this morning. So sorry for the disruption.”
Don’t say that.
Just plump yourself on the couch and exhale, while shaking your head.
Every time that your spouse brings something to your attention, get all uppity about it and put it back on them.
Yep, throw it back in their lap.
Make them responsible.
For all of it.
Something like this will do:
“But YOU made me mad – that’s why I reacted like that.”
“YOU shouldn’t do stuff like that to me – that only makes me all pissed off in return!”
“You KNOW I don’t like it when you do that!”
And really, this can be done at home or in session.
But – this will work extra well in my office because we have prefaced the conversation in a respectful way AND your spouse has done the work to be an ‘adult’ about the issue AND he/she is following the prompts we have practiced in the past.
So yes, if you continue to wash your hands, saying – “I have nothing to do with that, it’s not my fault” – instead of really listening to your spouse and responding responsibly – that’s really all you gotta do.
What does that entail?
It’s really simple.
And real easy.
“Yes, I know I said that last week but I didn’t mean it.”
“I promise stuff to people all the time, you should know by now that’s who I am and that it doesn’t mean a thing.”
“I remember that we agreed. But I have a right to change my mind. There.”
“Yes, you told me I go back on my word but – sometimes, you just have to. You can’t expect me to keep every promise I make…”
The best version of this looks something like this:
You gave us something to do during the week?
(And then, looking at your spouse) Did YOU do it?
Why didn’t you remind me?
And to get the best value out of the deal, do this:
Consistently fail to do anything that’s asked of you outside of session.
Your partner will, at some point, decide that this is a waste of their time and decide that it would, in fact, be more in their interest to just come in solo than to leave feeling defeated every week.
Want to earn bonus points?
Do it without letting your partner (and/or your therapist) know.
Better yet, when confronted about it later, say: “What? I am not my spouse’s keeper! What do you want from me?”
For best results, do this when your spouse found a sitter substitute last minute because regular one got sick.
OR when you know that your spouse is coming from the far end of town and has gone through an hour of crazy traffic to get there.
OR when they are feeling under the weather.
Any combination of the above will work just fine.
Even just one of those excuses should help you get canned in no time
I know, I know – I said five – here is one more. For extra credit.
Yes, as in drunk.
Or both if you want.
And, I mean really, you don’t have to come completely wasted.
Smelling of booze or pot will do.
That’s all, folks.
That’s the last one.
If you try all these, or a combination of a few, I guarantee your spouse will kick you out of marriage counseling.
No doubt about it.
That’s why I called them the SUREFIRE ways of getting fired.
By definition that’s what that means.
So, good luck.
Now, if that’s not really what you are after – if you don’t participate in such behavior, thank you for caring.
You are one step closer to making it work.
Yes, your marriage.
And for all the marriage therapists out there, I wish you the world.
You might have seen one of these. On the front of a hallmark card or maybe in someone’s News feed, a tribute of sorts to their husband or their we(to be) or one on their birthday, anniversary or just a day like every other.
You know what I am talking about, right?
It’s a laundry list of sorts of subjects and adjectives that is to describe your boyfriend/fiancé/husband (or the female version thereof) in every way possible. It’s the praise with gratitude combined when put in one single paragraph and then making it public in black and white.
Maybe it looked something like this:
On this day that is our anniversary (or fill in your day of choice), what would I do without this person who is my spouse, the love of my life, the man of my dreams, my best friend, my lover, my confidant, soulmate, the apple of my eye, my family, my companion, protector, playmate, mentor, advisor, my partner in crime, the best cook, the helper, the… and the list goes on.
This may be a conglomeration of many such written statements and slightly exaggerated, too. I hear you.
But you get the point.
Now back to my title – and this is where that confusion on your face will start melting away.
If I actually said he WAS all that, wouldn’t that by default be saying that I don’t need anyone else?
And I can’t say that for the mere fact that it’s just not true at all.
Because I do. (And guess what? You do, too.)
And if you the one that’s shaking their head in disagreement right about now, you may be one of the two couples on the planet that this does work for. Who don’t need anyone else besides just each other.
I need other people in my life apart from my spouse. Your spouse, the one person that he/she is, cannot fill all the holes in your bucket.
For starters, I still need my family. He can’t and never will replace them and who they are to me, and how I relate to them. He can’t take the role that they play in my life and be who they are to me. No matter how hard he’d try. The relationship you and I have with our various family members is unlike any other relationship on earth. And there is no messing with that (in my opinion). Your spouse better know that -AND – since there is no competition – there is no reason to have a race.
Secondly, I need my BFF & just girlfriends in general because my husband will never be a woman, will never act like a woman and will never think like a woman. My girlfriends have a gift of being those things to me that my husband cannot be. Not because he wouldn’t want to (necessarily) but because he can’t undo how he has been wired. And for that, I need them.
How I relate to my girlfriends is completely different than how I deal with or talk to my husband. And that’s just fine and dandy; it just means that I can’t expect him to take on the role of my girlfriends because he would, most likely, fail. And he may try even – bless his heart. But the bottom line is, he can’t be them. (just as much as they can’t be him, right?)
I still (every now and then) need a business coach or a confidant, or a playmate, or a mentor or even a partner in crime – particularly when it’s something I am doing for my spouse that needs to be done in secret.
I know that sometimes, all this comes out of an underlying need or expectation that we need our spouses to be everything for us. Yet, I often end up reminding the people in my counseling office that, last I checked, most of us didn’t marry a superman (or superwoman).
And, looking at the flip side – better yet (or should I say, more importantly?), most of us also aren’t one (superman or superwoman, that is). I don’t know how to fly, do you?
Check your expectations, realize that the fantasy was never meant for human consumption (supermen do only live on TV screens), and as you offer each other a heaping pile of compassion, do maximize the power of the tribe you’ve built around yourselves.
And if you don’t have one, take your first baby step today.
I already told you that my husband isn’t all that. I would love for you to be able to join me in saying:
Nor do I want (or need) him/her to be.
When looking to work with me – given that I specialize in marriage therapy, there are two things I want all my clients to know about couples counseling.
As clients walk in and out of my office, I have heard concerns around a couple of things that keep coming up. Over and over again. And I can’t help but want to prevent it from happening. Here is why. Both of these (and there may be more coming in a later edition) seem like no-brainers to me.
Yet, I hear them time and time again. And the worst thing is this: The tone of your voice tells me you mean every single word of it.
So, here you go. You’ve got to hear this from me. And, you’ve got to hear it now.
Really. I don’t. And I am not just saying that. If I thought you were crazy, I’d have you admitted to a psychiatric facility. Or I would refer you to a different kind of professional. None of my clients have ever ended up there.
If caring about your relationship makes you crazy, then I will take all the crazy there is. If being attentive to your spouse and marriage makes you crazy, I hope the line will never stop. I want my practice to be full of your kind. In fact, if that’s the kind of crazy you are, I guess I want you to be crazy. In fact, I am sure of it.
If being crazy about your relationship is the prerequisite, then I am joining your ranks right now. There you have it.
Really and truly, judging you is just plain not part of my job description. It never has been. What would give me the right to judge? Nowhere in the list of my responsibilities did it include the ability or necessity to judge. Nowhere. Are you hearing me when I say that? [Please don’t make me say it again. :)]
All I am judging and seeing is the level of your commitment and the strength that it takes to realize and admit that you were wrong. From where I am standing, what I see is your ability to put your own ego aside in the interest of your relationship. Not caring so much about being right so that you can stay married instead.
In order to be successful in our work together in couples counseling, you need to believe these two things. This is your “Need to Know” when you call or email. I want you to really know both of these to be true. Once you do, we can start making headway. Because that means you know where I stand. And you know you are ready.
And, when you are ready, then you can say with me: Couples counseling, here we come!
Knowing how to save your marriage when you are in a rut may bring on a headache. When you are feeling discouraged in your marriage (and we all do at times), it is easy to desire one quick & easy fix. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Contrary to what the film industry has been telling us for decades, happy marriages don’t just happen. You and I make them happen.
Whatever you want to call it – Marriage is work. And like everything else that you want to keep in good condition, it, too, requires some TLC (read: work). And, it’s the kind of work you cannot outsource.
But wait! In case you’re thinking – wow, thanks…that sounds depressing…
There IS something you can do to start saving your marriage TODAY.
Start with one word — or phrase — of appreciation.
One a day. That’s it.
It’s that simple.
Many couples I see in my practice will say: I keep doing all these things, and nobody notices any of it – not the kids, not my husband (or wife), and I am tired of it all. Consider for a moment the difference that adding words of appreciation could make.
• You build up your spouse with encouragement.
• You start focusing on more positive aspects of your relationship.
• You reinforce in your own mind that you can work to make things better.
In our relationships, our communication tends to be heavy on the negative. Anytime the couple talks it’s to voice a concern or a complaint or a dissatisfaction of sorts. We need to level it out with more positive conversations. And this can be one.
In the words of the relationship guru, Terry Real, most couples are appreciation deficient and need to become more appreciation efficient.
Of course, it can be hard to think of encouraging words. Most things are hard when you first start trying. Sometimes it’s hard to see actions worth appreciating. But for the sake of trying, put a couple of these suggestions to the test:
–Maybe after dinner, instead of simply saying “Thank you” you take time to tell your spouse how good you have it – they not only know how to cook but they care enough to make meals you enjoy.
–Perhaps you notice that your spouse took out the trash. You can tell them you were just thinking about how much you dread doing that and thank them for taking care of it.
–On a day when you find it hard to think of something, thank your spouse for working for the family (whether you both work at jobs outside the home, or if one of you is home with children).
Ultimately, what you choose to compliment doesn’t really matter! Be open to noticing these things around you.
Just remember: Whatever you say or do, you HAVE TO MEAN IT! Faking it won’t get you anywhere. So, do yourself a favor and remember that.
There you have it: Give your spouse a word of encouragement today! Ready, set, go!
That’s how you can start today – and that’s your answer to your original question: How save YOUR marriage.
If you have more questions or seem to have difficulty coming up with your own things to say to your spouse, know that you are not the only one. I have often written out lists for my clients (customized for them and their partner) and given them specific ideas for the week. If you think you may need additional support like that by way of therapy, click THIS LINK and schedule a complimentary Initial phone consultation – I’d love to see how I can help.