10 Ways to Get Over the Marriage Humps

Newsflash: Marriage isn't all peaches and cream. We all go through tough times, but it's how you get through these bumps that can make or break your relationship. Here are 10 ways to make it through and come out divorce-free.

1. Hate it, not them. When you're ticked off at your partner and becoming more angry by the minute, break eye contact and mutter strongly to the floor, "I hate this!" By deflecting your anger down and away from your spouse, you're preventing them from being the direct target. You're able to have your angry feeling, express it, and prevent provoking your spouse and to possibly have him or her align with you in expressing frustration in a non-confrontational way.

2. Ask yourself, "What's it like for my spouse right now?" Do this and you'll make the amazing discovery that you can't be sincerely curious about what your partner is feeling and be angry at him or her at the same moment. If you don't care how your spouse feels, you're really choosing to stay angry rather than make things better.

3. Start talking from hate, but don't stop talking until it's from hurt. Underneath hate and anger is always disappointment, hurt and fear. If you start talking from your anger -- and then keep talking -- you'll be able to get through to what's really going on. For example, "I'm so furious at you right now for doing or saying ---, I can hardly keep from exploding," followed by a pause and deep breath can turn into, "I'm not furious, I'm just so frustrated, because I thought we've been over this many times before." After another pause and deep breath the statement becomes, "I'm not frustrated; I just feel hurt because I think you know how sensitive I am about these things," followed by another pause and breath to transform into, "I'm not hurt; I'm afraid -- afraid that I'll always need to keep my guard up with you, and the thought of it never being different makes me feel discouraged."

4. An ounce of initiation is worth a pound of aggravation. Initially it seems safer to let your partner go first (and mess things up) while you get to sit back and react. However, few things help a relationship more than taking the initiative on things that you know will please your partner. And when you do so, you get to feel gracious and generous, which can give you more than you're giving to your spouse.5. Deliver "power thank you's" as often as possible. Few things make a person feel worse in a relationship than feeling used or taken for granted. And few things make a partner feel better than receiving a heartfelt, sincere "power thank you." This has three parts: first, thank your partner for something specific that he or she did for you; second, acknowledge the effort it took for him or her to do it; third, tell your spouse what it personally meant to you.6. Love means always having to show you're sorry. When you've hurt, disappointed or injured your partner, deliver a "power apology" as soon as a little time has passed, which will allow him or her to get past the acute upset. The power apology, too, has three parts:Remorse. Look into your spouse's eyes, see the hurt and harm you caused and without excuses say to him or her, "I did ---; it hurt/scared/angered you because ---. I was wrong and I'm sorry." Restitution. You took something away, and now you're going to give something back. Come up with something that your partner knows is as difficult and painful for you to do as your hurtful action was to him or her. Or, have your spouse select your means of payback. Rehabilitation. Come up with a different, more constructive way to deal with the precipitating stresses that caused you to hurt your partner in the first place. 7. Ask, don't presume. Rather than assuming you know what the other person is thinking and feeling (when you don't), just ask him.
8. Talk "with" or talk "to"; don't talk "at" or "over." Even if what you say is friendly, you'll quickly make an enemy if you talk "at" or "over" your spouse. His or her body language will tell you in which way you're communicating: talk "with" and your partner's shoulders will relax; talk "to" and your partner will nod; talk "at" and your partner will hunker down or stick his or her chin out in defiance; talk "over" and your partner will become fidgety and want to leave. If your spouse's body language is telling you that you're talking "at" or "over," stop and begin to talk "to" or "with" instead.9. Have realistic expectations. Unrealistic and unreasonable expectations set you up to be let down. Keep your expectations of your partner realistic and you reduce disappointment.10. Defuse self-righteousness with humility. When all else fails, realize that self-righteousness is always destructive, and that a touch of humility will go a long way. You won't think you're stuck with such a bad catch when you think of those qualities that make you not such a great catch yourself.Dr. Goulston is the author of The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship (Putnam, 2001).
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Source: Relationships & Love

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