Relationship Rescue



Issue #1:  My In-laws Are Too Involved in Our Lives

The rescue: Create boundaries.

Even though you’re happily married, there’s probably a lot of separation anxiety going on here. Your spouse feels awkward putting limits on her folks, and when the folks feel left out, they lay on the guilt. You both need to set boundaries and explain them — in detail. Try limiting dinner together to once a month, long weekend vacations to once a year, and weekend phone calls to one. Have your spouse speak to his parents to express that the situation is new to everyone: to them, to you two, and to the other set of parents. Explain that you need to launch your marriage, and that means spending time together alone or with friends. Let them know you love them and count on their support — and that they’re not being excluded from your lives — it’s just that you need to learn to depend on each other, rather than on your folks. It’s going to be hard for many parents to let go, especially if your spouse is an only child. Let parents know the situation will naturally evolve as time goes on. Keep them in the loop with a weekly email or phone call so they won’t have the urge to show up next weekend during your romantic park picnic.

Issue #2:  Suddenly Marriage Doesn’t Seem as Fun as Dating
The rescue: Schedule your time.

Your previous life together was always planned, like going on dates and having the wedding. Now you sit together on the couch watching 24. That’s cool — sometimes — but you also need to actively plan “together time” away from the TV. It’s okay to turn to your spouse, look lovingly into his eyes, and say, “Even though we spend time together, I miss you, and I want us to have more memorable moments.” Then suggest a few ideas. They don’t have to be fancy, pricey, or even at night. Each week one person takes the reins to rekindle the romance. Rent bikes one Sunday afternoon and explore the town. Revisit the scene of your first “I love you.” Serve breakfast in bed (Cheerios will do — it’s the thought that counts). As for the unsexy habits, try to have a sense of humor about them. If they really turn you off, develop a code word or phrase with your spouse to let her know that, say, “the glob of toothpaste in the sink needs to be wiped out.” It’ll keep the frustration at bay and the tone fun.

Issue #3:  I Thought My Spouse Would Change, and It’s Not Happening
The rescue: Reconsider those changes.

You can ask your spouse to change, but realize it comes across as mothering — and you are so not your partner’s mom! Okay, so he might still need the maternal bossing around, but find a way to say what you want (if you really need it) so it sounds more sincere and in a less nagging way. Confront the situation before you get too fed up and say it in an “I’ll bend if you bend” type of way. If you can’t let it go, just ask for a favor. Pose it as, “This is the one thing I’ll ask of you.”  Some behaviors will definitely need to be modified, like spending money. More than likely, you have different ideas about spending and saving, and that won’t change by ordering her to quit updating her cell phone every six months. In this case, you need to arrive at a mutual plan — work on it together, not as one person chastising the other.

 Issue #4: My Spouse Thinks in Terms of “Me” and Not “We”
The rescue: Always consider your mate’s feelings.

Whether the issue is big or small, there’s a need after marriage to hold on to your own identities (which might be tougher for a wife who changed her last name). It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other or don’t want to be married, you’re just used to taking care of yourself and making your own choices. Your husband probably doesn’t really care about the hue of any room, and while she wishes she could join you on that great trip, she probably just wants you to go and have a good time. It boils down to this: Each mate wants to participate in the decision-making. When a big trip comes up, immediately call your spouse, instead of the airline, and go over dates and projected money you’ll spend. And when a home improvement decision arises, ask for creative input before bringing home the paint cans. Either way, you’re now part of a team and need to treat your sweetie like an equal player. You’ll need to be prepared for some resistance to your plan, but hopefully you can each voice the pros and cons of the situation to come to a solution, and even learn something from one another’s opinions. Working as a team will be tough at first, but it’ll go a lot smoother if you respect each other. And you’ll probably get to paint the bedroom — and the whole house — any color you want.

Issue #5: We Love Each Other, but we fight a Lot
The rescue: Fight constructively.

You’re probably not in trouble. Fighting is healthy as long as it leads to solving a problem and helps you learn to manage your differences better in the future. One partner shouldn’t always be giving up or giving in just to end the argument. The common goal should always be to settle the case. Constant bickering that goes nowhere will take its toll, but a disagreement is better than holding in a concern and becoming resentful. The key is to use heated debates to find a resolution that satisfies both partners’ needs. The next time a fight ensues, refrain from name-calling and cursing. It’s okay to raise your voice, but don’t let things escalate into a screaming match. Each person should present his or her side, then hash out how you might meet in the middle. Explain things in terms of “I feel” — something like “It hurts my feelings when you tease me in front of your friends.” And then back that up with reasons why. Never lay blame, declare absolutes, or point fingers. For example, avoid “You never take my side!” or “You’re always messing up!” Once you learn to speak rationally, it’ll be easier to reach a resolution. Always communicate! If fights get nasty and seem never-ending, it might be time to consider counseling for one or both of you. Don’t think of it as the last straw; it’s a proactive way to keep your marriage strong.