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Issues in your relationship do have solutions. Some problems are easier to deal
with than others.
What do you do if…

Here are some questions people recently asked me when I gave a talk on marriage.

What do you do when your mate takes a pot-shot at you in public?

The best way to handle this very typical marital problem is to ignore the pot-shot. Pretend you didn’t hear it. In reality, everyone in the room heard it and I guarantee most everyone in the room thinks the guy is rude and “a borderline jerk.”

If you respond by defending or shooting an arrow back, you both look bad, and your mate will probably retaliate. After all, he didn’t have the sense or sensibility to keep his mouth shut in the first place.

The following day, tell your mate you were uncomfortable when he made the remark and ask that he not do this in the future. Some mates will apologize. Others will defend and point out how what they said was correct. If you get a defensive response, again state that you prefer that your mate not put you down in public. Amen. Period. No further discussion.

What do you do if your mate always runs late?

You, on the other hand, were taught to be on time and feel very anxious when you run late. You’ve asked your mate repeatedly to respect your wishes. She says okay but continues to be late.

First, assess if your mate is always late. Is she late for everything — church, weddings, movies, meeting friends at a restaurant, doctor’s appointments? Some people are on time for certain events but give themselves more latitude for others. If this is your mate, discuss what events you categorize as most important to be on time for and those where you would be willing to go along with your spouse’s more laid back timeframe.

Sometimes, too, one spouse will define lateness differently than another. If you are to be somewhere at 4 o’clock, do you consider yourself late if you are there at exactly 4 o’clock? Are you late if your clock says two minutes after four? I’ve seen discussions like this clear the air and give both spouses a better understanding of the way each of them views time.

In the worst case scenario, that is, your mate is late for every occasion, including weddings and the symphony — do yourself and your heart a favor. Take separate cars. It may not be ideal, but it will keep you from starting every event with a hostile attitude and feelings of helplessness.

What do you do if your mate drinks too much when you go out socially and he denies drinking excessively?

No matter how many discussions you’ve had, you can’t get him to admit he has a problem, nor can you get him to change.

Sometimes asking a friend to talk with your mate will have more impact than if you speak to him. Sometimes asking a mate to read a particular article or book on drinking will have the desired effect. Sometimes dragging your mate to a therapist and discussing his drinking will make the difference.

In addition, don’t drive home with a mate who has had too much to drink. Make a pact that you will always drive home from a party or social event. This keeps you from guessing how sober your mate is. It also keeps you from arguing at a time when he’s been drinking. You may not be able to get your mate to change his drinking habits, but you can protect yourself and the other people on the road.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide” and “Thin Becomes You”.

Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Danger… Your relationship may be in trouble if:

The two of you bicker all the time.

When couples bicker, they exchange lots of negative strokes. Over the years they remember these barbs and store them inside until they build a wall between themselves. This is called the Wall of Trivia. Once this wall is in place, couples stop feeling close and stop talking intimately.

You do not take time out to play just the two of you.

Many couples know the importance of play time with the children. They’re off to the pumpkin patch and the Zoo and soccer games. What they don’t do is take time for each other to go for a ride, to go out for breakfast.

You no longer have an active sex life.

It’s easy to get out of the habit of having sex. As one man said, “We have to pay our bills and have clean underwear. And there’s only so much time.” What sex does is renew the commitment – the two of you are a couple.

You are not sharing household chores.

Some individuals like to cook and clean. And some enjoy doing windows. But rare is the individual who wants to do it all, or who has time to do it all. Couples need to do an inventory of who does what and work toward sharing household chores.

You don’t agree on how to parent the children.

If you tell your son he may not have the car Friday night, and your mate comes along and tells him he can have it, your mate is sending the loud message that what you say isn’t important. You don’t count. He also sets up a good guy/bad guy relationship between you.

You do not have equal access to the finances.

Most often, one partner makes more money than the other. Unfortunately the one who brings in the bacon, or most of it, sometimes feels that he should be the one to spend more. This thinking causes a one-up one-down relationship, which translates into all kinds of bad behaviors.

You don’t respect or value your mate.

If you don’t value your mate, you’re not going to want to spend time with her or listen to her opinions and ideas. Once someone is of little value, that person becomes a throw-away.

One of you drinks too much.

When a mate drinks too much, he’s not intellectually or emotionally available, so he’s hardly a companion. Too much drinking also leads to the drinking spouse justifying rude and inappropriate behaviors.

One of you has a bad temper.

It’s OK to get angry. But if you’re always spouting off about what you don’t like, and always trying to control your mate with your angry feelings, aren’t you really saying that you matter more?

Neither of you can apologize.

Apologies say, “I stepped on your feelings and I won’t do that again.” If you can’t apologize, you’re pretending you’re perfect. It’s a drag living with someone who thinks she never makes a mistake.

You never have a disagreement.

No two people are alike. When two people agree on everything, someone is not being true to himself or herself. When two people see the world from slightly different perspectives, this brings energy and even disagreement sometimes. This is healthy.

You don’t have common goals for the future.

Where do you want to be in five years? In 10 years? Do you have a financial plan for the children’s education, your retirement? What are your goals as a couple? When couples are in trouble, they don’t think about the future.

One of you is unfaithful.

Affairs always hurt a marriage. Most marriages, however, can survive an affair, particularly if both mates do the repair work after it ends. But if one mate continues to be unfaithful it’s a marriage in name only.

You’re sarcastic and put each other down.

Every time you are sarcastic or critical, you drive a wedge in the marriage. If you’re sarcastic or critical five times a week, in 10 years you’ve chalked up 2,600 hits against your mate. Would you stay with a friend that hurt you 2,600 times?

The two of you don’t exchange compliments and thank yous.

It’s easy to forget to say, “Thanks for picking up my shirts from the cleaners,” “Thanks for taking care of that wedding gift,” “Thanks for putting in a new furnace filter.” Not recognizing what your mate does translates into taking advantage of your mate’s good will.

Most couples start out intending to stay married. If you hope to continue your married life, heed the warning signs.

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Issues in your relationship do have solutions. Some problems are easier to deal with than others.
What do you do if…

Here are some questions people recently asked me when I gave a talk on marriage.

What do you do when your mate takes a pot-shot at you in public?

The best way to handle this very typical marital problem is to ignore the pot-shot. Pretend you didn’t hear it. In reality, everyone in the room heard it and I guarantee most everyone in the room thinks the guy is rude and “a borderline jerk.”

If you respond by defending or shooting an arrow back, you both look bad, and your mate will probably retaliate. After all, he didn’t have the sense or sensibility to keep his mouth shut in the first place.

The following day, tell your mate you were uncomfortable when he made the remark and ask that he not do this in the future. Some mates will apologize. Others will defend and point out how what they said was correct. If you get a defensive response, again state that you prefer that your mate not put you down in public. Amen. Period. No further discussion.

What do you do if your mate always runs late?

You, on the other hand, were taught to be on time and feel very anxious when you run late. You’ve asked your mate repeatedly to respect your wishes. She says okay but continues to be late.

First, asses if your mate is always late. Is she late for everything — church, weddings, movies, meeting friends at a restaurant, doctor’s appointments? Some people are on time for certain events but give themselves more latitude for others. If this is your mate, discuss what events you categorize as most important to be on time for and those where you would be willing to go along with your spouse’s more laid back time frame.

Sometimes, too, one spouse will define lateness differently than another. If you are to be somewhere at 4 o’clock, do you consider yourself late if you are there at exactly 4 o’clock? Are you late if your clock says two minutes after four? I’ve seen discussions like this clear the air and give both spouses a better understanding of the way each of them views time.

In the worst case scenario, that is, your mate is late for every occasion, including weddings and the symphony — do yourself and your heart a favor. Take separate cars. It may not be ideal, but it will keep you from starting every event with a hostile attitude and feelings of helplessness.

What do you do if your mate drinks too much when you go out socially and he denies drinking excessively?

No matter how many discussions you’ve had, you can’t get him to admit he has a problem, nor can you get him to change.

Sometimes asking a friend to talk with your mate will have more impact than if you speak to him. Sometimes asking a mate to read a particular article or book on drinking will have the desired effect. Sometimes dragging your mate to a therapist and discussing his drinking will make the difference.

In addition, don’t drive home with a mate who has had too much to drink. Make a pact that you will always drive home from a party or social event. This keeps you from guessing how sober your mate is. It also keeps you from arguing at a time when he’s been drinking. You may not be able to get your mate to change his drinking habits, but you can protect yourself and the other people on the road.

Doris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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