October 3, 2000
"HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MARRIAGE GREAT: Little Habits That Can
Make All The
Difference" by Mary Ganske
Even the most happily married couples fall into ruts now and
know, those times when minor irritations override the love and
you feel for each other. To the rescue: a new breed of
aimed at helping happy couples make a good thing even better.
traditional therapy, these workshops -- which range from evening
to weeklong retreats -- don't require participants to sit
dissecting their relationships and dwelling on what's wrong.
couples learn concrete skills that make any relationship
To tap into these strategies, Woman's Day mined the top marriage
programs across the country. The result: five ways to
communication, smooth over rough spots and get closer than ever
MARRIAGE TIP: TAKE A MINUTE TO SET UP YOUR DAY
The worksop: The Marriage Clinic, the Gottman Institute,
"We tell couples not to leave home in the morning until they
find out at
least one thing that's going to happen to their spouse that day"
John Gottman, Phd., codirector of The Gottman Institute. Ask
husband what he's doing on his lunch hour or after work. And
forget to fill him in on your plans.
It's also important to make sure that at least once a week,
during dinner, you talk about what really matters. Ask how
relationship with his boss is going or if he's worried about his
checkup. "You can't get emotionally close if you don't know
about your partner's inner world," says Dr. Gottman.
MARRIAGE TIP: DISCUSS YOUR EXPECTATIONS
The Workshop: The Third Option, Syracuse, New York
Everyone enters into marriage with preconceived notions of how
should be: We should spend certain holidays with our
families, save as
much money as possible, go to church every Sunday. The key is to
sure you both know what the other person expects, says Patricia
M.S.W, director of Third Option.
"Whenever you're disappointed in your marriage, as yourself,
'What did I
expect?' says Ennis. Let's say, for example, that you
time your husband asks you to iron his khakis. In this case,
have assumed you'd be able to send his pants to the cleaners, just
your mom did.
Next, you need to determine if this particular request is
Perhaps you'd rather not increase your dry-cleaning bill, in which
you might rethink your position. In any event, tell him how
"He may not agree with you, but at least you'll be opening up
topic," says Ennis. If you don't verbalize your expectations,
misinterpret your actions and assume you don't care about his
The bottom line: Talk it over and negotiate it.
MARRIAGE TIP: UPDATE YOUR DREAM LIST
The Workshop: Couple Commiuncation, Evergreen,
Sit down together at least once a year -- New Year's or your
is a good time -- to go over your dreams for the future.
include things you want to have (a new couch) things you want to
(create a flower garden) and things you want to be (more spiritual,
better listener). Pinpointing your desires not only helps you
grow as people, but keeps you aligned as a couple.
"We are constantly changing," says Sherod Miller, Ph.D,
Couple Communication. Find out if any new dreams have
surfaced in him,
and be sure to tell him yours.
Then make an agreement to help each other achieve one or more of
goals. For example, he may agree to spend more time
with the kids so
you can enroll in a computer class. You may give the
thumbs-up to the
camping trip he's always wanted. Too often, couples harm
relationships by sabotaging each other's dreams, says Dr.
supporting your partner's goals is is one of the best and simplest
to show you care."
MARRIAGE TIP: CONTROL THE WAY YOU ARGUE
The workshop: PREP, Inc. (Prevention and
Every happy couple has hot-button issues. Even the most
yell and scream sometimes. The trick is to contain the
before they spin out of control. "If you handle conflicts
poorly -- with
hoistility, nagging, or icy distance -- the love and affection you
for each other will erode over time," says Howard Markman,
of PREP, Inc. and coauthor of "Fighting For Your Marriage".
bet is to head off fights in the first place by bringing up tough
before they errupt.
When you find yourselves together with some time to talk, bring
concerns: what to do about your ailing mother, how to budget
kids' education, when to renovate the kitchen. That way, you
initiate a debate when you're stressed and likely to lash out, says
Markman. If despite your best efforts, the conversation
turns into a
screaming match, call a time-out and agree to revisit the issue
can both be civil.
MARRIAGE TIP: USE PRAISE TO CHANGE BAD HABITS
The Workshop: National Institute of Relationship
Too often we try to change our partner by railing about what
wrong. "Don't drive so fast!" "Why can't you hang up
But highlighting your spouse's flaws is unproductive. "He'll
defensive and counterattact," says Bernard Guerney, Jr., PHD,
of the Institute.
A better approach is to explain what you'd like him to do.
"No one should have to live in such a pigsty" a simple "I'd love it
the bedroom weren't so cluttered" will do. The next step is
to heap on
praise when he does what you ask" As basic as it sounds,
behaviors that make them feel good," says Dr. Guerney.
Just be careful
not to temper your approval with digs such as, "That's a good
"It's about time". The more positive you are, the more
MARRIAGE RENEWAL SCHOOLS
Many of the following programs sponsor workshops across the
have at-home materials for those who don't want to travel.
Couples Commiuncation, Evergreen Colorado: 800-328-5099;
The Gottman Institite, Seattle: 888-523-9042;
Making Marriage Work, Los Angeles: 310-476-9777 x233;
National Institute of Relationship Enhancement, Bethesda,
800-4-families; www, NIRE.org
Pairs International, Inc. Weston, Florida. 888-PAIRS-4U;
PREP Inc. (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program)
366-0166; www. PREPinc.com
The Third Option, Syracuse, New York: 315-472-6728;
(article also includes: 3 sidebars of couples who solved
problems and a
quiz; "Does Your Marriage Need a Tuneup?")
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