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Health & Sex

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30 Days Back to Love

Week One: Take the scenic route continued...

Start by paying a sincere compliment: "I love how you make me laugh at least once every day and that you are a ringer for George Clooney, at least to me," you might say. "During the weekend, though, you tend to zone out in front of the computer while I'm stuck doing the chores and carpooling. Not fun. OK, your turn." Remember, you don't need to identify the core conflict in your relationship. The behavior that bugs you might be utterly mundane — mixing darks and lights in the laundry; forgetting to fill up the car with gas.

A key lesson I've learned from counseling couples is that focusing on just one unresolved issue has a way of opening up others, each closer and closer to the hearts of the partners involved. For example, one wife I counseled told her husband, "I think it's amazing how you've been able to change jobs when you aren't feeling like your company values you. I just wish you'd tell me when you start feeling that way, so I could know you weren't happy and might make a change."

Another told her spouse during this exercise, "I like that we both make it our business to get home early enough to sit down together as a family for dinner most nights." Then, after a pause, she smiled and added, "I like it a lot less that on the nights we plan dinners out together, you're late a lot of the time."

For many of us, marriage serves as the stage on which powerful psychological dramas end up playing themselves out. But they're most often transplanted into our relationship, not created by it. Knowing this should take a little pressure off you and your husband and let you breathe easier.

So if you think your spouse is being overprotective of the kids, for example, you might probe a little: "Maybe you're worried they won't make good choices themselves, or that they won't be able to compete and succeed. Is that why?" If your husband left a job without discussing his reasons with you first, you might say, "I wonder if you thought I would judge you, or pry too much. Maybe it felt like I would have made it hard for you to make your own decision about what to do."

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