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Health & Sex

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How To Save A Marriage

If only every couple knew how to fight fair. The right words can make the "for worse" part better.

3. No Time-Traveling continued...

Runkel likes to say, "You don't have a problem in your marriage; you have a pattern in your marriage." His advice? Get humble and get positive, even if it feels like you're faking it at first. "Actively pursue a broader picture," he says. "Always assume there is more than one side, even if you can't see the other side. That is basic humility."

In other words, before you get furious, get curious. Christensen advises, "Stop and ask yourself, Why is my partner acting this way? instead of getting lost in the reaction."

4. Be a Cheerleader, Not Just a Problem Solver

As couples, we tend to focus on getting better at handling problems when perhaps we should invest more energy in learning how to respond to success. After all, isn't success what we're all hoping for? In 2006, psychologist Shelly Gable, Ph.D., published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called "Will You Be There for Me When Things Go Right?" Her work found that having a sincere and engaged response to a partner's victories, large ("I'm moving forward with my career!") and small ("I finally got Scarlett to poop on the potty!"), is even more important to a couple's long-term bond than how the partners respond to negative encounters.

Obviously, Greg's threatening to leave me when I was being offered my own television show on Food Network was...well, a categorically bad response. But even when smaller bits of good news go unheralded in a relationship, that's a problem.

In her research, Gable found that many couples underestimated the importance of celebrating the good. She says, "People are very busy. They think, If it's not on fire or broken, I don't need to fix it. But most of us have five positive experiences in a day, compared with one negative event. If you don't pay attention to the positive events, you are missing a lot."

One of the things that taking those seven months away to work on our marriage and travel with our kids gave my husband and me was the opportunity to really focus on life's positive moments. Now that we are back in California, the ability to celebrate the great small moments in a day is a skill that has made our marriage not only strong, but infinitely more tender and loving than I ever could have imagined a few years ago.

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