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    Marriage Makeover: “We need to straighten up our house — and our marriage”

    "WE KEEP PLAYING THE BLAME GAME"

    MEGAN: "I blame Ken for our disorganization — he's too lax and has walked all over our relationship. When Ken misplaces things, like the mail, it leaves me with a bigger mess to stress about. I'm the one who calls the bank or searches for the item while he just apologizes and goes on with his life."

    KEN: "Megan likes to control everything. It's when things backfire, like she can't find her birth certificate that we need for a trip, that she flips out and accuses me of not doing anything. You can't say 'I'll handle it' and then turn around and call me lax when it goes wrong. I'd call the bank or help her look for the missing birth certificate, but I'm not going to stick around to get blamed for something that she said she wanted to do herself."

    MEGAN: "I want Ken to take care of things without my having to ask him. That just consumes the same time and energy it takes for me to do it myself."

    KEN: "Megan likes to go to the extreme. A misplaced bill turns into an argument about how I've raised the interest rate we'll get on an SUV that we want to buy two years from now. I don't want us to both be stewing over something that we can't go back and fix. If it's something I can change, then let's talk about it — instead of saying you'll take care of it because I might screw it up."

    MEGAN: "Constantly reminding him of what's happening in our lives makes me feel like his mother."

    KEN: "I don't want a mother. I want a wife who is my partner; someone who can laugh about the mistakes with me, not remind me of them even when they're not happening. I want her to get that this is our struggle — not Ken's destruction of Megan's future."

    EXPERT ADVICE

    Ken and Megan are saying a lot, but they're not really listening to one another. "They need to make a conscious effort to talk to each other before a conflict arises or they won't ever solve their problems," says Covalt. She suggests that Megan and Ken sit down when they're both calm and ask each other questions — How does Megan feel about the piles of laundry? What might work better? What does Ken think about putting up shelves? — to understand the other's viewpoint.

    The couple also needs to stop pointing the finger. "Megan's working against herself by being overly dramatic and blaming Ken for the mess," says Tessina. "Instead, she needs to declare a truce and work together with Ken." Once they agree to a plan, they can both take responsibility for sticking to it. Finally, the Knoops need to remember how much they enjoy one another when they're away from the stress of housework and channel some of that fun into their domestic duties. "If they learn to be playful about their chores, they'll enjoy each other at home too," Tessina says.

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