Tips for Men

  • Recognize that insidious unhappiness and loneliness leads to acting out or marital failure.
  • Be clear about what positive changes would help.
  • Point out when your actions or decisions are out of wanting to be thoughtful or loving, so that these efforts are recognized as such.
  • Resist accommodating out of fear or guilt, keeping in mind that this will only lead to feeling powerless and helpless.
  • If you are never getting it right, think about what may be going wrong. When your wife is telling you something, before responding repeat it back to her to make sure you have heard her correctly and to let her know that you have heard what she is saying.
  • Ask your wife how she is feeling about you lately and if there is anything you can do differently (keeping in mind that this doesn’t commit you to anything and that whatever she tells you can be negotiated).
  • Thank her when she supports you.
  • Make time to be together.
  • Be clear about what is important to you. Try to find a mutually acceptable solution.
  • When telling your wife what is important to you — for example, going to a game with your friends — try to listen and understand her feelings and objections. Be empathic and find ways other than giving in to reassure her and make her feel secure. For example, you could say “I know this is hard for you that I want to go to the game on Saturday. I love you and want to understand how you feel and try to help.” Negotiate but know your bottom line.
  • During conversations with your wife when she doesn’t seem happy for you, puts you down or tries to hold you back, be direct and don’t minimize or disguise the impact of her behavior toward you. Match her intensity in discussions (which is different than acting angry), make eye contact, and resist the impulse to retreat.
  • Have the courage to consider that you are not in fact trapped. You can choose to work on the marriage – and you can choose to leave if you have to. Allowing yourself to consider this option and even share it with your wife may be scary and create a crisis, but it is empowering too; it can create a sense of urgency that may provide the impetus for positive change. However, be careful not to use the idea of leaving to escape from having to face the difficult struggles inherent in marriage.

If none of these tips help, consider having a marriage therapy consultation.

Tips for Women

  • Recognize that insidious unhappiness and loneliness leads to acting out or marital failure.
  • Recognize that resentments pile up and build walls. Think about the atmosphere you want to create and the effect it will have on both of you. Keep in mind that grudges and punishments are not effective strategies. They lead to impasses, and pollute the relationship – breeding isolation, helplessness, and despair.
  • Be clear, concrete and explicit about the positive things your husband can do to help, even if it is obvious or he should know.
  • Instead of giving the cold shoulder, when you are unhappy or mad, be explicit. Tell him, for example, “When I feel like you are not listening it makes me want to pull away from you.”
  • When voicing unhappiness, keep the focus on what your husband can do concretely to make things better. When discussing problems, be as concise and brief as possible. Limit how much you say when it is your turn to speak and it and try to limit the number of issues you raise (preferably only one per discussion).
  • Allow positive moments even if you are mad about something, and express appreciation for positive actions.
  • Acknowledge your husband’s efforts to express love and be helpful, even if they are not exactly what you asked for.
  • In gauging how to support him, treat him the way you would treat a friend.
  • Support him in the interests and pursuits he enjoys separate from the relationship which are a part of who he is. Manage your anxieties without restricting him.

Disclaimer: The characters from these vignettes are fictitious. They were derived from a composite of people and events for the purpose of representing real-life situations and psychological dilemmas which occur in families.