You’re on four hours of sleep, work has been completely nuts and when you finally get home from the longest day ever, you trip on the shoes your spouse left in the hallway. (The ones you’ve been nagging him to put away all damn week.) During these, um, glorious moments of coexisting with your one-and-only, resist the urge to fly off the handle. Chanel Dokun, a certified New York City life planner trained in marriage and family therapy, has totally been there. She’s married with a young son, and she knows it’s not always easy to focus on the big picture when stressful moments arise. Here are five things she’d never say to her own husband, no matter how stressful life gets.
You never wash the dishes.
“The secret to getting your spouse to do what you want is to avoid saying ‘always’ or ‘never.’ Those words feel generalized and dismissive of any effort the other person has made. Instead, adopt my favorite word: more. As in, ‘I wish you’d help out more with the dishes.’ This statement gives your partner the benefit of the doubt while also clearly getting across the desired behavior you’re hoping to see.”
“The second my husband comes home from work, he drops his work clothes by the front door. It drives me crazy watching discarded shoes and dress shirts pile up around the living room. And even though I’ve asked him 1,000 times to pick up his dirty clothes, I’m careful never to attribute his habit to a character defect. When we judge our partner’s character negatively beyond momentary mistakes, we enter into the danger zone of contempt.”
It’s all your fault.
“When times get rough or when we feel wronged, it’s easy to want to pass blame. But relational healing begins when we take responsibility for whatever part—big or small—we’ve personally contributed to a problem. (Say, you were running late, which caused him to rush, and subsequently forget the concert tickets.) When we’re unwilling to acknowledge that the other person isn’t entirely responsible for the conflict, we stagnate reconciliation.”
Maybe we should get a divorce.
“Marriage can be challenging and there are days when it feels like more work than pleasure. But no matter how hard it gets, I’m careful to never mention the D-word. The day we said ‘I do,’ we committed to weathering every storm with one another. Throwing out the word ‘divorce’ puts a crack in the secure foundation of our marriage. My husband needs to know that even when things aren’t rosy, I’ll still choose him and we will fight for our future together.”
Well, it’s stupid you feel that way.
“The greatest gift we can give another human being is the gift of empathy. It’s when we step outside of our own selfish responses or needs and attempt to understand what might cause someone else to feel the way they feel. I never want my husband’s emotions to be dismissed. Even when I don’t agree with how he feels, I try to respect where he’s coming from and turn my frustration into curiosity to figure out how I can stay on Team Us.”