Rule Break #1
Never go to bed angry
The best time to fight is when you’re tired and cranky, right? Um, no. “The pure adrenaline rush of a fight can drive you to seek more and more of the same,” says Joy Davidson, Ph.D., a couples therapist in New York City (. And the brain can actually reach a point where it’s unable to process logically and instead, raw emotion takes over. “That’s when you’re just riding the rush and start screaming ‘I want a divorce!’” she says.
Instead: Davidson suggests having a chat with your significant other to establish a time limit for any future arguments. That way if you find yourself in the middle of a heated discussion (okay, knock-down-drag-out-fight), you’ll keep that limit in mind. “It's a lot like being in a couples therapy session where you know you have to be out the door in an hour,” says Davidson. When one of you notices that you've been going at it for, say, 45 minutes, start wrapping it up by taking turns making summary statements. You can even set a timer for 15 minutes, and when it dings, lights out!
Rule Break #2
Designate a special, weekly date-night
Every relationship article encourages weekly date nights—and you may think that doing something utterly out of this world is a required component. Not so much. Coming up with a prodigious plan is stressful, not to mention expensive. Who has the money to pay for a night on the town plus a sitter these days?
Instead: Take advantage of pockets of time for mini-dates, suggests Marci Fox, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in Boca Raton, Florida. Order in Chinese after the kids are in bed and cuddle on the couch watching a movie on DVR or sneak out and meet for lunch in the middle of the afternoon. “Whether it’s just the two of you taking a walk around the block or sitting on the back porch watching the sunset, the important thing is to show each other that you care,” says Fox.
Rule Break #3
You must tell each other everything
Sure you need honesty in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean you have to tell your spouse absolutely everything. You backed into another car in the parking lot? Confession required. You bump into the guy you had a torrid affair with before you met your husband? Details not required.
“In our Oprah/Tell-All generation, we think we have to spill our guts all the time,” says Sallie Foley, director of the University of Michigan Sexual Health Certificate program and co-author of “Sex Matters For Women.” “But the truth is, some things are better left unsaid.”
Instead: Before fessing up, do a gut check: Is what I’m about to say going to come back to haunt me? Is what I’m about to tell him based on guilt? Is this going to make my partner feel better or worse about himself? “Honesty is good, but not causing another person unnecessary pain is good too,” says Foley. So at the mall, look your partner straight in the eye and say, “Yes, I knew him. Different time in my life.” Then do your gut check before deciding whether or not to share more.
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