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By Laura Doyle

Every Sunday on my radio show, I give
out “The Worst Relationship Advice of the
Week Award”. There’s never a shortage of
bad advice to choose from, and most of it
sounds like harmless conventional
wisdom. But bad relationship advice is
harmful. I know from applying some of
these ineffective suggestions early in my
marriage marriage and nearly getting
divorced as a result.
Of course, the real reason I give out this
award is not just to point and laugh at
people –although I enjoy that too — but
for the purpose of highlighting the simple
skills that have helped thousands of
women restore the excitement, passion
and fun in their relationships.
Here are the three most common,
unhelpful pieces of relationship advice
along with what I now know are more
productive alternatives:
1. Institute a date night
Golly, why didn’t I think of that? That’s
right up there with weight-loss tips like
“just eat less” or financial advice like,
“live below your means.” If life were that
easy nobody would need advice.
But the noxious subtext of this vacuous
advice is that to stay married, you should
add “go on a date” to your list of chores,
right between “scrub toilets” and “clean
the garage.” Yay! It reminds me of
another unhelpful axiom: “Marriage is
hard work.” But with the right skills,
marriage is not drudgery. This date-night
maxim is truly terrible advice because
nobody ever felt special and loved when
her husband said, “We should go out
once a week to work on our marriage.” A
wife who says that to her husband is
likely to be met with resistance to date
nights because they reek of control and
sound like a chore.
If you’re not exactly enjoying each others’
company, how would going out for dinner
and a movie change that anyway?
Wouldn’t you just have a tense night out
instead of a tense night in? And wouldn’t
that make you feel even more hopeless?
Here’s a more effective practice for re-
establishing connection: Instead of a
weekly date-night, consider thanking
your spouse three times a day for things
he does to lighten your load or to delight
you. Does he work hard to support the
family? Thank him — even if you work too.
Did he start a load of whites? Say
“thanks.” Did he haul the garbage cans to
the curb? Let him know you appreciate
that.
This simple habit does double-duty for
restoring connection because it not only
helps you focus on what you’re grateful
for about your spouse, it also inspires him
to find more ways to please you — once
he knows you appreciate his efforts.
2. Communication is the key to a
good relationship The reason this
advice is terrible is because we women
typically understand it to mean that we
need to talk more to get our man to
understand. If we could just get him to sit
down and talk about his feelings for
hours, we think that would fix everything.
This feeds into the female fantasy that if
our husbands would just do what we’ve
been trying to tell them to do, everything
would be fine. Most husbands would
rather eat old horse blankets than have
that conversation.
If your husband avoids conversations
about your relationship, you might worry
that it’s because he’s defective, and that
for some reason, you didn’t notice until
after you were married.
Relationships benefit greatly when you
don’t communicate everything you’re
thinking, especially if it’s critical or
disrespectful.
Instead of trying to force a conversation
with your husband, consider focusing on
what’s true for you and expressing it
without criticism. Phrases like, “I miss
you,” when you’re lonely will do more for
your connection as a couple than a
complaint like, “we never spend any time
together.” Saying “ouch!” instead of
“you’re really oblivious and insensitive!”
when he hurts your feelings will go a long
way toward keeping the peace and
preserving the emotional safety, which is
critical to intimacy.
And here’s some marriage advice you
don’t often hear: When you find yourself
tempted to correct your husband or tell
him what he’s doing wrong, zipping your
lips until the urge passes.
3. You should go to marriage
counseling
I know a divorced advice columnist who is
always suggesting this. It didn’t work for
her, but she hasn’t given up hope that it
will work for somebody else.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting
professional help, and we’ve all been
taught that marriage counselors are
where we should turn when the
relationship has left Happily-Ever-After
Highway.
But I, for one, have lost my faith in a
diploma as a reliable sign of relationship
wisdom. Doubt crept in the day I
glimpsed the inside of our counselor’s
marriage and saw her horrifying
contempt and disrespect for her husband.
It was confirmed the umpteenth time a
client told me that her marriage
counselor shamed her into getting a
divorce, or listened to her complain about
her guy every week for a year and never
asked her to make any changes. Another
counselor told my client she herself was
getting divorced and recommended her
client figure out where all the assets were
immediately.
Granted, some divorces are necessary. If
you’re not safe, you have to get out.
But instead of taking advice from
someone who studied relationships
academically, consider checking for the
most important credential of all: A happy
relationship. Only a woman who actually
enjoys the ease and pleasure of a great
connection with her husband can tell you
how to have that. But there’s a pretty
good chance such a woman knows a few
things that will help, even if you think
your situation is hopeless.
Maybe you’ve just been following the
wrong advice.

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