Mona Barbera
Problem / Solution

Solution #1

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Your spouse might take it as criticism, and they might argue, ignore you, or focus on your bad habits. If you're getting that kind of a response, you might want to argue and criticize back, or go off in a resentful huff--when you just wanted to help.
Does this mean say nothing? No!

It means be prepared to weather a few waves of defensiveness, stonewalling, or dismissal. Think ahead about what might make you lose your positive attitude.
Would you feel hurt if your spouse resisted your ideas or criticized you for your own bad habits? Would you question his caring for you if he mumbled something dismissive in response to your carefully thought out input?

Be prepared for resistance, and stay clear, connected, light-hearted, and confident in what you have to say. Don't push or force your partner to agree with you. If you're getting criticism or distance from your partner, give back compassion and curiosity, and remember that you are on the same team. Give better back than you're getting!

Perhaps you'll find your partner going for a run instead of watching TV, picking up some water instead of a soft drink, coming home earlier from work, or even talking about the issue with you (as if it was his own ideas, of course!).

Giving better back works well even if your partner doesn't change. It will give you the clarity and calm to think about your next move--perhaps you want to bring up the issue with more urgency, or try to get help. You'll have a peaceful, confident feeling within yourself knowing you didn't engage in unproductive behavior.


Mona Barbara Photo Mona Barbera
Dr. Mona is a psychologist, couples therapist, couples workshop leader, speaker, and the author of Bring Yourself to Love: How Couples Can Turn Disconnection into Intimacy.
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