It takes two to work on marriage

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 3:44 p.m.
Q: My husband and I married in October of last year, and we are hitting a very rough communication spot. It seems he perceives my voicing feelings of our problems as criticism and becomes defensive and angry so that any attempt to discuss what I am feeling becomes a tug of war of ''I'm right and you're wrong.'' I am conscious of saying the "I feel this, and I am feeling that" to not put him on the defensive, but to no avail. His family is highly critical and his first marriage was very draining in many ways for him. How can we get out of this?
A: You hit the nail on the head with your last sentence; it is not you alone, but it is the two of you together who must ''get out'' of the rut you are in.
No marriage can move with one person in park and the other person in drive. You must both be in the same gear, and it looks like you are not.
The funny thing about those ''I feel'' statements is that they are often just padding for the ''you're wrong'' that usually follows. For example, saying, ''I feel you don't love me,'' or ''I feel you need to be more compassionate'' is just the same as saying, ''you don't love me'' and ''you need to be more compassionate.''
People pick up on this very easily and are usually very put-off by this tactic. The next statement they make usually goes something like, ''well, you don't love me either,'' or ''well, you're not compassionate either.'' At this point in the conversation, we have what I call a ''cul-de-sac.''
In a cul-de-sac, if someone does not see the ''out,'' you will keep driving around in circles. In this situation, it is very tempting to keep driving around in circles because you want to be ''right'' more than you want to be out of the cul-de-sac. But, you have to begin demonstrating maturity at this point.
When you see the conversation heading to ''right vs. wrong,'' stop talking. This is hard, trust me, but it is the only way to bring any sense to the argument.
If you are successful at this, your husband will keep talking until he runs out of things to say, at which time you can then say, ''Honey, did I change your mind with what I said?'' To which he will say, ''no.'' You can then say, ''Honestly, you did not change my mind with what you said, either. So, why don't we talk about what we should have done differently? Let me go first.''
By acknowledging that your argument is a waste of breath and redirecting the conversation to a constructive talk about what you as a person could have done better, you will be setting yourself up for a heart-to-heart talk.
Open the conversation by saying something about what you did wrong, whether that means having a wrong attitude or speaking to him like a child.
By admitting that you made a mistake, you are leading him to examine himself. Most people will not let you go out on a limb and blame yourself for everything, especially when they know they had a hand in the situation.
Got a relationship question? E-mail Jones is a motivational speaker in the North Central Florida area. Visit for more information.

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