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So-Called Mistake #4: You Yell at Him Using an "Always" or a "Never"


Relationship-saving professionals everywhere agree. When you're mad, you shouldn't say "always" or "never" to your other half. In many cases, this is excellent advice. He doesn't always ignore you in front of his mother (at least once or twice he has had to look at you in her presence), and it's not possible for you to have never ever listened to him when he was talking about the importance of air fresheners (words make it down the ear canal, even words like "pine-scented"). "Always" and "never" tend to exaggerate the complaint you're describing, both making your partner feel horrible and discrediting you in the process.

However, there is one set of circumstances when "always" and "never" have a place. This is when they are true. Let's say my husband and I are whisper-bickering, which is what we do if we happened to disagree between 8:30 p.m. and 8:50 p.m., when the kids are pretending to try to fall asleep. If the issue is cookies-back -in-the-drawer, it is perfectly fine for me to say, "You always leave the cookies out!" Because my husband always, always leaves the cookies out, so that they get dry and stale and are unusable for lunches for the rest of the week. My point: Housework is not part of the always-never rule. It's one of those things that people approach with compulsive regularity or compulsive refusal. You can nail your partner on these points! You can slam-dunk him and be totally, eternally right—while he is totally, eternally wrong! This is really helpful for a relationship, because you (and you alone) will feel like the All-Mighty Lord of the Universe...for about five seconds, until he slam-dunks you back with a comment like "You never clean out the car." At which point you can either laugh cutely, hoping that charm will get you out of this mess—or you and he can sit down and talk about how to divide the household drudgery so that neither of you feels as if the other is always never doing anything to help.

So-Called Mistake #5: You Go on the Overambitious Vacation


The overambitious vacation is #17 on the list of the world's fastest ways to break up (yes, this list does exist, but it's stored in a secret bank vault, the one mentioned in Harry Potter guarded by goblins). Nothing kills love more quickly and effectively than a 10-day sprint through Central America to visit every single Mayan pyramid, with stops to throw up from a parasite, pass out from heat exhaustion, and sleep in the dirt while being relentlessly attacked by mosquitos because your jeep broke down in the jungle, the jeep that every goddamn person in the village told you not rent—but you took anyway, because it was 15 dollars cheaper.

Except, that is, when the exact same 10 days kindles passion, riveting stories and a lot of laughs. What transforms a trip into the latter, I believe (and I speak from a lot of experience, including: Mexico in July, Ecuador during a kerosene riot, camping with a 4-week-old newborn), is whether or not the two of you are able to recognize that you chose this trip. You could be at work. You could in a line for carpool. But instead you decided to do something extraordinary. Be it extraordinarily wonderful or disastrous, you didn't settle for a mother-in-law's condo. Lots of things in life are overambitious and unforgettable due their deviation from the so-called norm. One of the most rewarding, of course, is love.

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