If your marriage falls into a rut—days or even weeks go by without real communication—try taking these four little steps towards a stronger and happier union.
1. Make a list of the positive and negative traits of both your parents. Then make a similar list describing your partner. What connections do you see?
2. List the traits you like least in your partner. Then make a list of the traits you like best in yourself. Compare the two and share with your partner.
3. Think about how you handle frustration. Do you tend to exaggerate your feelings or withdraw and keep them to yourself? If you do the first, you're a maximizer; if you do the second, you're a minimizer. In most partnerships, one person is a maximizer and the other a minimizer, and this is a source of conflict. The way to alter this is for each of you to become more like your partner.
4. Ask your partner to state his deepest frustration with you. Then ask what he needs most from you. Listen without reacting. Validate his point of view, and express empathy. Stretch to meet his deepest needs.
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From the April 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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