"It takes two people to couple up and get married," says Harriet Lerner, PhD, celebrated author of The Dance of Anger, "but only one to make a relationship better." Waiting for your spouse to change first, she believes, is a recipe for unhappiness and divorce. Her book Marriage Rules lists 100 clear-cut, everyday ways to improve your marriage—starting with you and your own behavior. We spoke with her and gleaned the ten most surprising:
1. Describe it in three sentences (or less).
Your partner might say things like "I don't want to talk" or I'm not good at talking." Usually, the real issue is that he gets easily flooded with too much information and shuts down. So, when bringing up an issue, end your description after three sentences. For example, cut off your point at "You said you'd clean up the kitchen, and you didn't." Don't add on all those extra but related issues like: "You don't do what you say you're going to do. I can't trust you. I can't even trust what you're going to do next. And by the way, I saw that you also left the dog out in the yard."