1. Am I jumping to conclusions?

Molly Barrow, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of Matchlines for Singles, says that she often sees women who assume their unhappiness is entirely caused by their partner. If you're convinced that your spouse is the problem, and especially if you find yourself repeatedly and testily telling him all the reasons he's standing in the way of your damn joy, then Barrow recommends that you put your thoughts down on paper. "Slow the communication down to a crawl," she says. This does not mean berating your husband or boyfriend for 22 pages. (We can't stop you, of course, but if you do that, rip those suckers up and start again.) The idea is that once you've stepped away from your typical fight, you can acknowledge your part in the stress party happening at your house—stretched finances, pressure at work, feelings of depression, or exhaustion from juggling the needs of your children. The letter serves two purposes: It lets him know what's actually upsetting you and clues you in too.

2. How big is the gap between my partner and me?

We all know that Prince Charming doesn't exist. We tell ourselves our expectations are realistic. Still, the questions we ask ourselves about our relationships (Is there still passion? Do I find him attractive? How can he figure out how to keep food warm in a subzero parking lot for his after-hockey practice potluck but forget his own child's birthday?) are often too surface to matter, says Barrow. What she means is that the cracks that occur over time because of an unsatisfying sexual relationship, lack of communication or contrasts in personality aren't necessarily irreparable. Unlike obvious deal breakers—long-term goals that are out of whack, an inability for your partner to celebrate your success, substance abuse or unprotected infidelity—many of these issues can be addressed if both parties are willing to work, respect the other's right to disagree and can be a teeny bit flexible.

Next: How to get a little divorced


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