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The Deadly Small Stuff Sins of Marriage

April 22, 2010

Remember the adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff–and it’s all small stuff?”  Well, that advice is dead wrong–at least as far as marriage goes.  Couples’ therapists can tell you that early marriages (years 5-7) end  because of volatility and high conflict, but the second rise in divorce occurs between years 18-20.  And that’s the small stuff blip. What my clients call their “stupid fights.”  The “you left the dishes in the sink; you left your dirty kleenex on the bed; you don’t do your fair share of the housework, you’re never on time, we have to see your family too often, you spent $40 on flip-flops; you burp in public” arguments. Finally, researchers and journalists are writing about the small stuff problem for couples.  It’s one of the four violations of fairness (Family loyalty,  Growing pains(money, children, kids & sex) and Enduring injustices (alcoholism, abuse of power, verbal/emotional/physical abuse) that I highlight in Try to See It My Way.

Here are some tips to keep the everyday irritants shrunk to size and to keep your marriage healthy:

1. Pobody’s nerfect–decide what you can accept about your partner’s quirks and (graciously) do so.

2. A rose a day is better than a bouquet once a year. Offer appreciation daily…it’s good to give (and get) credit where credit is due–and it’s good for your relationship.

3. Get over “being right.” You can be right or you can be married. Sometimes just do it your partner’s way to show that you care.

4. If the small stuff makes you feel unloved, talk about that, rather than restating your complaint.

5. Turn blame into claims. Instead of implying, “You’re the problem,” take a risk being vulnerable and ask for what you need. “It would mean a lot to me if…you’d turn off your Blackberry while we’re eating dinner.”

Life is hard, but you can make your relationships easier. Have some compassion for yourself and your partner. Begin by sweating the small stuff.

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