PHOTO: HER WORLD BRIDES MAR - MAY 2009
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Chris' untidy habits drove his neat wife Diana mad. "He's too used to people picking up after him," she said. Diana finally took drastic measures, just keeping her own things clean for two weeks.
The couple had a huge row, and agreed on a "contract". One cleans the house one time during the week, and the other does it on the weekend. If either misses for no good reason, then he or she will have to do double duty. Since then, the couple has had no more problems.
Another couple, Wendy and Joe, prefer to "maid it" two times a week. For them, splitting the cost and hiring a maid was the easiest solution because neither was tidy.
Nicholas and May used to hang out at pubs with their friends. The past year of marriage didn't change nick's habit and May was disappointed. They have had frequent fights.
Marriage therapists suggest discussing your ideals for marriage before stepping into it. A big mistake couples usually make is thinking that they can change their partner after marriage. It almost never works that way, say experts.
Counselling sessions have helped resolve May and Nick's problem. They have agreed to each have two nights a week to spend however they want. For the rest of the time, they'd have to first discuss with each other.
Sharon used to swear that she wouldn't become like her mother and nag at her husband. But she did, while David, her husband, became his dad, silent and seething.
Counsellors advise a "good" fighting style. Discuss how you fight (past fights should give you clues) and what you don't like about it. Then change it. For example, if you think you're a nagger, make a conscious effort not to do it. Or if you're the passive one, be more assertive instead. Say "I need you to listen to me instead of firing off accusations".
Knowing your different fighting styles will help "even" out a fight since both parties will be heard, instead of just one side taking the brunt.
Barbara Collins, a family and marriage therapist, suggest a needs list for living together.
1. Know how to ask for what you want by planning what you want to say before a discussion.
2. You have a right to ask for what you need in the relationship.
3. Be specific, eg "I clean the dishes while you watch TV. I need help with the housework please."
4. Tell your feelings using non-blaming "I" sentences. Be honest, don't use your feelings to manipulate.
5. Agree on a change that's "measurable", e.g. "I'll do the dishes three nights, you do two, and we'll go out on weekends".
6. If he doesn't want to compromise, do the self-care alternative. Eg if you're tired of doing the dishes, save up for a dishwasher.
7. Agree to seek third party help if both of you are fuming wrecks and the situation is out of control.
This article was first featured in Her World Brides June - August 2001.