Here are some questions people recently asked me when I gave a talk on marriage.
What do you do when your mate takes a pot-shot at you in public?
The best way to handle this very typical marital problem is to ignore the pot-shot. Pretend you didn't hear it. In reality, everyone in the room heard it and I guarantee most everyone in the room thinks the guy is rude and "a borderline jerk."
If you respond by defending or shooting an arrow back, you both look bad, and your mate will probably retaliate. After all, he didn't have the sense or sensibility to keep his mouth shut in the first place.
The following day, tell your mate you were uncomfortable when he made the remark and ask that he not do this in the future. Some mates will apologize. Others will defend and point out how what they said was correct. If you get a defensive response, again state that you prefer that your mate not put you down in public. Amen. Period No further discussion.
What do you do if your mate always runs late?
You, on the other hand, were taught to be on time and feel very anxious when you run late. You've asked your mate repeatedly to respect your wishes. She says okay but continues to be late.
First, assess if your mate is always late. Is she late for everything -- church, weddings, movies, meeting friends at a restaurant, doctor's appointments? Some people are on time for certain events but give themselves more latitude for others. If this is your mate, discuss what events you categorize as most important to be on time for and those where you would be willing to go along with your spouse's more laid back timeframe.
Sometimes, too, one spouse will define lateness differently than another. If you are to be somewhere at 4 o'clock, do you consider yourself late if you are there at exactly 4 o'clock? Are you late if your clock says two minutes after four? I've seen discussions like this clear the air and give both spouses a better understanding of the way each of them views time.
In the worst case scenario, that is, your mate is late for every occasion, including weddings and the symphony -- do yourself and your heart a favor. Take separate cars. It may not be ideal, but it will keep you from starting every event with a hostile attitude and feelings of helplessness.
What do you do if your mate drinks too much when you go out socially and he denies drinking excessively?
No matter how many discussions you've had, you can't get him to admit he has a problem, nor can you get him to change.
Sometimes asking a friend to talk with your mate will have more impact than if you speak to him. Sometimes asking a mate to read a particular article or book on drinking will have the desired effect. Sometimes dragging your mate to a therapist and discussing his drinking will make the difference.
In addition, don't drive home with a mate who has had too much to drink. Make a pact that you will always drive home from a party or social event. This keeps you from guessing how sober your mate is. It also keeps you from arguing at a time when he's been drinking. You may not be able to get your mate to change his drinking habits, but you can protect yourself and the other people on the road.
Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide“ and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: http://www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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