31 responses

  1. jamie
    March 14, 2013

    i believe what you are explaining here is to be true. but if all steps are not followed through then everything ends up crumbling all over again. i will take your advise with these steps and make my energy i use toward my relationship with my husband in a positive manner instead of yelling and fighting over who has been a better this and that, instead listen to eachother not just lable one another. i love my husband and im willing to appreciate him more so we can love eachother like we once did and enjoy life together. i think every aspect of life will be better for my whole family. thank you for giveing me hope it can and will change out from this rutt we have had for a number of years now. looking forward to haveing our life better.

    • Robert Chen
      March 15, 2013

      Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for sharing.

      Have patience when you first start. Understand that it’ll take some time to break the negative conditioning that has been built up. Keep up the change in your thinking and actions knowing that it will eventually change his response and the entire situation. Always remember your outcome is to be loving and happy together. It is not to prove each other wrong or to prove yourself to be right. Also, check out The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

      Good luck.

  2. Fred Bassett
    April 14, 2013

    You asked why I looked. My partner found your blog after we had the first miscommunication – or whatever it was – of our relationship. We are 60-somethings who both have had several long-term relationships and who found each other magically on an on-line dating service a little over a year ago. We began living together about three months ago. The fact that she was upset enough and committed enough in our relationship to search out your blog and share it with me means the world to me and gives me great hope and assurance that, with care, we will not fall into some of the traps of long-term relationships you illuminate.
    Because of our experience in relationships, we both are fully aware of and practice many of the hints you give, but, because of the differences in our experiences, are finding that we approach our relationship in slightly different ways.
    My most recent relationship was with my wife of 25 years (we were together 27) who died 6 years ago. I was used to spending nearly all of my time with my late wife. We worked together, played together, raised our children, and even home-schooled them through high school, together. For four years we spent nearly every spare moment building our own house together. This really worked for us. The times that we worked at separate jobs and were apart from each other for long periods were the most difficult.
    My new partner’s most recent relationship was a marriage of 27 years in which she and her husband grew gradually apart. In the end, she said, they were doing nothing together…two people living separate lives in the same house.
    So the chord that strikes the most harmony for us in your blog is the one about having separate lives. The challenge for us will be to find our own balance of together and apart time that satisfies and keeps the fires of love burning at home.
    Thanks for your thoughts and for sharing them.
    Fred

    • Robert Chen
      April 15, 2013

      Thank you Fred for your comment. It is always difficult to adapt to new situations but it sounds like you’re both committed to making it happen. What I find helpful is to always realize that the other person has the best intentions and give them the benefit of the doubt. We get into trouble when we jump to conclusions and misinterpret the other person’s actions and words. When in doubt, ask – open communication is key.

      Best of luck to you.

  3. Mark
    May 22, 2013

    Everything in this article I do. But if both parties aren’t doing the same thing, it’s a receipt for disaster. I’m kissing my wife’s ass all day while she is treating me like shit. And she knows she treats me like shit . She says its because I sometimes go out if my way to purposely do back to her what she dies to me that posses be off. How else would she know how it feels and attempt to stop doing what pisses me off.
    When I tell her about she could care less. She just continues to prove her point how she is right and I’m wrong. I just keep my mouth shut and say yes. When I open my mouth it’s a waste.
    Anyhow, thus article is well written and would probably do must couples well if both people complied. Thanks for sharing.

    • Robert Chen
      May 23, 2013

      Hi Mark,

      It must be frustrating when it seems like you are bending over backwards but the other person doesn’t move an inch. Fighting fire with fire never works. It leads to a vicious cycle where you build even more contempt for each other.

      People change when they want to change. We can only change how we respond to others in hopes that a change in our response will change their actions. Perhaps you can focus on not letting her actions piss you off. You may want to check out this article: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/how-to-stop-being-angry.html

      Give her the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes it’s easy to find evidence for a crime that you’re looking for.

      I hope this helps.

  4. Job
    May 28, 2013

    Mark,

    I’ve been married for 4+ years and I have a 3 year old son that is just a bundle of joy. I’m not an expert and I understand that every situation is different, but please allow me share my personal experience.

    Your story sounds very similar to my own. I felt (in the beginning of the marriage) that I was bending over backwards and got nothing in return. I felt cheated and used…and my wife even called me “selfish”. I fought fire with fire in hopes that I would get through to her, but that didn’t do much but perpetualte the situation.

    It wasn’t until I reached the cliff (ready for divorce) that I started to think about life without her. I thought about all the good times we had, all the things we did together, the trips we took, the memories we shared, etc. I knew I wanted to be with her, but I just didn’t know how to get through to her.

    A few weeks after, I realized (through reading books and taking advice from family and friends) that the key to it all was to start with myself. It wasn’t until I read a quote that said “Victory by surrender” that it all made sense. Surrendering yourself means to look for honest answers to the questions “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?” and then confronting your fears and imperfections head on.

    I realized that I was “inhibited” (unable to act in a relaxed and natural way because of self-consciousness or mental restraint). The moment I realized who I was, the burden seemed to have been lifted off my shoulders. Then I focused my energy on who I wanted to be…a caring father and a loving husband. My wife has seen and felt the change in me and I’ve noticed the positive “upward” spiral that this has brought into my marriage and my life.

    I’m glad to say that I’ve been through the peaks and valleys in my marriage and I’m looking forward to what the future brings. I would also suggest that you keep a good supporting cast around you because negative energy always pulls you into a downward spiral. I was extremely lucky to have a great supporting cast (my family and friends) and I can’t thank them enough for their guidance.

    Job

    • Robert Chen
      May 28, 2013

      Thanks for sharing your experience. This comment can be a a blog post on its own. Thanks Job.

  5. Charlotte Quevedo
    August 28, 2013

    This is very on point. I have had trouble getting along with lots of ppl and looking at tge steps above, I can see why. Getting along has never been my focal point. I also tend to assume the worst of ppl and not accept their limitations. The thing that annoys me the most is when someone insistently gives me advice without realizing that my situation is different, my opinion is different, and their advice does not work for me. I tend to take criticism harshly instead of owning up to stuff. I think I would get along better if I were more willing to change the things about myself that are the most difficult for me. Accepting that ppl want to help and be honest and sometimes that means having to look wrong, accepting that I can’t control others or change how they perceive me. I have been trying to research how to improve my social skills and this is the best article I have found.

    • Robert Chen
      August 31, 2013

      Thank you Charlotte for your kind words. I’m glad that this article provided you with some insights to help you with your relationships. Our lives are dominated by the stories that we tell ourselves. We give meaning to situations with these stories and we can change the situation by changing the story. A person who cuts us off on the highway can be both a jerk who has no respect for others or a loving husband rushing home to his pregnant wife. Your reaction will depend on which story you tell yourself in the moment. I’ve found giving people the benefit of the doubt has made my life both easier and happier.

      Best of luck to you.

  6. Shawn
    November 11, 2013

    I read this article to gain a better and possibly ‘more sensitive’ approach to dealing with my marital arguments. I think getting along with and accepting my spouse for who she has become my first and most crucial step.

    We tend to be aggressive with one another when the going gets tough. Our life has changed dramatically since we had our daughter two years ago. She is a GREAT and smart child, but extremely willful, stubborn, and full of energy. Thus, we have NO time with each other, none.

    With nobody on her side of the family to help and nobody on my side to help, we are without support and/or guidance on being parents. We have no baby sitter either because my wife feels that since we decided to have a kid it is our responsibility to care for that child and sacrifice ALL things that we used to do for ourselves and with one another.

    So, I am being cultivating patience and hoping for a date night sometime in the next couple years :)

    If we can’t work on us, I fear that we will end up resenting each other.

    Any other advice on this matter?

    Thank you for your educational article. I will try to practice some of it’s key points.

    • Robert Chen
      November 16, 2013

      Shawn,

      Thank you for sharing your situation. It is not uncommon for parents to be overwhelmed when they don’t have help from their families. I’m sure it must be frustrating to handle the stresses of work, raising a child and keeping a happy marriage without time to decompress. I look at date night and other ways of relaxation similar to how I look at sleep – it is necessary to get enough of it so you can be more effective.

      If you and your wife don’t get along, it’s going to adversely affect how your daughter feels when she observes your interactions. Date night is good for the entire family not just for you and your wife. If you find it impossible to carve out time for date night, collaborate with your wife to come up with solutions to this challenge.

      I hope this was helpful and let us know how it goes.

  7. Silvi
    January 9, 2014

    Hey thanks for the interesting article. I read cos we are having some difficulty after moving in together a year ago. We do all the points you raised – plenty respect, attention, great communication without anger, positive attitude, lots of laughing and equal time together and apart etc. We both feel loved wanted and make each other feel special. We love spontaneity on weekends.
    But we still do not get along! Maybe more a personality clash? I feel irritated regularly by my partners phobias and he talks incessantly about them every text, phone call, discussions every single day to the point I cannot listen anymore. He borders on OCD obsession with germs, illnesses, diet (overindulgence followed by detox every month), home security to superstitions eg taking christmas decorations down on the correct date otherwise bring bad luck on us. Seriously! I have a SOH & joke with him. But wearing thin now. I don’t like that our house is so sparse (he likes the minimalist look) I feel I am not able to express myself through colour, art, individualism and does not feel cosy or homely. We have talked hundreds of times about all of this but stays the same. If I bring some new thing into the house he gets very upset asking me to consult with him in advance even down to trivial items eg towels.
    I have tried hard but feel stuck.
    Everything else in relationship is great he is an awesome partner. We are good at supporting each other except for this issue.
    Some advice would be most welcome.
    Thank you so much!

    • Robert Chen
      January 13, 2014

      Silvi – thank you for sharing your situation. Can you see yourself living for the rest of your life with your partner’s habits? If not, you may want to take a step back and think things through. You won’t be able to change your partner but at the same time, you have to ask yourself if those issues are really a deal breaker despite all the other great qualities of the relationship. It sounds like you both have clashing values which in my experience usually don’t end well in relationships. It’s not an easy decision so make sure you are putting this decision in the right perspective.

  8. Wendy Gale
    February 20, 2014

    Why I read this article? I own http://www.olivebranch.com and am looking for material for my blog http://olivebranchlove.wordpress.com/ Hope you dont mind if I link to your site. Feel free to check out my site. I’ll check out yours.

  9. Felicia
    March 24, 2014

    I’m so glad I came across your article today. I needed to read that. For myself and my relationship. My boyfriend and I have been together for over three years and just recently moved in together. I know they say the first year is always the hardest, but I just don’t think we take into consideration the points you made. We’ve discussed them before when we would fight, but we go back to our old ways. I guess we’re lazy on the subject and selfish about it? I’m not sure why I’m saying all this either. I just really appreciate the post! I’m going to show I to him tonight & pray we ca. Really discuss it and live it out. He’s the love if my life, but things are really tough right now. Thanks again!

    • Robert Chen
      March 26, 2014

      I’m glad you found this article helpful. I can tell that you really want to make this relationship work and I hope you’re able to apply these tips to help you. Let me know how it goes and if you want to delve into any one of these tips further. Best of luck to you and remember to focus on the outcome you want and whether your actions are aligned with that outcome.

  10. Primobabe
    June 5, 2014

    My husband (of 23 years) and I truly love each other, and we both want to save our marriage and stay together. But, I don’t know if that’s possible.

    He has an overly-friendly, boisterous personality that often crosses the line to boorish. He can be very annoying and off-putting. (No, I’m not exaggerating. He once ruined one of my most valuable professional connections — I was forming a beneficial relationship with an extremely powerful and influential person — by behaving oafishly at a holiday party.)

    This trait infuriates me. I know that “accept your spouse” is one of the guidelines, that it’s impossible to force changes on someone, and that I’m the one who needs to adapt. Yet, he makes me feel uncomfortable when we’re in public and among other people, and I often rant and yell at him in private. When I’m honest with myself, I know that he was this same way when we were still dating; I thought that he’d mellow as he matured, and that I could grow to accept him for what he is.

    Now, I’m at a point where I need advice and input. I know that I can’t continue to belittle and berate him. I need either to stop my abusive behavior or leave the marriage and let him live happily.

    • Robert Chen
      June 8, 2014

      Primobabe, thank you for sharing your situation. It must be frustrating to feel that you’re not being heard or taken seriously especially when something bothers you so much. When you belittle or berate someone, it usually makes them “dig in deeper” to their viewpoints because no one wants to be treated like a child, no matter how much you feel that he deserves it. Always respect the other person no matter who they are (and esp. if it’s someone you love).

      First, I recommend listing your husband’s good qualities so you’re giving a fair assessment to the situation before you decide you need to leave. I’m sure he has many if you decided to live and stay with him for over 23 years.

      Second, think of the positive intention for your husband to act the way he does. What does he get out of acting boisterous? I can bet it’s not to annoy you. Possible positive intentions for him might be to get your attention, to flex his independence especially if you’re telling him not to do that, to impress others – maybe he thinks he’s being sociable. Once you find the positive intention, then you can see if he might be open to another way of acting that fulfills that positive intention.

      Finally, I recommend having a crucial conversation with your husband where you give him the benefit of the doubt and get curious about how he sees the situation. The book “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson provides a nice guideline for these types of conversations. You can find a quick summary at this link – http://www.peace.ca/crucialconversations.pdf

      I hope this was helpful. Good luck!

  11. SomewhereinBrooklyn
    July 6, 2014

    I have been asking for explanations for 42 years. The answer is always “I don’t know, how do you expect me to know why I did/said what I did? Harmful, humiliating, abandoning,embarrassing, dismissive, even cruel things, too much to list.
    Treats all others, even who don’t deserve it, with respect, benefit of the doubt, understanding, gets into their heads to understand why they have done a bad thing.He dismisses everything I say, feel or believe as unjustified, or as a feeling I shouldn’t have,”you shouldn’t feel that way”

    I have asked over the many years to get help, he has always refused. Too late now. Everyone in our circle of friends and family thinks he is “the perfect guy”. I can’t even get 3 minutes of his time in conversation, and he never supports me in difficult, life changing struggles, including death of a child and cancer. He’s there, physically, but abandons me emotionally, often with cruelty. I have been asking why, as you suggest, for 42 years. he shrugs. He says “all I know is I love you”. I have a bad cancer diagnosis now, I just wish he would explain before I go. I don’t expect him to change at this point, just let me understand why. Why is all I have ever asked for. Why? What did I do wrong?

    • Robert Chen
      July 13, 2014

      SomewhereinBrooklyn, thank you for sharing your situation. I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis and the pain you’ve been going through with your husband. I’m sure it’s frustrating when you are not getting your questions answered. To you, it probably doesn’t seem like you’re asking for much.

      One thing to keep in mind that might help is that you may want to focus on what you can do to be happy despite what your husband does or says. His actions and words are merely stimulus and your interpretation of that stimulus is what makes the pain. If you can find a way to look at and change how you interpret his actions, it may lead to less frustration for you. I would recommend reading Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg for some good tips on having these types of conversations with your husband.

      I hope this was helpful. Sorry it took a while to get back to you.

      • SomewhereinBrooklyn
        July 13, 2014

        Thank you for your advice. I have tried that, will try some more. Some things are just hard not to react to….. especially now.It hurts more than ever. When I do try calm talk, he gets defensive and angry. A man who never exhibits anger towards anyone else.Sometimes he interferes with me trying to be happy, tells me “you don’t really want or need to (do, buy, go to) that, do you?” He is, as I try jokingly to tell myself sometimes, a joy sucking machine..I will find the book. thank you again. We are still together, so we must me doing something right or I am a masochist! . It’s is superstar good guy image that I also resent. He saves the mean stuff for me.
        Sorry for going on, thanks again.

      • Robert Chen
        July 19, 2014

        SomewhereinBrooklyn,

        Sometimes the words you say matter as much as how you say it. No matter how good your intentions are if you’re not getting the response you want, it may be worthwhile to try another approach. Try to see the positive intention behind his words and actions and give him the benefit of the doubt even if it’s difficult for you. By doing so, it’ll change how you interact with him which may lead him to change how he interacts with you. It’ll take a while but if you persevere, you will see changes because you’ve changed how you react. Might be worth checking out “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman as well.

        Also, a simple guideline I try to keep in mind when interacting with others is “Ask, don’t tell.” If you find yourself telling more than asking

      • SomewhereinBrooklyn
        July 22, 2014

        Mr. Chen, your advice to find positive intentions, perhaps you can assist me with that:

        1)when your husband is asked by a psychotherapist, in your presence, what his deepest emotions are considering the impending death of our daughter ( I had already just answered the same question from the depths of my soul) and his response is ” “The laundry is not getting done, and the house is not as clean as usual. And if you (me) think you are going to visit her more than once a week, I’m not doing it, do you know how much the parking will cost?” The family counselor we were seeing (mainly for my older child) sent him out of the room. She stated she had to, to avoid hitting him.

        2)When your wife’s cancer Dr. forgets to make proper notations after a 6 hour surgery, implants a device in her body that ends up never being used, she has her treatment changed suddenly based on undocumented, uncertain facts, that are later recanted, and your wife seeks answers from the Drs. involved, and asks her husband for support in that effort, he says “you seem to doing OK on your own”.

        3)When your wife (on her own, while on chemo) convinces a major NYC Cancer Center to take her on as patient, in light of mistakes made at previous center, even though it goes against their stated policy, and your wife is crying tears of joy for finally getting proper treatment, your husband says “you don’t need to change Drs. for medical reasons, just for emotional ones”.

        4)When you learn you have Stage 3C cancer with only a 29% chance of surviving 5 years, your husband, with a chuckle, says, “nothing can happen to you, who will do things for me!”

        I’m sorry, these are just highlights. There are too many to list. How do I “understand” the “positive intention” behind these comments? Am I not human? Why, again is it my responsibility to “approach” him differently, give him benefit of the doubt. Why is this my job? Do you give similar advice to men if their wives emotionally abuse them? I am guessing, no.

        You also seem to not realize I have “persevered” for over 40 years, and have limited time left.

        To tell a woman that has been emotionally abused she may be “taking the wrong approach” and asking the wrong questions, missing the “positive intention” behind hateful comments is unbelievable. Would you tell a physically abused woman the same?

        I am so sorry I ever saw this blog. It appears to be a venue for men to sell books, products and gifts.

        You should rename this blog “how to blame women for their husband’s cruelty”

        I should have known better. I am certain you will not post this, I don’t care. Life is too short.

      • Robert Chen
        July 26, 2014

        SomwhereinBrooklyn,

        The advice I shared with you is advice I would share with anyone based on what I know about the situation. You have every right to think what you want to think and to do as you please just like I have the right to share my views. You don’t have to take my advice, read my blog or listen to your husband if you don’t want to.

      • SomewhereinBrooklyn
        July 13, 2014

        Dear Mr. Chen, I re-read and re-read your message to me. I am very appreciative for your reply. I read excerpts from the book you suggested on Amazon, I am not sure it will be of value. I feel very lonely, even though I am never alone. Even the natural fear of my diagnosis, my husband says I shouldn’t feel that way. I realized this week, I have never, ever had a feeling or belief that I expressed to him that he doesn’t tell me I am “wrong” about and proceeds to tell me why I “shouldn’t feel that way”.

        And I do, honestly know that I have expended more energy over the years than I really should have in “understanding” why I don’t have an emotional connection to my husband. I may not have the luxury of time to figure him out now, observe his behaviors. I have tried to calmly observe and tell him that something he just said hurt me, and made me feel lonely and rejected. His only response is anger. His responses, inevitably, make me angry. He always ends with “it didn’t occur to me that you would be hurt by that’ “perhaps you heard it wrong” ” C’mon, you act like I said/did that on purpose, I don’t know why I said/did it”. He even admits that some of the things he says are heartless, just plain wrong, and cannot explain the motivation behind them….considering that he claims he loves me, that makes no sense to me. It’s very confusing to me.

        I am not sure this book is what I need right now, Mr. Chen. I will continue to try and be happy, and try to ignore my husband’s distance towards me. It is not recent, it has been this way from the beginning. It cycles into the same conversation, and he always says “All I know is I love you, don’t you know that?”. About 25 years ago, I realized I really don’t know that. He says it, but I don’t feel it. Maybe it’s my fault. I am unclear why it is my responsibility to figure him out. As I told you initially, I asked to go to counseling for many years. He adamantly refused. “What’s not to be happy about?” was always his response. I thought I was losing my mind, because I felt so bad, and he said we had a “perfect life”.

        One thing you are spot on about…..I don’t think I am asking for much. Just an explanation, whatever it is. Even if he really hates me, it would be better than this. I hope I learn the answer.

        Please, you don’t have to respond, I appreciate you tolerating my venting and I will keep trying. My faith keeps me going.
        Thank you again.

  12. Peter
    July 15, 2014

    To lead a best married life understanding each other,giving space and time , and most importantly trusting is important. Greeting with smile and asking his well being makes both of us happy. I would like to share about a site, http://www.pleasingtimes.com where we get products to gift spouse and make moments very special.

    • Robert Chen
      July 19, 2014

      Thanks for sharing Peter – trust is crucial for a strong relationship.

  13. breaking up
    August 11, 2014

    Good info. Lucky me I discovered your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book marked it for later!

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