"I'm okay, you're wrong." "Never sign up with me first." "You listen to me in public." Newsflash: These small common annoyances are potentially ruinous for 80 percent of couples. Is there any way to stop the downward spiral? Couples therapist Brent Atkinson, PhD, says yes, but first you'll have to do the one thing that is most difficult for you ...
"Somebody get me out of here!" Grace had to check to make sure she had not let the words aloud. He had come to this wedding reception as a favor to her husband, Adam, whose friend from high school got married. Adam was sitting atthe head table, laughing and having a great time, while Grace was stuck listening to a plump, middle-aged woman talk about her poodle. Grace thought, "This is the last place on earth I want to be at this time." Looked several timesin the direction of Adam. Finally catching her eye, she waved him over. But Adam shook his head and mouth "I cannot!" Shit, thought Grace. She had seen other members of the wedding party leave the table to talk to their families. "This is so typical," she thought. "He dragged me here, then I left."
After what seemed an eternity, the dancing began. Grace irritation gave a sense of anticipation as Adam smiled and began walking toward her. But never made it across the room. He was intercepted by three friends who insisted that going outside with them to smoke cigars. Adam raised a finger, pointing to Grace that he would be there in a minute.Before I could register a protest, Adam disappeared out the door. Grace sat and stewed, planning what she would say to her return. Ten minutes passed, then 20. After half an hour, she left the reception, got into his car and wenthome. Adam finally returned and sought grace. He realized he had left. He called his cell phone, but she did notrecover. He shook his head, muttered "What a baby!" and then returned to the party. At 4 in the morning, Adam got into the bedroom, thankful that Grace was asleep.
His eyes opened at 9 am with the sound of the coffee grinder. "Uh-oh," he thought. "It's time to face the music." He slid behind his wife and gave her a hug. She endured in silence until he surrendered and released her. Play dumb, Adam asked, "Why did you go last night? I was looking for." Grace rolled her eyes and replied, "Yes, I was looking very hard, right?" His sarcasm made Adam knew he was in the doghouse, a place that was very familiar.
Adam was still reeling from the sudden change that had been in favor since they had married three years earlier. Its independence was one of the things I had found it more attractive, but when I said "I do", she became a demanding, complaining constantly control that requires your attention-or so it seemed. Adam let out an exasperated sigh and walked away, thinking, "Here we go again." They did not speak for the rest of the day or the next morning. In fact, when it came to his therapy session three days later, still had not spoken.
Most people believe that certain forms of behavior in relationships are correct and others are incorrect. This is true to some extent. We probably all agree that one's partner physically assaulting bad. But marriage researchers have found that the vast majority of things that couples argue about involves areas in which there is no evidence that the rules of one of the partners are better or "healthier" than the other.