It is natural for relationships to have an ebb and flow, to
grow more or less intimate as circumstances shift. Relationships
need care and nurturing, and often it’s hard to know what to do.
A problem-free relationship exists only in fantasy. When a
discussion with your man turns into an argument, it’s because
you are no longer partners on the same team, wanting each other
to be happy. You become opponents trying to defeat one another.
The original issue you were discussing has become beside the
point, and the problem becomes each other.
What can you do instead? Imagine the problem as a ball sitting
between you and your man. Remove the ball from between you and
set it a few feet away. Then get on the same side of it, as
partners. Literally, get up and sit together, holding hands and
facing the problem. When you are side by side, you are on the
same team. The problem is no longer each other. It is an entity
in itself, and it has a name.
Giving him the problem he gives you
When a problem arises where he can’t seem to understand your
needs or you have opposing needs, what can you do?
Give him the problem he is giving you. Giving him back the
problem means enlisting his help in finding a solution.
Vanessa can’t stand it that Raymond is always late. It’s been
bothering her for a while, and they’ve had several arguments
about it. Raymond argues that he always tries his best to be on
time, but that he’s often running late because of his hectic
schedule. Vanessa contends that Raymond should be able to budget
his time better so he doesn’t keep her waiting.
One night when she’s been waiting at a restaurant for half an
hour, Vanessa decides she doesn’t want to wait for him again and
doesn’t want to argue about it anymore. When Raymond shows up,
she greets him with a kiss and gives him time to settle into his
After they order drinks, Vanessa says, “Honey, I need your
help. It’s really hard on me when you’re late, especially when
we make plans for a special date like tonight. I look forward to
seeing you at the end of the day, and it’s disappointing when
you don’t show up for so long. Also I get anxious while I’m
waiting, and I worry that something’s happened to you. It’s not
a pleasant situation for me. What can we do?”
Vanessa has just given Raymond back the problem he gave her and
asked his help in dealing with it. He can now help her come up
with a solution instead of having to defend himself against an
Giving your man the problem allows him to be involved. When you
include him rather than attack him, he has a chance to come up
with an answer. Even if he doesn’t have an answer, he will
appreciate that you asked. Next time the problem comes up, he
will be more understanding and the two of you can approach it as
a team rather than as opponents.
Committing to working it out
It takes the two of you with your feet planted firmly inside
the relationship in order to work things out. In fact, the only
way to see if your relationship is fixable is for you both to
have your feet in the door for a period of time with no thought
Be willing for things to work. Arrange with your man to commit
to three months where neither of you will consider leaving. For
those three months, act as if your only option is to work it out
within the relationship. If you need to, extend the period to
six months or more. You both deserve a safe place to work it out
where there’s no threat of either of you leaving. While you’re
in your three- or six-month span, have your attitude be, “How
are we going to fix it?” Are you willing to do what it takes to
have your relationship work out? (And if you aren’t willing, why
should he be?)
Excerpted from the book, How to Be Cherished: A Guide to Having the Love You Desire
By Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh