- "You just need to learn communication skills."
This isn't necessarily bad advice. It just isn't enough, said Behary. "I can teach you the mechanics [of good communication] but it's not going to stick until you figure out what drives you and gets you stirred up."
For instance, a husband promises to be home early to spend time with his wife and kids, but because of work demands, he continues running late and his wife continues feeling disappointed. When he gets home, before she even says anything, he's angry and defensive.
Saying all the right things won't help him understand that he anticipates being the bad guy, and this triggers his reactions, Behary said.
It's not just about learning to communicate better. "Sometimes it's about the emotions behind the words."
- "Don't spill your secrets to a stranger."
Because of their own biases, some friends and family will advise against seeking professional help, Behary said. They also may be too much on your side, she said.
They might express some version of: "Don't go talking to a therapist. They'll just mess up your head, and blame your parents for everything. This isn't your problem. You're perfectly fine. It's [his or her] fault."
It's important for partners to examine how each of them is contributing to their marital problems. Going to therapy helps you figure this out and improve your relationship with the support of an objective and trained professional.
Ultimately, if you're getting advice from loved ones on navigating your relationship, remember that people have their own biases and motivations (well-intended or not). You also may get confusing or mixed messages, Behary said. Plus, "not everyone is trying to protect you."
If you're giving advice to a loved one, said Behary, the best thing you can do is to listen, be comforting and encourage the person to seek help.
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