4 Ways To Be Better At Solving Your Marriage Problems

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Marriage Advice For Couples To Become Better At Problem Solving & Communicating
Love

Relationship problems are common and quite normal, but how a couple deals with them determines their success at problem-solving. 

Most couples spend a lot of time negotiating and problem-solving, simply because there are so many things to negotiate and decide on in a relationship! But just because we do it a lot, doesn't mean that we're good at it — and most of us aren't.

RELATED: 8 Subtle Relationship Problems That Can Ruin Your Marriage (And How To Solve Each One)

When marriage problems disrupt your peaceful life with your spouse, you want nothing more than to know how to fix a relationship and solve all your problems quickly.

Since this comes up often when I'm coaching couples, I focus on four key areas that can reduce the tension around problems and help people become more effective problem-solvers.

Here are 4 ways a couple can solve their relationship problems and fix their marriage.

1. Change what you can do, not your partner

Before asking your partner to change their behavior or their attitude, ask yourself what you could do differently.

For example, you know how sometimes it's the small things that become the big things when you're living 24/7 with someone? Something like that came up for me a few years back, and I knew that I had a few choices in how I could deal with it.

I could talk to my partner about it, which would probably make a small thing escalate into a big thing, or I could try to change my thinking about it.

I chose the latter option and conducted an experiment.

My husband had developed a habit of going into the kitchen after dinner and having a banana for his evening snack. And even though he is extremely neat and orderly in every other aspect of his life, he would always leave his banana peel on the counter, despite the fact that the garbage can was less than a foot away!

Of course, this might seem pretty insignificant to you, but when this happened night after night, I began to get more and more annoyed about it. So much so, that I began to assume that he had left the banana peel there on purpose, just to drive me crazy!

Then, I had a flash of insight that was twofold:

  • Chances were that my husband had no idea that this little thing was so annoying for me.
  • It was my response to his behavior that was actually causing the problem.

With this in mind, I began my experiment. On the first night, I went into the kitchen as usual and saw the banana peel. But, this time, I called out to him, "Honey! You left the banana peel on the counter! I love when you do that! It's so cute."

Now I don’t really know how he responded to this, as he was in the living room at the time. But I continued to do this for about a week, and guess what happened? I began to feel my attitude shifting until my husband's annoying behavior actually morphed into an endearing little quirk.

The experiment was a success and we never had to talk about it!

2. Seek mutual understanding first

Of course, there will be many times when couples will need to come to a consensus about important issues. How can they be effective problem-solvers when they don't agree with each other?

A good rule of thumb is to always seek understanding first. In other words, never try to solve a problem until it has been thoroughly discussed and each partner understands why the other one thinks and feels the way they do.

Since we often skip this one, we make assumptions that are inaccurate and can create more disagreements.

RELATED: 7 Of The Most Common Relationship Problems — And How To Fix Each One

3. Choose the right timing

Timing is everything. Choose the time for discussions around problems carefully. Don't have one as you're running out the door to work, or during the commercial break of your partner's favorite TV show.

Being tired, stressed, or distracted when dealing with problems is a recipe for disaster. Make sure both of you are relaxed, comfortable, and have plenty of time.

4. Choose your words

Eliminate the following phrases from your vocabulary:

  • "You never..."
  • "You always..."
  • "You should..."
  • "You shouldn’t..."
  • "I’ll try..." (This usually means you'll make a half-hearted effort but won’t quite succeed.)

It’s easy to see why using these phrases is unhelpful, because we don’t like it at all when our partners have used them on us!

What about those irreconcilable differences? For these unsolvable problems, an attitude shift can be especially helpful.

When irreconcilable differences do come up, we often put our energy into trying to get our partners to agree with us. What if we asked this question instead: "What can we do to protect the rest of our relationship from this unsolvable problem?"

This puts us on the same team, instead of on opposite sides, and opens us up to more possibilities and better solutions.

Whatever we invest our energy into is what grows.

Winning an argument at the expense of our unity doesn't serve us, and being right about something is largely overrated, especially in relationships. A more effective approach is simply to ask ourselves, "What can I do to ease the tension and make a positive impact?"

This attitude adjustment eliminates the blame game, puts us in the driver's seat, and moves us towards connection.

When it comes to dealing with problems as a couple, our attitudes really matter and largely determine our success. We can choose to get upset and blame our partners, or we can ask ourselves what we can do to foster communication, understanding, and cooperation.

We are always in charge of our own behavior and responses, and when we approach our problems as a team, we are stronger, saner, and more successful.

RELATED: 5 Things That Will Almost Certainly Kill Your Relationship (Unless You Stop Now)

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Debby Gullery is a relationship coach who loves to teach people simple strategies they can use immediately to improve their most important relationships. She is also passionate about helping single adults prepare for lasting love and commitment. She is the author of ‘Small Steps to Bigger Love’, a practical, easy-to-use book for couples who are seeking to be more intentional and loving.