When the little things unravel your relationship


You and your spouse get along on the big stuff. But on unimportant little stuff, it's a disaster: So you forget a phone message or maybe you leave things lying around, what's the big deal? You tell him/her it's not important, but he still gets mad.

Of course he does. And behind the anger are hurt feelings at the lack of respect he feels coming from you.

You do respect him. It's just that he makes too much of the daily nitty-gritty.

Yes, but life is made up of the daily nitty-gritty and when, day by day, you ignore the small things your spouse find important, you're sending the message that what he wants doesn't matter, therefore, he doesn't matter.

What do you do, do everything his way?

No. Try this:

* Accept the fact that your spouse has the right to determine what's important to him.

* Respect his wishes when it's his turf alone (his phone messages, for instance), and do your best to accommodate him. (For an occasional goof, apologize.)

* Negotiate when the issue is on joint turf (your things lying around, for example), and come up with something fair to both.

Remember, mutual respect and attentiveness can make everyday life better for your spouse and for you.

Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.

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