With Love and Gratitude

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Words Can Be Your Relationship Deal-breaker

Watching your words can save a relationship.

The reasons that relationships untangle and marriages end in infidelity or divorce might well be tracked to three key deal-breakers: money arguments, disagreements about children, and unkind words. Lack of respect for one's spouse can lay the foundation for irreconcilable conflicts. A startling article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out this week in Meet the Marriage Killer‎ that nagging is often the deal-breaker.

And oftentimes nagging and unkind words come about either because of thoughtlessness, frustration, or as we learned from Dr. Edward Hallowell, who appeared on the Dr. Oz Show recently, because one spouse has an Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD.) ADHD Diagnosis Saves Marriages: Dr. Hallowell Talks to Dr. Oz

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While divorce is often associated with infidelity, a survey of lawyers in the United Kingdom recently pointed out that sometimes couples simply fall out of love. With the stress and anxiety of our 24/7 work world, sexual intimacy suffers.

Can falling out of love happen because of your words?  For a closer look at how unkind words lead to the disintegration of marriage - words that indicate a lack of respect for one's spouse - have a look at Fight Less, Love More: 5 Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In by Laurie Puhn, JD, a Harvard-educated family lawyer and couples mediator. www.lauriepuhn.com

The deal-breaker words

Therapists are quick to tell us to watch our words. In talking about ADHD, the unkind words that we hear from an angry spouse are pretty much the same as those that drive a wedge in marriages.

Both with ADHD and anger, insults and words hurled "are so hurtful that the ADHD partner becomes isolated and pained to tears," says Dr. Hallowell adding, "Blame does not work."

  • When will you ever learn?  
  • Why don't you ever listen?
  • Why can't you watch what you are doing?
  • How many times do I have to tell you?

"These words make the problem worse," he said, "because the message the ADHD person hears is this: 'I am incomplete.'" www.adhdmarriage.com

Neglect as the Silent Marriage Killer

Another deal-breaker is what Puhn refers to as "the silent killer" in relationships -- neglect. "Foremost in a marriage, you need to be your mate's head cheerleader. It's common that over time we stop appreciating our mate, and that's when the mate's eyes start to wander. If you are not your mate's head cheerleader you are leaving the job open for someone else," she cautions.

Puhn points out what many marriage counselors tell us. Men who feel neglected may delude themselves into thinking they are not in a real marriage. "And that's all someone needs to find an excuse to cheat," she says.

There is a very simple way to try to resolve conflict and the words "We need to talk" won't do it.

She is the advocate of  "The 5 Minute Priority Conversation" where you put your cards on the table -- but in this case think of a sandwich.

  • Bottom slice is the positive - "I love you and I miss being close to you. Can we talk about it?"
  • Between the bread you place the problem - "Our sex life is not what it once was and I don't want to go on pretending that everything is fine. . . . 'How do you feel? '"
  • The top slice is to lay out solutions - "If both of us want things to be different, then I am sure we can change the situation together. I think we need to make the relationship our number one priority.  What do you think?"

Saving your marriage from divorce

For my newspaper columns I often talk with therapist Michele Weiner-Davis. She says, "It is important to know that no matter how bleak things might seem, it is possible to revitalize a marriage [even one]wounded by infidelity. But it takes teamwork and commitment from spouses willing to work hard at getting their marriages back on track. Re-establishing trust and finding ways to manage overwhelming painful emotions are key to the healing process."  Divorce Busting | Facebook

To help a marriage get back on track -- try making words of  gratitude a part of your daily conversation.  Let the words, "I love you" light up your eyes so he believes that he is feeling loved. And a warm touch can be magical.

Copyright 2011 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved 

www.ritawatson.com Follow me on Twitter @ LoveColumnist

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Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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