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How should you tell your spouse, "We have a problem."

One of the reasons that spouses postpone their complaints is that the way they complain often starts a fight. While the complaint does get the problem out on the table, it often wrecks what could have been a peaceful evening at home. And after the fight is over, the problem usually remains unsolved. So, how should you introduce a problem to your spouse in a way that doesn't lead to a fight, and makes it easy to solve?

First, this is what you should NOT do when presenting a problem to your spouse:

DO NOT make a demand. A demand is an effort to force your spouse to do what you want without consideration for how your spouse will feel doing it. "Do it, or else," is the clear message given in a demand, and it coveys an insensitivity to your spouse's feelings or interests. It's a Love Buster because demands withdraw love units. Instead of helping to solve a problem, it creates a new problem. A thoughtful request, on the other hand, is a good way to ask your spouse for help, because it takes his or her feelings into account. "How would you feel if you were to do this for me," introduces the problem with a willingness to negotiate a win-win solution.

DO NOT make a disrespectful judgment. When you present the problem, avoid expressing it as being the fault of your spouse. "If you were less selfish, we wouldn't have this problem," is an example of a disrespectful judgment that will get you nowhere. Instead of blaming your spouse for the problem, view it as a problem for you that is, apparently, not a problem for your spouse. Respectful persuasion is an effort to try to change your spouse's behavior that, in the end, will not only help you, but will help your spouse as well.

DO NOT have an angry outburst. Anger is your Taker's way of punishing your spouse when he or she does not give you what you want. It's not only an ineffective way to produce long-lasting change in your spouse's behavior, but it also destroys your spouse's love for you.

Granted, if you present your complaint in a thoughtful way, and your spouse responds with thoughtlessness, you will be very tempted to revert to your Taker's instincts by being demanding, disrespectful and angry. But it takes two to fight, and if your spouse does not respond positively to your presentation, simply end the discussion, and re-introduce your problem again later.

It's very important for both you and your spouse to do a good job meeting each other's emotional needs, and avoiding behavior that causes each other's unhappiness. But when either of you have a complaint, I suggest that you use this procedure:

First, state your complaint as clearly as possible, guaranteeing your spouse's safety by avoiding demands, disrespect or anger. Be cheerful as you discuss the problem, and try to make it brief.

Second, ask for your spouse's perspective on your problem. How does your spouse view this same situation and what might make it difficult for him or her to accommodate you?

Third, brainstorm possible solutions to the problems, looking for a plan that would solve your problem, and at the same time take your spouse's feelings into account. Avoid any solution where one of you gains at the other's expense. Don't give or expect sacrifice because that means that one of you will be losing love units so that the other can gain them. If you sacrifice for each other, in the end, you won't have the mutual love for each other that you want. But also recognize the importance of eventually finding a solution that solves the problem.

Finally, from your list of possible solutions, choose the one that has the enthusiastic agreement of both you and your spouse. That way, the solution will deposit love units into both of your Love Banks simultaneously. If you can't find one that meets that standard, keep brainstorming.

To guarantee your love for each other, you and your spouse must address each other's complaints as soon as they arise. Don't let your problems build up before you find solutions, because the longer you wait, the more love units you lose. But, if you're not careful, the way you go about presenting your problem and trying to find solutions can also cause you to lose love units.

You will not only deposit love units by solving the problems themselves, but you will also deposit love units in the very way you go about solving the problem, if you do it the right way.

Most couples lose love units whenever they have a conflict because they present their complaints with demands, disrespect and anger. And then they look for solutions that help one spouse but hurt the other. That's no way to resolve conflicts, and it's certainly no way to stay in love.

The better you become at stating your complaints with your spouse's feelings in mind, and then finding solutions with the same thoughtfulness, the more you will feel like getting to each problem immediately. But until you get to the place where you feel like presenting your problems as soon as they occur, do it anyway. Don't try to lower your expectations, and don't try to meet your own emotional needs. Instead, learn to become experts at meeting each other's emotional needs. That way you will have what you have always wanted -- a fulfilling and passionate marriage.


When should you tell your spouse "We have a problem."


Markos' Wife
FWW - EA
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