Are you maintaining or trying to repair your relationship?

I can remember the first car I bought from a dealership. It was a fairly new car, just 2 years old however it was in great condition. I took the car for a test drive and it rode very nice. I didn’t listen to the radio while I was driving so I could listen to the engine. I rode with the salesman and he pointed out several features of the car and how this car had passed all its points of inspection with the dealer and mechanics at the shop. After the test drive we pulled back into the dealership parking lot. I walked around the car for a last look of the car. I entered the passenger side of the vehicle and looked in the glove compartment. In the glove compartment was the owner’s manual. I looked in the manual to learn more about the car and its features. At the back of the owner’s manual was some information from the previous owner. It was a two-column sheet. On one side was a list of dates and maintenance on the car. On the other side was a list of repairs that he made to the car. The maintenance list was much longer than the repair side. When I brought this to the attention of the salesman, he said “maintenance is always cheaper than repairs.” I understood what he was saying for the car however it wasn’t until I began writing this book that this applies to marriage as well.

In the dating section of my book, I talked about “The fight before the fight.” In that section we talked about how when a dating relationship is going down and it looks like the relationship is almost over one partner has a tendency to want to begin fighting for the relationship. One partner may feel the relationship is slipping away and wants to fight hard for it. The fight for a relationship doesn’t start when its almost over it starts the moment the relationship begins. You fight for the relationship everyday before challenging times appear. This principle holds to be true in a marriage as well; especially marriage. Rather than waiting to repair a marriage the key is to maintain it.

What does maintenance look like for a marriage? The answer will be different for each marriage, however maintenance is a must. A husband and wife must communicate with each other their needs to help maintain their marriage. Spouses are not mind readers therefore talking to your partner about your needs should be an on going conversation. Just like when I opened the owner’s manual of my car the maintenance of the car was an ongoing thing not just a one-time thing. His maintenance helped keep the needs for repairs down on his car; maintenance in your marriage will help you keep the repairs down in your marriage. In the Huffington Post there was an article by, Brittany Wong Divorce Editor. In the article they interviewed divorce lawyers and marriage therapist. From this interview they listed 9 things that should never be said in a marriage. I want to take a look at these 9 things and talk about some do’s and don’ts of maintenance in your marriage. Here are 9 things that should not be said in a marriage and the reason why you shouldn’t say them:

  1. “You’re being ridiculous” – When you make this type of statement you’re just saying that your partners feelings, thoughts and views don’t matter. When this type of statement is made you dismiss your spouse’s perspective.

What you should say instead

Instead of dismissing your spouses feelings try to understand them by asking questions as to why they feel the way they do and ask for help in understanding their views and their side of the story.

  1. “I don’t care anymore” - Saying you don’t care anymore says that you have checked out and are disinterested with the actions of your spouse. This is very dangerous. Even if it an issue that has been going on for a while you have still have the desire to bring resolve.

What you should say instead

Explain how the situation or issue is wearing you down. Let your spouse know the importance of how this issue affects the over all relationship and why this matters is so important to you.

  1. “You never” or “You Always” - These are what you call absolutes. Saying they never do something or they always do something is very extreme. In a challenging situation it may feel or seem like they never do something but these words are detrimental to a marriage. This is an attack on your spouses character and when a person is attacked they will either shut down or retaliate. If your spouse chooses one of those options nothing will get solved because the focus is on winning the argument and not resolving the issue.

What you should say instead

Focus on the matter at hand. Try to use examples of when that issue came up and give details why and how it made you feel when your partner did what they did.

  1. “If you hadn’t _________________; I wouldn’t ________________” – You can fill in the blank with whatever you want, but blaming you spouse for your response is just going to provoke an argument of some sort. Don’t blame your partner for your actions. You are in control of you. They are not your puppet masters and you are not their puppet.

What you should say instead

Explain what you are feeling when they do something you don’t like. “I feel ________ when you do __________. I don’t want to feel that way. What adjustments can we make to fix this?”

  1. Nothing at all – Shut down mood. Danger, Danger, Danger!!!!! If you are not talking than we have a major problem. Communication is like the oil in your car. When it’s there things can flow easily, but if its not the engine will come to a grinding halt. Giving each other the silent treatment provides the atmosphere for misunderstandings and stops the process of resolving any issues you may face.

What you should say instead

You may have to take a break but don’t stop talking. If you are too angry or if an issue is too hurtful, write your feelings down. Express yourself on paper or via email but don’t shut down. Nothing with be solved that way

  1. “I don’t need to tell you where I've been” – There shouldn’t be any need for secrecy when it comes to the whereabouts of a spouse. Unless you’re planning a surprise party for them. Understand that being transparent with your spouse builds accountability and trust within your marriage. It’s not about them knowing your every move its about being clear and honest with your spouse.

What you should say instead

Sharing your location or plans of the day builds trust in a relationship. Saying things like “Hey after work I want to stop by the gym.” Wherever it may be, clear communication is the answer.

  1. “Why can’t you be more like…” - When we make comparison we devalue our spouse. You should never compare your spouse to a previous partner or relationship. In addition is doesn’t have to be from a former partner it could be comparing from a friends spouse or a friends relationship. Regardless of who it is no man or women wants to be compared to another person.

What you should say instead

Take time to show appreciation for what you love about your spouse. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence sometimes you just have to water your own grass and it will grow.

  1. “I wish I never met you” - Few phrases are more shattering than this one. This is a very hurtful statement and implies that your spouse is the blame for all your troubles. It tells them that the bad out weighs the good and all the bad is their fault.

What you should say instead

Before we play the blame game, consider all the factors for your challenges and how you played a role. As a married couple you are a team. If the team wins the glory is shared, if we lose than we must comfort each other to prepare for the next victorious battle. You never lose you just learn how not to do something for the next time.

  1. “I want a divorce” – These words should never be used as a threat to change a spouse’s behavior. If it used as threat it can ruin a marriage that may already be on shaky ice. If you don’t want to split up these words should never come out your mouth. Many marriages have a “no divorce” policy. Don’t chip away at the foundation of your marriage by saying words to threaten your spouse.

What you should say instead

Don’t talk out of anger. Take a break and clear your head. Make every effort to resolve any issue and stay focus. Seek profession counseling to get a clear picture of what the issues are and how they can be fixed.

I have seen how these types of statements can have a tragic affect on a marriage. Staying away from these statements is clear maintenance rather than trying to fix a problem after it happens. When a car goes in for maintenance they check all the fluids in the car to make sure everything is going proper. If a fluid is low a mechanic will either make a recommendation for replacing the fluid or adding more. Checking fluids in a car is like checking a pulse on a person. You want to make sure that everything is at a proper rate and proper level. Just as you check a pulse on a person, you have to check the pulse of your marriage. You don’t want to take anything for granted. Here are 3 questions you can use to check the pulse in your marriage.

  1. How are you doing?

  2. How am I doing?

  3. How are we doing?

How are you doing?

This is a question you ask your spouse. This question is about them. You want to see how they are doing in their life. You are inquiring about them; their job, their feelings, their friends etc. You want to know what’s going on with them. You are showing that you care about what they have going on outside your relationship with each other. Giving them a platform to express themselves will give you insight on how to treat them and will open the door for connection and understanding. Understanding your spouses needs shows that you care. Remember this is not a time to make it all about you, it’s a time to focus on them and their needs.

How am I doing?

When you ask this question, you are inquiring to your partner how you are doing as it pertains to the needs of them. Are you being attentive enough? Are you being selfish? Are there some things that you can do to help the relationship grow? The list could go on and on, but you get the point. This would be like asking your boss to evaluate your work. This is not done for criticism; it is done for improvement of the relationship. Asking your spouse “how am I doing” says you value thier opinion and thier feelings are important to you. The point of this is not to be judged but to learn how to better serve your spouse and their needs. If both partners are focused on serving the needs of the other no one loses everyone wins.

How are we doing?

This questions focuses on the team and partnership of the marriage. There may be many components to this question. If I could paint picture of this question the picture would be a bicycle tire. A bicycle tire is a circle, with a frame; an inner tube of rubber and an outer rubber wheel; that goes around the frame but joined and held together by spokes. You and your spouse are the inner tube and outer rubber wheel. You can only function if the spokes are strong and in good condition. This could include children, bills, communication, health, cars, etc.; All the things that happen in our life that could affect us. How we relate to these things is the “How are we doing.” You have to take a step back from things and begin to evaluate how you can do things better as a team. If a spoke falls off it affects the balance of the wheel if several fall off the wheel won’t roll. It’s the same in a marriage if there are things that you don’t handle well as a team you won’t roll together very well; if at all.

Checking the maintenance of your relationship will improve your marriage. Becoming one is a journey. Before taking any road trip you want to make sure your car is well maintained and it has had all its fluids checked to make sure you get to your destination. If you check your oil on your car for a road trip; how much more important is to check you pulse on your marriage. Remember maintenance is always cheaper than repairs.

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