Hi Dr. Love,My husband and I have known each other for 10 yrs, married for 3. 5 yrs. We came from different ethnic background. We love each other deeply. We also quarrel, frequently. These quarrels are driving us apart. It’s breaking my heart to see my marriage is on the verge of falling apart.Our quarrels mostly stem from our conflict in personality and thoughts. We are both head-strong and will not take ‘craps’ from anybody. We both have a short temper. In some ways, we have similiar faults.When an argument breaks out, we often lose our temper, start pointing finger at each other ‘s faults and sometimes call each other names (which we’ve agreed not to do). We have tried counseling with two different FMCC’s. The arguments became less often, then. I think the FMCC acted as a mediator and offerred us advices.Now, the arguments are coming back more frequently. We know what we need to do to try not to get on each other’s nerves. However, when the time comes we often react to the each other’s mistreatment.I feel there are too much hurt and resentment between us that when another argument breaks out and it just adds up to the bitter feeling we now have toward each other. I am becoming more depressed and hopeless in this love-hate relationship which is gradually killing our love and respect for each other.Do you think there’s any hope to save our relationship? Please give us your opinion. We’re tethering on the end of the rope. Thank you.
If you both want to save this marriage, you must get it through your heads that you are not allowed to act on your anger. Acting on your anger means saying or behaving in ways that are destructive to each other. Hurting your mate is the same as driving a knife into yourself, and vice versa.Before we go farther, you both need to find out where you got the idea that you are entitled to say and do as you please whenever you are angry. I suspect that you both came from families who acted on anger, which taught you both that it’s normal to act out. Neither of you can behave this way any longer. Not if you want a relationship that lasts.The distinction between feeling anger and acting on anger is a very hard concept for most people to understand. To confuse matters, many therapists advise clients to express, vent, scream, yell and punch pillows when they are angry. This only encourages a person to act out more. What we all need to learn instead is to behave properly even when we are upset. What is proper behavior?There is only one acceptable and relationship protective way to behave when angry. To simply describe what was said or done and state how you feel about it. Notice the neutral words I use: ‘describe, state. ‘You don’t want to ‘express’ any feeling; you want to ‘cooly describe’ the feeling in a neutral way. And, yes, this is hard to do. It takes maturity and discipline. But, it is the only way to keep a marriage or relationship alive. Now you know what you must do.Next, you both need to work on understanding and resolving your blocks to doing this. To do this, take turns asking each other why you find it hard to control your behavior. Answers for why may include: ‘We don’t know any other way. ”Change is uncomfortable’; ‘It’s comfortable to stay with what we know’; and ‘We are getting gratification out of getting our rocks off.’When you understand what forces are causing you to hold on to this unhealthy pattern, then you both need to make the firm commitment to change what you are doing. The next time either of you is angry, you are to stop dead in your tracks and say nothing. If you can cooly desribe what was said or done and how that made you feel, then do so. If you can’t, then walk away.When you are ready to speak, remember to always ask yourselves, ‘How will he or she feel if I say what I’m about to say?’If you have doubts that your words will not land well, then don’t say what you feel like saying. Also, be aware that in order to insure that your discussions don’t turn into fights, both of you need to bone up on your listening skills. Let me show you exactly how a healthy discussion will go.Let’s say you are upset about something your husband has said or done. You describe your issue the way I said above. Then, your husband needs to listen and repeat back what he heard. If he didn’t get your point, restate it.Again he should repeat back what he understands. You follow this process until there is a complete understanding of why you were upset. When you feel completely understood, be prepared to allow your husband to take his turn stating how he feels. Now it’s your turn to listen and restate his position until you fully understand him.Check out my Ten Tips on How to Head off a Fight, for more ideas on how to discuss your anger and still avoid a fight.Remember, neither of you is allowed to throw tantrums any longer. Behave properly and you will save your marriage. Realize that you may need a good therapist to help you learn how to communicate your feelings to each other.I don’t want you to go to a mediator or someone who gives you advice on your issues. The issues don’t matter. How you both behave and speak is what counts. So long as you behave properly, you can address any issue that comes up.