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5 Tips for Getting Along With Your Spouse’s Siblings

Fostering good relationships with your in-laws is a win for your marriage.

Marriage is usually a package deal… I mean, yes, your greatest priority is your commitment and love for your spouse. But sometimes a spouse comes with extras… like their family. At times, those relationships bring added joy and challenges, especially when it comes to your spouse’s siblings. 

So how do you foster a good relationship and get along with your spouse’s siblings? 

Of course, a lot depends on the context. How well does your spouse get along with their siblings? What’s their stage of life and personality? How does your spouse’s family function overall? These factors often affect what getting along with your spouse’s siblings looks like. 

But if you keep the following tips in mind, you’re more likely to have good sibling-in-law relationships. 

1. Have Realistic Expectations

You probably know how you want the relationship with your spouse’s siblings to go. Maybe you’re ready to adopt them as “brothers and sisters of your own.” And who knows? They may feel the same about you. 

But your spouse’s siblings might feel differently, and those who are less eager to get close always set the relationship’s pace. If that’s the case, try to avoid taking offense. Remember, if you’re new to the family, there’s history that you’re not a part of. Rather than looking for that automatic connection, simply be gracious and open to their acceptance. 

2. Look for Opportunities to Support

Whatever their level of connection is, adding value to your sibling-in-laws’ lives opens the door wider. Find ways to use your time, energy, strengths, and skills to support what’s important to them. 

Support their business. Help with homework. Offer to help with yard work, pick the nieces up from school, or connect them with a colleague for a possible internship. Offer support without expecting thanks. Even if they turn down your help, continue to look for those small opportunities. 

3. Invite Them to Be a Part of Your World With Your Spouse

Invite them over or out for dinner. Ask them to watch the game with you. If the context seems right, create traditions in your home that include their siblings, like the annual college rivalry game or the summer camping trip. Including them in your world builds connection and a sense of bonding. 

4. Avoid Turning Down Invitations to Be in Their World

If they invite you to shoot some hoops, grab a cup of coffee, or go shopping, take the opportunity if you can. If you can’t, ask for a rain check and set a date. Your willingness to accept invitations speaks volumes about your desire to foster that relationship. 

5. Keep Your Marriage First

Here’s the thing: You want to foster a positive bond with your spouse’s siblings. But in their eyes, trust is based on the fact that you married their brother or sister. They’re looking at your commitment to their sibling. And when they see you keeping your spouse (their sibling) first and foremost and holding your marital commitment as a high priority, that goes a long way. Do all you can to strengthen your marriage and devotion to your spouse. 

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Getting along with your spouse’s siblings involves an understanding that every family is different. Chances are, your family is different from your spouse’s family. It’d be easy to spot the differences and count them as deficiencies. However, to do so would be a barrier to creating a connection with your siblings-in-law. 

Seek to understand them. Appreciate and understand your in-laws’ unique history. Let them get to know you. Respect the pace at which they allow you to know them. Relationships with your spouse’s siblings may take time; these tips and a little patience can hopefully add joy to the package deal of marriage. 

Other blogs:

What to Do When You Aren’t Crazy About Your Future In-Laws

How to Stay Motivated During Marriage Challenges

4 Ways to Feel More Connected to Your Spouse

How to Be An Emotionally Safe Spouse

The Art of Communication

Try these steps to prevent miscommunication in your relationships!

Have you ever gotten frustrated with your spouse because they didn’t listen to you? Misunderstood someone? Been misunderstood? I have. We’ve all miscommunicated and misunderstood. As the poet said, “To err is human.” 

At the heart of most relationship issues lies miscommunication. Whether it is parent to child, husband to wife, spouse to an in-law, or friend to friend, missteps in communication have the potential to devastate a relationship. Big time.

Communication is an art. But, how do we improve it? How do we lessen the misunderstandings in our relationships?

In his book, Happily Ever After, Gary Chapman suggests that we can master the art of communication with these three tools:

The Art of Listening

If you haven’t already figured it out, you can’t read minds. And no one can read yours. That’s really a good thing. (Flashback to Mel Gibson becoming overwhelmed when he can hear the thoughts of every woman around him in What Women Want.

We can observe behavior, though. That starts with listening.

Dr. Chapman breaks down listening into five steps:

1. Ask questions.

Asking questions that show you’re sincerely interested in someone’s answers is far more effective than simply assuming you know why they do what they do.

2. Don’t interrupt.

We’re all tempted to jump in and finish someone else’s thoughts, but doing that is harmful to the conversation. Chapman writes, “The purpose of listening is to understand, not make a point.”

3. Clarify meaning.

We often listen from our perspective. Take the time to ask additional questions and understand exactly what they’re saying. Repeat it back to them if necessary. You can always say, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying.” Then tell them what you heard. 

4. Express appreciation.

Thank them for sharing. You don’t have to affirm what they said if you disagree. “You are affirming their humanity, the right to think and feel differently from other people,” Chapman explains. 

Now, this is important: You must complete these four steps to earn the right to move on to number five.

5. Share your perspective.

“Because you listened, you are far more likely to be listened to,” Chapman stresses. You haven’t interrupted, you’ve clarified what they said, and you affirmed that they have value. Now you may share your viewpoint.

The Art of Speaking for Yourself

A crucial practice when communicating is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. 

“When we begin a sentence with you, we are speaking as though we have ultimate knowledge of a person. In reality, we have only a perception,” Chapman shares. 

“You” statements can come across as accusatory and may lead to arguments. They are based on assumptions. Assuming is dangerous when it comes to relationships.

Beginning a thought with “I” shows you are revealing your feelings and your thoughts. You’re indicating a problem without condemning the other person. 

Instead of saying something like “You never listen to me,” try saying, “I don’t always feel heard.”

The Art of Negotiating

If you’ve been in any type of relationship, you know compromise is king. We all think differently and have different experiences.

When you learn how to effectively negotiate, you can build bridges with others. 

“Making a proposal is the first step in the process of negotiating. The second step is listening carefully to counterproposals,” Chapman notes. “Remember, negotiating has to do with two people trying to understand each other and reach an agreement that both of them will feel good about.”

“A proposal opens the opportunity for dialogue,” he continues. “The process of listening, understanding, and seeking to find an agreement is the process of negotiation.” When negotiating, it’s essential to get into the habit of making requests, not demands. 

Your relationships are worth the effort to master the art of communication. We’ll all make mistakes and miscommunicate from time to time, for sure. But you have value, and the people you are in a relationship with also have value. Take the time to communicate effectively and show lots of grace. Remember, to err is human.

Sources

Happily Ever After by Dr. Gary Chapman

The Importance of Communication in a Relationship 

What Great Listeners Actually Do

I have been a resentful spouse. My spouse has also resented me. Coming up on 28 years of marriage, my wife and I have five children, and we’ve seen it all. From socks that never made it to the hamper, to financially disastrous decisions, to weaponized sex, to disagreements about parenting, to not getting simple tasks done around the house, to navigating personality quirks. And did I mention infidelity? Yup, infidelity.

There are tons more examples, big and little. It’s not a contest. Whatever brought you to this blog is the biggest thing in your world. Nobody is dealing with resentment exactly the same way you are. But no matter why or how you arrived at this blog, resentment is a tumor in your marriage, and without proper treatment, it will keep growing.

Tumor?! Why would I refer to resentment with your spouse as a tumor? Resentment is a negative emotion that builds up over time. If you don’t deal with it, it will poison more and more of your relationship. It will come to dominate your marriage, making romance, compassion, and intimacy all but impossible. And the sooner you catch it, the easier it will be to treat.

Resentment cannot be taken lightly, but it does have a relatively straightforward solution. Each spouse will have to communicate – probably in a series of conversations. Each will have to express themselves appropriately and honestly. And each will have to listen to the other in good faith. The goal is to compromise and implement a plan. The plan will no doubt be revisited and modified. Resentment should yield resilience

Compromise and a Plan

The beauty of compromise and a plan is that they’re tangible and measurable. Ideally, as you see your spouse working toward compromise and following the plan, you can be confident. Perhaps confident enough to let go of some resentment and rekindle that spark you once felt. And when your spouse feels that spark, it’ll feed their efforts. Watch that positive cycle go!

So how can you put together a plan and work toward compromise? Here’s a 6-step process you can use as a guide. This isn’t an end-all-be-all on how to stop resentment. But instead, use these steps to help guide you and your spouse toward a compromise and a plan you both agree on that works for your relationship.

A Plan for Working Through Resentment With Your Spouse

1. Catch it early.

It’s much easier to manage and process through resentment before it builds.

2. Communication is everything.

This assumes you feel safe communicating in your marriage. You might need an older, wiser mentor couple. You might need a therapist or counselor. And you might need to establish some rules:

  • Each person gets to speak uninterrupted for 10 minutes. 
  • Try to separate the person from the behavior. 
  • Use “I” statements: I feel, I need, I’m hurting. 
  • Don’t escalate with volume, tone, sarcasm, or words meant to just inflict hurt.
  • Focus on being a good listener. Remember your body language.

3. The source of the resentment in your marriage needs to be front and center.

  • “When you do _____ it makes me feel _____.”
  • “I’m having a hard time moving past _____.”
  • “I don’t think you understand how much _____ hurt me.”
  • “We’ve talked about changing _____, but it hasn’t changed.”

4. Compromise is the goal. Both spouses need to win so the marriage wins.

5. Develop a plan for handling the situation(s) in the future. Write it down.

  • Think through different scenarios and have a plan for them.
  • Set goals.
  • The plan is the accountability and enforcement, not the spouse.
  • You can always revisit the plan and modify it where necessary.

6. Last but not least, start again with a clean slate. In good faith, you move forward.

The clean slate is going to be the hardest part. You’re hurt and you’re defensive. You’re in survival mode. Trust may have been broken. But if you really want to deal with resentment in your marriage, you have to move forward in good faith, with patience, believing the best, and extending grace. And hopefully, you will watch the downward spiral of resentment slowly stop as the positive emotions pick up some momentum.

For my wife and I, we’ve gone so far as to say, “THAT marriage is over. We start a new marriage TODAY.”

Other blogs:

6 Tips for a “Til Death Do Us Part” Marriage

Infidelity and Forgiveness

How to Divide Household Chores Fairly in Marriage

Is It Good To Fight In Marriage?

Do My Spouse and I Need Common Interests?

Marriage is about more than just doing things together.

You and your spouse are making plans for the weekend. You want to spend Sunday afternoon watching sports, your spouse wants to go hiking. Neither of you has any interest in the other activity. Should you compromise? Should you just do what you want? What does this mean for your relationship? Are you even compatible?

Have you been there? Don’t worry, your relationship isn’t in trouble. Many couples don’t have EVERYTHING in common. The reality is you don’t have to share all the same interests. It’s ok to care about different things. What matters is that you care about each other!

Marriage isn’t just about doing things together.

Healthy, vibrant marriages happen when two people help each other become the best version of themselves. That means allowing your spouse to be fully them, enjoying and participating in what brings them joy and life.

It’s essential to have certain interests or goals in common with your spouse, but don’t worry if you don’t have everything in common. Goals, values, and boundaries are just a few areas where it’s vital to be on the same page as your spouse. Couples who share core values and beliefs are more likely to maintain healthy, long-term relationships.

There are inevitably areas of life where your interests will differ. What’s important is that you care about your spouse’s interests because you care about your spouse. Hear me out; you don’t have to share their interests, though. I bought my wife a Cricut for Christmas last year because she loves crafts. She’s wanted one for a couple of years, and she loves it. She likes to create and design cards and stickers. I love that she loves it; I enjoy what she makes. Plus, I recognize creating brings her joy, and that brings me joy. Do I want to learn how to use it? Nope, not at all. And that’s ok. I support her in it, and we budget for her to expand her tools. The same applies to some of my interests. She supports me but doesn’t desire to do them with me. 

Showing you care about your spouse’s interests is critical to maintain connection in your marriage.

According to Dr. John Gottman, “The important thing is not what you do together; it’s how you interact while doing it.” You should show respect and support for your spouse’s hobbies. When there’s a lack of respect or support, there’s an opportunity for resentment to grow. You may begin to resent the time they spend working on their interest. They may start to resent your lack of support. Don’t let your differences divide you, though. Embrace them and support your spouse. 

“A stronger predictor of compatibility than shared interests is the ratio of positive to negative interactions, which should be 20-to-1 in everyday situations, whether a couple is doing something they both enjoy or not,” says Gottman. 

So you don’t have to share common interests, but the way you interact about those interests has more benefit for your relationship. When engaging in an activity together, choose to be positive and uplifting. You are strengthening your connection and intimacy by spending time together enjoying one another. Stephanie Coontz, a historian who’s spent decades researching and writing about marriage, puts it this way: “It is essential to be interested in your partner, to experience joy in their joy.”

So, on Sunday afternoon, when you both want to do something different, there’s no need to give your spouse grief for not wanting to do what you want to do. Maybe you can compromise to watch sports one Sunday and go hike the next. But don’t do it begrudgingly. Look at it as a way to support what your spouse loves. 

Sources:

Why Conventional Marriage Wisdom is Wrong

8 Facts About Love and Marriage

The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science

What predicts change in marital interaction over time? A study of alternative models. 

Other blogs:

Why It’s Important to Care About Your Spouse’s Interests

How To Find Common Interests With Your Spouse

5 Things You Should Have In Common With Your Spouse

5 Things You Don’t Need to Have in Common With Your Spouse

Suppose you’ve been married a few years or even a few months. In that case, you may have noticed that there’s a subtle emotional seesaw present. Resentment toward your spouse sits on one side and compassion sits on the other. Don’t worry; it’s in all marriages, although many of us may not even recognize it. The thing is, we often don’t notice until the resentment side gets a little too heavy. 

“Resentment is the persistent feeling that you’re being treated unfairly — not getting due respect, appreciation, affection, help, apology, consideration, praise, or reward,” says clinical psychologist Steven Stosny. 

Resentment tends to arise in a marriage when one spouse takes advantage of their partner or takes them for granted. Often resentment can arise from minor issues that compound with time. 

Common issues that lead to resentment are:

  • Habitual selfish behaviors
  • Prioritizing a job over the relationship
  • Not being fully present when you’re with your spouse
  • Expecting too much of your spouse
  • Failing to celebrate your spouse

If resentment builds, it can lead to withdrawal or contempt, and we don’t want either of those present in our marriage. So, let’s try to reduce our resentment before it becomes contempt.

Reducing resentment starts with you. You may have resentment toward your spouse, and they may not even be aware of the cause. Resentment is a self-destructive habit. Your spouse may have hurt or wronged you, but the resentment has grown within you. And it feels awful.


YOU CAN BE HAPPILY MARRIED.

And no, that’s not just a fairytale. Sometimes we settle, we coexist, we go along to get along, or we just try to keep the damage to a minimum. There are no perfect marriages. There are also no unicorns. So what? You can always Maximize Your Marriage. You know what’s NOT a mythical creature? Your marriage being BETTER than you could ever imagine.

To help you write the next chapter of your marriage story, each module features…

  • A simple, easy-to-understand video lead by marriage experts,
  • A download to help you personalize the key concepts for your marriage, and
  • Action items to transform your marriage as you go through the course.

You’ll have access to two marriage experts every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement. (THIS is what makes Maximize Your Marriage customized & personalized!)


So to reduce resentment in your marriage, let’s look in the mirror and start there.

1. Your feelings are real, so don’t deny your feelings.

You don’t have to deny that you were hurt in some way. But keeping it to yourself or burying your feelings doesn’t help you overcome them. Identify them and seek to understand where those feelings are coming from. Once you have an idea of what’s causing you to feel the way you feel, express it to your partner. 

2. Write it down: how you feel, why you feel that way, your grudges, and their source.

This exercise of self-reflection can help you get to the source of your resentment. You may find that your resentment stems from an unrealistic expectation or from your perception. Now, write down why you should forgive your spouse so you can let it go.

3. Focus on your partner’s good qualities.

Remember, you married them, so there are lots of good qualities. Don’t let the mistakes that led to your resentment overshadow the positive. Choose to focus on the positive. Give grace. Don’t assume that they have hurt you intentionally. Think the best of your spouse. 

4. Build a habit of compassion.

As compassion increases, resentment declines. If resentment is a habit, the only way to break it is to replace the habit with something opposite. Exercise compassion toward yourself and then toward your spouse. Have empathy; it’s where compassion begins. Empathy is trying to see a situation from another person’s point of view. Remember, there are always two sides to every story.

5. Get help from a professional (if you need it).

A counselor or therapist can help you get to the root of your resentment. If you are habitually resentful, you can reignite the compassion in your marriage with just a little help.

Choose Compassion Instead

It may not be easy, but the more compassion you have in your marriage, the less room resentment has to live. Compassion can be contagious, so the more understanding you show your spouse, the more they may offer you. Healthy relationships start with compassion, genuine care, and concern for the wellbeing of each person. If you want to reduce resentment in your marriage and help your relationship thrive, choose compassion and grace instead of resentment.

GRATITUDE IS POWERFUL IN MARRIAGE

This free guide is filled with 30 days of simple, easy-to-follow daily tasks. You’ll be guided through everything you need to fill the next month with gratitude and love! You can do it on your own or with your spouse. Either way, this guide can help you transform your marriage through gratitude in 30 days!



Related blogs:

Why Compassion is One of the Most Important Qualities in a Healthy Marriage

How to Be More Compassionate to Your Spouse

Practical Ways to Practice Generosity in Marriage

Sources:

In Marriage, It’s Compassion or Resentment

Dealing with Resentment in Your Marriage

How to Stop Resentment from Ruining Your Marriage

5 Ways to Tell If You’re a Passive-Aggressive Spouse

Taking the time to self-reflect can help you find out.

Has your spouse accused you of being passive-aggressive? Maybe they say you’re manipulative. Maybe they tell you that you never speak your mind. Sometimes it may seem like you’ve gained the upper hand in disagreements, but it still feels like the relationship never wins. Are you passive-aggressive or being falsely accused? Well, let’s look at a few ways to shed more light on whether you’re passive-aggressive or not.

What is passive-aggressive behavior?

Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D says, “Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them.1 

Think of it this way: You’re expressing your negative feelings aggressively, negatively. Often, this asserts your control, power, or desire to punish your spouse. However, it’s done passively or indirectly. If you’re not directly naming it, your spouse may not be sure what the real issue is. 

Aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean loud, forceful, or demonstrative. But it is often intentional and pointed directly toward your spouse.

Different Levels of Passive-Aggressiveness

1. Passive-Aggressive Moments.

Many people have moments of passive-aggressiveness. Sometimes, you just don’t have the emotional energy to deal with a conflict, so you use passive-aggressive behavior to keep control of the issue. You may not demonstrate this behavior often, but every now and then, you might pull it out of your bag of tricks. You probably know it’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but the alternative at the moment isn’t worth it. 

2. Passive-Aggressive Habits.

Being passive-aggressive is your primary way of addressing issues with your spouse. You may even find it hard to initiate a conversation about an issue head-on. You may have become “effective” at passive-aggressive behavior. It seems to get you what you want.

3. Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association defines this as a “pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in social and occupational situations.” 2,3 This person feels impossible to tackle conflict with. Their passive-aggressive nature spreads throughout every part of their life.

What does passive-aggressive behavior look like? 

Here are some ways being passive-aggressive may play out.

1. Sarcastic, snarky comments.

On its own, the comment you make may sound like a compliment. But the context is clearly meant to be negative. You and your spouse haven’t had a real conversation in weeks, but you hear your spouse chopping it up with one of their friends. You say, “You two sure do have a lot to talk about.” On its own, it seems innocent. Perhaps you’re hoping they feel the sharpness of your emotions. You feel neglected, maybe a bit jealous. However, instead of coming out and saying what you feel, you make a sarcastic remark.

2. Half-doing tasks.

Your spouse’s schedule has changed, and they aren’t doing things around the house, leaving it to you. You resent their schedule change, or you feel like they’re taking you for granted. Instead of bringing it up, you half-heartedly do the tasks like yard work, laundry, or cleaning. It’s obviously not up to standard. You’re trying to prove a point.

3. Silence or distance. (I struggle with this one.)

You gain control by not talking about anything of substance. Your conversations become surface-level or just about facts. Nothing personal or vulnerable. You build a wall between you and your spouse. You’re expressing your anger, resentment, displeasure, etc., through silence. This gives you control of the situation or at least makes you feel like you’re in control.

4. Agreeing, but not really agreeing.

Your spouse wants to go to the in-laws, but you don’t want to go. Your spouse knows you don’t want to go, and you can’t even believe they’ve asked you to come along. Instead of sharing your true desire, you agree to go not out of compassion or being a team player but out of resentment. You’re upset because they should know that you’re not ok with going.

5. Ignoring, putting off, or procrastinating.

Your spouse has asked you to do something. Your negative feelings toward your spouse may have nothing to do with what they’ve asked. However, you choose to express your negative emotions by continually putting off their request while never sharing the real reason.

Signs You May Be Passive-Aggressive… Self-Reflection Questions

While you self-reflect, consider…

  1. How do you address conflict in your marriage? Do you clearly communicate your thoughts, emotions, and desires, or do you drop hints? Do you exhibit any of the previously mentioned behaviors? Is ist possbile that you simply avoid conflict while sending sharp signals that there is conflict? 
  2. Do you have negative thoughts about your spouse that motivate how you respond to them? How do they know those thoughts? Or do they? Is it possible you have built-up anger or resentment that comes out through simple requests?
  3. Do you usually control the when and where you deal with marital problems? You may be using passive-aggressive behavior to control or manipulate your spouse instead of working together.

Understanding how you deal with issues in your marriage can help your marriage thrive through difficult times.

If you come to the conclusion that you are a passive-aggressive spouse, that’s progress! Even if you don’t, this can open up meaningful conversations with your spouse to figure out how to handle conflict well in your marriage. The ultimate goal here isn’t about pointing out faults; it’s about transforming conflict in your marriage into building blocks for intimacy. Becoming a better version of yourself in that process is a strong byproduct I’ll take any day. 

How to End Passive Aggressive Behavior in Marriage

How To Improve Bad Communication In Marriage

The #1 Thing That Can Secretly Ruin Your Marriage

Sources:

1What is Passive Aggressive Behavior? What Are Some of the Signs?

2 The Construct of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder

3 How to Recognize and Handle Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Newsflash: Sometimes your spouse is going to make you plain mad.

(Not to mention you’ll inevitably do something to annoy the heck out of them.) 

Something is said, something is done without you being informed, something is left undone… 

And the blood starts to boil. 

Being angry is perfectly normal, and usually, things can be worked through. Mistakes and misunderstandings are a normal part of any relationship, especially a marriage. 

But it’s how a person responds in their anger that can help find a resolution or derail the marriage train. Passive-aggressiveness in marriage not only throws the relationship off its tracks, but it’s also downright destructive. 

Passive-aggressive behavior in marriage is when a person expresses anger or annoyance in an indirect way.1  

For example: 

  • One person forgot to put the dishes away. The other says, Wow, look at all these dishes in here. Sure would be nice if they were in the cabinet where they belong… 
  • One said something that embarrassed the other last night in front of friends. The embarrassed person hasn’t spoken a word to the other since thinking their silence will wake their spouse up to what they did wrong
  • One spouse left their dirty socks on the bed when they came home. The other nonchalantly throws them in the trash can and walks away with a smile. 

A passive-aggressive response in marriage is marked with quiet bitterness. It’s often a way to punish the offender emotionally, letting them “wallow in their sin” for a while. The “offended” seemingly avoids the conflict while putting the “offender” in a place of guilt, shame, and discomfort. It’s a power-play, a form of manipulation, and a highly ineffective way of dealing with conflict and strengthening a marriage.2, 3 

Just in case I haven’t been too clear on this yet: Passive-aggressiveness is not good for a marriage.4 

And yet, we all tend to act passive-aggressively at times. Fortunately, you can avoid it. 

How can you and your spouse end passive-aggressive behavior in your marriage? 

Talk about the importance of checking your anger before you respond.

It’s essential to pause and examine your emotions. Ask yourself, Okay, how am I feeling toward my spouse right now? I’m obviously frustrated. But am I being bitter? Am I trying to make my spouse feel ashamed or guilty? Am I expressing my feelings in a healthy way?

Agree to avoid dwelling on it.

This is when you replay the thing that has offended you over and over again in your mind. It builds negative energy and makes you even angrier the more you think about it. Decide together to talk about an issue directly, respectfully, and in a timely manner. 

Practice addressing an issue directly.

Establish some ground rules for working through more serious issues respectfully. Agree to sincerely express emotions with each other. To avoid ruminating, it might be helpful to have a 24-hour rule. If either of you has any beef with the other, you’ll address it in a civil manner within 24 hours.

Have weekly check-in meetings to resolve hanging issues.

Establish a regular time to meet together over coffee and simply connect. Use that time to calmly get anything out in the open that needs to be hashed out. 

  1. Hey, would you mind putting up the dishes tonight? I think it might’ve been forgotten yesterday. 
  2. Do you remember that thing you said last night? It was a little embarrassing. I know you didn’t mean harm, and I totally forgive you already. But I just wanted you to know how I felt.
  3. I know this is silly, but leaving socks out really bugs me. Would you mind throwing those in the hamper when you come in from work? 

Consider what you each are holding back from the past.

Is there something between you and your spouse in the past that causes passive-aggressiveness to creep into your marriage? Or perhaps from a previous relationship? We sometimes don’t even realize how these events shape how we handle present issues. Wrestling with them isn’t easy, but it helps you. 

Choose one of these strategies to work through and talk about as a couple this week. There’s always room to strengthen your marriage, and figuring out how to eliminate passive-aggressiveness is a major step to take toward a healthier relationship. 

Related Blogs:

5 Things To Do When You Feel Disconnected From Your Spouse

Is It Good To Fight In Marriage?

Help! My Spouse And I Can’t Stop Fighting!

The #1 Things That Can Secretly Ruin Your Marriage

Sources: 

1 Passive-Aggression

2 What is Passive-Aggressive Behavior? What Are Some of the Signs?

3 What is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

4 Exhausting Silence: Emotional Costs of Withholding Complaints

Can A Marriage Survive Without Trust?

Tuning in can help you build trust.

When the trust was broken in my marriage, I wondered if we could survive without it.

Trust is a cornerstone of marriage. When we trust our partner, we feel emotionally safe with them. This safety allows for deeper connection and drives us to endure tough times when they arise. Trust is not only important for the health of our relationship but also for our physical health. 

For more than 40 years, Dr. John Gottman has been studying what makes a marriage work. He found that the number one issue for couples was trust and betrayal. During his study, social psychologists asked people in relationships, “What is the most desirable quality you’re looking for in a partner when you’re dating?” The number one response was trustworthiness.

Dr. Gottman found what many of us would agree with: Trust is essential to healthy relationships. 

So, how do we build trust? Trust is created in the small moments. Dr. Gottman calls these sliding door moments. “In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.” One moment may not be that important when you think of it by itself, but if you continually turn toward your spouse in the small moments, you’re building trust. If you continually turn away from your spouse, you’re eroding trust.

But what happens when there’s betrayal?

Betrayal can come in many forms. It can be loud and big or subtle and discrete. You experience betrayal when you discover that your spouse is hiding information from you. Or when they withhold support when you need it. You feel betrayed when you cannot entirely rely on your partner. 

When we feel betrayed, it’s common to ask the question, “How can I ever trust them again?” But, here’s the good news: It is possible to rebuild trust. Remember those sliding door moments? Rebuilding trust takes lots of those. It requires choosing to move toward your spouse in the small moments. Trust is a two-way street, and to rebuild trust, you both have to move toward each other. In my marriage, we realized we could rebuild trust, but it would take time and intentionality. 

Dan Yoshimoto, a graduate student of Dr. Gottman, found in the study that the basis of building trust is attunement. He broke down the idea of attunement with an acronym:

Awareness of your partner’s emotion

Turning toward the emotion

Tolerance of two different viewpoints

Understanding your partner

Non-defensive responses to your partner

Responding with Empathy

When we are attuned to our spouse, we are better able to build trust.

In the book What Makes Love Last? Gottman and Silver lay out the following four methods for communicating with your partner that fosters trust through attunement.

1. Put your feelings into words.

It can be challenging to articulate what you feel. There’s no shame in that. Just communicate that to your partner. 

2. Ask open-ended questions.

Avoid close-ended questions that elicit one-word responses. Open-ended questions ask for a story and show genuine curiosity on your part. 

3. Follow up with statements that deepen the connection.

When your partner responds to one of your open-ended questions, reflect back on what you heard. In your own words, paraphrase what they said. Don’t make assumptions, defend yourself, or bring the focus to you. 

4. Express compassion and empathy.

Don’t tell your partner how they should be feeling. Don’t react defensively. Instead, hold space for their feelings, all of them, even if they feel uncomfortable to you. This creates a deeper connection and a sense of emotional safety. Your partner now knows they can talk to you about the hard stuff.

Trust is the bedrock of a healthy marriage. When it’s broken, it takes time to heal. Rebuilding trust between my wife and I wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Marriage can survive without trust, but it’s not as healthy. To have a healthy, life-giving marriage, choose to rebuild trust.

Related Blogs:

7 Ways to Increase Trust In Marriage

What Does Trust Look Like In A Healthy Marriage?

How To Rebuild Trust In Marriage

Sources:

John Gottman on Trust and Betrayal

The Deeper Meaning of Trust