Q: As I look at the start of 2017, I want to see my marriage improve, but my husband doesn’t seem to be willing to do much on his end.  He won’t go to therapy and he says he’s tired of “talking about it all the time.”  What can I do on my own that might make things better?  Everything I seem to try gets resentful push-back.  What am I doing wrong?

A: Of course it’s impossible to say what if anything you might specifically be “doing wrong” without more information.  That said here are some tips from Dr. Elizabeth Carr for what anyone can do unilaterally to improve their relationship.

  1. Be humble. Be willing to try something new. What behaviors reliably solicit resentment and conflict and avoid them like the plague. What strategies “backfire?” Stop using them.
  2. Get clear. Define for yourself specifically what you what from him (i.e., concrete, observable, measurable, clearly defined, specific behaviors.)
  3. Ask, don’t demand. Ask for what you want from a place of loving optimism.  Avoid sounding at all shrill. Frame your requests in the future tense rather then describing past transgressions.  No shaming or blaming.
  4. Be patient. Give your partner the time needed and a chance to be different. Don’t expect wholesale change overnight. Acknowledge to you both that early efforts might seem formulaic were a natural and that’s OK.
  5. Be gracious. Recognize subtle signs of change and encourage them with an open heart.
  6. Stay optimistic. The journey toward a lasting improvement in your relationship will be filled with ups and downs. Try to stay optimistic. If these efforts bear fruit your husband may be more open to therapy in the future.

Originally published in the Lakelands Leader in our advice column called the Laudable Life