Essential Do's and Don'ts

1. Be specific when you introduce a gripe.

2. Don't just complain, no matter how specifically; ask for a reasonable change that will relieve one gripe at a time.

3. Confine yourself to one issue at a time.

4. Always consider compromise. Remember, your partner's view of reality is just as real as yours, even though you may differ. There are not any totally objective realities.

5. Do not allow counter-demands to enter the picture until the original demands are clearly understood, and there has been a clear-cut response to them.

6. Never assume that you know what your partner is thinking until you have checked out the assumption in plain language; never assume or predict how your partner will react, or what your partner will accept or reject.

7. Never put labels on your partners. Do not make sweeping, labeling judgements about your partner's feelings, especially about whether or not they are real or important.

8. Sarcasm is dirty fighting.

9. Forget the past and stay with the here and now. What either of you did last year or month or that morning is not as important as what you are doing and feeling now. The changes you ask cannot possibly be retroactive. Hurts, grievances, and irritations should be brought up at the very earliest moment, otherwise your partner may suspect that they may have been saved carefully as weapons.

Reference: Weeks, Gerald and Treat, Shephen, Couples in Treatment, Brunner/Mazel, Publishers, New York, 1992.

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