ways both of you can help avoid the unwanted emotional
reaction in the future.
Play dead --Arrange for an hour in a private place. One person
lies on the floor and pretends to be dead. The other person
imagines his/her spouse is dead. The purpose is not to
emotionally grieve so much but rather to talk about things you
appreciated about the partner, what you will miss about the
partner, and what you wish you had done while he/she was
alive. The "dead" person can't talk, just listen. When finished,
then the other person plays dead. This can be a powerful
experience. Use what you learn to improve the relationship in
Gottman (1994) reminds us that for a good relationship our
negative emotions (criticism, contempt, emotional withdrawal,
boredom, loneliness) must be out numbered by positive emotions
(interesting activities, conversation, affection, appreciation, concern,
fun, sex) by 5 to 1. We all need love and respect. It is important that
spouses don't dismiss their partners' complaints nor let their
complaints become personally insulting or expressions of contempt.
Make your requested changes very behaviorally specific. It is crucial to
keep love relationships positive. How? Call "time out" in any fight as
soon as it starts to get out of control. Do this by taking a break for 15-
20 minutes and calming down; you can't be irate and rational at the
same time. Be sure to replace your hate-generating thoughts with
more positive or tolerant thoughts about your spouse. Express your
unhappiness, gently, but curb the vitriolic attacks on his/her character.
Belligerent or domineering talk has no place in a marriage. In fact,
attempt to frequently communicate some praise and admiration to
your spouse (even during a confrontation). Remember the good times.
Be optimistic. Be an empathic listener; don't shut out your partner. Let
them know you understand their feelings and desires. All this self-
control when being criticized is not easy, it takes skill (chapter 13) and
lots of practice.
Next, we will review more ways of coping with marital problems,
including professional help.
Additional Sources of Help with Marital Problems
Starting in the late 1980's, Americans seem to be more reluctant
to leave a marriage, at least more are seeking marriage counseling.
Poor economic conditions and AIDS may be factors. In the 1960's and
1970's, we expected too much from marriage. When it wasn't ideal
and marital problems developed, we suffered for a while but then, still
idealistic, we looked for a better partner. Gradually, people recognized
the terrible cost of divorce in terms of human misery--single-parents
struggling to make it alone, fathers seeing their kids only on weekends