What's Really to Blame

Anyone in a long-term relationship knows about the trivial frustrations that creep into daily life. We find ourselves keeping score and bickering over silly things like dishes left in the sink; where to go to eat; the toilet seat in the wrong position.

Healthy couples learn to become suspicious of such irritable behavior. They know that often our relationships takes the hit when, in truth, other things may be to blame.

The next time you find yourself particularly bad-tempered try to step back and look at the big picture. Maybe your reactivity or stonewalling is a screen for stress outside your relationship. It may mean it’s time to vent about something bigger like a deadline at work; a difficult coworker; concern over when to retire; or worry about one of your kids. You might find the problem is as simple as needing to play nine holes of golf or read a book alone for a while. Regardless, if you take a deep breath and try to be more objective, you might just keep petty irritations from spiraling in the wrong direction. Trying to think yourself past the reactivity can be a great way to promote real growth in your relationship.

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