We asked two life coaches for their most surprising advice. Their answers will shock you—and change the way you look at your relationship.
Look at yourself | Many of us do a lot of finger-pointing in tricky situations instead of asking, “What’s my role in this situation?” says Ali Berlin, M.A., a life coach and relationship counselor based in the San Francisco Bay Area who grew up in Fort Washington, Pa. and works with clients worldwide. Get curious about yourself and your patterns, and then look at your partner’s, says Berlin. This can be helpful when you’re trying to decide what changes need to take place in your relationship. “You need to tap into yourself first, so you’re making decisions from a place of groundedness,” says Berlin.
Go to sleep angry | Berlin says she meets too many clients who make decisions out of a desire to avoid feelings and get rid of those “negative” emotions. Yet these kinds of uncomfortable feelings aren’t something you can simply cross off your list, says Berlin. “Learning to have the patience for the emotional process is so important. It’s when you allow yourselves to be patient with the emotions that the deepest truths come up,” says Berlin.
Be selfish | Men are often good at taking care of themselves. Whether it’s making time to work out, go for a bike ride, meet a friend for lunch, or catch a sporting event, that kind of solo time is actually his
way of taking care of his needs—which is ultimately a boon for your relationship, says Berlin. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re more likely to expect your relationship to take care of you, and that’s a really big and unrealistic expectation,” she says. “So, look at all of the things your partner does to take care of himself as admirable rather than annoying—and use it as inspiration to do the same.”
Complain more | Instead of criticizing your partner about his inability to find the hamper or pull together a meal, you can complain—in a respectful way, says Phyllis Marganoff, Ph.D., a life coach in Princeton, N.J. “Instead of saying, ‘You always leave the towels on the bathroom floor,’ say something like, ‘If you’d just put those towels in the hamper after your shower, it would make me feel so much better,’” says Marganoff. It sounds simple, but criticism is one of the biggest poisons in a relationship, and complaining is the antidote.
Let your partner shut down | When you’re fighting, odds are high you’re the one who gets revved up and wants to see the discussion through to a conclusion—and your husband may want to shut down. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, says Marganoff. It’s just the way he’s wired. “When women can’t talk about something emotional, their blood pressure and heart rate go up. On the flip side, when men are forced to talk about something, their heart rate and blood pressure increase,” says Marganoff. “So our insistence on talking—and a man’s typical reaction of shutting down—is actually what we are hard wired to do.” Rather than fight it, recognize it, and find another outlet to help you calm your flood of emotions, when possible.