How to ask for change… without pissing off your spouse.

Sometimes I (Dr. Heitler) get invited to be a guest poster on other people’s blogs.  Recently, I had the honor of guest blogging on Alisa Bowman’s terrific marriage blog,

The conversation became quite lively, so I thought I’d summarize my thoughts here.  Here’s the particularly good question that sparked the discussion:

Q: Whenever I ask my spouse to change, she gets mad at me and says that I’m always blaming her and picking on her. How can I improve my marriage if my spouse won’t even listen to my requests?

Here’s some of the advice I’ve been giving:

Your job is to look at what YOU can do differently vis a vis your wife’s habits. Trying to change YOUR WIFE will invite her to feel blamed and picked on.

So skip the requests.

Instead, give feedback about how her actions affect you.  And figure out new ways to prevent or to respond to your wife’s unacceptable behaviors.

Here’s an example of giving feedback.

Dan’s wife frequently left her clothes on the bedroom floor, so Dan explained to her, “I like when there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place. I feel edgy around messiness. When I see your clothes on our bedroom floor, my hackles go up and I feel irritable toward you.”

After receiving your feedback about your reactions to something she/he is doing, hopefully your spouse will begin to think about making changes.  That’s called “responsivity.”  Responsivity is a sure winner for creating a happy home life.

Even without responsivity from your spouse though, you can be thinking about what you could do differently that might help.

Dan came up with a great idea.  He found a large and quite attractive basket, which he placed next to the reading chair and lamp in their bedroom.  “How about if we use this basket as the laundry basket instead of just the one in our closet.  Let’s see how good we can get at shooting hoops as we take off clothes!   Look,” he added with a grin, “I can pop my sock in, I think, from way over here!”

Dan then pulled a lovely side chair from another room.  It just fit into the small space next to the new basket.  “How about if we drape clothes that have been worn but don’t yet need laundering on this chair?” he asked his wife.  “That way if we don’t want to take the time to hang them up, they still won’t end up on the floor.”

Dan’s wife laughed.  “I love it, and I love you,” she said, punctuating her comments with a kiss.

….. If you want to read more of the conversation this topic triggered, check it out here:

– Dr. Heitler

Relationship Q&A: Depression: His and Hers

This Ladies’ Home Journal Q&A is a tough one. A reader describes a tough situation, in which her marriage was affected by her own depression and past hurtful treatment towards her husband. Now, he’s moved out, and while she’s sought treatment and seeks resolution with her husband, he has begun to suffer from his own bout of depression and regards their life together with a more “closed door” attitude.

What’s a wife to do?

Dr. Heitler encourages the reader to remember her husband’s depression, which may allow her take his reluctance to reconnect less personally.  Heitler recommends a heart to heart, which may help the reader to understand her husband’s concerns about reconciliation.

Depression can wreak havoc on even the strongest relationships, read more to learn the rest of Dr. Heitler’s recommendations.


Relationship Q&A: Hiding Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is a tough topic.  While it might be tempting to try and keep it from your spouse,  as an adult, it’s important to come clean.

No one wants to incur their spouse’s anger, at the same time remind yourself that it to shall pass.  Still, you must be thoughtful about how and when you tell you husband.  Read Dr. Heitler’s suggestions.


Relationship Q&A: He Makes Me Feel Guilty About Shopping

At Power of Two, we like to shop!  I mean, who doesn’t?  So, we were all too pleased when Dr. Heitler answered the age old question — What do you do when you money personalities don’t match?

Heitler suggests finding a calm way to talk about such a sensitive subject.  Talk about how each of your parents managed discussions about money.  It’s important to find deeper understanding about each others’ financial tendencies.  Once you have, you can create a spending plan that’s just right for both of you.

Read more!


Relationship Q&A: I Get No Help From My Husband

Do you feel more like a maid than a wife and mother? You’re not alone.

In this LHJ Q&A session, Dr. Heitler addresses the key concept of being teammates. It may sound silly, but when it comes to the dision of  labor in a marriage, you need to work together!

Dr. Heitler suggests creating an official task list. Then, sit down together and go through the list, taking turns selecting tasks.  Keep at it until the whole list has been accounted for.  Whatever you do, don’t criticize your husband’s way of doing things. Instead offer encouragement for his efforts, and be careful not to gradually start t o pick up or re-do his tasks.

Finish this great read here!