A smart new book offers take-the-high-road advice to improve any relationship.
There aren’t many psychologists who have written spot-on books about both parenting and romantic relationships, but Parents advisor Jenn Mann, Psy.D., is one of them. If you know her as the host of VH1 Couples Therapy with Dr. Jenn, you might be surprised that she’s the author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids and SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years of Life. However, her new book, The Relationship Fix: Dr. Jenn’s 6-Step Guide to Improving Communication, Connection & Intimacy, has insightful advice for parents and non-parents alike. Don’t be intimated by how gorgeous she looks on the cover. Here are three tips that resonated with me.
1. Think about how your social media use might affect your partner. Dr. Mann mentions a study that found 25 percent of married couples fight at least once a week about social media, and that the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports that 81 percent of its members have seen an increase in divorce cases as a result of social networking. We hear a lot about parents who overshare about their kids, but we can also divulge info that our partner would prefer be kept private. And if we’re connecting with an old boyfriend on Facebook, how would our partner feel? Dr. Mann has quite a few specific tips on this front that I’d never even thought about—from sharing our passwords on social media accounts with our partner to unfriending people who make our partner uncomfortable to going out of our way to say nice things about each other on social media.
2. Set your partner up to succeed. We often assume our other half knows what we want him to do (empty the dishwasher, text if he’s going to be late, arrange plans for our birthday), but Dr. Mann says that men are not mind readers. We need to ask for what we want—whether it’s around the house, with the kids, or in bed—and stop thinking, “I shouldn’t have to ask.” As long as we phrase our requested behavior changes in a positive light—starting by telling our partner how much we appreciated something similar that he’s done—he is likely to respond well and want to please us.
3. Wait for the right moment. If we need to share constructive criticism—or express frustration—we need to choose the optimal opportunity. Often than means holding our tongue and practicing restraint, especially when we feel hurt or angry. Dr. Mann adds that it’s never the right moment in any of these situations: One person is hungry, exhausted, running late, or intoxicated, or the kids are in the room.
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Beyond these tips, even her less-surpring advice is a good reminder of one simple fact: we should always treat our partner with the same consideration as we would a close friend.
Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters.