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3 Common Relationship Tips that will Destroy Your Marriage

The Relationship Advice that Wrecked My Marriage

OOn the Empowered Wife Podcast, I give out The Worst Relationship Advice of the Week Award. There’s never a shortage of bad advice to choose from, and most of it sounds like harmless conventional wisdom, some from well-known experts. But bad relationship advice is harmful. I know from applying some of these ineffective suggestions in my early marriage and nearly getting divorced as a result.

Of course, the real reason I give out this award is not just to point and laugh at people (although I enjoy that too) but for the purpose of highlighting the simple skills that have helped thousands of women restore the excitement, passion, and fun to their relationships.

Here are the three most common, unhelpful relationship tips and what I now know are more productive alternatives:

1. Institute a Date Night

Golly, why didn’t I think of that? That’s right up there with weight-loss tips like “just eat less” or financial advice like, “live below your means.” If life were that easy nobody would need advice.

But the noxious subtext of this vacuous advice is that to stay married you should add “go on a date” to your list of chores, right between “scrub toilets” and “clean the garage.” Yay! It reminds me of another unhelpful axiom: “Marriage is hard work.” But with the right skills, marriage is not drudgery.

This date-night maxim is truly terrible advice because nobody ever felt special and loved when her husband said, “We should go out once a week to work on our marriage.” A wife who says that to her husband is likely to be met with resistance to date nights because they reek of control and sound like a chore.

If you’re not exactly enjoying each other’s company, how would going out for dinner and a movie change that anyway? Wouldn’t you just have a tense night out instead of a tense night in? And wouldn’t that make you feel even more hopeless?

Here’s a more effective practice for re-establishing connection: Instead of a weekly date-night, consider thanking your spouse three times a day for things he does to lighten your load or delight you. Does he work hard to support the family? Thank him–even if you work too. Did he start a load of whites? Say “thanks.” Did he haul the garbage cans to the curb? Let him know you appreciate that.

This simple habit does double-duty for restoring connection because it not only helps you focus on what you’re grateful for about your spouse, it also inspires him to find more ways to please you–once he knows you appreciate his efforts.

2. Communication is the Key to a Good Relationship

The reason this advice is terrible is because we women typically understand it to mean that we need to talk more to get our man to understand. If we could just get him to sit down and talk about his feelings for hours, we think that would fix everything. This feeds into the female fantasy that if our husbands would just do what we’ve been trying to tell them to do, everything would be fine. Most husbands would rather eat old horse blankets than have that conversation.

If your husband avoids conversations about your relationship you might worry that it’s because he’s defective, and that for some reason, you didn’t notice until after you were married.

Relationships benefit greatly when you don’t communicate everything you’re thinking, especially if it’s critical or disrespectful. Click To Tweet

Instead of trying to force a conversation with your husband, consider focusing on what’s true for you and expressing it without criticism. Phrases like, “I miss you,” when you’re lonely will do more for your connection as a couple than a complaint like, “we never spend any time together.” Saying “ouch!” instead of “you’re really oblivious and insensitive!” when he hurts your feelings will go a long way toward keeping the peace and preserving the emotional safety, which is critical to intimacy.

And here’s some marriage advice you don’t often hear: When you find yourself tempted to correct your husband or tell him what he’s doing wrong, consider wrapping duct tape around your mouth until the urge passes.

3. You Should Go to Marriage Counseling

I know a divorced advice-columnist who is always suggesting this. It didn’t work for her, but she hasn’t given up hope that it will for somebody else.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting professional help, and we’ve all been taught that marriage counselors are where we should turn when the relationship has left Happily-Ever-After Highway.

But I, for one, have lost my faith in a diploma as a reliable sign of relationship wisdom. Doubt crept in the day I glimpsed the inside of our counselor’s marriage and saw her horrifying contempt and disrespect for her husband. It was confirmed the umpteenth time a client told me that her marriage counselor shamed her into getting a divorce, or listened to her complain about her guy every week for a year and never asked her to make any changes. Another counselor told my client she herself was getting divorced and recommended her client figure out where all the assets were immediately.

Granted, some divorces are necessary. If you’re not safe, you have to get out.

But instead of taking advice from someone who studied relationships academically, consider checking for the most important credential of all: A happy relationship. Only a woman who actually enjoys the ease and pleasure of a great connection with her husband can tell you how to have that. But there’s a pretty good chance such a woman knows a few things that will help, even if you think your situation is hopeless.

Maybe you’ve just been following the wrong advice.

By Laura Doyle

Hi! I'm Laura.

I was the perfect wife--until I actually got married. When I tried to tell my husband how to be more romantic, more ambitious, and tidier, he avoided me. I dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced him. I then started talking to women who had what I wanted in their marriages and that’s when I got my miracle. The man who wooed me returned.

I wrote a few books about what I learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills™ that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. The thing I’m most proud of is my playful, passionate relationship with my hilarious husband John–who has been dressing himself since before I was born.

13 replies on “3 Common Relationship Tips that will Destroy Your Marriage”

Thank you, Laura! Finally, I am also coming to those realizations. “Date night” seems too contrived, communication doesn’t always mean more talking about problems and I’m sure many of us know stories of marriage counselors whose relationships were/are questionable.

Virginia, I unfortunately hear a lot of terrible stories about marriage counseling making things worse, not better. It sure didn’t help me!

Hi Laura,
Thank you for the helpful advice and for the new book, which I just ordered from Barnes & Noble. I can’t wait to receive it. Also, I noticed you are giving advice to husbands now too. THANK YOU!!!!!
I have a GRRRRRRRREAT husband, but I know that things can always be better for us as a couple, so I’m always open to suggestions from you. Thank you so so so much.
Vinnie

Thanks, Vinnie! I’m only planning on writing that ONE blog for husbands, just since I get soooo many emails from them with the same question. So happy to hear you’ve got a good husband. That tells me he’s got a respectful wife!

Hi
Any advise for a me.. I’m a husband married to a what was once a great women … In the past 5 yrs or so she has more than ever used sex as a tool. Rarely even having it … Well then I staryed back in spring. With another married women. And of course got caught. Ww4 broke out as of now I am living in the basement of our hiuse with no direction. Wife says she will never be intamite with me again. I’ve Tryed to tell her that’s the whole problem. I’m simple. As most men. Sex with our spouse. And we do anything. Btw. I cook. I clean I do wash I keep our property looking beautiful. I am 54 she is 48. We both work. We both stress. Two great kids 14g 17b. Unfortunately I feel I am headed for divorce. And the anxiety of this is killing me. Help!!!!

Hi Laura! Love your books & blog. I have a question that I haven’t seen addressed or maybe I missed it. In your books you talk about the wife being more controlling & the need to relinquish control. When I backed off about 5 years ago, my husband stepped in & became very controlling as well as anxious over all his responsibilities. Also, he asks me to do things for him that I don’t feel I should do like wake up our 16-year-old for school even though she has an alarm set & is capable of waking herself. Any suggestions? Thank you so much!

Brenda, Yes, I get this question a lot! I’m making a note to write a blog on what to do when your husband is the controlling one. We women are still the keepers of the relationships, so you still get all the power to make the culture of your relationship the way you want it. When you say he’s anxious, I know they take a lot of their self-image from what they see reflected in their wife-mirror. For me, I’d be doing a respect check if my husband seemed anxious. As far as him telling you to wake up your daughter, that seems like maybe an “I can’t” for you. Short-hand for, “I can’t take on a job that she can do herself and feel good about it.” I know it doesn’t always go over well, but if you are clear about your limits, you can teach him how to treat you and the issue passes. More in a future blog…

Thank you so much Laura! I’m really looking forward to that blog post! I can give you plenty of sample scenarios 🙂 like when my husband comes home from work, then starts helping me in the kitchen & then takes over – i.e. shuts things off when they’re not even cooked for instance! I’ve tried different approaches like asking him if there is something “manly” he would like to do – he even smiles when I say that. I tend to get my messages across in a very light-hearted way which keeps things peaceful for the most part. He is known (even with our kids) for hovering over everyone, checking & double checking whatever we do. It’s a miracle that we have a very good relationship, although I’m hoping it will soon be GREAT! I’m really working on the respect part as you mentioned, as that’s an area I know I could fine tune. After being totally honest & open with my husband for 29 years, it’s challenging to pull back & not tell him everything that’s on my mind, even when it’s sometimes critical of him. Keep up the good work ending worldwide divorce!!

All marriages are different and thus the solution to repairing broken relationships cannot come from one perspective. I think it is highly disrespectful to ignore a whole group of dedicated, hard working, educated, professionals because of a personal bad experience. Marriage counselors help to save thousands of marriages every day. We have to respect that for some couples marriage counseling may be exactly what is needed and for others “not communicating” may be what it is needed. When we have problems in our lives we seek out professionals who have honed their craft. If you have a problem with your heart you seek the advice of a cardiologist. You don’t make the decision not to see him/her because they had chest pains at some point before. If a marriage counselor is not married or had a divorce themselves does not make them unqualified. We benefit and can learn from a multitude of perspectives. Ultimately, the outcome of marriage counseling is highly dependent on whether the couple is at a point where they are ready to make different choices. The stigma associated with getting help is a real battle and many people let problems build until they explode. We have to be inclusive and let people know there are many ways to fix broken relationships.

Kirleen, Most people don’t realize that according to a study at UCLA, 75% of couples who receive traditional behavioral marriage counseling are separated within a year.

Perhaps your counseling center is an exception–that’s certainly possible.

There’s no joy in it for me to say that marriage counseling makes things worse, not better, but that’s my experience with my own marriage AND thousands of women I’ve worked with.

The reason I’m shouting this news from the rooftops is to let women know that there is a modern, proven way to save your relationship: The Six Intimacy Skills. It’s a big shift from the old way of thinking, but a necessary one if we’re ever going to conquer worldwide divorce.

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