Treat Your Relationship Like Your Car

I think you'd agree that if you never, ever, took your car to the shop, it would eventually break down and be doomed for the scrap yard. Well, one expert says we should think of our marriages like a car. Dr. William Doherty is the director of the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Minnesota. And he says to keep your relationship running smoothly, you need to do routine diagnostic tests a couple of times a year – before your relationship is totaled. Here’s what he recommends, from his book, "Take Back Your Marriage:"

  • Check number one: Look at your level of togetherness. Ask yourself, do you spend most of your free time with your partner? If you both go your separate ways, you’re less likely to feel like a team. That’s not to say that it isn’t good to have your own set of friends. The trouble is when you’d always rather be with your friends than your partner. So if you tell your wife, “Hey I’m using my vacation days to go fishing with my friends,” Dr. Doherty says your wife should be upset! But if she’s not, don’t chalk it up to her accepting you for who you are. He says, instead, she may have given up on the marriage.
  • The next relationship diagnostic check: Look at your level of intimacy. If you used to lock yourselves in your bedroom on Saturday morning while the kids watched cartoons downstairs, and now you’d rather go to the gym, that’s a problem. A lack of intimacy is the first relationship red flag to beware of. If you let that go for too long, a lot of other relationship  components will break down too.
  • Then look at how you behave after a fight. A lot of people silently stew, and marriage expert Dr. Doherty says a lot of women will carry around resentment for months. And the next time you have a fight, she’ll bring up the last one, because she never got over it. So Doherty says you need to completely clear the air. You need to go to your wife after a blowup to ask how she’s doing. Yes, it’s scary, because she might blast you again, but it’s better to know that there’s lingering tension and deal with it, than let it turn into resentment.
  • The final marriage diagnostic check: Ask yourself, do you get jealous? Does your partner? Dr. Doherty says a little bit of jealousy is a good thing. We’re not talking about level-5, crazy jealousy, where you end up putting a GPS device on each other. But if it bothers you when she’s talking to another guy at a party, or she asks you about the new woman at work, it means you’re protective of your relationship and value it. A hint of jealousy means that she thinks you’re attractive, she expects other women to find you attractive. Dr. Doherty says "If she really doesn’t give a rip, it means she’s not invested in the relationship.”
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