Manage the challenges to your couple connection to prevent it from derailing your relationship ― and plans to start a family…

Intimacy is an important part of a loving marriage because without this physical and emotional bond, your relationship with each other may be in trouble.

Without this sense of closeness, neither spouse has anything to fall back on when the going get rough in your marriage. For instance, things could get rocky when you’re grappling with the pressures of trying to start a family or trying to achieve the elusive work-life balance.

Such problems aside, what you say or do may also unwittingly destroy the closeness you have between you. Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist from Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, Dr Martha Tara Lee, a relationship counsellor and sexologist at Eros Coaching, and Kenny Chen, a counsellor from REACH Counselling Services, have advice on things to avoid doing:

1) Dismissing your spouse’s opinion

WHAT? When your spouse voices their concerns about problems they face at work, you eagerly offer solutions, even though it’s unsolicited. When they respond with a solution of their own, you dismiss their opinions as “unworkable”.
EFFECTS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP Dismissing your spouse’s opinions, thoughts and feelings will make them feel that they are not valued, or worse, stupid.
TRY THIS Dr Lim says it is important to validate your partner’s feelings and hear them out because their sole intention may be to vent their feelings ― they may not need your solutions. “As such, spouses should lend their ears to hearing their spouse’s problems out.” And unless your spouse has asked for your help in finding a solution, keep your comments to yourself.

“You should never continue to fight a losing battle — like getting your spouse to wash the dishes — so much so that you risk losing your marriage as a result of the constant bickering.”

2) Set on changing your spouse’s behaviour

WHAT? While you may love your husband or wife wholeheartedly, quite likely, some things he or she does or says will drive you berserk. It can something silly like belching loudly in public or always losing their belongings.
EFFECTS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP Constantly harping on the ways in which your partner isn’t good enough only lowers their self-esteem and reveals to your spouse, how inadequate he or she is, in your eyes.
TRY THIS Remember that in a harmonious relationship, mutual respect is a must and you’ll need to accept your partner for who he or she is. Dr Lee stresses that while your partner may be able to change certain things about themselves, it really should be a bonus rather than given. “Pick your battles. You should never continue to fight a losing battle — like getting your spouse to wash the dishes — so much so that you risk losing your marriage as a result of the constant bickering.”

3) Using too many “You” sentences

WHAT? Take a step back and observe if you tend to start your sentences with the word “you”. Examples of “you” statements are when you tell your spouse, “You always make me feel sad”, “You always know how to make me feel bad”, or “You never take my feelings into consideration”.
EFFECTS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP When you make "you" statements, Chen points out that it has the tendency to make you seem to lay blame on the other party to justify your actions.
TRY THIS Use "I" statements, where possible. When you use “I” statements, Chen explains, “the focus is on expressing one’s feelings against the behaviours and tells the person the impact of his actions has on you.”

4) Making threats to get your way

WHAT? If your answer to anything your spouse doesn’t want to do is, “If you don’t do this, I will dump/divorce you”, then your empty threats will come back to haunt you in time to come.
EFFECTS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP Making threats is actually an act of bullying and psychological abuse, which gives rise to fear and other negative emotions. Dr Lee notes that you are demeaning your spouse by making empty threats and they will start to feel like he or she is reduced to no more than just a puppet. Much like the tale of the boy who cried wolf, Dr Lim explains your partner will also no longer take these threats seriously. “The fact that one would make threats about breaking off a relationship often gives their partner an impression that he or she is not serious or does not respect the relationship.”
TRY THIS Enforce time-out sessions whenever your discussions get too heated, Dr Lim advises. It’s not avoidance but a short break to ease tensions. “A simple five-minute time-out can often help both parties calm down and avoid making threats.”

“Partners who are open to discussions — without the condition that these wishes must be fulfilled — actually come away healthier and happier as a result.”

5) Not talking about sex with each other

WHAT? Sex is an important aspect of any loving relationship because it gives spouses a sense of close physical intimacy. That said, the topic may be taboo because you’re afraid of hurting the other party’s feelings.
EFFECTS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP When you or your partner’s sexual needs are not fulfilled, this increases the risk of straying.
TRY THIS No matter how uncomfortable it is, it is vital to discuss your respective sexual needs, wants and desires. Dr Lee notes, “Partners who are open to discussions — without the condition that these wishes must be fulfilled — actually come away healthier and happier as a result.”

She shares her script as to how you can tackle this sensitive issue with your spouse:

* First, begin with a disclaimer and say, “Sweetheart, I want you to know that I really enjoyed our time and what I am going to say is in no way about you but me.”

* Then, tell them about your physical sensation or observations: “I feel…when you…”

* Now, make the request: “In the future, I would like us to try…”

* Finally, depending on his reaction, show appreciation, “Thanks for being open to listening and trying new things with me.”

6) An over-controlling spouse

WHAT? Dr Lee adds that you may be a victim of an over-controlling spouse if you…

* Get shut down by your spouse every time you speak up.

* Feel increasingly fearful to speak up and express yourself.

* Become increasingly alienated to the point of having no friends and hobbies of your own because of your partner’s actions.
EFFECTS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP A person trapped in a controlling relationship will eventually begin to feel as though they have very little control over their own life.
TRY THIS Whenever you feel like you are being controlled, Chen stresses that you should be assertive when expressing your feelings and thoughts to your partners. You must stand firm and tell them such behaviours will not be tolerated. If they dismiss your concerns or continue acting the way they do, get help from trained counsellors. If you fear for your own personal safety, approach a loved one or the police for assistance as soon as possible.

Photos: iStock

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