This Is What Keeps a Marriage Strong
The Rule: We Don't Discuss Anything Before 10 A.M.
Jeri Solomon, 46 \ Jim Brown, 49 \ Stoneham, Massachusetts \ Married 11 years
Jeri says: "We moved in together right after we got engaged, so we were trying to juggle the whole living together thing and planning a wedding. It was a pretty stressful time. Every morning I would wake up at 6 a.m. and start researching some aspect of the wedding and then when Jim woke up I would hit him with suggestions before he even had his coffee. He'd say, 'Honey, I don't know,' which I took to mean 'No, I hate it!' and -- boom! -- we'd have an argument. Similarly, Jim would try to talk to me about something important at night when I was in bed, ready to go to sleep, and I wouldn't really be able to take it in. It became clear that the bulk of our arguments were taking place in the early morning or late evening, when one of us was sleepy, not coherent, or just not at our best. I suggested that we adopt a rule -- no discussing anything before 10 a.m. or after 10 p.m. -- and it has worked ever since to end stupid fights."
Jim says: "I like our rule because it's an effective way to cut off an argument that's about to happen. We both know we're not avoiding the subject. We're just tabling it until a better time when we know there will be a better outcome. We still have disagreements -- we're a normal couple! -- but with this rule there's a lot less miscommunication."
The therapist says: "In a lot of marriages, couples have opposite time clocks, and it can very often turn into a power struggle," says Dr. Greer. "This rule can help keep a discussion from blowing up into an unwanted argument. Any time one partner is cranky and tired and knows they're not up for a long, in-depth discussion they can say, 'We're not going to talk about this now, let's save it for another time and place.' The key is scheduling the time for the conversation right then, so that the issue isn't pushed off the table."
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, June 2012.
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