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Couples - Learn to Work Together to Solve Problems

Q. There has to be some way around the continuing battle in our marriage. Both my wife and I like to do things our own way and have things our own way, and so we fight for our own way. Doing it all my way does not work; doing it all her way does not work. This thing is tearing us apart. Can you recommend some way to help us?

A. Are you familiar with the three rings of marriage?

They are the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffer-ring.

A great amount of the suffering in marriage comes from the very battle which you describe in your letter. It's human nature to want to be right and to have things our own way. Some of us raise this to the level of an art form or mandate for life.

The problem is that always doing it your way or always doing it the other person's way will not work over time.

In marriage, the person who always insists on "my way or the highway" will likely become familiar with the highway. You may get to be right - whatever that means - but you do so at the expense of distancing your partner. Always doing it your way limits your potential problem-solving ability since you are using only one brain when two are at your disposal.

One of the best ways to build resentment in someone is to always demand your way.

Some people try to solve this dilemma by just letting their partners always have their way. While this may temporarily keep the peace, it does not last. Little resentments build over time. This process is typically followed by a huge explosion over something that appears to be just a little thing.

One of the many myths of marriage is that our spouse is going to think, or should think, just as we do; we often are offended when he or she doesn't.

In marriage, you do not have to think alike. You do, however, need to think together. Thinking together means becoming like-minded. It does not mean that you think alike, or even always agree. It means you take two sets of ingredients, the best of your thinking and ideas and the best thinking and ideas of your partner, blend them, and come up with solutions that you never would have been able to reach alone.

Jeff Herrring, MS, LMFT is a marriage and family therapist, relationship coach, speaker and nationally syndicated relationship columnist, and founder and CEO of You can email Jeff at and sign up for his free internet newsletter "Couples-Connection on his website at

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