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An easy marriage tip (So I don't have to keep repeating myself!)

There is often a lot of complex work that goes into marriage therapy. But sometimes I find that direct advice can go a long way. So I'd like to share the piece of direct advice I share with husbands just about every time I do marriage therapy. It has to do with problem-solving.

As men, we are hard-wired to "fix it." Outline the problem, find the solution, apply the solution, and don't waste time talking--get it done, get on with the day. This can be a great way to solve problems at work, but when your wife approaches you with a problem, it just causes problems, and a new approach is needed. Let me explain.

At best, you hear your wife using a lot of words to speak about a problem that applies to everyday life, work, or your relationship, and you have the solution right away, something easy. So you try to relieve her confusion and irritation by jumping in and telling her how to "fix it." You soon find yourself in an argument in which you were told that you "never listen." What happened?

At worst, you will find yourself caught up in a problem your wife is having where the solution seems obvious but her story seems to keep changing, and your head is swimming. You get frustrated, and then both of you get angry.

Women process problems in a different way, and basically what you need to do is shut up and listen to her. Your wife is not dumb. She is not asking you to fix her problem by treating her like a child. She is asking for you to listen to her, which provides a great way for her to lay out multiple solutions and pick the one she likes best. Your solution might work, and "fix it," but your wife may think of an even better solution if you'd just give her time to get her thoughts laid out.

Women's thought processes, especially regarding emotions, are just as logical as men's are, but often sound different with regard to language--women think out loud. Men may find problems sooner, but women may find better solutions through a process of laying all the options out--which seems like confusion or equivocation to many men.

So, husbands, stop trying to "fix it," and let her get her thoughts out. You may not even say anything and come out looking like a hero. Usually, your solution-focused thinking may prove useful when she's got her options laid out on the table, but wait for her to give you some space, and then offer help as opposed to jumping in.

This is going to sound really obvious to many wives, but I'd like to address wives: trust yourself and your way of problem solving. Politely ask your husband to let you get your thoughts out, and point out that you are laying out possibilities, not "fixing it." But don't shut your husband down once he's been able to help you lay it all out. Give him some space to help you make the right choice.

Above all, be kind to one another and freely communicate about your differences in problem solving. I have painted the way men and women think with a broad brush, and what I've said is not always exactly true. But I find that this advice usually goes a long way, especially with reassuring husbands and wives that it's possible to mean well and hurt each other's feelings.

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