I once read a book called "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." It was about marriage, relationships, and improving communication based on the premise that men and women operate differently. By honoring and recognizing the differences we can have healthier happier marriages. The author made the point that men put more stock in being respected and acknowledged, women crave loving and emotional connection. Thus, if a man goes out of his way to do something for you, he feels warm and nice inside when you authentically thank him and a little miffed if your acknowledgment is backhanded or sarcastic. It's not that women are so down with sarcasm, it's just that women are more about the affection, according to the author, than the acknowledgments.

That book has been bandied about for years now. I learned at one point the author was divorced. His first was a therapist as well, and wrote some of her own books on relationships. One of them was called "Real Love." They both were big on communication. It was interesting to me that she included in her book the very same exercise he had in his, apparently they had copywritten it together! The exercise was in my opinion, possibly valuable if you are articulate, and too involved if you are not. It entailed putting down your feelings in writing for your spouse to read. Discussion follows. Having it in writing would give you time to really think about what you want to say. Although, once again, if you are not an articulate person, you might inadvertently say something different from what you mean.

For myself I think the best communication always comes from the place of vulnerability. Yelling, sarcasm, brow beating , and nagging never accomplished the real goal of change and interconnection. It makes you feel good for a few minutes to "win" a fight, and you never "win" a fight. You create resentment. You create contempt. I was taught to avoid a fight, use "I" statements. Stating how you feel can be neither right nor wrong it just is. Laying blame, conversely, ie "You make me so mad!" is merely provocative. The phrase I learned for all occasions is: When you ______________I feel__________. In the first blank is an action, in the second blank is an emotion. NOT a thought but a feeling. Such as "When you cut me off mid-sentence, I feel sad." (or annoyed, or frustrated those are all emotions. NOT . . . I feel you are being domineering - which would be a thought, an interpretation, once again provocative.

In a marriage if you get into the habit of communicating from the place of vulnerability you establish greater and greater openess and intimacy with your spouse. Non violent communications are not put downs are not fights are not manipulative. They're real. They're authentic. You can say some pretty scary things when you feel safe, and your safety quotient will go nothing but up if you are always honest and real.

Another gem I learned in honest communication is to say "Ouch!" when your partner slides into sarcasm. It's neither dismissive nor submissive and states 'I'm in pain here' in one word. A loving partner wouldn't barrel over an 'ouch.' They would stop and think, repair or restore. If you have an unloving partner you may want to re-think staying. Relationships in no way have to get worse and worse as time goes by. They can in fact grow.

Remember the first day you met your spouse? You didn't know them yet, and you noticed them. You went to lunch or did an assignment together. You played at recess or talked at a party. That first day, your love wasn't too strong. Even if you thought it was "love at first sight" it was a shallow love, based on looks and intuition and luck. If you are honest with yourself you will admit you came to love them more within a few months from spending time together. From learning things you have in common, from filling your ears with their conversation. If your love can grow in between day one and day forty, it certainly should be able to grown between year one and year forty.

Change your paradigm.