Do you insist on having your way about the housework, the kids, the money, the driving, etc.? Warning! This attitude puts your marriage at risk of becoming a dictatorship instead of a partnership. "We don't marry to be two ones; we marry to become a couple," says Scott Haltzman, MD, author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men (Jossey-Bass). "Making decisions together can lead to much richer experiences than insisting on having your own way." That's what being equals and partners is all about. "There is evidence that couples who can make shared decisions in a smooth, comfortable way enjoy marriage more," says Susan Heitler, PhD, author of The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong & Loving Marriage (New Harbinger). "In a marriage, 'his way' and 'her way' need to become 'our way.'"
So instead of pulling your hair out because your guy forgets he promised to load the dishwasher or feeds the kids chips an hour before dinner, look at the bigger picture -- things will work out even when they aren't done your way. If you find you're getting into power struggles with your husband, consider specifically dividing up the responsibilities, suggests Dr. Heitler. The two of you could agree to put him in charge of investing the household savings into retirement accounts and mutual funds, so long as he lets you know where the money is going. You could be in charge of painting the living room, so long as he gets to sign off on your choice of colors.
The same holds true for parenting. Make sure you're on the same page when it comes to basic rules and discipline, then agree to give each other the option of relating to the kids in your own ways. Your idea of parent-child bonding might not include backyard wrestling or playing Xbox, but if they're having a great time, that's what counts.
Erin McNamara Horvat, 41, used to think a good mother had to have the final word over the kids and the house. Then her work schedule changed and she had to let her husband be in charge of more. "He didn't do things the way I did, but it was fine," she says. The payoff for Erin was her own feeling of freedom. "Seeing how much he enjoyed himself, I released the guilt I had over not being the ideal mom I thought I should be," she says.
After countless spats about their three children, Kim DeYoung, 41, and her husband negotiated a new rule. The parent who holds the most conservative viewpoint on an issue gets the final word. "I didn't want to berate him for being more cautious than I was, so it was a way to be respectful of each other," says Kim, of New Haven, Connecticut. "If he cares more than I do about what the kids wear, he wins. It keeps each of us from judging the other."