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Four Common Marriage Problems -- and Solutions

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The Poor-Me Syndrome

He sighs and rolls his eyes when you're running late for a party. You shrug and say, "Sure, whatever" to things you don't really want to do, just to avoid confrontation.

What's the problem? As bad as it is to complain to outsiders, it's just as destructive to suffer in silence. Nothing gets accomplished when people play the martyr, and by withholding your true feelings, you also risk building up a wall of resentment that's tough to break down.

Cleanup time: The fix is simple -- say what you feel. "Sometimes one partner doesn't tell the other about a problem because she thinks nothing can ever be different, which in itself is a problem," says Geraldine Kerr, a marriage and family therapist in New Jersey. So set aside a time to talk when both of you are relaxed and open (in other words, not when one of you is nodding off over the 11 p.m. news or hurrying to get the groceries put away), and present the situation as a puzzle for the two of you to solve together, such as, "We don't seem to be able to leave on time in the mornings. Would it help if I let you use the bathroom first?"

For some things you can go with a subtler approach. Amy Sutherland, author of What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage (Random House), started praising her husband every time he made a small change she wanted, like putting a dirty shirt into the hamper instead of on the floor. Sure enough, he started working hard to earn the compliments. "It's not only more loving, but more effective," says Sutherland.