The Manual - How to be unnaturally patient

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A I Jacobs recommends treating your wife like a child for a happier marriage...

The secret to a happy marriage? Treat your spouse like a five-year-old. Now, I’m not saying you should use monosyllabic words or give her time-outs. I’m not advocating being a total condescending bastard. What I’m saying is this: A couple of years ago, I read a massively popular parenting book called How To Talk To kids So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

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The book made me a better dad. So much better, in fact, I wondered: why am I limiting these ingenious strategies to kids? So-called grown-ups, me included, are the emotional equivalents of kids, just with more body hair and voting rights. So I started treating everyone — my friends, co-workers, boss, and, yes, my wife — like a five-year-old. Among the techniques:

Pay full attention to your spouse. This may be obvious, but you can’t believe how often couples multitask while arguing. Stop making the sandwich and turn and look your wife in the eyes. It’ll cut her anger in half.

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Repeat the words: “Oh... mmm... I see.” If your wife comes to you with a problem, don’t immediately try to give advice. Don’t tell her that she should suck it up and fire her slacker assistant. Instead, make soothing, understanding noises. Humans like to vent, so let them.

Label emotions instead of denying them. Pay attention and you’ll start to notice how often you dismiss people’s emotions. (“It’s not so bad,” “You’ll forget about it soon,” “He didn’t mean anything by it.”) This rarely works. Instead, articulate the feeling from the other person’s point of view: “She didn’t invite us to the dinner party? That’s shocking, because you invited her to yours just two months ago.”

The key, though, is subtlety. You can’t be too obvious about treating your spouse like a five-year-old or it’ll bite you in your patronising ass. Which has happened to me.
“You’re mad that I didn’t eat the salmon in time, because you hate it when I waste food,” I said.
My wife paused. “Don’t talk to me like you talk to the boys.”
“You think I talk to you like I talk to the boys? That must be frustrating.”
“Stop it!”
“You’re annoyed because you want me to treat you in a more adult way.”
I almost got a time-out.

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