Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Bickering Makes Marriage Feel Like a Sham

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got into a huge argument with my husband last week over stupid stuff. I feel like we argue every five minutes about something. I am so sick of him. We have been married about 10 years, and I'm beginning to feel that it isn't worth it. If everything is negative, what's the point?

This time it is so crazy because we were arguing about going on vacation. I had one idea, and he had another. I introduced the idea to see if a change of pace might do us some good. Even that blew up on me.

I'm nearly ready to pack my bags and jet. But that feels cowardly. This has to stop. What can I do? -- On the Brink, San Francisco

DEAR ON THE BRINK: Too bad you argued about a vacation. Taking time away from the rigors of your life can be restorative for couples who are having marital difficulties.

Do you think you can revisit the idea of a vacation from a more neutral frame of reference? Go back to your husband and ask if he is willing to broach the topic again. If so, do your best to select an activity that you both will enjoy.

If you cannot find a way to have that discussion, it's surely time for another one. It could start with a frank conversation where, during a sober, quiet moment, you ask your husband what he wants and if that still includes being married to you. Be prepared to admit that you are questioning whether the two of you should stay together. If you can speak openly and honestly about how you feel about your relationship, you may be able to begin a real discussion that evaluates your life together.

Getting a counselor to help both of you navigate next steps is also advisable. You may be able to learn how to speak more diplomatically and respectfully to each other, which can be amazingly helpful in supporting a relationship. Figure out what your triggers are and how you can look at them differently. Then revisit whether you think you can work together or need to separate.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have done something that I absolutely hate when it is done to me. I have been really busy, and during this time, a few of my good friends have called or emailed several times and I literally forgot to respond to them. It really isn't because I don't love them. The truth is, I have too much on my plate.

I get that it's my responsibility to stay in touch with my friends, but I haven't been doing a good enough job. How can I repair our friendships? I know their feelings are hurt. -- Too Busy, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR TOO BUSY: Start with a sincere apology. Check in with each friend individually, saying that you miss and love him or her and are terribly sorry for not being more responsive. Don't go into details about what has been distracting you. Offer to be more attentive in the future and then do your best to honor your pledge.