Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I’m a newlywed and sometimes I get unnerved (by problems in other marriages). Is it stupid to ask how not to end up in a bad situation? I love my husband very much and I would really like him to tell me if something is wrong, rather than be miserable for years. I would like to think I could pick up on his unhappiness if it ever happened, but I wonder if that is possible.
Grass Is Greener
That depends on how good he is at concealing feelings and how good you are at spotting them — and how good both of you are at not rationalizing away any problems, especially while they’re still small.
What you can control right away, though, is your own response to honesty about unpleasant things. If you respond to any challenge by pouting, grilling for more information, going silent, counter-accusing, looking to shift blame, getting defensive, etc., then certainly you can’t expect a spouse to come to you with something so fraught as “I have a crush on someone at work, and I’m telling you to explain why I’ve been so distracted and short with you. I’m sorry.”
And I’m not just talking about your response to such potentially life-altering challenges as marriage fatigue; I’m talking about when a friend doesn’t call you back right away, or when you misread a comment as an insult when it was intended to be neutral.
The easier you make it for people to be honest with you, the more honesty you will receive. Be flexible, be nonjudgmental, be slow to draw conclusions. It’s an attitude worth cultivating from the moment you meet someone, but if you haven’t established that precedent yet, there’s nothing saying you can’t start now.