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Q&A: Relationship tune-up

What ever happened to that romantic man who indulged your every whim? Oh yeah, that's him, the one you married, eyes locked on the tube, remote in hand. You haven't held that hand in a long time, much less felt a real connection.

Couples are so overwhelmed with the daily drudgery of work, kids and home life, they neglect the very thing at the core of it all: their relationship.

This Valentine's week, give your union a little tune-up. Karen Kaye, a Weston marriage counselor who has been helping couples for 20-plus years, shares some advice.

What's the most common problem couples have today?

"Poor communication skills. Couples can't resolve their problems because they're stuck in a pattern that repeats itself. It starts to wear down the individuals and the marriage.''

What happens to people when anger wears them down?

"Anger that isn't dealt with turns to rage, then to resentment, then to numb. Most people don't realize the phases. They think numb is a comfort zone.''

So if you are numb from too many disagreements, how do you climb out of that hole?

"You have to work towards truthful, open, unedited communication. Some people only think 'I'm right and you're wrong.' It's hard to get past that. You have to try to come from a neutral position.''

How can you add spark back to a tired relationship?

"Deal with issues as they happen, so you don't build up resentment. Have a date night once a week without the kids. Get away every three months for a weekend together. Treat each other with more respect and kindness.''

How do you diffuse built-up resentment?

"Collect your thoughts about what is bothering you. Write it down before you talk, because if you don't, when you start to speak you'll be instantly angry. Plan a meeting for after the children go to bed, so that each of you can think about what you want to say before you meet.''

You and your spouse bicker all day long. How do you stop?

"Bickering and nitpicking are signs that you are angry at something else. It shows that you're not dealing with the issues. Take one issue at a time. Once you resolve one, it gives you a foundation to deal with the others.''

When should you call it quits?

"If there is verbal or physical abuse, or an addiction that gets in the way of the marriage. But most marriages end for the wrong reason. People misinterpret themselves and get involved in destructive patterns. If you have two willing partners who want to work it out, any marriage can work. If someone is not willing to work on themselves and just blame you, it's time to go.''

When should you dig in and give it another try?

"Any marriage can work if you keep working on it. Give it some time, and remember, once your marriage breaks down and the foundation is lost, you may never get that back on your own. You have to get help.''

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