Respect boundaries.

In a healthy marriage, each spouse has sole authority and sole responsibility for speaking his or her own thoughts and feelings and for deciding his or her actions.

Don’t trespass. Trespassing feels invasive and is likely to trigger defensiveness and repulsion.  And many times, the trespasser is not accurate.

  • Don’t speak for your spouse
    – “What s/he wants to do …”
    – “What s/he was saying …”
    – “What you need is …”
  • Don’t say what you think your spouse is thinking or feeling
    – “You think that …”
    – “You feel ….”
  • Don’t tell the other what they should do
    – “You should …”


Don’t crossover. Don’t violate that invisible –but very very real – boundary between you and your spouse.

Crossovers are: 

  • Comments that trespass on your spouse’s turf, violating their personal boundaries. They usually sounds controlling or condescending.
  • These often begin with the word “you”.
    – “You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn …”
    – “You need to start paying more attention …”


  • Offer “I statements”, saying your own thoughts or feelings.
  • Ask “What/ How” questions to understand your spouse’s thoughts and feelings.

If you must give feedback about your distress – do it without criticism or crossovers.

Give feedback with WHEN YOU

Effective feedback

  1. Use the words ‘when you’ to pinpoint the problem moment.
  2. Use the word ‘I’ to bring it back to your reaction of what the other did.

Can be in either order – these 2 components work together to give feedback without sounding attacking.

You left me alone! an accusation

When you left me alone, I panicked. an explanation


When your snoring woke up last night,  I couldn’t fall back asleep.

I couldn’t fall back asleep when your snoring woke me up.

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