Maybe you’ve been spending too much time at work. Maybe you just forgot to tend to your partner’s needs. Or maybe you just forgot to delete your browser history. No matter what brought on the argument with your partner, you’re here now. It happens. According to 1 study, two-thirds of all relationships go downhill after the first baby is born. And blaming things on the baby — not a good look for you.
Everyone needs a bit of help in these situations. Ronn Torossian is the President and CEO of 5WPR, and an expert at public relations crisis management. He was there when Puff Daddy wanted to be called P. Diddy. When Pitbull was in the doghouse. When the state of Israel — well, that’s always a tough one. Torossian is pretty much a professional apologizer, but he’s also a spin-master who gets big names get out of hot water. Here’s his crash-course in fiascos to help you keep your marriage from turning into a tabloid story.
If You Can’t Say The Right Thing, Say Something
Don’t put off making things right. It doesn’t matter if you think you have the moral high ground, or if you know you’re too stubborn to admit you’re wrong. Letting problems stew just makes it worse. “Ignoring situations can turn something minor into a big, flaming mess,”says Torossian.
In PR, the key to keeping customers happy is a fast, thoughtful response. Barring that, at least let the pissed-off people know you care. Same thing with a marriage. If you brain isn’t formulating that perfect answer, Plan B is to just let your spouse know you care. “You might not always have time to hash things out immediately,”says Torossian, “but you can still hold her hand or let her know that you’re with her.” If you don’t do this, resentment is going to build up, the situation will be harder to fix, and she’ll “take her business elsewhere.”
Admit When You’re Wrong
If you screw up, you won’t gain anything from trying to prove you’re right. “Trying to convince somebody that what they feel doesn’t matter, or that they don’t know what they are talking about, adds more fuel to the fire,” says Torossian. And, if you’re actually in the wrong, then you need to just fess up. “And seriously mean it,” he says. “None of this ‘I’m sorry you didn’t understand what I said’ kind of apology.”
If you forgot your anniversary, confess that you did something wrong and apologize. Don’t blame Siri. Don’t blame work. And don’t blame her for not putting it on your once-a-day Far Side calendar. Just talk about how it made her feel and how you can make it better. (But don’t get rid of the Far Side calendar — it’s hilarious!)
Sympathize When You’re Right
Sure, it’s a thrill to score a petty moral victory. You’re right, and she’s kind of wrong! But, while you’re doing a chicken dance because you won the battle, you’re definitely losing the war. So, stuff that point you want to prove, and start empathizing. “Consider what stresses she may be facing,” says Torossian. “Is she doing almost all the housekeeping and child-rearing? Then stop being clueless and start being more of a partner. Is there a family crisis brewing? Find a way to give her a quick break from the stress.”
Pointing out someone’s shortcomings has helped approximately zero percent of relationships, so take the opposite tack. “ For heaven’s sake,” Torossian says, “let her know – often – just how beautiful she is to you and how much of a difference she makes in your life every day.” Crib some Stevie Wonder lyrics if you have to.
Don’t Buy Your Way Out
You might think you can fix a fight with dinner or flowers or something on sale at Zales – but that big romantic display is going to hurt a lot more than it helps. “It’s better not to try to buy your way out of it,”says Torossian. “Flowers and presents should be associated with good moments and celebrations, not heartbreak.”
If this was really the first mistake you’d ever made, your wife would forgive you pretty quickly. The real key is to identify the underlying problem and fix it through the little things you do every day. Besides, grand gestures mostly come off as phony. “When people know you love them by the way you treat them and how you honor them, it builds a lot of credit for those times when you really mess up,” he says.
Time For A Rebranding
The only way to make things better is to change your behavior. If your personality were a soda company, they would be taking Diet Asshole off the store shelves and restocking it with plenty of I’m-Making-An-Effort Cola
“In the PR business, we look at the target audience of a client to see what interests them,”says Torossian. It’s the same with your wife. “Make a list of what you know brings your partner happiness, keep it close to hand, and add more things as you notice them.” And note that this list is going to change as you get older together.
“When the kids are really young, then sleep is a premium,”says Torossian, “Later, it might be time together.” Whatever it is, figure out what your spouse needs and do it daily (and it’s not only sex, as you just said out loud). Change her perception little by little Work in displays of affection, or time for herself into your daily rituals. “Little thoughtful things done every day may seem boring, but if you infuse them with you love, they’ll never grow old.” And that’s how you rebuild your image.