However, none of this matters if partners don't first examine what Exton, Pa., psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein calls "toxic thinking styles." So, for example, jumping to catastrophic conclusions – like assuming one bounced check will lead to your family's financial ruin – will derail your efforts at constructive communication and reinforce your negative beliefs, warns Bernstein, author of "Why Can't You Read My Mind? Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thought Patterns that Get in the Way of a Loving Relationship."
Bernstein argues that women tend to be more in touch with their feelings than men and can therefore better redirect such toxic thoughts. For example, rather than fume that he should have known your feelings about something, consider the times when he has understood your needs and how you can help him continue to do so. "Men need coaching and support," Bernstein says. That's not to say you should make excuses for bad behavior. "You don't want to be swimming in that big river called denial," he says. But Bernstein urges people to focus on their partner's good behavior – "it helps you find more of it."
[See: 8 Ways to Become an Optimist.]