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Top 11 Cosmo relationship tips, applied to Obama and House Republicans

By Alexandra Petri

Based on's Best Relationship Tips Ever, here's some advice for President Obama and the new Republican majority as they build their relationship, brick by brick.

Barack, remember when you said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable?" John, remember when you said, "It's time that we go stand up for the president?" Sure, you may have been talking about a different president, but the principle holds. With this relationship advice, you'll have smooth sailing until 2012 -- at which point, it will either be the next presidential election, or the Mayans will return to reclaim the Earth!

1. Act Out of Character
Couples develop a particular dynamic: the way they relate to each other that repeats itself over and over. If you break that pattern and act against type -- in a positive way -- you inject new life into the relationship.
--Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach in McLean, Virginia

  • Instead of vetoing the bill before reading it, try reading it, then vetoing it!

  • Instead of saying your "number-one goal" is to make Barack Obama a one-term president, say that's your "number-two" goal.

  • Instead of scowling and muttering something aggressive as you walk past the White House, try smiling and muttering something passive-aggressive!

  • When people ask what your "OTP" bumper sticker stands for, smile and say it stands for "One True Pairing: our president, and the American people."

2. Get in Touch a Lot
No doubt you hug and kiss each other hello... But simple acts like stroking his arm while you're watching TV, taking his hand when you're walking down the street, or fondling his thigh during dinner are also ways to bond. Touching your partner throughout the day triggers your feel-good hormones, which reinforces your affection and makes you feel closer on an instinctive level.
--Psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, PhD, author of Emotional Fitness for Couples

In practice: As you tell the president that you disagree with his legislative agenda, try stroking his arm. The first couple of times, he'll be unnerved and have his security detail restrain you, but, later, he'll feel closer on an instinctive level. Then you can take this to the next phase: White House dinners.

Obama: I'm so glad you could join me at this state dinner, members of the House GOP caucus. This is a momentous -- okay, I'm sorry, who is fondling my thigh? This needs to stop. I experimented with bipartisanship in college, but my wife is here.

3. Don't Be BFFs
Being pals with your man is great in theory. could wind up having a roommate-like bond with each other rather than a hot one if you let yourself lose track of the...tension that excited you at the beginning of your relationship.
--Lana Holstein, MD, director of sexuality and vitality programs for couples at Miraval Resort in Catalina, Arizona

Worried you're getting too friendly? Probably not, actually. But keep this in mind in case he invites you to anything that sounds "fun."

Obama: Hey, Ben, I'm having a beer summit! Want to come? I got some excellent beers that I think are emblematic of our relationship so far.

Ben Quayle: You are the worst president in history. (Pause) Sorry, I'm just keeping the tension alive.

4. Take Turns Talking
To make sure you both get a chance to state what's on your mind during a disagreement -- and get your points across -- alternate playing reflective therapist, where one listens while the other talks.
--Psychologist Diana Kirschner, PhD, author of Opening Love's Door

Sample dialogue:

Obama: I just feel that sometimes, I'm holding out my hand for a handshake, and you're just giving me the fist.

Boehner: (pause) Are you the reflective therapist, or am I?

Obama: I thought you were.

Boehner: Oh. My B. Let's start over.

5. Find the Intersection
When making decisions together, try to find common ground. You each should write down exactly what you want. Let's say you're angling for a vacay in San Francisco to see the sights and hit up the cool shops and restaurants, while he wants a tropical getaway where he can veg out by the pool and sip drinks with umbrellas in the glass. Now that your desires are clearly laid out on paper, you can pick a place that will satisfy both your needs. A cool city, a little about Miami?
--Paul Dobransky, MD, author of The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love

After you've taken the time to write down what you want, show each other!

Obama: Here is what I want. It is a 1900-page health-care bill.

Boehner: I want the opposite of that.

Obama: You also wrote the words "unlimited power."

Boehner: I'm not sure how that got there.

6. Be More Positive Than Negative
There's a more effective way to air grievances than to file an angry complaint. Sandwich your negative comment between two positives. If you want to complain about how he's always late, for example, try something like "You know, I love that you're so laid-back and easygoing, but it really bothers me when you show up so late. I'm sure you can still be the fun guy I adore and also be on time."
--Los Angeles psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD


  • Boehner to Obama: You are tall. I think your policies will end the American dream. You are tall.

  • Obama to Boehner: You, uh, wear your emotions on your sleeve. I think your policies will end the American dream. You are a truly unique color.

  • Boehner to Pelosi: Your face probably looked very different originally. I disagree with you on everything. Your home state is rich in diverse wildlife.

7. Echo Each Other
When you and your man are having a serious relationship talk, it's easy to get so caught up in how you want to respond that you're not really listening to what's being said. That's why it's important for both of you to repeat each other: so you know you've been heard and you feel understood.
--Yvonne Thomas

Here's how this might go in practice:

House Republicans: I think your policies are destroying America.

Obama: I think your policies are destroying America.

House Republicans: Were you echoing me?

Obama: Yes, but that was also my opinion.

8. Grow Your Tolerance

Neither of you is perfect, and the quirks you both have are here to stay. So rather than let those annoying traits work your last nerve, try to get in touch with the upside of those particular flaws, even if it's not immediately recognizable. Instead of getting annoyed when he starts screaming at the TV, for example, remind yourself how much you love his passion.
--Denver psychologist Jennifer Oikle, PhD, dating coach for Coupling Connection

For example:

Sure, you may not be perfect, and you may blame Americans' apparent dissatisfaction with your leadership entirely on messaging failure, and you may keep threatening to take the keys away, even though the American people specifically voted to give us the keys, and you may keep using that keys metaphor, and you may keep appearing on daytime television, but -- I forget where I was going with this.

9. Take a Time-Out
It's important that you get a break from the daily grind and spend alone time as a couple -- cell phones and the Internet are off-limits. It can be a fun day trip or just a few quiet hours to yourselves. The point is simply to steal away (even if you're going nowhere) so you can reconnect, free of any distractions.
--Diana Kirschner

This may be more of a challenge. If you can't bear to be without your blackberry or Secret Service entourage, send a fully articulated plastic replica of yourself instead!

10. Have His Back
You might not agree with your guy when he's had a riff with a friend or he thinks his boss is being unfair, but you should always be on his side...and vice versa. Otherwise, you'll both feel like you can't count on each other. That doesn't mean you have to take the "you're so right" route all the time. Just hear him out, and let him know that you'll support him no matter what.
--New York City psychotherapist JoAnn Magdoff, PhD


Obama: So I just want to say that I hear you out and I want you to know that I'll support you no matter what.

House Republicans: So you won't veto this?

Obama: No, I'm still going to veto it.

11. Spend a Little Money on Each Other
You don't have to wait for a special occasion to give small presents to show your love. In fact, gifts are more fun-and meaningful -- when they're not expected. Try to get into the habit of exchanging sweet tokens of appreciation for no particular reason.... It's not about being extravagant; it's just a way of showing that you really get -- and think about -- each other.
--Barton Goldsmith

This is especially fun when it comes to the budget!

Obama: Here is another $600 billion stimulus package.

Boehner: You didn't have to do this.

Obama: No, that's okay. I wanted to.

Boehner: Why?

Obama: No reason. Just my way of showing I care.

Boehner: I really would prefer it if you did not do this.

Obama: Gifts are more fun and meaningful when they're not expected.

Boehner: Why don't we just go on that picnic you were suggesting earlier?

12. Be a Good Date
Face it, no one can stay fascinating forever. After being together for a while, the initial excitement fades, and your guy can start to get kind of boring sometimes. Hey, don't think you're off the hook -- if you're feeling a little ho-hum about him, the feeling is likely mutual! To combat the blahs, take turns coming up with an interesting date idea every month. Keep the time and details to yourself, and try to think outside the box -- dinner and a movie is not exactly innovative. An awesome concert or a snowboarding lesson, for example, is a much less predictable treat.
--Jennifer Oikle


Obama: Can I take off the blindfold now?

Boehner: Not yet.

Obama: That is you, John, right?

Boehner: Shhhh.

Obama: I know we're supposed to try to be fun and unpredictable, but I think this is taking it a little far.

Boehner: Do you or don't you want to treasure this evening for the rest of your life?

By Alexandra Petri  | November 8, 2010; 1:11 PM ET
Categories:  Bad Advice, Barack Obama, Congress, Petri, Top Lists  | Tags:  Barack Obama, Cosmopolitan, GOP  
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Next: Why I'm not watching Conan tonight


Thank you for another informative article. I'm using your columns as continuing education credits for my political hack license. I've been able to renew my license until the end of 2012.

Unlike "many of you," I was unaware that "the Mayan grand cycle of the 13 Baktun long count will end on December 21, 2012." Thank you for that link. It will save me a lot of money buying all those Baktuns for Christmas presents, and I won't have to worry about deficits, or watch Keith Olbermann any more, because it doesn't matter.

I'll have to admit that trying to read the rest of your article was like reading a women's magazine where they pay by the word. I can never get past the cover, with those women in bikini's with bags of silicone spilling out the sides.

So before I can comment any further, I'll need you to post a new picture of yourself with a wetter tee shirt. And please... show me your bags!

Posted by: divtune | November 8, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

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