Be in the Flow – Follow Your Path!

Posts tagged ‘marriage’

Making Love Relationships Work

Making Love Relationships Work

John Gottman, PhD is the expert on why marriages succeed or fail. He conducts his research in his “love lab” in Seattle. He has observed thousands of couples and with his research he has been able to predict with great accuracy which couples stay together and which marriages end in divorce.

 

First of all, there are four troublesome issues that cause a marriage to be unhappy. Gottman calls these the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They are, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal.

 

The first horseman is criticism. There may not appear to be much difference between complaining and criticizing. Complaints are an important part of a healthy relationship and allow for discussing differing expectations whereas criticizing involves attacking someone’s personality or character – rather than a specific behavior. An example of criticism is, “Why did you buy that – when you know we’re trying to save money? You always do things like that – you just don’t care.” Criticism is more global rather than something specific. Another example from Gottman’s book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” shows clearly the difference between a complaint and criticism.

  • Complaint: We don’t go out as much as I’d like to.
  • Criticism: You never take me anywhere.

 

The second horseman is contempt. Contempt is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. It stems from negative thoughts about your partner – you no longer have respect for your partner. Signs of contempt include name-calling, hostile humor, mockery and body language such as rolling your eyes.

 

The third horseman is defensiveness. When contempt enters the relationship, people feel attacked. Often they respond with defending themselves. The self-defense can take several different forms.

  • Denying responsibility (I didn’t do anything wrong.)
  • Making excuses (Blaming external circumstances)
  • Cross-complaining (Countering a complaint with an immediate complaint of your own, totally ignoring what your partner has said.)
  • Yes-butting (Agreeing with the complaint, but having a reason that outweighs the transgression.)
  • Repeating yourself (Continue to restate your position without attempting to understand the other’s point of view.)

 

The forth horseman is withdrawal. When defensiveness isn’t getting anywhere, one spouse will often turn to silence or physically remove himself from the room. But that doesn’t work either. Instead of being neutral, withdrawal conveys disapproval, icy distance and smugness. The message is that I am disengaging from any meaningful interaction with you. If this does not result in divorce it will result in living lonely parallel lives.

 

What can you do if any of these four horsemen have invaded your marriage? Here are several suggestions.

  • Calm down. When you feel your heart rate escalate during an argument, take a time out. When you are both calm, you can continue the conversation. But don’t just ignore the problem; make specific plans to continue the conversation.
  • Speak non-defensively. If you can learn to listen to your spouse without becoming defensive and without triggering defensiveness in your partner, it will do wonders for your relationship.
  • Validate. Try to see things from your spouse’s point of view. Tell her that you understand what she is saying. Acknowledge when you are wrong or apologize. When appropriate compliment your spouse. Sincere appreciation of what your spouse is doing goes a long way to maintain harmony in the home.

 

If you can keep the four horsemen out of your relationship and practice the above suggestions, you have come a long way towards making your relationship work. Additional resources are available at www.gottman.com

 

Adjusting Boundaries as a Cure for Stress

Adjusting Boundaries as a Cure for Stress

Some people say there is good stress and bad stress. Would you say that getting married is good stress and getting divorced is bad stress?

It appears that the body does not distinguish between good and bad stress. There are “50 Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress” listed on the American Institute of Stress (AIS) website: http://www.stress.org/topic-effects.htm which includes symptoms like headaches, back pain, nausea, chest pain, fidgeting, overwhelm, excessive hunger or loss of appetite, social withdrawal … You can have these symptoms regardless of the kind of stress you are dealing with. Ask any bride-zilla.

So let’s look a little deeper.

Story: Weddings are about redrawing boundaries

In my past as a wedding photographer, I had the opportunity to work with brides as well as the other businesses that cater to them and their special day. May my observations and thoughts help give you courage to start redrawing your boundaries.

It seems that whatever relationship dynamics exist between the various people planning the wedding are magnified under stress. For example: a bride who hasn’t been able to stand up to her mother about much of anything, will continue to have problems. Freeze, Fight, or Flight? 1. Freeze: the bride feels paralyzed and unable to speak up for what she wants. 2. Fight: the bride may fight her mother on any and every decision. 3. Flight: the bride will avoid including her mother in anything. So what’s the solution? None of those.

Let’s look at close relationships. When you get married you change your primary alliances from the family you came from to your new family unit. But often that is not a conscious decision, or it happens not at all or haphazardly. What you do take with you into your new relationship is how you deal with boundaries. If you had trouble standing up to your parents or siblings, you may have the same trouble in your marriage. If you were expected to maintain peace at all cost or secrecy, you will likely continue to do so.

←—————————————————————————-→
“Put Up With It”                                                                       “Blow Up”

Where are you on the “Put Up With It” to “Blow Up” continuum? Open communications between two people allows you to explore what each of you want and need. It allows you to draw and redraw boundaries and design your relationship consciously and in consideration with each other. And that allows you to build a relationship with very little unresolved stress. Open communication takes courage; lots of courage. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

If you toggle between being a pushover and blowing up, chances are that your relationships are stressful. Your needs are not being met and neither do others feel they can consistently count on you. The gap between how you’d like things to be and the reality is stress. Stress affects the body in negative ways and when it is unresolved, it can cause major health issues.

Taking a stress or anger management class helps you with better self-control when stressed or angry. But that is like putting a band-aid on a toothache. It doesn’t help with the problem.

What can you do? Start observing gaps in communication. Do not sabotage your efforts with talking about big things first, like where to go on vacation, whether to move to a new house, or asking your boss for a raise. Start with little things.

If your spouse or a friend asks, “where would you like to go for dinner?” don’t say something like, “whatever you want is fine with me”. Instead give yourself a little time to think, say something like, “thanks for asking, let me think about what I might like.” Then think about it and come back with a proposal like “I’d really like some fish, how about that xyz restaurant?” or “I really love the atmosphere at abc restaurant? What do you think?” Now you have the opportunity to discuss what you both want. There may be backlash to your new ways at first, especially if you have well-established patterns. It is best to stay as calm as you can.

Talking about little things may seem extremely tedious at first. It is. You are developing a new skill and practicing on small decisions where the stakes are not very high and you are more likely to be willing to compromise. It is like building your muscle to talk things out and find joint solutions. You can move to bigger decisions as your skills improve. Just think of the value of having a calm conversation with your spouse about money, sex, children, work, and household chores. With the right skills, a willing partner, and practice you can get there. You’d be amazed how many people will eventually respond favorably to your new way of being in relationship. And you’ll find out who won’t.

Taking it Farther:
There are a variety of excellent materials on boundaries. Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend have co-written many books on boundaries. They are excellent. They are written from a strong Christian viewpoint. If you are not Christian I hope you can still get the boundary lessons from their books or find other helpful materials.

Contact me:

Want more help? I’m here for you. Tired of the status quo? Get relief! Call to get coached and start designing the life you want to live. Have questions? Call to get answers. Edith at 847.913.3900

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