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Posts tagged ‘relationship advice’

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

 

What is the Quality of Your Life?

What is the Quality of Your Life?

This is a message from a dream: In the dream my aging mother asked me, “What is the quality of your life?” I woke up pondering how to answer. How does one answer that?

There are of course the physical qualities of life: here in the Chicago area we are just recovering from a short but devastating windstorm. So I am grateful for the electricity that has just returned: running water, warm showers, toilets that flush, light, air conditioning, refrigerated foods, and a roof over my head that doesn’t have a tree sticking out of it.

Going beyond the personal comfort, there is the convenience of roads free from fallen power lines and trees as well as stop and go lights that restore a more orderly flow of traffic.

Next is being instantaneously connected to the outside world with the internet: email, social media, news and anything you want to know at your fingertips, movies and books to download 24 hours a day.

Oh —- how 2 days without all these conveniences can give you a new perspective on what we take for granted.

But I don’t think that was what my mother was asking about in the dream. There is a different quality of life she was asking about. She was asking, “Are you happy?”

I’m so Bored – Life is so Easy

Just because I could, I have been catching up on reading some Facebook posts. The variety is astounding. Students out of school for the summer lamenting that they are bored and can’t wait to get back to school. A guy in Austria won a lawsuit against his government that allows him to wear a colander on his head for his driver’s license photo – for religious reasons. The French government has outlawed burka face veils. Someone is looking for a new apartment. Another person is relieved that she is once again single. Someone is proposing that extremely obese children be taken away from their parents – for their protection.

We live in an age of unprecedented ease and instant entertainment. But the entertainment may only cover a deeper longing. We are discontent. The moment we are not busy we are bored. I believe that many people are missing healthy and happy connections with others: meaningful and rewarding interdependent relationships: people valuing people. People being there for one another, to encourage and uplift one another. People are lonely, yet many would rather be alone than be in hurtful relationships. Staying busy keeps us from really noticing.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

Have you heard the idea that “where there is too much, there is something missing”? We have all the stuff, all the toys, yet deep down we may feel empty inside. What do advertisers really sell when they appear to be selling their latest product? They sell happiness: buy this and you will have friends, you will find love, you will be happy. If that is what we all want – to be happy – so much so that it is used to sell anything from pain relief to cars, then what is it that makes us happy? What makes us happy deep down inside? I believe it is relationships – the good ones. So how do we create those relationships?

1. Be respectful towards each other
2. Communicate: Listen
3. Communicate: Feel heard and understood
4. Spend quality time with each other
5. Create happy memories together
6. Develop a feeling of contentment with each other
7. Develop trust and interdependence – a well working team

I am blessed with a rich network of friends: some spanning over a decade of friendship, others more recent. We talk, we laugh, we cry, we make happy memories; we are content just being in each other’s company. We do simple things together: cooking, eating, going for a walk, going swimming or skating or kayaking, hanging out at the beach or pool, solving a computer problem or completing a sewing project, helping each other where a second pair of hands is needed. Most of all we are content in each other’s company. When issues arise, we talk about them calmly to resolve them. We learn from each other. We spend time doing things we each enjoy. We encourage, support, and uplift each other.

I encourage you to look at your life and the people in them: Who are the five people you spend the most time with? Are those relationships good for you? How can you make them better? Is there anyone who is not in the top five who you would like to spend more time with? Is there anyone in the top five who you would like to spend less time with? In which relationships do you feel happy, accepted and at ease?

Taking it Farther:

To have a friend – be a friend. Once you have identified the five people you most want to spend time with, look for ways to be together and reach out to them to see if that works for them as well. Find a balance with each person that works for both of you. Keep communication lines open so that issues are resolved as they come up and there is little opportunity for anger, resentment, blame or other destructive emotions to poison the relationship. In other words, just like in your home, take the garbage out on a regular basis.

Resources:

Book: “How to have that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Visual and Tape: “The communication map” by David Steele http://www.relationshipcoachinginstitute.com/resources.htm – then go to “Other Products”

Online: http://www.Meetup.com to find a group of like-minded people or start your own group. Almost any topic you can imagine.

Contact me:

If you would like to know about what energy you bring to your relationships and how to bring more positive energy into your life, call me to schedule an Energy Assessment and coaching. Live the life you choose. Be happy. Call Edith at 847.913.3900.

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