In my experience with couples and my own past relationships-after years of not nurturing a relationship, discussions can quickly turn towards blaming, insulting, and shouting “you always!” While repeating the same 2-left-footed dance, The-Point-of-No-Return looms large. Couples call me for a complete overhaul—-exhausted, deflated, and ready to undergo therapy-as “Our Last Resort”.
Initially, I start by putting out the small fires, reminding them that they will soon put me out of a job if they see this through to the actual Preventable solutions. I hold the HOPE.
I share the following TIPS:
When you first get upset or angry with your significant other, there are almost always two problems: your emotions and the actual problem.
If you can’t “communicate” without raising your voices, go to a public spot where you will be embarrassed if you lose it. Or find a mediator, therapist, trusted friend to “witness” and aid in your attempts at respectful arguements.
Make an actual appointment with each other, no kids, no TV, no cell phones. Sit across from each other, make eye contact.
FOLLOW SOME BASIC RULES: 1. Don’t say ‘you always’ or ‘you never’. 2. No name calling or personal insults. 3. Walk away from a fight if you need some time to cool down.
Use body language to show you’re listening. You can Smile, it is the simplest act to show kindness.
Acknowledge their talents and achievements. Give praise and appreciate their efforts.
Speak in a calm and caring voice.
Argue in a way that produces a solution. REMEMBER! You are in this together!
Each partner will need to make some slight movements in the opposite direction from which they are comfortable.
Each partner can begin to work on accepting their differences and not taking it personally.
As they begin to imagine the possibilities of changing their “war-dance” I begin to implement some Tried-And-True techniques for more lasting results….TAKE 2!
Drs John and Julie Gottman’s work tells us to dig even deeper:
1. Know each other. Learn all about each other’s likes, dislikes, wishes, hopes, and dreams. We aren’t who we were when we first met, or even yesterday. Don’t assume you know each other. Take pleasure in learning.
2. Focus on each other’s positive qualities, positive feelings for each other, and the good times you have shared. Getting locked into ‘negative sentiment override’ becomes an uphill battle (Gottman’s label for seeing our partner’s behaviors as all leading to something we don’t like, all negative).
3. Interact frequently, tell each other about your day, your thoughts, your experiences. Romance is fueled not by candlelight dinners, but by interacting with your partner in numerous little ways.
4. “Let your partner influence you.” Translation: share power. Be open to change, accepting your partner’s advice, letting go of the idea that your way is always the right way.
5. “Solve your solvable problems.” Translation: Communicate respectfully, use “I” statements, criticize behavior without criticizing your partner, take a break when you’re getting too upset, and compromise.
6. “Overcome gridlock.” Translation: understand your partner’s underlying feelings which are preventing resolution of the conflict.
7. “Create shared meaning.” Translation: share values, attitudes, interests, and traditions. Do house projects together, create a bucket list together, find things that you both like to do.
If Couples could see their Relationship Health as equally important as getting their kids to sporting events, or medical appointments, and as in need of maintenance as everyday tooth brushing-I might get to see them sooner, with fewer resentments and less disengagement. My job would need to provide fewer band aids, and tissue boxes……and ultimately, fewer break ups….