Breaking the cycle

If you don’t like a particular pattern you are in with your partner, instead of trying to change your partner,
look at how you can change what you are doing to create a change in the pattern.
Do the opposite of what you are currently doing and see what effect it has.

For example: Sara wants Jim to call more often when he is away on business trips, and when he doesn’t call she complains at him for not thinking of her and he ends up calling even less. So she breaks the pattern by stopping the complaining but being happy to hear from him. She doesn’t even mention how often he calls. Over time, this results in him calling more often.

So think about what current dysfunctional patterns you are in with your partner, what could you change in what you think, how you respond or react that might change the pattern?

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Marriage partner

We all spend time thinking about and illustrating the kind of partner we want to have. But how often, if ever, do we think about the kind of partner we want to be? If you have already chosen the partner you want to be with, now it is time to focus on the kind of partner you want to be. Make a list of your ideal self as husband or wife. How far off are you from that ideal self? Everyday is a day to bring yourself closer to becoming that person.

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Communication

As you know, good communication is vital to the health of a relationship. But what is good communication? One important element is respect. Without it, your communication can be very damaging to the relationship. No matter what the conflict or how intense the emotions, commit to treating your partner with respect and kindness as the first step toward healthy communication and a healthy marriage.

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Stop Grousing!

Grousing is to complain, nag, or criticize. These are deadly habits in relationships and over time can be highly destructive. So I challenge you to 3 days without grousing at your partner. Work to notice things done right rather than things done wrong, even if you have to take out a microscope to find them! Show appreciation and gratitude for your spouses contributions rather than finding fault. Do you think you can do it? (it’s not as easy as it sounds, and the longer you’ve been together, the harder it is!)

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Kindness

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
George Eliot

Think of one thing you can do for your spouse today to make his/her life easier. Do it without expectations, do it just to be kind and loving and giving. If you do this everyday, what kind of marriage might you have?

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Be on the same team

“Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly
understood that they are on the same side.” Zig Ziglar

In working to resolve conflict, change the goal from winning the argument (which means you are against each other) to being on the same team by seeking to understand and empathize with your partners perspective.

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Don’t go to bed angry

We have all heard the notion, don’t get to bed angry. I don’t disagree with the notion, however, not every conflict has a resolution that can be reached by sundown. So if you find yourself going round and round well into the night, don’t be afraid to put the argument to rest. Things often look different in the morning. After some rest and time to regroup, you can go back to the discussion in a calm manner, or sometimes you might just realize it wasn’t something even worth fighting about. So break the ice and get on with your day!

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What makes marriage work? Boundaries for conflict resolution

What are the boundaries for effective conflict resolution in marriage? Often, when couples get married, they come into the marriage with unspoken expectations. A common one that comes up is the right to free expression. I should and have the right to express every emotion that I have in the name of honesty. Hogwash!! This can be incredibly damaging to a relationship! Some of this may sound contradictory to that last post that talked about being your genuine selves with each other, but in there I mentioned there has to be boundaries. Well in this post we are talking about those boundaries with the understanding that unbridled self expression can be very damaging to a relationship. It might feel good in the moment, but what feels good in the moment is not necessarily for the benefit of the relationship. Everything you say and do in your relationship will either move you closer together or push you further apart. So ask yourself that question when you are about to “express” yourself. Is this going to bring you closer or push you further?

Here’s an example: when my husband is with the kids for a few hours, I come home and the house is a disaster. If I were to come home and start complaining that the house is a mess, he might feel resentful that I don’t appreciate the time he spent with the kids so I could have some time for myself. I might feel annoyed that the house is a mess, but for the sake of the relationship and my husband’s feelings, I keep that to myself and focus on appreciating his efforts. Is that disingenuous? I don’t think so, because both feelings exist, but I choose to express the ones that will draw me closer to my spouse.

Think about how you can do this in your marriage. Next post I will write about how to express dissatisfaction about something in the relationship without pushing your partner away.

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What makes marriage work? Part 2

Here is part 2 in the series of what makes marriage work. My goal is to dish out tidbits of information that will help you improve your marriage.

This post will focus on conflict resolution. Conflict. It can be a scarey word to a lot of people but the avoidance of conflict will result in killing the passion in your relationship. When two human beings come together and allow themselves to be their authentic selves, there is going to be friction. To try to avoid this results in walking on eggshells and not being able to share genuine feelings, thoughts, beliefs and ideas for fear you are going to rock the boat.

Rock the boat! If communcation is dealt with inside the boundaries of love, respect, kindness, and empathy, conflict can lead to deeper understanding of one another which leads to a deeper level of intimacy. But it means allowing each other to be who you are and not trying to change each other. It means respecting one another’s views, feelings, and opinions. It means allowing your partner to feel what they feel and express emotions in a genuine way.

Embrace healthy conflict and have a happy New Year!

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What Makes Marriage Work?

I am going to make this blog more of a series of posts because this is the elusive question with many answers. I will start by saying I will answer this question based on my own marriage and the marriages I see day in and day out in my practice.

Acceptance is a big one, so I will spend this post discussing the importance of accepting one another in marriage. When you first get together, the romance is flourishing and you are both putting your best foot forward. The newness of the relationship can cause us to put blinders on. As the relationship progresses and you continue to open up to, live with, and become intertwined with your partner, it is impossible to avoid seeing the flaws that were really there all along. We open the window of ourselves to our intimate partners. Then we do something crazy, now that we are in, we begin to pick each other apart and put a microscope on those flaws.

Imagine you allowed a visitor into your home, and once inside, they begin to tell you all the things that are wrong with it. You missed a spot painting over here on this wall. Oh, the carpet has a spot on it over here. Those pictures are hung all wrong! We would surely not invite them back! But yet we do this to our intimate partners once we are let into their worlds.

You nor your partner are perfect. You never will be. If you can accept that in one another, and focus on noticing and pointing out what you admire and love about your partner and let the other stuff go, you bring peace to your home.

Try for one full day to not complain at your partner. Can you do it? Can you go a whole day without complaining about something your partner has said or done? Now if you can continue to repeat that behavior, your will be on your way to making your marriage work. More to come…..

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