Hopefully you have watched all the videos on the 100 day challenge. Just to refresh your memory, since there 100 days between Valentine’s Day and Memorial Day(hence the 100 day challenge) you can improve the relationship that you are in just by doing a few simple things.
On Today’s show we will examine how technology is ruining your relationship- how people are spending too much time with their phones and not each other.
We’re going to talk about phones and relationships and most importantly, how to improve them.
Let’s watch this clip to see how couples often have conflict:
The “rabbit season/duck season” argument occurs often among couples. They go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, usually with someone getting “blown up”. This ping pong match features lots of conflict which go nowhere. Just like rabbit and duck season, nothing is solved, there is no resolution of the conflict, and there are no negotiations. Things just go boom!
What is the cost of that boom? More conflict, less communication, holding grudges and resentment, less intimacy, and further distance between partners– a loud boom indeed for a relationship! The ironic part of this conflict is that many of the topics in the argument are pretty worthless! It is conflict for the sake of conflict and conflict in order to win. Please pause from reading this and think about the last five fights that you and your partner have had……
How many of these involved “big ticket items”—addiction, mental illness, infidelity, domestic violence?
How many of these involved a misunderstanding/misperception of who was going to do what /when?
If you have big ticket item fights you should be attending regular couples and individual therapy –Schedule that now.
If you are having the “rabbit season/ duck season” fights—explain to YOURSELF why you are doing this. Please do not rationalize, justify and blame your partner for HIS/HER actions. Please ask yourself……Why are I doing this? What is MY part in the fight? What is MY ISSUE that keeps coming up? Why do I want to engage in this conflict? –Do you want to know? (Do you need to know?)
YOU have the power to change YOUR behavior! If you do that, you can change the relationship! (If you change one part of a relationship, that changes other parts of the relationship — a lengthy conversation for another time.)
At this point, you may be feeling defensive and wondering why YOU have to do all the work? What about your partner? Shouldn’t s/he be doing some of this SELF examination? You may want your partner to do this, but is your partner open to this inquiry? If s/he is willing, communicate your desire for him/her to change in a loving, soft, gentle way. No need for another boom. If your partner is not open to change, then you have two choices—keep having booms over small ticket items or change YOURSELF. Start with the questions from the previous paragraph. Identify that issue. Work on making it better. Since you are looking at yourself, ask the hard question—is there any truth to what my partner is saying about me? . If I’m accused of being loud and obnoxious and insensitive, is there truth in that? If so, how can I change that? Can I be warmer, more caring, and more empathic? Can I be a better listener? Do I have to win every round of every fight? (You don’t)
If you work on changing yourself, then something magical is going to happen—you will feel better. You will feel better about the world, you will feel better about your partner, and you will feel better about the relationship. You will see how worthless the “rabbit season/duck season” argument is and how it is much better to appreciate the positives that your partner brings to the table, not his/her deficiencies. You can also acknowledge those positives, and validate his/her behaviors that you appreciate (instead of criticizing your partner repeatedly)
What do you have to lose? — Many pointless hours of frustration, stress, agita
People can talk about the day; “how was your day?”
They can address feelings as part of that day; “I was really angry at my boss today…”
They can share more personally; “The reason I was angry at my boss is he had that smug look on his face like my dad did”.
They can share their deepest darkest feelings “that look, that smugness, I wanted to slap it off of him, like how my dad slapped me, how he beat me, how he embarrassed me in front of my friends, all with that look”
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#008000″ class=”” size=””]in order to have intimacy you have to be vulnerable[/pullquote]
To go from superficial to intimate requires a loving, trusting relationship. It requires that the listener listen and be able to hear what’s being said. The listener needs to be nonjudgmental and be unconditional. The speaker has to know that what they are saying is safe. They have to know that it will be heard and not used against them in a future fight. If he or she is able to take the risk they will have the intimacy and closeness that is necessary in a good healthy, stable relationship.
This is really risky and it is WAY easier to have superficial, a little off the top relationships. It is even easier to tell people what they want to hear, and take no risks at all. In this video from Grammy Award winner Tracy Bonham, she tells the mother what she wants to hear:
In this conversation between mother and daughter, the daughter gives all of the right answers. She tells her mom, how great she is doing, how “everything’s fine” . She is able to be authentic and personal with the audience as she tells us all of he pain. It is only at the end of the song when she says “I miss you I love you” is she communicating in a genuine way.
We ultimately get to chose the quality of our relationships. Do we want the mother -daughter relationship in “Mother Mother” or do we want something else? If we want something else, then it requires healthy risk taking. It requires having the communication skills to handle the storms that may occur–the misperceptions, the arguments, the conflicts. It requires speaking in ways that our partners can hear. It requires the hardest skill of all, listening.
If we listen and we trust, our relationships can grow. They can grow deeper, and become more meaningful. Meaningful interpersonal relationships are what we need to be good people, to have a good quality of life, and have inner peace. It starts with the risk.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have seen many couples over the years. Not surprisingly, the ones that come to my office have conflicts with their partner. The issue that needs most work is how the couple can communicate better. One of the patterns that couples repeat is reactive communication. Through our sessions, we get to figure out why one or both of the partners are reacting so strongly. Eric Berne, a psychologist, in the 1960’s, developed a type of therapy called Transactional Analysis. Berne suggests that it is the transactions between people that get them to react in communications. He hypothesized that all people had 3 internal states-Parent, Adult, Child and that these are triggered in couples communications.
Nick Davies, a psychologist in Australia, does a great job of explaining these internal states in the following video:
Let’s take a look at the following slides to see specifically how this works: [click on the slideshare button in the lower left hand corner to hear the narration]
You have been married for many years. You begin to recognize that you are not as happy as you used to be. You start examining the pros and cons of the relationship. Your partner has many pluses and a few chunky negatives. You are unsure of what to do. Follow this advice for some good ideas about your next steps.
You need a sounding board to air out your thoughts and feelings. As you go through this process, you may also change your mind on a regular basis. A good therapist will help you with both your feelings and with your decision making process. If your partner is willing to attend counseling, then both of you can go through this change process together. If he or she is unwilling, go to counseling by yourself. It can only help.
Do work on identifying your goals
Most people get married and stop identifying what they want. Some people become very partner driven and forget about their own needs and wants. It’s important to identify what you want and what’s most important to you. Do you want security, independence, happiness, partnership, a friend? Can you be OK by yourself?
Identify what’s a need versus what’s a preference.
Do keep yourself in good shape
Your decision making process is largely a mental and emotional event. Make sure you keep up your physical part since mental and emotional stress will drain your physical self. It’s not uncommon to lose weight or feel tired and dragging during this process. Make sure that you exercise, eat healthy, get sleep, and minimize your use of caffeine and alcohol in order to have the energy you need to make a good healthy decision.
Do connect with others
If you are going to go through this major process, you are going to need support. Who are your support people? Consider talking to friends, relatives, etc. Find your go to people and share your thoughts and feelings with them. Ideally, find people who have stayed and those that have left. Seek out a support group. There are some amazing message boards where you can be totally anonymous and hear and learn from others’ experiences.
Do consult with an attorney
Find an attorney who specializes in family law. Since knowledge is power, get empowered. Find out the rules of the game. How does alimony and child support work? Learn about the business of divorce while you are sorting out your emotions. Sometimes knowing that it is possible to get a divorce opens what was thought to be a closed door. By contrast, knowing what a divorce might do to you and the family might get you closer to working on the marriage.
Do not get into another relationship
When people are in the decision process, they are most vulnerable. It’s easy to share pain with another person who has similar pain. The misery loves company approach seems to work to find the fix to the problem. Due to their newness, these extra relationships just seeks to cause more confusion and ultimately more pain.
Do not nag, scold, or complain to your partner
When a person is unhappy in their marriage, the person they want to tell is their partner. However, how many times does the partner need to hear about the unhappiness? I’m guessing that unless that person is hearing impaired, lacking mental capacity, or suffering from neurological damages, that number is not a high one. Why add to your own frustration by being a broken record?
Do not try to fix your partner
It’s been said many times, “If only he would stop drinking…”, “If only he would get a job…”, or “If only she wasn’t so depressed things would be so much better.” When you love someone, you want them to get better. But you can’t fix them. Encourage them to find solutions to their own problems.
Do not medicate your pain
When confusion, fear, sadness, and anger are the feelings that predominate, who wants to feel these? No one. The easiest way to get rid of these is to use quick fix band aids like drinking, drugging, shopping, spending, eating, sex, relationships and work. They all work, kind of, but ultimately cause other and bigger problems. Short term pleasure usually leads to long term pain.
Do not isolate
Sometimes you see that many other people have their lives together. They are either happily married or successfully divorced. As a result, you think that you are the only one in this state of limbo. This constant stay or go makes you want to tell no one, and keep all of your pain inside. If you do this, your pain will only grow bigger and develop into a bigger problem. You really don’t need more problems, do you?
Making a decision about changing a relationship is one of the hardest things that people do. When there are kids involved, that decision making process is even harder. Give yourself the time that you need to identify your goals, identify your actions, and ultimately make yourself happy. Although there will be some tough days, you will make the right decision. Remember change is possible.