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Newsletter Vol #77 Thats How I See It!

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                                                                                               Couples Edition

Talk To Me!

     In order for couples to improve their communication, you have to provide clear directions for them on how to get there! The standard therapeutic tool of, "OK, your homework is to meet each day at 10 pm (kids finally in bed and after an exhausting day) and then talk to each other." No! This will not work! Get ready for some classic "go-nowhere" replies: "Yep! Nope! Nothing! OK!" That leads fairly quickly to a strained silence.
     I have found that people often do a lot of intellectual thinking and planning with clear expectations for their partner, but they don't necessarily share those thoughts with them! What I suggest is that couples create a daily routine where they take time to go through a series of questions at an appropriate time -- at the supper table?
     By asking and answering these questions, they will at least attend to the many expectations they have for each other, while sharing and communicating with one another. Start with the mundane details of your day and end up by sharing your feelings.
Questions to ask your partner daily:

How was your day?
What are you thinking that needs doing tonight/tomorrow?
How can we help each other?
What happened in your day that we both need to know about (particularly to do with kids, family, friends and neighbours)?
What expectations do you have for me this evening? Over the next 24 hours?

Concept from Dr. Rosin's book Communication And Relationships.

Date Night

Date night is a staple in the bag of the techniques used by couples' counsellors. I have for many years encouraged couples to set time aside to do things together without their kids - date night. However, in the last 8 to 10 years I have found myself spending a little less time promoting a date night and spending more energy teaching  interpersonal communication skills. To me, communication is at the heart of a successful relationship. But time together with a variety of activities in a potentially fun atmosphere also has great merit and is quite necessary to a healthy relationship.

So when I look at this concept of Date Night, I see it needing to have the following characteristics:

* Regularity- begrudgingly setting time aside for a date night once every 2 to 3 months isn't going to cut it. You'll need to make time on a regular and consistent basis to enjoy one another's company.
* Variety- doing the same thing over and over can become monotonous. This is true in every area of life. Activities that were once fun and invigorating can become mere routine. So spice up your couple time with a wide range of interesting activities.
* Adventure- you don't have to have an elaborate or expensive activity, but you do need to have it contain an element of the new, the unusual, or the unexpected.
* Fun- research shows that couples who engage in fun activities together enjoy deeper intimacy. So whether it's an evening at home or a date night, work at it to make it fun. (Kids laugh an average of 475 times in a day; adults not so much-18 times). I know it sounds odd to say "You need to work at having fun", but adults left to their own devices-18 laughs per day- need to consciously, on purpose, provide an environment that would be enjoyable and fun to both parties.

So what do people do on a Date Night?
-- They go somewhere different for dinner. Take turns selecting the restaurant or, for that matter, the activity for the evening.
-- Remember to set up the evening so that both of you enjoy the activity. Here are a few ideas:
     - play a round of miniature golf
     - attend a lecture, play, or comedy club
     - take a pottery class together
     - attend a sporting event, remembering that both individuals must enjoy the event
     - go shopping at a thrift store
     - have tea at a proper teahouse
     - take in a concert, go to the horse races, or relax on a beach
Your turn. You think of some fun things you and your partner could do.

After the activity/evening, perhaps over a cup of coffee, here are some questions that might be interesting to discuss:

What was your favourite part of the evening?
What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn't know about me before?
What are some of the things we enjoy doing together?
What memories do these activities evoke?
What are some new activities that we'd like to consider for a future date?
How can we make sure that we make spending enjoyable time together a regular part of our marriage?

(Questions and parts of the article inspired by Greg Smalley)

Good Listening Skills

Good "Active Listening" can strengthen relationships, resolve conflict, be a way of offering support to someone in crisis, or just be a way of saying I love you and care about you.

Elizabeth Scott in her article, "How To Build Friendships With Good Listening Skills" offers the following suggestions:

1.Listen! Listen! Listen! Maintain eye contact, resist the urge to give advice, and just listen.
2. Reframe what you hear. Summarize and repeat back your understanding of what the person is saying so they know you've heard them, and focus on the emotions they might be feeling.
3. Ask about feelings. Ask them to expand on what they're feeling. Asking about their feelings provides a good emotional release and may be more helpful than just focusing on the facts of their situation.
4. Keep the focus on them. Rather than delving into a related story of your own, keep the focus on them until they feel better. You can reference something that happened to you if you bring the focus back to them quickly. They will appreciate the focused attention, and this will help them feel genuinely cared for and understood.
5. Help brainstorm rather than giving advice in the beginning, which cuts off further exploration of feelings and other communication. Wait until they've gotten their feelings out, and then help them brainstorm solutions. If you help them come up with ideas and look at the pros and cons of each, they're likely to come up with a solution they feel good about. Or they might feel better after just being able to talk and feeling heard.

Here are just a few thoughts of my own on active listening.
     -Be in the same room when you're talking to someone. Put the newspaper down, turn the TV off, and give the person your eyes if someone wants to talk to you.
     -Don't be rehearsing your response when the speaker is talking; it detracts from your listening.
     -Don't interrupt the speaker just because you agree or disagree with them; let them finish their thought.
     -Don't give advice unless specifically asked for it. What would work for you might not work for the other person. Your job as a "good listener" is to have the speaker feel "heard" by you, not to receive your advice. Brainstorming is definitely more helpful than advice giving.

    Before you can hear anything, you first have to listen
                             (Dan Rosin, "Finding Balance...")

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Responding to a survey is quite motivating for the editor.

Here's one for those of you dating in the 50's and early 60's -You need to be able to remember the era to really enjoy this....
It was a hot Saturday evening in the summer of 1958 and Fred had a date with Peggy Sue. He arrived at her house and rang the bell. "Oh, come on in!" Peggy Sue's mother said as she welcomed Fred in. "Peggy will be down in a minute. So, what are you and Peggy planning to do tonight?" she asked.
"Oh, probably catch a picture show and then maybe grab a bite to eat at the malt shop, maybe take a walk on the beach..."
"Peggy likes to screw, you know," Mom informed him."
Is that so?" asked Fred, incredulous.
"Yes," said the mother. "As a matter of fact, she'd screw all night if we let her!"
"Well, thanks for the tip," Fred said as he began thinking about alternate plans for the evening
"Have fun, kids," the mother said as they left.
Half an hour later, a completely dishevelled Peggy Sue burst into the house and slammed the front door behind her. "The TWIST, Mom, The TWIST!" she angrily yelled at her mother. "THE DAMN DANCE IS CALLED THE TWIST!!!"

**Next week, more articles dealing with the health of relationships--Good Listening Skills; Being Married is a Health Aide; After the Affair; Love Is.

Have a great week and remember to join me at Shapes, 1150 Nairn Ave., on Thursday, October 5, from 8 am to 8 pm. Stop by and pick up your "Free" copy of Communication And Relationships.

Unless I get offered another location to promote the book, the next time I offer Communication And Relationships to you and the general public, it will cost you $19.95. So, "Come on down!"