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"Notes #33

In every copy of my new book, "Communication & Relationships" that I signed sitting in a variety of locations (Shapes (10), restaurants (6), banks, malls (4), and even some bookstores), before I signed my name I wrote, "The mantra on every couples wall ought to be: How can I make your day better?"
I believe that sentence is magic. DR

One thing unhappy couples have in common is their fixation on the past and what ultimately hasn't worked in their relationship. They blame and re-blame on the same issues and find it impossible to think that in the future the relationship could be anything but a continuation of what it is-a failing relationship. They refuse to believe their partner could change (well it has to be the partner's fault because they themselves are not doing anything wrong). They come to truly believe that their partner's behaviour is cast in stone, unchangeable and (mostly) the partner's fault. Unfortunately, they don't see that much of their partner's behaviour is in response to their own behaviour (and that their own response is a response to their partner's response, and on and on-a cycle of dysfunctional responses).

In my experience, if one truly believes their partner's anger, or inability to "be close" is a personality flaw, then there is little chance for change to occur in the relationship. However, if they allow themselves to be open to the fact that they themselves and their behaviour may be contributing to their partner's attitude and behaviour, then there is an opening, a starting point for change.

I explain it as a cycle where one person affects the other, affects the other, affects the other, and so on. One person does something, says something, and the other person reacts to it and the cycle begins. That is why I emphasize to couples that reacting is out!

 Don't React (knee jerk, almost always negative/critical/judgemental)-
Do Respond (think things out, respond appropriately).DR
What happens when we fight is that we try to make the other person realize that our way of doing things is the correct way. Arguments escalate to a point where there is no longer an attempt to exchange ideas but merely to proclaim a winner (and of course a loser.) DR


Listening is a way of loving.


Research on Helping Distressed Couples

Neil Jacobson, a relationship researcher, analysed his own interventions for helping distressed couples. He learned that most of the couples he treated relapsed in no time, except for one strange group that didn't. These couples maintained a practice where every night they had a "stress-reducing conversation," in which each partner downloaded the highlights and low lights of their day and shared their external worries, the ones emanating from outside the marriage.

Contrary to the norm, listening partners didn't try to solve anything. They simply asked for more detail, especially about the speaker's emotions, while listening and nodding empathetically. These couples remained happier in the long term.

Guy Bodenmann, a Swiss researcher, cultivated "coping-oriented couples therapy", a different style of marriage counselling that emphasized couples talking together to reduce their stress. It worked beautifully- and no wonder. Biologically, we humans are pack animals. We depend on each other the way wolves and primates do. Bodenmann's and Jacobson's work suggests that couples need each other intensely, especially during times of stress (like COVID-19). They don't need help from their partner to solve their own problems. They each need help to feel less alone.
                                                             The Washington Post


In a relationship, differences are something to be respected and cherished, not something to be eliminated or ruled out.

Retread is a previously shared article--sometime over the last 12 years--that I feel is worth repeating. I put it at the end so it can be easily ignored if you have already read it.


       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 lead 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.
     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 & Relationships"

Whoever is loudest and longest or sullen and silent the longest-wins (not really)!

Respect gets eroded and a defeatist "What's the sense in talking to you?" attitude is developed,

generally by the person who loses most often, and communication ceases.