Are Your Relationship Conflicts Unsolvable? (b201)

Today’s relationship nugget for #marriagemondays is a break in the series of the seven principles, but is still drawn from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.”

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous four principles I’ve covered in my blog (click on the title to read the post):

Problems can be divided into all sorts of categories, but perhaps the most basic of all is this:

Solvable and Perpetual

Identifying which is which and dealing with each according to its kind is important. You will waste time, energy and emotion trying to solve a perpetual problem. You will continue fighting needlessly when you don’t move toward resolution on a solvable problem.

According to Dr. Gottman’s research, 69% of marital conflicts fall into the “perpetual” category. Couples he has studied come back years later and are still having the same conflicts. The difference for the satisfied couples is how they treat their perpetual conflicts. He writes:

These couples intuitively understand that problems are inevitably part of a relationship, much the way chronic physical ailments are inevitable as you get older. They are like a trick knee, a bad back, an irritable bowel, or tennis elbow. We may not love these problems, but we are able to cope with them, to avoid situations that worsen them, and to develop strategies and routines that help us deal with them. (p. 131)

Perpetual conflicts arise out of personality traits such as desire, taste, thought and feelings. A person is the way a person it. For instance, hubby doesn’t really want to go to wife’s extended family dinner because he doesn’t enjoy her family’s company. This is a perpetual problem. He may never grow to enjoy her family’s company. If wife gets angry at husband every time for not wanting to go, this will fester because hubby likes what hubby likes. It’s not a problem to be solved. It is a situation to deal with.

While husband’s taste in company may be a perpetual problem, whether husband goes is a solvable problem. The way discussion plays out about husband’s attendance will reveal a great deal about the health of their marriage. Are he and she both willing to compromise? Can they creatively seek alternative solutions? Is he willing to go if it is very important to her? Etc. (The way this conflict plays out will betray the level of presence of the four horsemen of marriage apocalypse. CLICK HERE to see my blog post on the four horsemen.)

In couples that are functioning well, perpetual problems often result in good natured ribbing and jibes when they arise. In couples that are not functioning well, the perpetual difference between partners becomes a perpetual source of argument and negative emotion.

Here’s my tip (not from Dr. Gottman): Analyze your conflict. If you are arguing about a personality trait, a taste, a desire, etc., you are probably trying to solve a perpetual problem. In my case, I am never going to like asparagus. It would be foolish of my wife to get angry and argue with me about liking asparagus. She would waste her breath and add a great deal of negative emotion to the day if she tried to change my mind about my own tastes. However, if she and I can talk about it, we may find she has other concerns. Perhaps she wants me to eat a couple of sprigs of asparagus at dinner as an example to our children? That is something I can do and, in fact, would admire her for caring enough to look for ways to encourage vegetable consumption in my children.

When you have a conflict, try to tease out the solvable and perpetual parts. And practice principles 1-4 above. You will do yourself, your partner and your relationship a great service.

This chapter, like the others, includes inventories and exercises to help you learn to distinguish between perpetual and solvable problems. I encourage you to read “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.”

 

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is helpful to you.

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1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

In Marriage, You Win by Yielding (b200)

Today’s relationship nugget for #marriagemondays is the fourth principle from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Dr. Gottman says that to make your marriage work, you need to:

Let Your Partner Influence You

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous three principles that I covered in my previous three #marriagemondays posts (click on the title to read the post):

The word here is partnership.

Here is the dictionary definition of “partner”:

“one of two or more people, businesses, etc., that work together or do business together”

There is no partnership if there is no influence. There is no “together” without being affected by your partner’s thoughts and feelings. In what sense can you call your spouse a “partner” if you don’t take his or her thoughts into account. To be married is to choose not to be an island.

In his research, Dr. Gottman found that:

Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct. (p. 100)

Dr. Gottman isn’t intentionally singling men out. Partnership runs both ways. But his research indicates that most women, even in troubled marriages, are sharing power with their spouse.

The idea of letting your partner influence you cuts across all religious systems, including those teaching that the man is the head of the house. This principle is about respecting your partner rather than ignoring their thoughts or bullying them into submission.

From Dr. Gottman’s research, men often don’t realize they are refusing to be influenced by their spouse.

In many cases, I suspect, men who resist letting their wives influence them are not even aware of this tendency. There are men who consider themselves feminists who interact with their wives in ways that belie this label. (p. 103)

This refusal to be influenced leads to all sorts of consequences that make marriages less satisfying and less likely to succeed in the long term. Spouses who don’t feel like partners can turn to nagging as a means of influence. Conflicts that could be peacefully resolved often blow up because of the constant negative relational pressure experienced by the spouse who doesn’t feel like a partner. Couples engage in power moves to get their way instead of partner talk to meet everyone’s needs.

How does one identify this problem and begin to move in a better direction?

Introspection and dialog are good ways to begin. Can you name a specific time recently when:

  1. You and your spouse disagreed on the best course of action, and you chose to act on your spouse’s idea rather than yours?
  2. You disagreed with your spouse, voiced your disagreement, and felt heard?

You can grow as a couple in sharing power by practicing habits 1, 2 & 3 (see above). Remember there may be ways to meet both your needs or meet in the middle somewhere. You will never know this if you don’t talk through issues with a realistic expectation of sharing power.

Letting your partner influence you will yield relational dividends every day. Your relationship will be smoother. Your conflicts will resolve more smoothly. It may seem paradoxical but, as Dr. Gottman writes, when you allow your partner to influence you, you are:

Yielding to win

Look for ways to compromise. Seek out points at which you can yield. Recognize that your relationship is so vital that some of your personal interests are rightly sacrificed to the good of the marriage.

And men, just put the toilet seat down when you are done. (or, better yet, close the lid, too.)

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is helpful to you.

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1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

One Little Habit That Will Nurture Health (and Romance!) in your Marriage (b199)

Today’s relationship nugget for #marriagemondays is the third principle from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” Dr. Gottman says that to make you marriage work, you need to learn to

Turn toward Each Other Instead of Away

If you haven’t read them, you should read the previous two principles that I covered in my previous two #marriagemondays posts (click on the title to read the post):

This idea of turning toward each other is really important. The entertainment industry uses dramatic moments to drive the plot forward. Dr. Gottman’s research shows that dramatic moments are not where love is nurtured and grown.

Love grows in the little moments of daily life. Dr. Gottman writes of love:

It is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life. (p. 80)

Real life love is built in the little connections of everyday life. Marriage is nurtured each time you connect with your spouse even in the smallest way.

The classic example is when a one person is sitting in a room reading and the partner walks in. Does the reader look up or not? It’s a small moment that turns out to be highly indicative of the state — and more importantly, the direction —  of the relationship.

Turning toward each other is the way you live every day. It’s sharing how your night’s sleep was. “Did you have any dreams?” It’s noticing possible needs of your spouse, no matter how small. “I’m going to the store, do you need anything?” It’s all the little moments in which you turn toward your spouse.

I was riding in a car with a friend on the way to spending the evening at his house. We decided to rend a movie. I suggested that we call his wife to ask her what she might like to watch. He said that she would say whatever he wanted to watch was fine. I suggested that he call her anyway because he communicates care by calling even if he’s pretty sure he knows what she’ll say. It turns out we were both right. She did say, “Whatever you want is fine,” and Dr. Gottman (whom I had not read yet) confirmed my instincts about turning toward your spouse.

These little moments add to the emotional bank account the couple shares. They create cushion for when conflict arises. But they do something else.

Surprisingly, Dr. Gottman found that these moments are also key to keeping romance alive. A walk on the beach can fan the flames of romance for a moment, but only if the emotional bank account is already full from the partners daily turning toward each other.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that Kelly and I try to sit down for a few minutes of face-to-face conversation every morning and every evening. As I’ve written before, we usually do a devotion in the morning and pray together in the evening. But much of it is small talk. How did you sleep? What’s on your schedule today? How was your day?

Dr. Gottman has practical advice and some personal/relationship tests you can take to gauge your level of turning toward each other. He also has noticed that couples who ignore each other’s emotional needs usually do so out of mindlessness, not malice.

So maybe this is your wake-up call to be more intentional about turning toward your spouse. It’s a simple habit, but it’s like compound interest for your relationship.

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is helpful to you.

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1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.

3 Bible Verses You Need the Day After the Election (b198)

3-bible-versesThis post is directed mostly at my Christian brothers and sisters, but much of it holds true for anyone willing to accept it.

One things is a near certainty on Wednesday, November 9. In our seriously divided country, approximately half of the people will see their candidate headed for the White House and half the people will see their candidate giving a concession speech.

First…

Whether your candidate wins or loses, the people to whom you will be talking are still God’s dearly beloved. As such, the way we you like to be treated is the best gauge for how you treat them.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. — Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

Do you like it when people gloat over you? Then don’t be a gloating winner. Do you enjoy people being sore and bitter losers? Then don’t be one.

We are all still citizens of one country. After this election season, we still have to live together. Following the “Golden Rule” is one of the best ways to live together in peace.

Second…

If your candidate does not win, it is not an irredeemable calamity. All governmental structures and elections are temporary. Nations are temporary. Life, itself, is temporary. God is still at work in this world and in your life.

God is still fulfilling what Christians trust to be true:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28 (ESV)

So do not give in to moping, depression or anxiety. Our lives, our souls and our God are all much bigger than this election.

Third…

The job of the Christian will not have changed regardless of who becomes president. Further, the circumstances of our Christian work are going to continue to change even if your preferred candidate gets to sit in the oval office for the next four years.

The circumstances of our country and culture may change the way Christians go about their work, but the focus of the work does not change:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, — Matthew 28:19 (ESV)

How will you live out your Christian faith if Hillary Clinton is elected? How will you live out your Christian faith if Donald Trump is elected? How will you live out your Christian faith if nobody gets 270 electoral college votes and the House of Representatives chooses Jill Stein or Gary Johnson to serve as president?

Regardless of who wins the election, our earthly assignment continues. We continue to love God and love others so that by any means we might win people over to following Jesus.

So, my friends, rest in peace. If this was helpful, share it.

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John

One Crucial Key for Healing – and Growing – a Marriage (b197)

Last week I wrote about the importance of enhancing your “love maps” in your marriage. (CLICK HERE for that blog post.) This series of #marriagemondays blog posts is drawn from Dr. John Gottman’s book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.”

This week I would like to introduce you to principle #2: Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration.

On first glance, this seems odd. My intuition tells me that I am either fond of my mate or not. I admire my spouse or I don’t.

Dr. Gottman’s research tells a different story.

As a marriage grows more challenging, the fondness and admiration people feel for each other can get lost in the haze of difficulty, disagreement and disappointment.

Couples who are having difficulty often forget how fond they were and how they admired each other. It’s difficult to put real effort into healing a relationship with someone for whom you have no fondness or admiration. Reconnecting with that fondness and admiration is crucial to healing struggling marriages. It can also fan the flame of love in healthy marriages.

The good news is that most couples can reconnect with feelings of fondness and admiration for each other. Much of the work involves how couples remember their history.

Dr. Gottman writes:

I’ve found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well. When happy memories are distorted, it’s a sign that the marriage needs help. (p. 641)

Everything you experience is a mixed bag. Do you choose to remember the good things or do you hang onto things you can complain about?

One of the great privileges of being human is the ability to choose what one thinks about. In the case of struggling marriages, choosing to call to mind instances of fondness and admiration for your spouse can make all the difference.

Here are some abbreviated versions of Dr. Gottman’s recommended exercises from the book:

  1. Think of a characteristic of your partner that you are fond of or admire. Write down an incident that illustrations that characteristic.
  2. Recall, relive or relate two or three happy or fulfilling times you’ve had with your partner. The times need not be recent. You can go all the way back to your wedding or when you first started dating.
  3. Talk with each other about marriage as a concept. What do you expect marriage to do in your life? What about your parents’ marriages do you want to emulate? Avoid? Together, chart and discuss the ups and downs of your marriage.

In his book, Dr. Gottman includes seven weeks of thoughts and tasks to build fondness and admiration. They aren’t large and difficult things. Week one starts like this:

Monday

  • Thought: I am genuinely fond of my partner.
  • Task: List one characteristic you find endearing or lovable.

Tuesday

  • Thought: I can easily speak of the good times in our marriage.
  • Task: Pick one good time and write a sentence about it.

Wednesday

  • Thought: I can easily remember romantic, special times in our marriage.
  • Task: Pick one such time and think about it.

This isn’t rocket science. Nor is it trickery or mental manipulation.

By building a pattern of positive thoughts, you very likely will find your fondness and admiration for your partner growing for real because you will be specifically thinking about how you are fond of and admire your partner.

Fondness and admiration aren’t the only things needed to heal a hurting relationship. But, reconnecting with the fondness and admiration that drew you together in the first place is a vital part of a healthy, healing, growing relationship.

Here’s something you can try if you haven’t gotten ahold of Dr. Gottman’s book (his book includes many exercises): Keep a fondness and admiration journal for a month (or just start with a week). Every morning or evening (one time might be easier than the other), write down something positive about your partner: a fond memory, an admirable character trait. At the beginning of the month, write down how you are feeling about your partner. Then, at the end of the month, write down how you are feeling about your partner and compare it to the beginning of the month.

I’ve betting you will notice a difference in just one month (probably even a week!). I’d love to hear about it in the comments below this blog if you’d care to share. 🙂

Next Monday: Principle #3.

I hope you are enjoying #marriagemondays. I know I am!

 

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope it is helpful to you.

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1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Note: Links on this page may be affiliate links. See Disclosure page for details.