Category Archives: Marriage

The Practice of Intentional Dialogues

~ Zen Habits By Leo Babauta ~


The Practice of Intentional DialoguesIt is so important to find methods for communicating with your partner to build trust and closeness. Leo Babuta’s article below describes the practice of Intentional Dialogues. 
This practice asks you to listen to your partner, and respond back with words showing that you heard what was said, and at times repeating back what you heard. I can remember a few scenarios in which I was so frustrated with my partner, but when I did take the time to understand and to make sense of why he did things a certain way, it made a world of difference with my feelings about the situation. Of course, there’s more to it, so I encourage you to read the full article below about Intentional Dialogues and practice it yourself. ~Terri

Relationship Salve: The Practice of Intentional Dialogues By Leo Babauta

A couple months ago, I started a daily practice with my wife Eva called the Intentional Dialogue process, aimed at helping us become better at talking about difficult issues. Now, Eva and I have a great marriage, and we love each other deeply. But like any couple, sometimes we feel frustrated or hurt by the other person, or sometimes we don’t feel we’re being heard. Every person in a long-term relationship knows what I’m talking about. In fact, this same dynamic applies to any long-term friend, any family relationship with a good degree of intimacy. Difficult conversations are touchy.

Things shifted drastically when I learned something simple and yet profound, from talking to renowned relationship/men’s coach John Wineland a couple months ago …

Most couples violate a basic tenet: I’m not going to make you feel wrong.

Think about that for a minute. When we get into an argument, we’re basically making our loved one feel like they’re wrong. We might say, “Sure, but actually …” and then go on to explain how their point of view or actions are all wrong. When we criticize them, we’re saying they’re wrong. Who likes to feel this way? It can especially hurt when our trusted partner is making us feel wrong. And if you’re like most couples, you might be doing this every day.

So how does the Intentional Dialogue process help with this? It helps you communicate to your partner (and really try to believe yourself) that they are not wrong. That how they feel makes sense.

The Intentional Dialogue Process

I’m not an expert on this process, but here’s how we’ve been practicing it:

  1. Have one person be the “sender” and the other be the “receiver”. If one of you has a frustration, you ask the other person to have an Intentional Dialogue. By agreement, the other person can ask to do it later when they’re not busy, but they have to pick a time within the next 24 hours. Commit to doing this process when the other person needs you.
  2. Prepare for your role. The sender should give some thought to how they might concisely state their frustration in the beginning. The receiver should do their best to show up ready to listen and empathize and to put aside their own story about whatever the issue is so they can hear the other person’s side. This can be difficult.
  3. The sender shares and the receiver listens. When the dialogue starts, the sender shares what they’re frustrated or hurt about, by saying something like, “When you did this, I felt this way.” And then continues to try to share their experience and perspective. The receiver just listens, trying to really understand their partner with an open heart, without trying to explain themselves. Just try to understand.
  4. The receiver mirrors and confirms. When the sender is done talking, the receiver should try to mirror back what the sender said, in the sender’s words. Yes, that can mean just repeating what they said, without putting it into your own words or interpreting it. Try to be true to what they said. It helps them feel heard and can help them show you where you misheard them. If the sender has a lot to say, they might do it in chunks, allowing the receiver to mirror the first part of what they have to say before going on to the next part.
  5. The magic words are: “That makes sense.” When the sender is done talking, and the receiver has mirrored their words and gotten confirmation that they got it right … that’s when the magic happens. That’s when the receiver simply says, “That makes sense.” Those three words are what the sender really wants to hear. Now, the receiver doesn’t have to agree with the receiver, he or she just has to see that it’s understandable that they feel this way, given their perspective. That’s all. If you’re really trying to understand the other person’s perspective, you can see that they’re not crazy, that how they feel makes sense.
  6. The receiver then does empathy. Next, the receiver will try to give empathy to the sender, after saying, “That makes sense.” For example, “It does make sense that you’d feel that way … I imagine you felt hurt when I did that, maybe you were hoping I’d be more supportive, and you felt abandoned, rejected by me, frustrated that I wasn’t listening to you. And when I didn’t want to hear your side and just accused you of complaining again, that probably felt like I didn’t want to understand you, and felt like I was judging and criticizing you for feeling the way you do.” At the end of this step, the receiver says, “Did I get that right? Is there anything else you wish I had said?” And the sender can then fill in any holes or correct the receiver’s perceptions. That’s it!
  7. You can switch roles if needed. At this point, if the sender feels heard and understood, the receiver might want to share their side of the story. And so he or she can ask to switch roles and then start the process from the beginning.

The Benefits of the Process

You might notice that in the above process, there’s no solution seeking, just understanding. So how does this help if there’s no resolution to the conflict? What Eva and I have found is that this process changes everything. We start to respect the other person’s point of view, we feel understood and not frustrated, and we feel a sense of intimacy and trust with each other. That’s profound. It really changes how we feel about each other, how we relate to each other. It means we can work together with trust to find a solution, but sometimes we don’t even need a solution because all we really wanted was to feel understood.

A 40-Day Practice

John recommended a 40-day challenge … commit with your partner to do this Intentional Dialogue process every day for 40 days. It means deliberately practicing every day, even when you’re not having a conflict. The idea is that once you learn the process and gain trust in each other to work through the process, you’ll be more likely to use it when there is a conflict. And more skilled at doing it by then.

Eva and I did it for several weeks, but then got derailed by a series of visitors that threw off our schedule. We’re getting back on track and are committed to using this process to strengthen our relationship. But even doing it for a few weeks … it changes things a lot.

I hope you’ll give this a shot. It’s my hope that you’ll find the intimacy and trust that Eva and I have found.

Why it’s important to CARE

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

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In our last post we talked about the “expectation filter” and how unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations have a tendency to change our perception of, and possibly even be detrimental to, our relationship.

However, wouldn’t it be somewhat of an unrealistic expectation in itself to think that we would never set expectations for our relationship or our partner?

The fact is, having expectations can be a good thing. Expectations not only create accountability and establish boundaries, but they can also inspire us to be better people, if not for ourselves then for our partner.

So then what’s the problem? Shouldn’t that mean that the more epic our expectations, the greater our opportunity for growth? Well, not necessarily.

Imagine that you and your partner have just purchased your first home together. You can’t wait to have more space after living in a one-bedroom apartment for 3 years. With more space, however, comes more work—new places to collect clutter, more rooms to keep clean, plus the entirely new addition of yard work and house maintenance! You’re both aware of these new tasks, and you both have expectations for how they’ll get done.

Cue the ominous tones.

You expect that you’ll split the work based on skill and interest. Your partner expects that you will simply tell him/her which tasks to take care of as they come up.  The thing is, you have not shared these expectations with each other. So now your lawn needs mowing, and you’re waiting for your partner to do it because he/she is the more outdoorsy one; meanwhile your partner is thinking you’re going to do it since you’ve not delegated the task to him/her.

Cue the chorus of “But I thought you were going to do it!”

As you can see, this situation can be avoided by communicating (assertively and respectfully, of course) about your expectations. This accomplishes two things: 1) It makes both of you aware of each other’s expectations. 2) It allows you to adjust expectations so that they are more likely to be met. To put it simply, remember the acronym CARE: Communicate About Realistic Expectations

Through communication, you might realize that you are both harboring unrealistic expectations: perhaps your partner’s work schedule will make it difficult for him/her to always get the mowing done in a timely manner, and your partner might realize that it would be unrealistic and inefficient to wait to do tasks until you ask. Together, you come up with a new, more realistic expectation that the task will be shared—whomever is available when it needs to be done will do it.

As long as you communicate about what you expect from your relationship and each other and make those expectations reasonable and realistic, you not only develop positive habits such as assertive communication, you also create an environment conducive to both relationship and personal growth.

Not enough

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

Today, I woke up and thought, I didn’t get enough sleep. I got ready for the day, made breakfast, and ran out the door thinking, I don’t have enough time to get to work by 8:00am. Once I got to the office, I glanced at my schedule for the day and thought; I don’t have enough time in the workday to complete all of these tasks.

My common thought throughout this morning was “not enough.”

It’s really unfortunate that my first four hours of this beautiful Tuesday were spent feeling largely inadequate.

I recently read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, a researcher who focuses on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. This book resonated with me for a variety of reasons, but one idea in particular spiked my interest with its applicability into the context of relationships – the idea of “not enough.” Thinking back to my experience this morning, I’m sure you can relate, but I started wondering if others can relate to this feeling of inadequacy in their relationships?

I’m not successful enough.not enough

I’m not communicating enough.

I’m not attractive enough.

I’m not smart enough.

I don’t support my family enough.

I don’t encourage my husband enough.

These ideas infiltrate our minds through mainstream media and social media. We see couples romanticized in television episodes and idealized in #RelationshipGoals posts. Sometimes, we compare our relationship to past relationships or to a fantasied idea in our mind. We even compare our relationships to previous versions of themselves – which isn’t healthy either. If you are like me and sometimes feel like you are “not enough,” then you probably have spent some time comparing and contrasting your relationship and yourself.

Brené takes this idea of “not enough” and identifies three components: shame, comparison, and disengagement. She also provides hope – feeling “not enough” can be challenged with awareness, commitment, and work.

My husband and I are committed to our marriage and each other; we exemplify this by working on our relationship a lot – a perk of the job I suppose! In spite of that, I feel burdened by shame, comparisons, and disengagement. This burden translates to feeling “not enough.” From checking in regularly with my husband, I know, every so often, he feels this way too. What I’m realizing is that we need to focus more on being aware. We need to become more mindful of when we feel shame, over compare, and disengage.

If we become more aware, be vulnerable in the process, and knock out some of that “not enough” feeling, I know our relationship will be stronger.

Watch Out For These 3 Marriage Myths

~ By Terri Mudge ~

shutterstock_276297347-wRelationships are hard work and when we find out that many of the known “facts” are wrong, it changes your perspective! Here are 3 of the most important myths of marriage that I have found often in my practice and you need to know.

MYTH #1  Conflict Means You Are in a Bad Relationship.

Conflict is a part of all relationships.   It is unrealistic to think that you could have a perfectly, peaceful existence with no conflict. In fact, I am always curious if there’s no conflict, I am looking to see which partner is not speaking their mind, or is being submissive.

There are positive ways to fight fairly, to get your point across while still respecting your partner’s opinions. I recommend setting up rules, similar to having rules in a football game, to allow you to play the game without being seriously injured. Setting up the right system will allow each person to communicate about differences, negotiate and/or compromise, so that you both get your needs met. If you continue to have destructive conflict, you will be continuing to erode your love for each other. There is another way.

 

MYTH #2 All We Need Is Love

Love is a fickle feeling. Love is something that has to be worked at on a regular basis, and most couples aren’t doing the needed work, to keep the love alive. Many of us get into the rut of busy-ness or distraction, and forget to put in the time and energy that’s needed to make a relationship thrive.

Commitment should be a constant, while loving feelings can come and go. I often use the metaphor of parenting, to examine this commitment level. If you are a parent, Do you always  feel like being loving towards your child? When they are cranky, mean, or disrespectful, do you want to sit down and talk to them, or play a game of Monopoly? Or do you, like me, sometimes feel like running away screaming? But, you don’t.  You stick with your children and care for them, even when you don’t feel like it.

It’s the same in our marriages. We don’t have to always feel like it, but we do need to act loving – as much as possible, if we are to maintain overall good feelings and a long-term healthy relationship.

 

MYTH #3 All Conflicts in Relationships Can Be Resolved

Actually, the majority of our relationship problems are recurrent.  John Gottman, who has researched relationships extensively, has found that 69% of conflicts between partners fall into the category of what he calls, perpetual problems.

Even though, this could cause a lot of frustration, I also think it can give us hope. It lets us know that we are not alone in this frustration, of fighting over the same things, over and over again. It’s important to acknowledge, if these “problems” never go away, it’s Okay! We can do better at talking and listening, and we can be better at respecting each other about those issues, and we can even be better at negotiating around those ‘stuck’ places.

Want more of the same?

These myths and more were included in the article:  Debunking 12 Myths About Relationships, by John Gottman, a professor of psychology known for revolutionizing the study of marriage.

The Secret to a Happy Life

By Terri Mudge

When I stumbled upon this Ted Talk, I had to share. After watching this video, I immediately ran to my husband and hugged him!  This video is worth the watch, and it will tell you the secret to happiness!!

Robert Waldinger is the fourth person to lead this research study that has been going on for 75 years! Essentially, since 1938 they compared and tracked 724 men in two groups, and their children, now over 2000 people, to see how their lives turned out. Comparing and contrasting a group from the poorest area in Boston with a group of sophomores in Harvard College.

Robert Waldinger says, “The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. We’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.”

“The clearest message that we get from this study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
Robert Waldinger-Video

 

Why You Should Pick A Fight With Your Partner

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

A few years ago PREPARE/ENRICH conducted a survey of over 50,000 married couples. It turned out that 78% of couples reported that they go out of their way to avoid conflict with their partner.

Maybe we could interpret this as a good thing—that the majority of couples are simply extra polite and courteous to their partner, not wanting to upset them.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Avoiding conflict was listed as one of the top five conflict-relatedproblems for couples. “Why is it a problem?” you might ask. “Isn’t it a good thing to get along with your spouse?” Yes, it is, for the most part. But conflict in relationships is inevitable, and when managed in a healthy way, it’s also a vehicle for relationship growth.

I, like many others I’m sure, have learned the hard way that avoiding conflict does not make issues go away. I used to be the master of not speaking up when I was mad or upset about something. Instead, I would secretly hope that my partner would figure out I was mad and subsequently apologize. Shockingly, he was not (and still is not) a mind reader, and in the meantime my resentment would build upon itself, until inevitably I would blow up over something seemingly small and/or unrelated to the actual issue. At that point, he would realize, “Hmm, she is mad about… something,” and I would then have the pleasant task of trying to explain why I was actually mad—because of that thing that happened weeks ago.

With time (and some tears), I learned that even though it can be uncomfortable and sometimes cause temporary conflict with my partner, it is crucial to address feelings and issues head on. I’ve learned to think about it this way: when I ignore an issue in order to avoid conflict, I am taking a step away from my partner, distancing myself from him by adding a brick to the metaphorical wall between us. By talking to my partner about the problem (while remembering to utilize assertive communication and active listening, of course), I learn more about myself, about my partner, and how we can be better for each other, ultimately bringing us closer as a couple.

It would be nice to be able to say, “Lesson learned!” and claim that I no longer struggle with avoiding conflict, but that would be untrue. Working through contentious issues is still hard; it is still uncomfortable. It will probably never be something I look forward to. For me, it’s like working out: I don’t want to do it. But when it’s over, I always feel better. And my body (or in this case, my relationship) is stronger because of it.

The Expectation Filter

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

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Let’s say there’s going to be a party.

Expectation A: You’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, building it up to epic proportions in your mind. All of your friends are going to be there, you’ll get to wear that new outfit, and it’s at that new, trendy place in town so the food, drinks, and ambience will be fantastic!

Let’s say there’s going to be a party.

Expectation B: You’ve been dreading it for weeks, wishing you could come up with a plausible excuse to get out of it. You probably won’t know anyone, you have nothing to wear, and it’s at that new, trendy place in town so it will probably be crowded, expensive, and parking will be terrible.

Reality: So the party was last night. Some of your friends were there, but a few didn’t make it. No one seemed too preoccupied with attire—some people dressed up and some didn’t. You were a few minutes late trying to find a parking spot, but you found one relatively close by. The food and drinks were moderately priced and relatively tasty, but nothing exceptional.

Based on the two sets of expectations above, how do you think you’d feel about the party at the end of the night?

The party was what it was. You couldn’t control how it turned out simply because of what you expected from it, and it didn’t change itself to match or defy your own expectations. Instead, your expectations affected how you perceived the quality of the party and your overall experience.

Now think about your relationship with your partner. Have you ever let unrealistic expectations influence your perception of him/her or of the relationship itself?  Whether they are expectations that we set explicitly or the ones that creep in subconsciously, unrealistic (and/or uncommunicated) expectations not only prevent us from experiencing things as they are, but they also distract us from truly appreciating the good in a situation. You might fail to appreciate the thought and effort your partner put into cooking dinner just because it didn’t turn out perfectly, or overlook the fact that you can still talk late into the night because you still bicker about those certain topics. Perhaps you take for granted the way your partner always remembers to buy your favorite cereal because he/she still leaves the dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher.

Many times I have found myself getting angry or upset with my spouse, only to realize that the true reason for my feelings was that the expectations I had created in my mind had not been met. Of course, being that I’d never actually communicated these expectations to my husband, let alone based them in reality, it would be unfair to be angry with him as a result. I’m a person who likes things to go the way I plan, and when that plan is diverged from, I tend to get irritated. But this is on me, not on him. I am definitely not perfect, but I’ve learned to check myself before blurting out a knee-jerk reaction of annoyance. By remembering to remove my “expectation filter,” I can better appreciate my reality.

3 Things You Can Do to Prioritize Your Marriage Today

~ Prepare-Enrich.com ~

priority-01All marriages require work! Your marriage doesn’t reach perfection the moment you tie the knot, and your relationship won’t remain strong unless the two of you team up and make a commitment to work on it continuously. Life is busy, and it can be easy to let your marriage take the backseat when other people or deadlines seem pressing. In these situations, it is important to understand what it really means to make your relationship with your spouse a priority. Prioritizing your marriage doesn’t mean that you have to put all of your energy into your marriage at all times or that there aren’t other things in your life that sometimes need to come first. Prioritizing your marriage means that you do little things to show your spouse that you’re thinking about them and that you find ways to connect with each other on a daily basis. (Taken from Why You NEED to Make Your Spouse a Priority)

The first thing that comes to mind for me when I think about prioritizing time for my marriage relationship is regular date nights and occasional weekends away. Both of those are great, but I also know that it’s important to connect on a daily basis. The daily things don’t have to be extravagant or time consuming, but they are just as important as the bigger gestures. Those simple things will become a habit, and you may find that they become as important to your day as brushing your teeth or washing your hands, and that without them, your daily routine will be completely thrown off.

Talk to each other
Go beyond the “how was your day?” type of conversations. Make time to sit down every day and talk like you did when you were first dating each other. Get to know each other better, tell silly stories, and dream about your future together. This time is for you to connect as a couple and keep the spark alive. Don’t let this time replace your discussions about finances, goals, boundaries, and other more serious topics in marriage, as those are important too.

Enjoy a meal together
Couples (and families) who eat together on a regular basis have more positive relationships. Depending on your stage in life, it may not always be possible to share a meal, just the two of you. You can improvise by sharing dessert after the rest of the family has left the table or getting up early to enjoy breakfast before the rest of the household is awake.

Create a daily ritual
Rituals and traditions strengthen relationships and build connection. It’s just as important to have small, daily rituals in your marriage as it is to create traditions around holidays and special events in your relationship. Your daily rituals can be simple, but they should be meaningful to you and your partner. We enjoy late night walks, curling up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate, and laughing over YouTube videos together.

As you work to prioritize your marriage every day, remember that it’s important to be fully present. During the time that you have committed to focus on your relationship, set aside your phones, turn off the TV, and make sure the kids are in bed or otherwise occupied. It is possible to maintain a strong and romantic relationship with your spouse, no matter what stage of life you are currently experiencing together. Finding little ways to make your relationship a priority will create the kind of habits that help to build a strong, long-lasting marriage.

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