10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Practice Listening to Improve Your Marriage While Quarantined

I hope you have received help through this series. I have enjoyed writing it, but I am concerned that I am not focusing on what’s most important right now. I don’t want to miss the fact that life has shifted for everyone of us so quickly. Many people are hurting right now. Some couples are scared and worried about their future and their families. There are many couples grieving due to loss. Everything has been turned upside down in only a few short months. How many of us have seen so much change so quickly. Even for those who have not been hit hard, it’s still be shocking and thrown us off in some way. The reality and gravity of the situation has still not been fully grasped. But I do know one thing, we need each other more than ever at this time. We need to be CONNECTED.

This opening brings me to my topic for this week. How can we practice listening to improve our relationships? I fully believe that learning to listen is one of the most important skills a couple can build. Most couples I work with have a listening problem. In fact, I think we all do! I would never leave myself out of that group.  Some couples have even said about their spouse, “He/She doesn’t listen to me.” Have you ever heard that? I have definitely thought that a few times. In most of my relationships I have thought that at some point. Sorry Mom, Dad, friends, and family! But it’s true. If we are honest with ourselves, we would say at some point in our lives we felt unheard. If most of us have felt unheard, then the opposite is true: It’s likely most of us have not listened well at times also. If you KNOW that you are not so good at listening, or maybe you just want to learn how to listen better, let’s dig into how we can all PRACTICE being better listeners, especially in this time of change and unpredictability, so we can increase CONNECTION.

My 4 tips to listening can help all of us connect better in our relationships and decrease negative interactions. During this tough time, emotions may run high. Increased stress, hurt and pain may lead to quick reactions. Unfortunately, all to often, we are unable to stop these quick reactions. It is more important than ever to learn how to avoid these negative interactions, otherwise we double our pain and stress.

  • My first tip: Remind yourself that your spouse loves you and has REAL, UN-IMAGINED emotions that have a reason! I can’t count the times I have told my wife, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” I disregard her feelings all together when I say that. If you think this thought or say this to your spouse, then you have your first sign that you are not listening. So, assess your tendency to disregard your spouses reality.
  • My second tip is to TUNE into their feelings and the meaning behind their feelings. This step requires a little practice. It may help to practice even when you are alone. Say to yourself, “They have feelings and they are important. I need to understand them. Be curious and ask them to help me understand their meaning.” I try to repeat this phrase often. It’s not a full-proof method to decrease reacting out of defensiveness or disregarding someones feelings, but that old cliche keeps coming back to my mind, “Practice makes perfect.” Tune into your spouses feelings by intentionally seeking understanding.
  • My third tip is to KNOCK OUT DEFENSIVENESS. Ahh, I have a boxer mindset. My way of boxing is to wait and sneak in a DEFENSIVE jab or two. I will go on the offensive at times, but usually after the other person swings first. I am the defensive one in my marriage. My wife asks, “Are you breathing?” My reaction: “Who me? Why would you think that? I was just over his smelling some flowers and being all innocent and stuff…” Okay, that is a little exaggeration, but you get my point. How do you feel when you are trying to explain how you feel and they defend themselves instead of listening to you and not attempting to understand you? THEY DON’T CARE! THEY ARE MORE WORRIED ABOUT THEMSELVES THAN HOW I FEEL! And you might be right! Or, they might be fearful or feeling attacked or they just don’t want to upset you. Unfortunately, their missing you. They missed the whole point. They had a chance to connect with you and help you build their trust in you that is longed for. Yet, you chose to defend yourself instead of put aside your own concerns. Remember: Defensiveness is NOT LISTENING. Knock it out by taking responsibility for where you messed up even if you don’t FEEL like you did. Apologize and tune in to their feelings. You will be surprised at how close the connection becomes once you do that. Defensiveness is distance. Listening is connection.
  • Finally, my fourth tip is to MAKE TIME to go deep. Sometimes we are “too busy” to stop and hear our partner. We have the time right now, at least some of us do. Make time to ask how they are doing. Then listen! Ask tough questions. Then Listen! Be intentional to get off your phone and start a conversation. Then LISTEN! Then make it a habit to do this at the same time, or times, every week. I assume you get my point.

With our world turned upside down, now may be a better time than ever to turn your marriage back right side up. Don’t waste this time! Don’t waste the opportunity to fix things while you have more time. The world will get back moving again, probably sooner than we think. It already is in some ways. Don’t regret intentionally taking the time to learn to listen and connect to your spouse.

If you want to learn more about listening, visit this PAGE.

If you want to read the other blog post in this series, here is the first POST.

If you want help with your relationship, please call me at 706-955-0230 or CLICK ON THE ORANGE BAR AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THIS PAGE TO SET UP AN APPOINTMENT OR FREE 15 MINUTE CONSULT!

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Be Playful to Help Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Throughout my son’s childhood, I have admired his ability to play with just about anything he can put his hands on. My house usually looks like the path after a tornado by the end of the day. It gets frustrating to clean it all up and can be sense of contention between my wife and I as well as our children. However, I have noticed that when we are helping him pick it up, that his creativity in his play is mind boggling. He doesn’t just play with one set of toys or stay in one spot (hence the tornado). He has a unique ability to gather different objects and play with them together. It sometimes seems to have no rhyme or reason. He tends to have a knack for spontaneity by just picking up a toy where ever he is at, at any given time, and just go with it. I wish I still had that ability.

Somewhere along the way, we adults lose this ability. We lose the ability to be creative and the ability to just enjoy being spontaneous. We lose the ability to be flexible and go with the flow. And, not only that, we lose the ability to be playful.

Play involves all of those things: spontaneity, creativity, flexibility, and fun! The definition of play is engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. Being serious squelches fun and sometimes creativity. Have you ever been so focused on one thing, that you miss something important? Being serious also keeps us from being flexible at times. I know this first hand. When it’s bed time, IT’S BED TIME! My wife probably thinks I have a stick up my YOU KNOW WHAT every night about 8:00 PM. IT’S BED TIME! I am rarely flexible on this issue, and I become serious and goal oriented about this same time every night. I don’t know if this is my anxiety or fear about what may happen if they don’t get in bed on time, but that is another topic for another day and should be explored. Staying on topic, play rarely has a set goal if it is fun. Sometimes even playing sports can be so goal oriented that it loses it’s fun. PLAY IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!

Many couples lose their ability to play and have fun. When they were dating, they were flirty and playful… spontaneous, surprising, flexible and creative, BUT not long after they tied the knot, their life became mundane and monotonous…stressful, tense and goal oriented.

Relationships thrive off of playfulness!

Think about when you had your best times. Were you playful? Were you spontaneous? My guess is the answer is “YES!” The times we have the most fun with our partner is when we are playful. Being playful helps others to relax and enjoy the moment. Having fun creates memories that have a lasting affect on us and help couples to build deeper connections and help to grow the relationship. When we are playful, we tend to seize the moment. When we are playful, we don’t take life for granted. Being playful with your spouse is about loving and enjoying life despite the stressors around you. It’s about controlling what you actually CAN control. You CAN CONTROL how much fun you  have and create with each other, even in time of stress and discomfort.

I encourage you to use this time to play with one another. Be creative as we talked about in a previous blog post. Don’t let the worries of this world keep you from enjoying each day with one another. Lighten up! Be spontaneous, flexible and open to the possibilities around you. Play as my son plays! As you walk through your life, STOP and NOTICE the things around you. Be curious. Be that tornado that leaves a path of meaning behind you as you enjoy each moment with your spouse!

If you are having trouble find ways to play or enjoying time with your spouse, please let me know. Email Me or Call Me at 706-955-0230. Set up a free 15 minute consultation! Or go back and check out the rest of this blog series.

 

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

How Grace and Forgiveness can Help Your Relationship During Quarantine

Stress and monotony becoming the norm? Being at home more than usual and not being able to get out increases boredom, unless you have figured out how to be creative since two blog posts ago. Sometimes there is not enough creativity to help a couple to feel good about each. More time spent together and more time outside of your element may make it hard to look past each other’s faults.

EXTRA grace and forgiveness at this time may go a long way! It may even save a relationship! Maybe a little more grace and forgiveness is what your relationship has always needed!

Everyone knows what grace and forgiveness are, but just in case you are a little fuzzy on it, let me clue you in to what I am referring to. Grace is the ability to look past someone’s mistakes when they don’t deserve it. From a Christian view, Grace means “unmerited favor.” If a couple gives each other grace, they will withhold their criticism and anger when their spouse or partner does something they shouldn’t. Grace can be really healing. Grace can bring a couple closer due to feeling like your partner understands that their is more to you than your mistakes. Grace allows a two people to be able to be themselves around each other.

Forgiveness is the ability stop feeling upset towards someone about an offense. Some people don’t like the idea of forgiveness because they think it means to “forgive and FORGET.” I tell my clients that forgiveness is important, but forgetting is impossible. Our brains were not really made to forget. So what does forgiveness look like then? It looks like being able to give up the fight to hold your partner accountable. It goes hand and hand with grace. It looks like loving them and letting go of the hurt. One way to think about forgiveness is to make a DELIBERATE CHOICE to release feelings of resentment and hurt so as to open back up to someone else to possibility to make it right.

So, as things continue to be confusing, stressful and tough, CHOOSE to give your spouse or partner a chance to make mistakes. And when they do, CHOOSE to give them the gift of forgiveness!

To learn more, go back to my original blog of this series.

If you would like to ask me questions about relationship concerns, call me at 706-955-0230 or EMAIL ME.

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Improve your marriage while in quarantine by sharing duties and giving time to reboot

Many of us who are home at this time find that our duties are actually increasing. Children being home from school and more people in the household creating messes means more clean up and monitoring of the homestead. If you are still working, especially from home, you might be pulling double duty. This increases the stress that spouses are facing compared to the usual life of going to work. Few breaks are available. At least, if I am at work I get away from the home environment for some amount of time. If I am working from home and the kids are there, it all runs together. I fortunately have a remote place I can work from, but I have taken the time to go home for lunch or in the middle of the day for an hour or so. By doing this, I believe I am giving my wife a break and breaking up my own day.

Sharing duties and giving time to reboot can help with this increased strain on the household and the marriage. Communication is the key here. If you are feeling stressed and need some help with certain duties or just time to yourself, it is important to verbalize your needs. I unfortunately do not have the ability to hear my wife’s thoughts, so I bet your spouse does not have that ability either.

There are some keys to verbalizing your needs though.

First, understand that your expectations to get what you need may not be met. By lowering your expectations, you may help to keep from creating conflict with your partner. So, how does verbalizing my needs help? The more information provided to your spouse, the more likely they will be able to meet your needs or help you get what you need. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “If it is not documented, it didn’t happen.” In this case, if it was not verbalized, then it is not a problem to be resolved.

The second thing to remember when verbalizing your needs is TIMING. Please make sure you don’t just verbalize your needs because you are emotional. Emotions are never a good clock to tell you when you should communicate about something. God gave us brains for a reason. If your partner is busy, stressed or upset at that time, maybe it is not the best TIME to express needs.

Third, figure out how to express your needs in the best way possible. Check out my thoughts about communication in relationships. Finding the right way to say something is important. Some tips are to watch your tone, check your volume and monitor your attitude. Men, soften your voice like you are speaking to your beloved grandmother. A booming, commanding voice is not necessarily “assertive.”  Women, a high pitch, screechy voice will not get your husband to hear you. Try getting close to him, gently placing your hand on his arm and speaking him name in a regular, loving tone (Directed at both genders).   Ask your partner how they would like you to speak to them. Then, ask them to help you practice. Practice makes perfect.

By communicating well, you are able to help your spouse to understand your needs. Now that you are able to do that, partners need to be selfless. As you learn what your spouse needs, offer to help them with those needs. That’s where sharing duties comes in. If your husband is working from home and now finds himself pulling double duty with the kids and work, but usually cleans the bathrooms and takes out the trash too, maybe as a wife you can pick up one of those tasks to lighten his load. If you are a husband who’s wife is home all day with the kids (2 months before they were supposed to be home all day), tell your wife to go take a bath when you get home and enjoy some alone time while you make dinner, wash the dishes and get the kids ready for bed (Giving your wife a reboot). It is understandable that stress had increased along with possibly your duties at home. A little teamwork, sharing duties, and serving each other will go a long ways. It’s definitely not time to dig your hills in. It’s not time to fight. It’s time to communicate your needs and work as a team. Serving one another is loving one another. You finally have a chance to do that. Don’t waste time being mad at each other. Good Luck!

Check out the original post to this series HERE.

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Using Creativity to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

I have been home all weekend and have been struggling with this way to improve my marriage. I am the expert on marriage and can’t even help myself sometimes. But creativity doesn’t necessarily come easily. I was thinking about how I was putting what I tell others to do into practice. I guess a fun thing we did do this weekend was to get our kids a blow up water slide. Yes, I know, it was kind of chilly. They LOVED it! I think playing on that was the most exhaustive thing they have done since being out of school. It wasn’t necessarily for me and my wife, but we did get some enjoyment out of watching the kids. I could list all the generic things we have done, but that wouldn’t help you with creativity or marriage.

I want to give you one inspiring thought though. Sometimes marriage is boring. I know that isn’t very exciting or arousing, but it’s true! Isn’t that amazing? I am actually glad that it can be boring. Because creativity usually gets sparked in times of rest and monotony. So, while the spouse and I were sitting around a lot this weekend, I seemed to have more ideas pop into my mind than usual. Although, without a little direction, they weren’t necessarily thoughts about improving my marriage. So, lets see how we can do this.

I think being intentional is important. Like I said, my thoughts weren’t directed at my marriage, but I did have a lot of new and creative ideas. What would have happened if I had directed them at my marriage? Well, hopefully I would have been more open and creative with improving my marriage.

Next, I think the traditional brainstorming technique would be helpful. Yes! That technique we all learned in English class. Basically, sit with a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind about a certain topic. Then write down everything that comes to mind about each of those topics and so on and so forth. Let me try it real quick:

Basketball, Baseball, throwing the ball, hitting the ball, fun outside, fun inside….Okay, I will stop with that. That reminds me. My spouse and eye got a glove, a bat and a bunch of tennis balls a few days ago and I threw her some while she wacked them way to far. I got tired quickly for having to run 30 or 40 yards to retrieve all of them. I guess I need to work on that. Which leads me to another idea. How many of you exercise regularly? Why not exercise together?

You see, I just came up with 2 in no time through brainstorming. Other ways you can come up with ideas is to call up friends and family and ask them what they are doing. You can also check out things on the internet. I recently found out you can get an escape room in a box shipped to you.

Another way to increase creativity is to shut off your devices. TV, video games, scrolling Facebook all do the thinking for you. Shut them down. Read a book. Write a journal about what you are experience. Write letters. Read that Bible you have been wanting to read if only you had time off. Pray together.

Finally, I encourage you to do whatever you come up with, together! Think about what each other like. Your brains are powerful! It is made by the Creator of the Universe! Don’t lose it, use it! God has given us a unique opportunity to make changes to our life due to slowing everything down. It’s time to really work on the creative side to increase love and connection with each other. Marriage takes effort and creativity may take time. But it’s worth it! Let me know what creative ideas you come up with by emailing me. Maybe I will add them to this post. If you are struggling with your marriage call me at 706-955-0230. If you want to read more posts go to my Blog.

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Using Patience and Kindness to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

We are now weeks into this think called quarantine, or “shelter in place.” I first wonder who came up with these terms. I guess that does matter much, but when you have as much time on your hands as some of us do, you start thinking about things that you would not normally ponder.

Anyways, time to help with that first of ten things that could help improve your marriage while in quarantine. Why did I pick patience and kindness first? I don’t really know. It was the first thing that came to mind when I was thinking about what I needed to do. My kids are home all day, my wife is having to endure them for longer hours than she is used to. I am fortunately working. So, I am not at home like many of you are at this point. I still am getting to spend more time with my family because I am choosing to work from a remote office and can run by the house when I choose. I have also chosen to take at least one day off a week. I am taking this time to rest and relax as I believe God is giving us this opportunity that we rarely choose for ourselves.

Sorry, that was a tangent I probably did not need to go down, but now back to patience and kindness. Patience means the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Wow, what a concept. I am not good at this. I need this. The Bible says one of the “Fruits of the Spirit” is patience. It also says in 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient and kind….” There are so many places in the Bible that talk about patience. I wish I had enough space here to quote many of them, but that is not the purpose of this post. I just want you to know that patience and kindness are important. If the Bible talk about them, then they must be. It is wise to be patience as Proverbs 14:29 says “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding.” Isn’t that being tolerant? How many of us are at a point right now where we are able to tolerate our circumstances. Forget tolerating your spouse or children. What about just having to be locked in your house? We humans need diversity, stimulation, excitement and fun.

So what are we going to do? Well, the second part of my heading was about kindness. I think patience and kindness have to go hand in hand. If I practice kindness, I can be patience. If I practice patience, I have more opportunity to be kind. I think this is a time to PRACTICE kindness and patience with our spouses. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. How many of us are kind everyday, even when we are not in quarantine? It’s hard, but not impossible. I think this is a perfect time for us to find a way to practice kindness and patience. You didn’t learn most of the things by just being able to do them naturally. You had to PRACTICE. I will use this term a lot.

So, how do we PRACTICE patience and kindness. I encourage you to write some Bible verses down about patience and kindness and memorize them. Read them and recite them 3-4 times a day or more. Pray and meditate with them. Ask God to help become more patient with your wife or husband. Ask others how they show kindness to their spouses. The opposite of kindness and patience is selfishness and intolerance. Can you find one thing a day that show kindness towards your spouse? Kindness toward a spouse may seem like a no brainer, but I have seen many couples that in their marriage don’t show kindness. One act of kindness sometimes is all it takes to turn things around. Be kind. Be patient. It’s time for us to be kind to each other so we can show our kids, friends, and family how to build a relationship in the midst of hard times. Let’s pull together and change our marriages and our communities through patience and kindness.

Please contact me (706-955-0230) if you are struggling with this. I would love to help you or just find a way to make your marriage better or you as an individual better.

Check out the other 10 things to do to improve your marriage at this post.

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

10 Ways to Improve Your Marriage While in Quarantine

Staying home due to COVID-19? Are you finding it hard to manage your relationship, the children or working from home? The combination of those three can increase stress if you don’t know how to manage them well. It’s like the movie, The Perfect Storm. Please forgive me if I get this wrong, but if I remember correctly, in that movie 3 different storms come together and create a super storm. Sound familiar?

Having to work from home while the kids are home schooling and trying to keep from getting bored, and your spouse is home all day everyday, sounds like 3 stressful “storms” coming together to create a super storm. What are you going to do? How are you going to juggle it all?

Unfortunately, there may be more storms. If you are like me, I get cravings. The usual ability to get out and have fun or see different scenery than your own familiar walls is a very missed luxury during this time. Humans need newness, excitement and experiences outside the norm. I heard one person say recently, “There is a reason they use solitary confinement in jails and prisons.” We may not be totally isolated, but the combination of the changes that have come upon us so suddenly can cause intense amount of stress, especially when combined with the anxiety around COVID-19.

So, I want to try to help. Hopefully, this series of posts will provide some ideas on how to keep your relationship on track while working through the changes. Here are my 10 tips to improving your marriage during quarantine.

  1. Practice patience and kindness
  2. Bring back your creative side
  3. Share duties and give each other time to reboot
  4. Learn about grace and forgiveness
  5. Get outside
  6. Be playful
  7. Practice listening and understanding
  8. Rest
  9. Relax
  10. Focus on teamwork

These 10 tips are almost self explanatory, but I will expound on them in the next few blog posts. They may not seem like they are ways to improve your relationship, but if you are practicing each of these daily or weekly, I can assure you they will help. Please stay tuned. If you are having trouble in your relationship, please don’t wait to call me or email me so we can talk about how I can help you. Sometimes people just get temporarily stuck. Sometimes there are deeper things going on. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. Whatever it is, let me help! Call 706-955-0230 to make an appointment or schedule through the patient portal.

 

Tips to not fighting in marriage communication

5 Tips to not “Fighting” in Marriage Communication

Last time I talked about how the instinct to fight or flight affects marriage communication. Today, I want to discuss  ways to keep from “fighting” back when that fight instinct wants to rise up in you. When I ask clients how they deal with their frustration or anger when communicating with their spouse, many them say, “Well, I just try not to say anything or react.” Does this help? Maybe once in a while it does. Most of the time, your emotions will get the best of you, especially the longer you go without a solution. Couples who struggle with arguing and can’t seem to change their pattern of avoider/distancer or fight or flight, need help. So, I want to give you 5 tips to try to keep this instinct from ruining your conversations.

 

Know thyself!

Do you really know yourself? Are you aware of your tendencies, triggers or emotions? Do you know what makes you upset? Do you know what your “buttons” are? If not, you need to grow awareness of yourself. Most of us think we know ourselves, but I wonder how many of us could give details to the questions above.

I encourage you to sit down with these questions and brainstorm. Think about when you have gotten upset, anxious, scared, sad, angry or irritable. Think about the situation around that emotions. What was going on? Who was there? What time of day was it? What location were you in? What was said? Write all of this down. For every emotion above, go through these same questions for a scenario or two.

Why do I ask you to do this? Because the more you know about yourself and why you do what you do, the more you can control your reactions and make a plan for when you are triggered. Instincts like fight or flight tend to be triggered. By knowing possible triggers, especially ones that make you angry enough to fight back, you can make a plan to stay calm or manage your choices when those triggers arise.

 

Use active listening

Listening seems so easy. We think we listen well, but most of us are terrible listeners. I tell my clients that I can repeat verbatim example what my wife says, but I am not very good at understanding what she is saying at times. Each of us are so different, that we often interpret what others are saying through our own thoughts, beliefs and experiences when what they are actually thinking about is very different.

Some authors call this our “glasses.” Some marriage experts have even referred to a metaphor that says men wear blue colored glasses and women wear pink colored glasses. They are trying to show that we see thing so differently that we may not be able to know what the other person is thinking, even if we heard their words or saw their actions. The lesson here is to not assume anything.

So active listening is a way to take off the blue or pink glasses and try to understand how the other person sees things (ie, putting on their glasses). This can obviously help with not “fighting” back because you can be mindful of the other person’s viewpoint which keeps you from becoming defensive. You now are in an understanding stance and not a defensive stance, ready to attack back. This is not easy, but if you want to learn more about active listening, go HERE.

 

Take a timeout

Have you ever needed a break when you got tired of working, running or cleaning? I do! We take timeouts all the time when we are doing physically active things. So, does it not make sense to take a timeout when your brain gets overworked? Sometimes in stressful conversations, a person may become “flooded” per Dr. John Gottman in his book The 7 Principles for Making Your Marriage Work. Our brains get tired and need a rest sometimes. We can become confused and overwhelmed, especially in arguments. Sometimes conversations just go in circles making us metaphorically “dizzy” in our heads and keep us from figuring out why we are arguing.

Taking a timeout can help to reset, reorganize and clarify a situation or conflict when it is going no where or gets out of control. Timeouts can be easy as long as you set up a structure and both people respect it. Sometimes one person feels like they are about to explode. Well, instead of “fighting” back, take a timeout and cool off.

               

Slow Down!

Literally, slow down! Slow your breathing. Slow your speech. Slow your movement. Slow your everything! Sit down if you need to. If you need to slow down to a stop, then STOP.

Why slow down? As you become increasingly more angry, upset, anxious or irritable, your heart rate and blood pressure rises and stress hormones begin to be released. Other chemical reactions also happen in your body that are signaling you to prepare for a…you guessed it…FIGHT! Slow yourself by actively PRACTICING slowing down through breathing and relaxation. If you can effectively calm the body, you are telling the body to stop preparing to defend itself.

 

Ask questions, don’t assume

As mentioned in the first tip, we don’t want to assume anything. Asking a question of your partner allows you to gather more information. Think about how many times, based off of the information you have, that you assume you know what your spouse is thinking or saying and it upsets you, to find out later that they did not mean it in that way?

I usually call these questions to gather more information, clarifying questions. You want to have the best understanding you can have and the exact information you need to make the best choices. Many of us react negatively and “fight” or “attack” our spouse when we are triggered by what they are saying, especially when we don’t take the time to get enough information to understand the message. Stop assuming you know what your spouse is saying. Slow down, as we said above. Take the time to make sure you know exactly what your partner is saying. This again may take structure and practice. But you can do it!

 

These five tips are just a few of the ways you can keep the instinct to fight from ruining your marriage or relationships. Just using one of them may make a drastic difference in your ability to communicate, listen and connect with your spouse. Take the time to think about how you might implement each one of these, and develop your BEST way of communicating in your marriage. If you need further information or help, please don’t hesitate to CALL ME TODAY.

Marriage communication resulting in fleeing or fighting.

How Fight or Flight Affects Marriage Communication

In my office, I see many couples that are dealing with conflict and communication concerns. In many of their stories, I pick up a similar theme. It goes a little like the following and may take similar, but somewhat different forms: A wife tries to talk to the husband about something that bothers her. The husband then begins to defend himself. Next the wife starts to attack the husband verbally because his defenses don’t help find a solution to her concerns. Finally, he shuts down and withdraws inwardly (becomes quiet and unresponsive) or outwardly (leaves).

Sound familiar? Almost every couple I encounter has told me a similar version of this in their lives. I, in fact, have seen this interaction play out in my own marriage and in many relationships close to me. This type of interaction is natural in all relationships. The unfortunate thing is that many of us don’t understand what is happening and never resolve the issue or find a more appropriate way to react to our spouse. Most of us think that their partner is the problem (finger pointing), but an underlying pattern that has been ingrained in us for years seems to be drive the interaction.

Fight or Flight?

Our ancestors from the time humans were created have always had instincts or innate reactions that serve a specific purpose. Most instincts serve a survival purpose. Fight and flight are two such instincts. When faced with danger in ancient history, people did not have the safety of houses, weapons or walls. So, they needed an inborn sense that told them how to survive by fleeing or attacking when faced with a dangerous situation. Fleeing meant to run as fast as one can from danger until a safe place is found. Attacking meant taking action to defeat the danger before it defeated them. I would call this the “element of surprise” instinct. Today, in the developed world at least, we do not face many immediate threats to survival. Yet, we still feel threatened.

Threats to relationships?

Threats can come in many forms. When a person loses something or perceives loss, they feel threatened. I have seen people scared of losing loved ones, money, houses, cars, lifestyles, and more. These are all legitimate threats, but not of the survival kind that were present long ago. These days fear appears to be more present in everyday concerns, especially in marriage conflicts. For example, when a wife brings up a problem to her husband, he may “fear” he is doing something wrong that might result in losing his status in the relationship, losing power, or “getting his pride hurt.” When a husband asks a wife to do something, she may take offense to his request due to her perceived “threat” of being a “servant” in a culture that has fought so hard for women’s rights. The threats we face in recent years seem to be more “perceived threats” than realistic threats, especially in relationships.

Perceived Threats and Fight or Flight

Even though we do not face survival threats much anymore, we still have our instinct for fight or flight. So, anytime we “perceive” a threat to the loss of anything we own, our identity or our relationship, this instinct arises. When we feel hurt or vulnerable, anger arises and then negative reactions such as, attacking, yelling, throwing things, slamming doors, or cursing, tend to be the result of fighting to feel better or keeping what is ours. When we are attacked verbally by someone else, we may “flee” by leaving the room or shutting down and becoming quiet. Any time a loved one or partner attempts to initiate a conversation about something that bothers them, we may have the urge to either flee or attack based on a possible perceived threat.

How Fight or Flight Affects our Relationships

Fight or flight is not usually helpful in relationships today, except when an actual survival risk is present, such as physical, sexual or verbal abuse. When a survival threat is not present, the perceived threat is usually not realistic. Therefore, when a person flees or attacks, they are overreacting to the threat. By overreacting they either push their partner away or they hurt their spouse. Usually, a person tends to lean towards one or the other instinct and thus creates a negative pattern in their relationship. This pattern is normally referred to as the Avoider/Pursuer pattern of relating. If this “negative” type of relationship pattern continues, it may result  in resentment that leads to the couple feeling disconnected. The longer this pattern exists in the relationship, the wider the separation in the couple’s connection. It becomes harder and harder for a couple to reconcile the longer the disconnect exists. So, the instinct in us that drives us to survive can result in harmful effects on the relationship if they go unchecked.

The Benefits of Fight or Flight in Relationships

However, fight or flight is not all bad for a relationship. These instincts can drive people to fight for the survival of the relationship. Humans desire to keep the things that are theirs. They don’t want to lose what they have worked hard for or sacrificed so much for. So, if a couple can recognize that all might be lost, then fighting may result in a reversal of the negative pattern that exists.  Fighting in this sense means to put a lot of effort into saving the marriage. Some people also flee to keep from making things worse, which is not a bad reason to leave. It’s not good to make things worse, but outright leaving may be too much.

So what do we do? Well, we find balance and make small successes in using the strengths of these instincts.

So stay tuned to find out more about fight or flight. Also, if you have any questions, need help with your relationship, or just want to set up and appointment, please call 706-955-0230 or email me.

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Listener in Marriage

As a marriage counselor, I teach couples many skills. One of those skills is how to listen better. Many of us have been taught how to communicate or express our thoughts better to others in classes or through our jobs, but may have never had the proper training to learn how to listen to others. I like teaching listening skills. When I help couples learn how to listen to each other, I actually get to see connections being formed right in front of me. It’s beautiful and very real. So, I think it would be great for everyone to learn some simple steps to listening to their spouse.

First, why is listening important?

Listening well helps build our understanding of others thoughts, feelings, perspectives and beliefs. Listening to our spouse opens up the opportunity to be able to provide input to a spouse’s concerns. Listening also can be a way of showing care and concern. Listening is one way to build connection.

After listing all of these benefits of listening, I am reminded of how much I want to be a better listener, but, be warned, listening takes practice, discipline and effort. Now let’s get to those steps to help YOU and ME become the listener WE desire to be.

  1. To be a good listener you first have to be willing to: “Hear it!” What does that mean? That means you need to know the exact words that were said. Yes! This is the easy part. For example, when I am with my wife, I can repeat back to you exactly what my she says, verbatim. Unfortunately, that does not always mean I actually understood her. However, some people truly do not pay attention to what their partner says and need to a better job of absorbing the actual words so they can take the next step to becoming a better listener.
  2. The second step I call: “Find the meaning.” What I mean by “find the meaning” is to try to analyze and figure out what is underneath the actual words that were stated. How many times do you say something and your partner interprets it one way and you say, “But that’s not what I meant.” Finding the meaning is not always easy, but is helpful to building a better “understanding” of what the real message is that was being transmitted to you.
  3. Thirdly, if you can’t find the meaning, ask “clarifying questions.” If you can clarify some of the information (actual words) you have already received by adding new and meaningful information through asking pointed questions, you will be one step further in “understanding” the message you received. It might be helpful to ask questions such as: What are you experiencing? Why are you experiencing that? What do you need or desire from me? Why is that need or desire important to you?
  4. Fourthly, summarize and repeat to your spouse your new “understanding” of what your spouse has said to you. By expressing to your spouse what you “understand” about their message, you are checking with them to make sure you have an accurate understanding.
  5. Finally, ask your partner, “Do I understand what you are saying?” By asking this question, you give your spouse the opportunity to tell you if you received the correct meaning of their message.

These steps have served many of my clients well. The key is practice. Remember, your spouse deserves your respect and your willingness to hear them out. They need YOU to hear their perspective, no matter how irrational it may sound. Also, remember that their thoughts, beliefs, feelings and perspectives are very real to them and when you don’t LISTEN to them, you are sending a nonverbal message that you don’t care about their thoughts or feelings and you don’t respect them enough to understand them.

PLEASE! Learn to listen to your spouse and practice these steps daily. I may not be right, but I bet you will be happier and have a more loving relationship. To learn more about listening, visit my page about communication. Be blessed!

Also, check out my other posts and pages on communication: