Marriage Minute: Saying “I’m sorry” is magical

We all make mistakes from time to time. When we do, saying “I’m sorry” is magical because it lets your partner know that you understand and respect them, which helps to bring you both closer together.

Try to be specific about why you’re apologizing, and try to explain how you felt when things went wrong:

I had been very stressed and irritable.
I hadn’t expressed much appreciation toward you.
I had been running on empty.

This will help your partner understand where you’re coming from. It will open you both up to calmly expressing what you need and how you feel.

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 19 October 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Marriage Minute: The one big thing

The one big thing in marriage is trust.

Can I trust you to be there for me when I’m upset? 

Can I trust you to choose me over your friends?

Can I trust you to respect me?

We’ve learned that trust is built in very small moments. In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.

Turn towards bids for connection. Express appreciation for each other. Brag about each other’s talents and achievements. Say “I love you” every day.

Trust us.

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 14 September 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Marriage Minute: The Grass is Greener

In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away. One single moment is not that important, but if you’re consistently choosing to turn away, then trust erodes.

When this happens, you begin to focus on your partner’s flaws. You forget about their traits you admire and value.

Eventually you start making what researcher Caryl Rusbult calls “negative comparisons.” You start to compare your spouse to someone else, real or imagined, and you think, “I can do better.”

Invest in your marriage instead. Express appreciation for each other. Brag about each other’s achievements. Say “I love you” every day.

The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 31 August 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Marriage Minute: Response Ability

We’ve all been defensive. Defensiveness is self-protection in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack, and it’s one of the Four Horsemen that predicts divorce.

The antidote to defensiveness is to accept responsibility for your role in the issue.

Think about the word responsibility.

Response. Ability.

You have the ability to respond with patience and kindness. The key is to be aware of your triggers. And to understand the difference between a perceived attack and an actual one.

Let that awareness inform your response ability.

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 20 July 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Marriage Minute: The Weekly Meeting

Research has shown that spending just one hour per week discussing areas of concern in your relationship can transform the way you and your partner manage conflict. We call this the weekly “State of the Union” meeting.

Here’s how to do it. Begin by talking about what went right since your last meeting. Then give each other five appreciations you haven’t yet expressed. Try to be specific.

Next, discuss any issues that may have arisen. Use gentle start-up and listen non-defensively. Take turns being the speaker and the listener. Only after each other feels heard and understood do you move on to problem solving.

End by asking each other, “What can I do to make you feel loved this week?”

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 3 August 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Marriage Minute: Explore Roles Together

It is suggested that couples create shared meaning by exploring roles together.

Our sense of place in the world is based to a great extent on the various roles we play — we are spouses, perhaps children and/or parents, and workers of one kind or another.

Start by having a conversation about the meanings of the words “husband” and “wife.”

What do these roles mean?
What did they mean in your house growing up?
What assumptions do you have about each of those roles?
What is similar?
What is different?

You won’t see eye to eye on every philosophical or spiritual aspect of life, but the more you understand each other, the more connected you’ll feel.

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 27 July 2017. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Coping with Grief After a Loss

med-1044-depressionGrief is a reaction to a major loss. It can be triggered by the death of a loved one, but people can also experience grief if they have lost a job, experienced an end to a significant relationship, loss of personal property, an illness for which there is no cure, a chronic condition that affects their quality of life. It is most often an unhappy and painful emotion, but it is a normal process that each person must move through. It is not something you get over or can bypass.

Everyone feels grief in their own way. However, there are common stages to the process of grieving. It starts with recognizing a loss and continues until a person eventually accepts that loss.

Shock, denial, disbelief, numbness. When you learn that you have lost, or may lose, someone you love, you may find the news hard to accept. Common thoughts include, “This can’t be happening” or “There must be some mistake.” The feeling of disbelief gives yourself some emotional breathing room and protects you from the full effect of the news when you are not ready to accept it.

Anger, blaming others. After you have begun to accept a loss, you may feel very angry. You may blame others or the person who died for the situation even if you know, realistically, that they are not responsible for it. Or, you may let out your frustration by becoming irritated easily or unintentionally doing things that hurt others. All of these feelings are normal. Anger can be a way of hiding your pain when you can’t or don’t know how to express your real feelings.

Bargaining and guilt. Even if you know there is little or no hope for a recovery, you may tell yourself you can do something to solve the problem. You may try to make a deal with the doctors, God, or yourself, promising to make changes if the situation will go away. You may have thoughts like, “I’ll never become angry with my partner or child again if only the cancer goes away.” It’s normal to go over past actions and think, “If only I had done this . . .” Many people also feel a sense of guilt or responsibility that fosters the belief that they can still or should have somehow changed things.

Depressed mood, sadness, and crying. At some point, you will feel the full impact of the loss, and begin to understand what it will mean to go through life without someone you love or whatever you may have lost. At this stage, you may feel very sad and perhaps allow yourself to cry for the first time. Feelings like these usually mean that you are closer to the end of the grief process.

Acceptance, coming to terms. At the final stage of grief, you accept your loss even though you still don’t like this fact. You forgive yourself and others and, perhaps for the first time, may feel a sense of peace about the loss. You may still feel sad, but you have stopped trying to fight reality. You may be able to clean out the room of the person who died or participate again in some of the activities you enjoyed together. At this stage, people often think about trying to find an enduring way to pay tribute to the life of someone who has died.

People’s responses to grief will be different, depending on the circumstances of the event that is causing the grief symptoms. Not everyone goes through all of the stages of grief, or experiences them in the same order and you may also go through a stage more than once. At some point you may think you have moved beyond depression, but you may feel sad again on a holiday or an anniversary. Or, you may get angry when you have to handle alone the everyday difficulties that you used share. Experiences like these are normal.

The grief process can’t be rushed and shouldn’t be. It’s important to let yourself feel the pain and most people find that over time the intensity of the pain will decrease. Even if one denies their pain of a loss, the grief still exists. If it does not affect them at this moment, it will eventually erupt in some way, maybe at an inappropriate moment or during another traumatic event. Most professionals suggest that it is always better to admit our strong feelings about a situation, to feel them, and to move through the grieving process in order to move beyond the event.

It is important to know that grieving is an important, normal, and healthy response to loss. If you feel overwhelmed or very sad for much longer than other people in similar situations, or if you continue to have trouble eating, sleeping, or enjoying life, you may want to talk with a therapist, social worker, or chaplain.