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. 

Things You Can Control in Your Relationship

012413-Unmarried-Couple-600You can’t control your partner’s actions, but you can control your own.

Focus on the things that are within your power.

Here is short list of some of the things that are withing your power when it comes to your relationship:

  • Your Attitude
  • Your Thoughts
  • How kind you are
  • How well you listen
  • How honest you are
  • How often you say “thank you”
  • Who you spend your time with
  • How you express your feelings
  • The amount of effort you put forth
  • How much time you spend worrying
  • Whether or not you try again after a setback

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy is listening, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of “You’re not alone.”

Ever wondered what the difference is between empathy and sympathy? Brené Brown explains it best.

The Gottman Ratio: how to predict the success of your relationship

happy-couple-heart-hands-759x500Maintaining a relationship takes continuous effort. The good thing is that it seems that this process is biased towards positive experiences for both partners. Through decades of research, Dr. John Gottman, Dr. Silver and their colleagues have found that when partners respond to each other positively for the majority of the time, they tend to have happy, healthy relationships.

Read more about positive and negative interactions and how to create positive interactions at BrainFodder.org.

Reunion and Reintegration: 3 Guidelines to help your relationship

welcome home 400During reunion and reintegration, couples will experience change and adjustment, just like they did when the deployment began. Sometimes this can be more stressful than any other part of the deployment process because of the conflicting expectations and changes that have occurred during the separation.

The reunion itself is often full of emotion and expectations. It can be an awkward mixture of excitement, joy, strife, apprehension, among other emotions. Both partners may need to renegotiate routines or responsibilities that were in place due to the deployment in order to find a good balance.

Be Realistic: Throughout the deployment both partners may be daydreaming about what it will be like to be home together. You may expect homecoming to be a passionate rendezvous, but when you are together you feel a little awkward and need some time to get comfortable together first. It is common that during the reunion, the deployer expects their partner to shower them with appreciation for the hardships they endured during the deployment. However, their partner may be looking for the same grand gesture. Instead of understanding that both experiences were challenging, couples may find ourselves in the “who had it worse” game in which neither person gets the validation they need and deserve.

Be Patient: Keep in mind that the deployer is coming home to a family in progress that has developed different routines. What about the partner who had to make the family budget? They may like doing it now, but the deployer expects to pick up that duty again. While one Airman was deployed, his wife started visiting her family twice a month. When he got back, she still wanted to go to her parent’s house often, but he expected that now he was back they would spend more of their time at home.

There can be many expectations on how to handle change. Sometimes the deployer expects things to go right back to the way they were before the deployment. There was one Airman who would read her 4 year-old daughter a bedtime story every night. It was something they both greatly enjoyed. When she got back from the deployment she assumed they would pick-up right where they left off. She was surprised and sad to find that her daughter was uninterested in story time. What do you think happened when she tried to enforce this routine? Sometimes this can cause tension among family members who are accustomed to the way things are. A realistic plan may be for the Airman to observe the new routines for a while and slowly join in when everyone is ready.

Communicate: Good communication can be defined differently by each couple based upon their experiences. However it is defined, good communication usually brings emotional safety for each partner. When one feels heard and able to understand the other person’s point of view, both are communicating well and experiencing emotional safety. Good, emotionally safe communication makes it okay to open up your heart to your partner. When you do your best to listen carefully to your partner, you make it safe for them to open up to you.

floorMany may have experienced times when their communication doesn’t look “good.” Sometimes your normal way of talking just isn’t working, but there’s something that needs to be talked through. Often couples keep trying over and over, or maybe they keep doing the same thing only louder. If this is the case for you and your partner, being able to use a method of talking that structures the conversation and allows both to listen will help good communication. One way of communicating that does this is the Speaker Listener Technique. You can learn about it from our Speaker/Listener Technique page that describes the steps.

There are choices to be made in communicating with your partner. When an Airman returned home, he found that his 15-year-old daughter was acting out at school. His wife was never strict with discipline, because that was a role he normally fulfilled with her support. But during his absence, his wife had allowed her to get away with many things that together they would not have. He had a choice to make. He could assert his power by enforcing new rules or he and his wife could brainstorm together and come up with other options that were reasonable and fair to everyone. They talked about it and agreed to let the daughter have input on the new rules. With consistent structure and guidance and by allowing her to have a say in important matter, her behavior improved and she was no longer getting into trouble at school.

Plan and prepare for the reunion with your partner just as you needed to prepare for the deployment separation. Some plans that you make may need to be readjusted as new events unfold. Be open to new ideas. Most importantly, stay connected and work as a team.