Thursday 19 July 2007
For more information and to see how your marriage can be enriched, see their web-site www.bettermarriages.org.au
Wednesday 27 June 2007
Would you call your relationship good or would you call it great? A great relationship isn't the product of a storybook tale that just happens when a fairy godmother waves her magic wand. They happen because you take charge and you make it happen. To have a great relationship, you need to be great.
The things you accomplish do not define greatness, but how you accomplish them makes a huge difference. So how can you be great in your relationship? First and foremost, does your spouse know where they stand with you? Do they feel adored? Do they know they come first? Do you tell them you don't have time for them? When you're great to your partner, they feel it and more often than not - they reciprocate it.
Selfish Patterns of Desire
As a species, we are naturally selfish. Our desires are strong - it's that selfish desire to be with our partners that likely flared when you first met them or began to date them. The need to please each other often meant giving in to each other's selfish desires, but part of building a great relationship comes from putting your partner first and squashing selfishness when it comes to deciding what course of action you will take.
In great marriages, your focus is on your partnership in all things. Those connections are not ignored in parenting decisions, financial decisions or career decisions. Your focus should not be on the temporal pleasures of the moment - yes, going out to the movies with your friends may seem like a fantastic time, but what does your spouse think? Do I mean you need to subjugate every decision to your spouse? No, but it's a form of courtesy, consideration and caring to ask them if they mind.
My husband enjoys going out with his co-workers and friends. But he doesn't make major plans without consulting me and often finding a way to include me if I want to go along. He is thinking of our partnership first, before his own desire. If I really wanted to do something at the same time with him or if there were plans that we wanted to go - say to the same film as a couple - that takes precedence over these other plans.
Don't Be Self-Centered
When you are self-centered in your marriage and your choices in that marriage, you tend to be very lonely. Selfishness is one of the worst flaws you can bring into a marriage and while selfishness is a necessary part of our existence, recognizing that it can hamper our relationships is an important step. Remember, selfish doesn't have to mean you are mean or mean-spirited, it just means you think of yourself first.
First and foremost, take a look at how you make your decisions and your choices - do you just go and do something, because asking for forgiveness is easier than asking permission?
Do you make plans with your friends and your co-workers, but cite the need to work or other plans when your spouse does the same so you don't have to go with them?
Do you decide what bills will get paid, choosing your own personal entertainments for the excess spending rather than compromising with your spouse on their choices?
We're going to talk more about this trend for building a great marriage out of a 'good' one or an 'okay' one over the next few days - but take a look at how you make your choices and your decisions. Do you think about your spouse, do you ask for their input? Do you take that input seriously? Or are your decisions selfish?
1. Listen. Actively.
We’re not kidding here. Research from PREP, Inc. says THE Number One Killer of marriages today is NOT LISTENING. Ever heard your spouse say, “Honey, you’re just not listening”? Then you are a carrier of this killer (so are Tom and Betty by the way). Even if you just ask your spouse, “What did you just hear me say?” and your spouse mouths back nearly word-for-word, “I heard you say that you were unhappy at work today because….”, just do that much and you’re working at listening. Most often we do not have to “fix” what is wrong with our partner, just try to understand how they feel about an incident. Want more help? Check out “The Floor” at www.prepinc.com.
2. Handle conflict safely.
Most people think that fighting, or even disagreeing, leads to divorce, so they work to avoid conflict. Research says the opposite. ALL couples (including the couples you admire most) have conflicts. The biggest predictor of divorce is the AVOIDANCE of conflict. Ironically, the biggest predictor of success in marriage is how you choose to handle conflict. There is a time to handle disagreements but it’s NOT when you face a deadline, are out in public, you’ve got an event staring you in the face or when you are tired or confused. Dates, fun times, romantic times are also NOT the time to solve conflicts or even discuss them. Schedule a calm time to solve a problem when you can give it full attention. Keep conflict time separate from other activities in your marriage or eventually you will dread being around each other.
Try to separate problem discussion from the time to work on problem solutions. We’ve also found, again research based, that hurried solutions to conflicts are often poor solutions. Most of us have lost the fine art of negotiating, a skill we need for getting a job, buying a car, raising teenagers or getting along with office colleagues and your spouse. You may even have to draw up your own list of rules (avoid yelling, profanity, getting off topic) and post them on the refrigerator if that helps.
3. Compliment and encourage each other.
It’s just too easy to pick on each other’s weaknesses or faults, but harder though more rewarding to say, “Hey, that’s a very creative idea!” “Boy, you did that well.” “I appreciate your sense of humor.” We thrive on compliments, which is different from flattery (”Wow, do you look great in THAT!” Flattery is okay at the right time). Most of us remember the compliments from friends, even total strangers, but we do well to hear affirmation first from our partner.
4. Have a weekly date.
Why does the wedding ceremony end the one activity that got you to the altar? You need dates even MORE after the wedding when chores, house duties, bills, eventually children, pets, and deadlines quickly take the time away. Keep a “Great Date” list if you have to of things you have loved doing together or would like to try. Betty and Tom have expanded this to even give permission once in a great while to ask for an “emergency date” with an hour’s notice, usually when one of us is exhausted and needing a meal out at a favorite restaurant. Consider also a weekend away as a couple or go on a marriage retreat together.
5. Surprise each other with treats.
Something as simple as a favorite coffee or tea, decoration, movie rental, or a brief book to read together says, “I’m thinking of you; I value you.”