Real Talk About Relationships and Married Life

Posts tagged ‘Mental health’

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Fighting Fair in Your Relationship

fight fairIn the past, I have actually coached a couple who right there in front of me, got into an all out drug out war of words. For all intended purposes, the way they went at it, I might as well had popped some popcorn, got a coca cola, put my feet up, sat back and watched the entertainment. This couple acted such a fool. They went from name calling, playing the dozens to things being drug up from another lifetime. This couple argued about everything, and the arguments would start over something like, “Stop leaving your shoes in the middle of the floor.”

Some couples fight over the silliest matters but claim to love one another. However some of the immature exchanges and the foul way they handle each other leads me to ask the question, “What’s love got to do with it?”

Couples who behave in this manner fail to realize that they cannot take words back. Sure, they can apologize later, but the damage has already been done and the words have already made a deep impact. If you are one of those couples where one or both of you get so angry that you storm out of the house, name call, talk about his mama or her baby daddy of the baby that you’re not the daddy of , hurl insults or stonewall or attack your partner’s character then you are NOT FIGHTING FAIR. Further, ultimately your FOUL way of communicating will destroy your relationship or marriage.

First let me say that it is natural and healthy to argue. Arguing is no more than simply expressing your reasoning for or against a matter. It is healthy because through loving instances of discourse, very important communication is taking place. The problem is when people become disrespectful in the process and take the conversation out of the “safe zone.” (i.e. Name calling, yelling, playing the dozens, stonewalling, mocking, invalidating, etc.).

Stonewalling is not talking to your mate at all or not listening to your mate. Women usually stonewall by giving their partner the silent treatment. Men usually stonewall by totally refusing to listen or interact. Yet in these battles for power and winning, everyone loses – the husband, the wife and the children. Also, family and friends lose because they are often put in the middle or end up having to listen to the madness. It becomes very messy and in these types of situations, everyone’s hands get dirty. What they say about misery loving company, doesn’t even adequately describe what it looks like when husband and wife lose all sense of civility when fighting.

While fighting is a normal part of any healthy relationship, there is a healthy way to fight. So here are eight ways that will help a couple keep their relationship on track during an argument.

8 Ways to Keep an Argument Healthy

1. Open Your Discussion in Prayer – Opening your discussion in prayer will invoke a higher principle in the mix and help to temper both people in the exchange.

2. Use the LTL Formula – The Listen-Talk-Listen formula ensures that both parties will listen twice as much as they talk. Steven Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, provides a habit that couples can adopt. “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.” If you and your mate practice just that one habit, there will be a whole lot more understanding in the relationship.

3. Create a Safe Emotional Space for Communicating – It’s important to create an emotionally safe space for your mate to be able to communicate. This is the responsibility for both people. Safety means no yelling, no character attacks, no blaming (you did this or you did that…), no invalidating (that’s stupid, silly, or crazy), no stonewalling, and no judging each other. Remember that your mate is not the problem, the problem is the problem. Make the problem the enemy not your mate. So the two of you can attack the problem as a united front.

4. Use “I Feel” and Avoid Extremes Such as “You Always” or “You Never” – When you use the words, “I feel” as opposed to you did this or you did that, it removes the defense mechanisms that people automatically put up when they feel they are being attacked. Also avoid extremes such as “always” or “never.” Extremes are usually an over exaggeration of the truth.

5. Don’t Interrupt – It is important to listen to your mate and not interrupt them or talk across them. If necessary, put time frames on bringing a discussion and put a time frame on rebuttals and go back and forth until an agreement can be reached. Even if you end up not seeing eye-to-eye, agree on how you will handle the matter in the future.

6. Use a Trigger Word – Trigger words or also referred to as “Safe Words.” They are words such as time-out, pause, stop, or uncle. The purpose of these words is to invoke them during an argument that is beginning to escalate out of control. The agreed upon word is used consistently when necessary during discussions to allow the two of you to cool down, then come back to the conversation. The timeframe for the pause or time-out may be 15-minutes, 30-minutes or an hour. It all depends on what you agree to. However, the two of you must come back to the discussion to resolve the matter.

7. Address Issues as They Come Up – It is important not to let anger build up. Discuss things while they are small instead of waiting until they blow out of proportion. Also avoid going to bed angry. Resolve your matters promptly so that they don’t become bigger than what they would have been if you had addressed them early on.

8. Ask Your Mate Resolution Questions – It is both natural and important to discuss the problems in a relationship thoroughly. Yet, once the problem has clearly been outlined from both perspectives, it is critical that both of you move the discussion to a problem-solving format. In other words, just don’t complain about it, now work together to do something about it. An example of a resolution question is, “Honey, how can I help so that you don’t feel that way?”

There are many things that happen in a relationship which triggers an argument or fight between couples. It happens; but just because you had a fight is not cause to be concerned. The time to be concerned is when the fighting and argument goes afoul. So couples remember to argue in the best manner and in a loving way. Remember that your mate is your ally, not your enemy. If you have been fighting in an unfair manner, make a paradigm shift and evolve your relationship to a more healthy state.

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The Power of Transparency in Your Marriage

lady-manThere is no doubt that communication is important in any relationship. For couples to win at love they must be willing to talk to one another about important matters. However, when we discuss the art of transparency, and it is an art, it goes far above and beyond simply having discussions about those things that really matter. Discussing things openly and without any hidden agendas or motives goes right to the heart of what transparency is all about. It is a manner of relating that places on the table all hidden information.

Couples who are completely open and transparent with one another have authentic relationships. These are couples who demonstrate being real with one another and do not hide or seek to hide matters. Now, it is not necessarily an easy feat to accomplish this because transparency in relating to your counterpart requires an amazing level of maturity and emotional aptitude. This manner of being with your mate or spouse encourages total openness and honesty. However, there must be an emotionally safe environment for transparency on this level to occur.

Let’s look at your relationship with your spouse from the perspective of four rooms. In the first room of your relationship there is information that is known to you and to your spouse or mate. The second room is filled with information that is not known to you but your spouse or mate is aware of as it relates to you. The third room contains information that neither one of you are aware of. Finally, the fourth room is filled with information that you know, but your spouse does not.

The goal of a transparent relationship is to move as much information as possible from all of the other rooms to room number one – that room where information is known by both you and your spouse. While many may challenge the need to communicate like this, I offer some strong reasons as to why transparent communication with your spouse is one of the most powerful and effective ways to cleave and place hedges of protection around your marriage.

Using Johari’s window, as describe above with the four rooms, the strongest relationships are formed when information is known to self and others. This is even more important with the person you have committed to spend the rest of your life with.

Transparent Communication in Your Marriage:

1. Closes the door from any external mischief-makers playing two ends against the middle or from enemies of your marriage who attempt to sow seeds of dissention. If you talk about things openly with your spouse, you are better able to work together to put strategies in place to handle problematic external forces and influences that work against harmonic relations between the two of you.

2. Demonstrates incomparable trust. If you keep lines of communication open about any subject matter and no subject is taboo with your mate and create an atmosphere of emotional safety in discussing even the hardest of subjects, you demonstrate with your action a profound level of trust that you have for your mate and are willing to expose information and receiving it responsibly. It places the couple in the position to have to trust the other not only with their heart but with information that may be extremely sensitive. This kind of communication requires commitment.

3. Builds an authentic friendship between you and your spouse. Real friends are very rare. When people are married, the best and strongest friendship one can build is with their spouse. Having your spouse as your best friend makes an “ordinary” marriage extraordinary; and the difference one can make by befriending their spouse is adding that little “extra” dynamic to the relationship.

4. Offers protection against infidelity. Infidelity happens in a cloud of secrecy. When things are not kept secret between husband and wife, and couples are able to openly discuss their weaknesses or temptations with each other, it provides an opportunity to effectively deal with risk factors and to implement strategies to strengthen any pillars in the marriage that might be crumbling.

5. Serves as a tool for healing and conflict resolution. Transparent loving communication helps to ease the pain that sometimes spouses causes one another. When you can fess up or sincerely and openly discuss your feelings and emotions with your mate, it provides a platform to work through issues maturely and lovingly. Words do matter. Yet, when couples take the necessary time to thoroughly share information that is needed for each other to “be okay” it offers a profound opportunity to heal and reconcile differences.

There is a saying that, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Transparent communication in your marriage might be difficult, but it is definitely worth it in the long run!

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Getting Into the Rhythm of Things

Balance between husband and wife

I believe everyone suffers from a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, although at varying degrees; which depends on what they have gone through in life. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event. It can develop when a person goes through, sees or hears about something that causes intense fear, helplessness, and horror. The impact can be very devastating and cause one to have flashbacks of the events, isolate themselves from social circles that present perceived threats of that event reoccurring again, and more.

Healthy relationships in general help people to heal from the issues of their past. However for this column I will specifically discuss marriage. Healthy marriages help people to heal from various issues. The reason is because this whole process is really about balance; and a healthy marriage is one that is in alignment. When a couple is aligned it encourages and supports continuous balance.

When two people get married, each person comes to the table with a set of weaknesses and a set of strengths. These can also be viewed as a set of fears and the capacity to give loving energy as to offset or help the other overcome their fears.

Fear causes a person to react to situations and circumstances in somewhat of a panicked state, no matter how well they mask it. Their fears are almost usually connected to childhood trauma. Some fears also come about as a result of trauma that happens throughout life. Therapy helps a person to mentally work through and process what has happened and helps them to confront, accept, and cope with the situation as a part of their past. It is a mental health process that is most effective when it takes place immediately after a traumatic event. This may explain why many therapists are moving toward life coaching as a means of helping, because the truth is the impact of childhood traumas are not really fully realized until one has reached adulthood.

Life coaching helps a person to build their emotional intelligence skills to help them move forward. This process is not an easy one and requires one to take one or a few steps at a time. Healing does not happen overnight, and memories from traumatic events may never completely disappear. However, having a healthy circle of friendship and being surrounded by people who understand your fears and are able to provide the necessary support system to help you get through tough times is essential.

Marriage is wonderful because it allows both husband and wife the opportunity to confront their fears, while learning to be supportive of each other and allowing one another the opportunity to not only empty but to fill as well through consistent loving, compassionate, and patient communication. The process is not all listening or all talking. It is a healthy balance of both and at times just active sharing through silence.

For example going to the beach together – one may choose to rest on the cot while the other chooses to swim or play in the water. They both may choose to take a walk together. The beach scenario is an example, where there’s no need for a lot of words to be exchanged. This is a moment that allows the couple to be together and have the necessary space to heal and restore.

A husband and wife strengthen one another where they are weak. You complement or offset a weakened spirit through love, compassion, and patience and by learning to give the other what is needed. To do that, is to understand their fears. Just like it is necessary to take baby steps to overcome fears, it is equally necessary for the one compensating to take baby steps as well. This helps the weakened spirit become strong without draining the energy of the one that is strong.

The question is not about being a spirit breaker or a spirit maker as much as it is about learning to give and receive in proper proportion to allow a soul to be restored.

The idea of marriage is for a husband and wife to help maintain the greatness in each other’s character and to cover one another’s weaknesses. A healthy marriage is one where husband and wife are friends of one another and have a healthy circle of friends to help support their marriage.

People can reclaim their power by helping others. Marriage provides a daily opportunity to do this, taking one step at a time.

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