KEEP YOUR MARRIAGE STRONG

Categories:Anne's Blog
Anne Hooper

LEARN TO CALM DOWN

Some degree of fighting is good for a relationship.  But the dangers come floating in when fighting gets out of control.  Learning to calm down therefore is one of the prime elements in good fighting.  And some people find that harder than others.

When you are flooded with powerful and painful emotion it is almost impossible to think straight.  So one extremely simple way of dealing with flooding is to ask for time out from the fight, so that you can go away and cool down.

This isn’t an excuse for ducking the argument; indeed it is essential you eventually return to it.  But meanwhile you will have gained some time in which to recoup your thoughts and run over methods of dealing with the tricky issue.  Calming down may consist of telling yourself things like “No need to feel so upset.  Probably another way of looking at things.  What is another way?  Ah yes, another way is to see that there are many things feeding into my partner’s bad temper and many of them are not me.”  It’s also helpful to tell yourself that most of the time your partner is a good person and that this is only one of his/her minor quirks.  You are trying to turn the situation around in your head so that it seems less threatening


DELIBERATELY RELAX

Calming down may also be assisted if you sit quietly for five minutes or so and carry out the first of the autogenic exercises (on page 00) to take your mind off the issue and let the flooding in your body subside quickly.  When you do return to the fray, tell yourself that you can always move away from the fight if it begins to feel dangerous.  But as you re-enter try to listen to your partner without speaking defensively.  All the rules detailed in the Using Anger Creatively chapter (page 00) apply.


PRAISE IN THE FACE OF THE ENEMY

It may seem an extraordinary and impossible task but one method of  taking the heat out of the situation is to praise your partner.  This works on two levels.  It forces you to remember what is praiseworthy about them, prevents you from being relentlessly negative and allows you to re-assess the real value of the relationship.  But it also softens the rage of your opponent.  You simply don’t feel so mad when someone is telling you “Considering how stressed you are, I think your help in the kitchen this morning was marvellous.” It makes you feel better about yourself and less mad.


BOX  –  TEN WAYS TO KEEP A PARTNER

1.   Be able to say sorry

1.   Be able to wait for the other to say sorry

2.   Give permission to say something difficult

3.   Read each other’s moods

4.   Touch – especially when things are difficult

5.   Be open-minded about new ideas

6.   Respect the other’s family – within reasonable limits

7.   Forgive

8.   Drag a problem out by its teeth when it’s necessary to move it on

9.   Learn how to enjoy domestic life – armchairs can be very pleasurable.


BOX  – ENCOURAGING WORDS


“I really learned something from our fight last night.”

“I’ve really admired how you parent our child at times when I know you’re exhausted.”

“I was full of admiration this morning for the way in which you dealt with our child’s temper tantrum.”

“You were very funny just now telling that new joke.”

“Thanks so much for cooking supper tonight.  I so appreciate your giving me a break.”


HINTS FOR STONEWALLERS

Stonewalling is Dr John Gottman’s description of  blocking behaviour in the face of a fight.  It is a depressed defence reaction and, he says, mainly used by males although not exclusively so.  If you are aware you are stone-walling you are likely to be visibly cutting yourself off from the quarrel, presenting a blank face to your partner which will be so maddening that his/her rage and frustration will massively increase.  Even if you are cutting off inside, make a conscious effort and offer visible signs that you are listening. Nod, say “um”, “I see” “I get the picture”, anything to let him/her believe that you haven’t tuned out.  They will feel a lot happier and the situation will start to improve.


IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE


This isn’t a plea for better deportment, it’s a suggestion that when you get angry or mad your body language can become very threatening and can exacerbate the situation.  So take stock of how you are sitting or standing and try to improve things.  Try to look open and expansive.  If you are standing, sit.  Be aware of your facial expression and re-adjust it.  If your

head is thrust forward aggressively, bring it back.  Try and visibly let your face show sympathy and compassion for the other.


THE CRUCIAL C’S   –   COMPLAINT, CRITICISM OR CONTEMPT?

Complaint is specific and therefore can be used positively.  A complaint is worded to begin with “I”.  “I am fed up by being woken up by you every night.  I need something to change.”

A criticism is blaming and inflames the situation instead of opening it up for change.  “You are far too noisy at night and completely thoughtless.”

Contempt is aggressive and insulting.  “You are a crashing dunderhead.  Why are you so incapable of keeping quiet?”


REPEAT AFTER ME


Research now shows that we build neuronal networks in our brain as the result of  repeated experience.  In other words, the old fashioned method of learning by rote, repeating the multiplication tables over and over again, works very well.  Gottman argues that we should apply this method to learning head is thrust forward aggressively, bring it back.  Try and visibly let your face show sympathy and compassion for the other.


THE CRUCIAL C’S   –   COMPLAINT, CRITICISM OR CONTEMPT?


Complaint is specific and therefore can be used positively.  A complaint is worded to begin with “I”.  “I am fed up by being woken up by you every night.  I need something to change.” A criticism is blaming and inflames the situation instead of opening it up for change.  “You are far too noisy at night and completely thoughtless.” Contempt is aggressive and insulting.  “You are a crashing dunderhead.  Why are you so incapable of keeping quiet?”


REPEAT AFTER ME


Research now shows that we build neuronal networks in our brain as the result of  repeated experience.  In other words, the old fashioned method of learning by rote, repeating the multiplication tables over and over again, works very well.  Gottman argues that we should apply this method to learning head is thrust forward aggressively, bring it back.  Try and visibly let your face show sympathy and compassion for the other.


THE CRUCIAL C’S   –   COMPLAINT, CRITICISM OR CONTEMPT?

Complaint is specific and therefore can be used positively.  A complaint is worded to begin with “I”.  “I am fed up by being woken up by you every night.  I need something to change.”

A criticism is blaming and inflames the situation instead of opening it up for change.  “You are far too noisy at night and completely thoughtless.” Contempt is aggressive and insulting.  “You are a crashing dunderhead.  Why are you so incapable of keeping quiet?”


REPEAT AFTER ME

Research now shows that we build neuronal networks in our brain as the result of  repeated experience.  In other words, the old fashioned method of learning by rote, repeating the multiplication tables over and over again, works very well.  Gottman argues that we should apply this method to learning  new ways of behaving in our relationships.  The more you practise a new behaviour, (for example the touch and talk behaviours) the more easily and naturally it comes to you at the appropriate times. So treat the suggestions on these pages as homework and religiously go over them.


 COPING WITH RELATIONSHIP BREAKUP

Once people reach the stage of deciding to break-up they are frequently in a tearing hurry to get it over and done with, believing sub-consciously that this will get rid of the pain faster.  What gets lost in this notion is the real possibility there is still something left to rescue.  Many couples for example find it impossible to stop fighting once they have separated.    Therapists often interpret this as the couples’ need to still feel connected and the continued fight is the couple’s method of staying in touch.  It is precisely those circumstances that make it worth while drawing a deep breath and thinking hard.

You have the rest of your life in which to be separated.  It is not the end of the world if you postpone your removal for a week, a couple of weeks, even a month.  At the very least this pause allows you to finish your relationship with some maturity and dignity.  How we end things is just as important as how we begin them and endings deserve some attention.  Endings need to be done properly.  Each partner needs to feel that the end of their relationship is fully worked through and that there are no questions left unanswered, no sense there are still explanations pending.  This is important because sometimes when the reason for separation is not fully spelled out, the one who has been left can never fully mourn what happened because he/she doesn’t exactly know what it is.  This is a particularly bleak feeling and can sometimes lead to breakdown years later.


BOX   ENDINGS CHECK LIST

Ask yourself:

  • Have I explained all my decisions?
  • Is there anything else I might do that could conceivably rescue the relationship?Have I given this process at least four weeks to work through with my partner?
  • Have I left the door open for the next few months in which negotiations might be resumed?
  • Do I honestly feel I have done everything I possibly could to improve things?

RULES FOR DIVORCE

There needs to be two sets of  rules for divorcing couples, one for those with children and another for those without children.

1) For those without children, things ought to be relatively simple.  There is no one else’s’ welfare to put first and division of the marital properties can be worked out on the principle that each takes out of the relationship what each put into it and that anything left over can be split.  Where money becomes an issue, a third person can arbitrate.  Of course acrimony can complicate things hideously.  It might help to understand that acrimony stems from a person feeling completely disrespected.  Unfortunately the separating partner often gets blamed for disrespect that is not necessarily their fault. Other important

family members may have been punishing in the past, but their bad behaviour gets projected on to you.  Like everything else in life, divorce is a balancing act.  The best rules to cling on to in these terribly stressful situations are to:

  • Act in a way that feels fair to you.
  • Don’t let the other person take unfair advantage.

2) If you have children, the first principle of separation and divorce must be to put the children’s welfare first, over and above any emotional issues you and your ex-partner have.  If it is difficult achieving this, there are now first class child-oriented mediation services which assist you to manage precisely such a task.  The logical result of this approach means that the separation can be handled in such a way that the kids experience as little disruption as possible.  If it is possible, try to ensure that the children

  • stay in the same neighbourhood,
  • stay at the same school,
  • keep the same friends, preferably stay in the same house (although that is often not an option,) maintain access to the same relations above all have regular and easy access to the departed parent. Virtually all financial agreements follow on from these arrangements.

 

DEAL WITH CRITICISM

Be prepared for a diversity of reactions from family and friends.  If you come from a warm, close family they will probably rally round.  But when you are feeling very vulnerable any criticism hurts and there’s bound to be some.  So steel yourself.  Friends tend to leap into sharp focus as you suddenly value them like you never have before. (See pages 00.)  If you feel panic or flood with shame because of unkind words, remember the autogenic exercises (page 00).  These will help you calm down and reframe the circumstances.


NURTURE YOURSELF

Be kind to yourself.  This may be the first time you have lived alone in many years, for some, it may be the first time ever.  So expect there to be confusion, loneliness and a sense of being

cut off. Do your utmost to turn such tough emotions into something positive.

  • View the preparation of a new home as an exciting challenge.
  • Ask friends to help.
  • If you are lonely, consider inviting a friend to share.
  • If you want the adventure of living alone, plan the first occasions you stay home alone, scheduling your activities.

BOX  –  PLAN THE FIRST WEEKENDS

Weekends tend to be a danger spot.  Plot them out in advance and make a time-table for each day.

  • Shop in the morning,
  • garden in the afternoon,
  • invite a friend over for tea or a drink.
  • Watch your favourite television programme or video in the evening.

Give your day structure.  If this all blurs dangerously in your head, take a paper and pencil and get it down in black and white.  It helps you clear your thinking.


PAMPER THE SENSES

If you urgently miss your partner’s touch, set up a self-massage programme at the weekend.  Plan:

  • the warm scented bath,
  • the warm scented bedroom,
  • the sweet smelling massage oil,
  • the fluffy towel
  • and the sensitive self-massage.

Don’t ever feel ashamed of wanting sensuality.  Everyone does.  It’s just that some people are too scared to admit it.