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Compromise in Marriage (Without Shooting Yourself in the Foot)

 

Compromise

 

How to Compromise in Marriage: The Quest for Perfection

 

You know what I am talking about.
So many couples reach out, looking for help with their communication.

Compromising is right up there, a close second.  They’ll say they need help making decisions. They want to learn how to compromise better.

To compromise is by definition:

“To make a deal between different parties where each party gives up part of their demand. In arguments, compromise is a concept of finding agreement through communication, through a mutual acceptance of terms often involving variations from an original goal or desires.”

It’s what we all want when we are unable or unwilling to give up our end of the deal. It’s what we go to when we need to meet in the middle.

It’s 50/50.

 

How to Compromise in Marriage: The Problem with Said Quest for Perfection

 

That’s precisely it. We expect it to be 50/50  – even if it’s unsaid.

Even though neither one of you dares say that out loud to the other.

I am only willing to meet you halfway. Halfway and not one inch further. 

We expect to get half of our demands and only give in to half of what our partner wants.

Every. Time.

And – you guessed it!

That’s where the shooting yourself in the foot comes into play.

Because that’s not what compromise is.

It doesn’t specify the percentages.

Somehow it’s been so engrained in our system that we don’t even know where it comes from.

 

How to Compromise in Your Marriage: The Reality

 

While 50/50 IS what we expect, it’s not what’s often doable.

Or best for the given situation, for that matter.

Yet when we get less than that – OR – flipped on its head – when more than half is asked of us, we throw a fit.

And yes, compromising in a 50/50 way – it’s a tall order.

It doesn’t limit how many of what you get OR how many times you are out of luck.

Sometimes the split will be 90/10.

Other times it will be 60/40.

It’ll all depend.

 

How to Compromise in Your Marriage: What To Do

 

No matter what the split is, you are best off letting go of the 50/50 paradigm and examining every situation as it comes up.

Even though sometimes – it may surprise you and be just that (50/50).

But that will be the exception rather than the rule.

There are three parts to this:

  1. Where do I stand?
  2. Where do you stand?
  3. How can we both win? (READ: What can I do so that we can both win?)

Because no matter how many fits you will throw, if you end up winning and your spouse loses, you both lose.

Same is true the other way around – if you lose and they win, you both lose.

You lose as a couple.

And that’s where it drags you down.

SO – Think about what’s more important – is it that it’s even and ‘fair’?

Or – is it more important that you both are able to walk away, knowing that you are good?

Good together…

You decide.

And next time you do this, let me know how it goes.

 

Why I love what I get to do every day – CONFESSIONS OF A COUPLES THERAPIST

Why I love what I get to do every day

 

Why I love what I get to do every day – THE PHONE CALL

 

I was on the phone with my mom. She had just casually asked me how work was going, only to offer:

“It must be really rewarding to know that because a couple came to see you, they are not going to get a divorce.”

Yes. Yes, it is.

I’m not gonna lie.

In fact, I am not even sure that the word rewarding does it justice.

 

Why I love what I get to do every day – REASON #1

 

And yes, the couples who come into my office and end up not divorcing as a result of our working together bring me enormous joy.

Sometimes they walk in and they admit that this is their last resort. Things have been so bad for so long, they’ve lost sight of what it could even look like. They don’t even remember how at one point in time, the two of them enjoyed spending time together. Or liked venturing out into public, side by side.

So, yes, that is definitely one portion of the clients I end up seeing. And I love being the bearer of good news for them.

Sometimes, all they need to hear is that this – their situation – is salvageable, that I have done this with other couples before them, and that that it’s totally doable.

But – it’s not just the couples who, as a result of working with me, end up NOT being a part of the divorce statistic.

 

Why I love what I get to do every day – REASON #2

 

There are a lot of other couples who come in, knowing that they are not looking to divorce as an option.

The ones who come in because they don’t want to be miserable for the rest of their married lives. Those who come in, knowing that if nothing changes, things will just get worse over time. When it’s already been bad for a while.

And they fear that if nothing changes they will just dislike their spouse more and more each day.

The couples who know that their misery is rubbing off on their kids even if they never fight in front of them. Or they never fight at all  – but there is a father elephant, mother elephant and three baby elephants all spread out unashamedly on their living room floor.

 

Why I love what I get to do every day – THE MARRIAGE, TRANSFORMED

 

That’s the two.

No matter which one walks in, I’m honored to be in on the ride.

I can’t say that I have favorites. What I can say – Seeing the turnaround and watching husbands and wives work towards and become the couple they can be,  their marriage transformed in the process, is unreal.

 

5 Surefire ways to get kicked out of marriage counseling

Surefire Ways to get kicked out of marriage counseling

 

 

You didn’t know this was a thing, did you?

That you could get ‘fired’ from marriage counseling – Clients fire therapists, not the other way around, right?

Well, it happens.

Oh, and guess what-

I don’t even have to do the work.

“How come?” you ask.

Because your spouse sort of volunteers to do it for me.

At no cost.

(Can you believe it? – I KNOW, right?)

 

Without further ado, here is the recipe for you. Follow these tips and I guarantee it will work.

Surefire Ways to get Kicked out of Marriage Counseling #1: Show up late

 

And I mean, all the time.

And when you waltz in, I don’t know, 10, 15, 25 min late, don’t say a thing.

Not to your spouse, not to your therapist.

You know, that thing people say?

I am sorry. This or the other thing happened and I had no way of contacting either one of you because I forgot my phone at home this morning. So sorry for the disruption.”

Don’t say that.

Just plump yourself on the couch and exhale, while shaking your head.

Surefire Ways to get Kicked out of Marriage Counseling #2: Blame your spouse and continue to be defensive

 

Every time that your spouse brings something to your attention, get all uppity about it and put it back on them.

Yep, throw it back in their lap.

Make them responsible.

For all of it.

Every time.

Something like this will do:

But YOU made me mad – that’s why I reacted like that.”

“YOU shouldn’t do stuff like that to me – that only makes me all pissed off in return!”

You KNOW I don’t like it when you do that!”

 

And really, this can be done at home or in session.

You choose.

But – this will work extra well in my office because we have prefaced the conversation in a respectful way AND your spouse has done the work to be an ‘adult’ about the issue AND he/she is following the prompts we have practiced in the past.

So yes, if you continue to wash your hands, saying – “I have nothing to do with that, it’s not my fault” – instead of really listening to your spouse and responding responsibly – that’s really all you gotta do.

 

Surefire Ways to get Kicked out of Marriage Counseling #3: Go back on your word 

 

What does that entail?

Not much.

It’s really simple.

And real easy.

Yes, I know I said that last week but I didn’t mean it.”

I promise stuff to people all the time, you should know by now that’s who I am and that it doesn’t mean a thing.”

I remember that we agreed. But I have a right to change my mind. There.”

“Yes, you told me I go back on my word but – sometimes, you just have to. You can’t expect me to keep every promise I make…”

Surefire Ways to get Kicked out of Marriage Counseling #4: Don’t do your homework

 

The best version of this looks something like this:

Homework?

What homework?

You gave us something to do during the week?

(And then, looking at your spouse) Did YOU do it?

Why didn’t you remind me?

 

And to get the best value out of the deal, do this:

Consistently fail to do anything that’s asked of you outside of session.

Your partner will, at some point, decide that this is a waste of their time and decide that it would, in fact, be more in their interest to just come in solo than to leave feeling defeated every week.

 

Surefire Ways to get Kicked out of Marriage Counseling #5: Cancel your session last minute

 

Want to earn bonus points?

Do it without letting your partner (and/or your therapist) know.

Better yet, when confronted about it later, say: What? I am not my spouse’s keeper! What do you want from me?”

For best results, do this when your spouse found a sitter substitute last minute because regular one got sick.

OR when you know that your spouse is coming from the far end of town and has gone through an hour of crazy traffic to get there.

OR when they are feeling under the weather.

 

Any combination of the above will work just fine.

Even just one of those excuses should help you get canned in no time

 

I know, I know –  I said five – here is one more. For extra credit.

Surefire Ways to get Kicked out of Marriage Counseling #6: Show up to a session under the influence 

 

Yes, as in drunk.

Or high.

Or both if you want.

And, I mean really, you don’t have to come completely wasted.

Smelling of booze or pot will do.

 

 

That’s all, folks.

That’s the last one.

If you try all these, or a combination of a few, I guarantee your spouse will kick you out of marriage counseling.

No doubt about it.

That’s why I called them the SUREFIRE ways of getting fired.

By definition that’s what that means.

So, good luck.

 

Now, if that’s not really what you are after – if you don’t participate in such behavior, thank you for caring.

You are one step closer to making it work.

Yes, your marriage.

And for all the marriage therapists out there, I wish you the world.

 

 

On Grief in Marriage – The Untold Truth About Grief Wreaking Havoc in Your Relationship

 

On Grief in Marriage

 

On Grief in Marriage: FIRST, MY STORY

 

I remember that day like it was yesterday.

The year was 1998. My grandfather had just passed away and all of us kids came out for the funeral.

My dad and my godmother were with him when he took his last breath and they had shared the news with us on the phone a couple of days before.

And there we were, standing room only, my cousin and I, the only two crying.

Tears rolling down our faces.

And I remember looking around, wondering what on earth was wrong with all these people.

This IS a really sad occasion.

He IS really gone.

Why are we the only ones that are responding in what seemed like the appropriate way to the situation?

It made me mad.

It made so mad, in fact, that I didn’t talk to any of the adults for the remainder of that trip.

I couldn’t make sense of it.

 

On Grief in Marriage: THEN & NOW

 

I didn’t know then what I know now.

I was only 18.

I didn’t know a single thing about how grief works.

Or that people grieve in different ways.

I had no idea that grief has stages or knew what they were.

Or how to plan for them when they come like waves and you barely have time to take another breath.

 

On Grief in Marriage: THE MOMENT OF SURPRISE

 

We all have our own ways of grieving the loss of a loved one.

The moment of surprise comes when you find yourself at the height of your biggest need.

And it so happens that your need isn’t met by your spouse.

Contrary to all past belief (and experience!), now when you need them the most, they are not there.

 

More than anything, your spouse has been there for you.

For everything.

In the past, you two always found ways to comfort each other.

That’s just what you do — it’s what you’ve always done:

When one of you was sick, you’d care for each other.

When you were down to one car because you lent yours to a person in need, you supported each other.

When times got tough with little ones around, you were a team more than ever.

Even when one of you dealt with the loss of a dear one in the past, this support was still in place. We are there for each other. Unwavering. That’s the rule.

 

On Grief in Marriage: NOW WHAT HAPPENED?

 

You have been there for each other — Every other time.

Now – of all times – now when you need your spouse the most, you wonder why they aren’t showing up.

Why they aren’t there for you.

And why on earth is this happening?

Why do I feel so alone?

You may have all the questions. And in place of answers, there is a void.

The timing couldn’t be any more off.

 

You are mining in history and remembering all the times they supported you.

When your grandma died.

When your colleague passed away from cancer.

Your spouse was there for you then – what is wrong with them now?

Now – now that it’s even closer to home, more important and more painful in so many ways — why are they so cruel?

Or cruel they seem…

 

And that is precisely why.

 

On Grief in Marriage: A SHARED EXPERIENCE

 

It is precisely in those moments when the loss hits too close to home – for both of you.

When you are both devastated by the news in much the same ways — when the person gone was someone dear to both of your hearts.

It is when loss is shared that you might not be able to be there for each other.

This one time.

And it happens because your loss is shared, your grief is too.

It’s what we call complicated grief.

You both are finding yourselves in the midst of the storm.

One wave after the next.

 

You may have had a miscarriage.

Or five.

Perhaps you lost a child to a disease.

Perhaps you lost a parent or a close friend that you both knew and loved and had lots of history with.

 

Now it’s different.

And this is why.

 

It’s not that your spouse doesn’t want to support you.

It’s not that they aren’t grieving (even though that’s what it looks like sometimes).

It’s just that they grieve differently.

And the timing is likely off.

When you get hit by the wave, they might be in recovery mode.

Or they might have just gotten hit with three.

Really big ones.

They might be barely coming up for air themselves, unable to assist anyone besides themselves.

When you hit your lowest spot, they might seem disconnected from the pain.

 

On Grief In Marriage: NOW WHAT?

 

First, you have to remember one thing.

It’s not that they are doing it on purpose.

It’s not that they mean to be hurting you, withholding support and love from you when you need it most.

It’s that they, too, are doing all they can to stay afloat.

Did that make it clear?

 

Second, know this – I often remind my couples — that your spouse can’t be everything to you.

I know my husband isn’t.

I know he isn’t all that.

And  — guess what?

I don’t even want him to be.

And he is a pretty great guy.

There is no other time that this applies more than when you’re in a time of grief.

 

This is the time you might need to look for another person to confide in.

For someone you trust to talk to about all this.

The bad and the worst and everything in between.

You both might need to find another person for support.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

Talk to your best friend.

Talk to your pastor.

Talk to your aunt.

Find a support group. A mental health professional.

It doesn’t matter – Just find someone.

So that you can take that pressure off of each other.

 

Third, know this:

There is nothing wrong with you.

There is nothing wrong with your spouse.

When it comes to shared grief and loss like the one you are experiencing, the rules don’t apply.

If ever this is true, it is now.

The more painful of a place it is, the more true it rings.

Even though you are in this together, the sooner you realize that it is ok to need support from elsewhere, the less hurt and resentful you will be in the end.

You don’t want to hold this against your spouse.

Not this time.

It’s not worth it.

Not ever, really –But particularly not now.

Because when the worst of the storm is over, you are still going to find each other right there, standing in the rain. And you can both be ok, together.

 

 

Uh-oh! Is there a hidden camera in my therapy office?

Hidden Camera Blog Post

I don’t know what to make of this – It’s like my clients are talking amongst themselves.

Is there a memo going around that I never got my hands on?

Or worse yet, did someone have a hidden camera installed in my office that I am not aware of?

How is this happening?

It was one those weeks just a few weeks back. I don’t have to wreck my brain to remember that it was at least three different couples who walked in with THE exact same issue that week.

What was it, you ask?

Driving.

What? Driving?

Yep, that’s right – Transporting themselves (and/or other family members) from location A to location B. And how that caused problems.

For some of them it’s been happening for decades. For some, the annoyance was brand new.

And I am not talking about the ‘My wife drives me nuts’ kind of driving.

Just to be clear.

Nope – two wheels in the front, two wheels in the back (let’s not get too technical about it).

How driving comes up in therapy sessions

Question Driving

 

See for yourselves.

 

Exhibit A:

“He drives too fast, I am not comfortable with it. And it’s because we leave late everywhere go. Heaven forbid we would ONCE make it on time. And not have to go 20 miles over the speed limit. It’s out KIDS in the back seat, for crying out loud! Don’t you get that? And don’t even get me started on all the speeding tickets you got just in the last couple of years. It’s like the older you get, the more risky and stupid you behave.”

 

Exhibit B:

“Going from one common location to another, I told her when we would get there. She was on board with it. All is well. We had plenty of time. I know how to get there. And yet, the whole way down, she keeps pointing this way and that, telling me what to do: move into this lane. We’ll get there faster if you take this exit. At this time of day, lane X is unpredictable – we should have avoided this whole road to begin with. You never drive this during traffic, how would you know?”

 

Exhibit C:

“This is sort of an emergency, you would agree, right? We are driving the mother-in-law to the ER, she is  not feeling well, she can barely breathe – Mind you, we don’t know what’s wrong. She is sitting in the back seat, literally semi-unconscious. And she (read wife) insists on driving. I am telling her, she is in the right frame of mind to drive. It’s like driving herSELF to the ER. But she doesn’t listen. Then, we take a red turn where there is a NO TURN ON RED sign. I ignore it. I know she is stressed out. I don’t say anything as she is speeding off at 75 mph on a 55 road. But then, what broke the camel’s back – She takes a left turn on a red light through two lanes of traffic. And I lose it. I offered to drive. I offered to call an ambulance. I even said we could just get a cab – but then we don’t have a way to drive back home. And then, instead of being supportive, calm and collected, I am freaking out and yelling at my wife until she drives herself and her mom to the ER, and I drive the car into the parking garage.”

With the last occurrence, before they are even done telling me what happened, I literally laugh out loud. (And of course, I let them finish.)

And, so as not to make things awkward, I tell them why.

They laugh with me.

There must have been something in the water.

What are the chances? Right???

Hidden Camera – YES or NO?

 

So, we talked through it.

We looked at what was driving them 🙂 into this. And, we did a feedback wheel, like I always do in a situation like this, remembering to focus in on two things:

  1. Why is this bothering you?
    2. What would you like to ask your spouse instead?

 

They did well.

There is always a solution.

You just have to be open to it and listen. And start the process by speaking up.

 

So for the record: NO, there is no hidden camera in my office.

It’s just life’s way of being funny sometimes.

 

But I am not doing anything wrong!

 

but i am not doing anything wrong

 

I don’t know why, but this has been coming up over and over again lately.

To a point where I almost finish the sentence FOR them.

Seriously – have you ever had that happen?

Like, in the summer, when kids start whining, and you hear that dreaded noise that starts with “MOOOOM…”

And you know exactly what’s coming.

“I’M BOOOORED!”

 

 

Kind of like that.

Only the phrase has to do with relationships – obviously.

And the phrase is the following:

But I am not doing anything wrong!

 

 

But I am not doing anything wrong: FLAVORS GALORE

 

They come in all sorts of colors and flavors.

Like these:

 

I never said I was going to be that way.

I have always been a person who exercises a lot, you knew that right when we met – it was on my profile. It’s important to me.

I need to see my friends every so often.

But going to the cabin every weekend with my friends is who I am.

You can’t ask me to do that – I don’t know how to be affectionate. That’s not who I am.

 

Only when I hear it, it sounds more like this:

Going to the cabin every weekend with my friends is who I am. I am not doing anything wrong.

I don’t know how to be affectionate. That’s not who I am. I am not doing anything wrong.

I have always been a person who exercises a lot. You knew that right when we met – it was in my profile. I am not doing anything wrong.

 

Do you see the trend?

And most often, it’s followed by: Why are you mad at me?

I have always done this, or that, or the other thing. Nobody has ever asked me to do anything else. It’s not wrong that I always want to drive. Or cook my own food (different than what everyone else is eating). I am not doing anything wrong by making this decision for myself. It’s my decision after all.

 

 

But I’m not doing anything wrong: THE AHA! MOMENT

 

Well, guess what?

It’s not about being wrong. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with being wrong.

You may be totally right  – you are not doing anything wrong by doing your exercise routine every day.

There is nothing inherently wrong with you wanting to spend time with your friends at the cabin every weekend.

There is nothing inherently wrong with you spending an hour on the phone with your mom when you get home from work.

 

BUT – your relationship – and everything in it – is NOT inherently about right or wrong.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s right or wrong in your eyes.

What matters is that your spouse is asking something of you and you are ignoring that.

 

 

But I am not doing anything wrong: THE EXAMPLE YOU MIGHT SEE YOURSELF IN

 

When they say – I would like to have dinner with you and the family – they are not saying you can’t talk to your mom.

All they are saying is: I would like to have dinner with you and for you to be present with me, instead of on the other line with your mom while we eat. I’d really like to hear about your day. I have so many things to share about mine…

 

When they say – I would like to have breakfast with you on Saturday – they are not saying I don’t want you to go for your bike ride that day.

All they are saying is: I would like to have one morning per week where we sleep in, be lazy, have coffee and eggs for breakfast and talk about our hopes and dreams. So maybe you can go biking earlier or later to accommodate that ask.

 

When they say – I’d really like to spend some time with you this weekend – maybe you and I can go somewhere we’ve never been? — They are not saying, I think you going to the cabin with your friends every weekend is wrong.

All they are saying is: I really miss you. I would love to spend some more time together not just during the week. There is this place I’d love to take you. Or for you to take me. Or maybe we can go to the cabin together but allow for some of the time to be spent just you and me?

 

 

 

But I am not doing anything wrong: THE CHOICE

 

None of this is wrong for you to do – or want to do. But if your spouse is making themselves miserable thinking, this person that I thought really cares about me seemingly doesn’t care at all – That’s something you should want to pay attention to.

Because you have a choice.

You keep doing what you have always done.

Because that’s the pattern.

That’s the rule.

You are accustomed to it and it’s easy.

And you ignore and hurt your partner in the process.

 

OR — you take it to heart.

You forget about what the pattern has been for you all your life.

You set aside what the easiest thing for you is.

Not because it’s really wrong.

But because you care that your spouse is upset by the situation and there is something that you can do to change that.

 

 

But I am not doing anything wrong: NOW WHAT?

 

You don’t have to be doing anything “wrong” for you and your spouse to be pulling away from each other as a result.

Here is our challenge.

Next time you and I start thinking to ourselves, but I am really not doing anything wrong…

Forget the whole idea of what’s right and what’s wrong.

Toss it aside.

Face your spouse.

And whatever you say, start it by saying:

I don’t want to miss the mark again and continue to frustrate you. What is it that I am missing and what can I do to help you feel better right now?

Relationship Questions – Do you want too much from your relationship?

relationship questions

 

 

Do you?

Do you think you do??

Let me ask you this first:

Who says you want too much from it?

Who is it that’s asking?

Because it’s essentially irrelevant.

Wait – Did I just say it’s irrelevant?

I absolutely did.

It’s really nobody else’s business but yours.

And I am known to say quite the opposite to my couples about just about everything else.

 

Once you know what you want from your relationship , who is to say that you are asking too much?

Actually, never mind me asking.

It doesn’t really matter who the person is.

It could be the neighbor across the street, your best friend or family member – none of it really matters one bit.

Because of the bottom line.

 

 

RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS: The bottom line

 

Wait, what’s the bottom line?

The way I look at it, the only way that you would think you want too much from your relationship is that either

A. You are told you want too much from your relationship (from someone who isn’t willing to give more)

OR

B. You see other relationships that just wouldn’t meet your criteria because of their lack of something or another

Am I right?

 

RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS: Why the bottom line matters 

 

Here is why the bottom line matters.

Because the bottom line is this:

If this other person wants less out of their relationship, that’s on them.

If they are satisfied and can be happy with less, that’s just fine.

But just because that’s the case for them doesn’t mean it has to be the case for you.

And just because they are happy with less doesn’t mean you can’t expect or desire more for your own relationship.

And, like I said before, you are the only judge of that.

It is not for anyone else to tell you how much/what you should want out of your relationship.

You are the one walking in your shoes.

You get to do this on your own.

Or with your spouse, likely.

BUT – You get to make this decision for yourself.

And then you sit with it OR you act on it.

 

RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS: What this looks like in real life

 

This is real.

Real life sort of real.

That’s why we are talking about it.

So, here goes:

–Just because your sister or brother doesn’t care about their significant other’s education doesn’t mean that you can’t be looking for someone with a PhD.

–Just because your best friend is fine with her husband being out of town hunting every weekend doesn’t mean that you have to be.

–Just because your buddy at work doesn’t need occasional PDA from his wife doesn’t mean that you should lower the bar for yourself.

–Just because your parents were used to not talking for weeks after a big fight doesn’t mean that’s something you have to get accustomed to.

 

Do any of these resonate?

 

 

RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS: I WANT you to want more

 

The only two people that matter in this equation is you and your spouse.

And really, when you and your spouse are not in agreement about some of these things, you are the one and the only person who has to figure that out for yourself.

Ain’t nobody coming and doin’ it.

Here’s the good news.

Once you have it figured out, then you know exactly what you are looking for.

And what you are not.

 

 

RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS: What you need to know: Part I

 

You’ve got to pay attention to this one.

Maybe you should write it down.

There is no. one. right. answer.

That also means – there is no wrong answer.

What you want and what your best friend wants may not align.

And that is just fine.

‘Cause you are not the same people.

And you are bound to want different things.

 

RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS: What you need to know: Part II

 

What you wanted in your relationship a decade ago – or whenever it was that you two first met – may or may NOT be what you are looking for in your relationship now.

That’s not to say that some of it can’t be the same.

Another part of it may need to shift.

Because we change, our relationships change.

And so do our expectations and desires.

What may have worked for you even a year, month or a week ago – might not work today. And if it’s not working anymore, you had better raise your hand and address it.

The better you are able to communicate that to your spouse, the more likely you are to get what you want.

The more of what you both are able to get from each other, the more real and meaningful your relationship will end up being.

So stop looking around.

Stop obsessing and overanalyzing and triple-checking.

Treat the rest of the world is as if it were non-existent.

It’s just you and your spouse.

How good can you make it?!?

(And yes, that is a Dare.)

 

Communication Skills: 5 Lessons Inspired by the 2nd Presidential Debate

 

Communication Skills

 

Let me be clear about two things from the start:

 

Disclaimer No. 1:

I did not watch the debate when it ran live. For better or worse, I had decided against it. Having seen the ripple effects everywhere around me in the days that followed, I decided otherwise and took some time last night to watch it afterall.

So, if it seems like I am late in arriving to the party, that is why.

 

Disclaimer No. 2:

I am not interested in making any sort of political statements. This is also not to be seen as endorsement of either candidate. I have no desire to point fingers. I am not looking to start a discussion for or against any party.

I am just a couples therapist who couldn’t help herself but take what was delivered to her on a silver platter and make some use of it for my life and yours.

For your marriage or relationship and for mine.

No matter what side of the spectrum you are on, this applies to us all.

Here’s me to hoping that we can learn something from this.

That’s it. End of story.

 

So – Here we go.

Ready?

These are in no particular order. [Don’t miss the BONUS item at the end – It’s my personal favorite.]

 

Communication Skills  – Lesson No. 1 — Don’t interrupt your spouse when they speak

 

Really. Just stop doing it.

It never served anyone. Believe me.

Figure out whether it’s your time to speak or your time to listen and stick to that. When you interrupt your spouse (or anyone, for that matter), it shows disrespect.

It’s as simple as that.

Unlike the presidential campaign, your ultimate goal (and yes, I am somewhat making an assumption here) is to get along with the person you are talking to. Your spouse, your partner, your fiancé.

Am I right?

It’s to communicate with your spouse in a way that makes things better for your marriage.

So, really. Just quit it.

There is no way around it.

 

Communication Skills – Lesson No. 2 — When you are asked a question, answer it

 

There is no secret message hidden in those three simple words.

Answer. The. Question.

Truly.

When you are asked a question, don’t answer by saying what you think the other person thinks or believes about this or that matter.

When your spouse asks a question of you, they don’t need (or want) you to state (or start guessing) what their response would have been.

You don’t need to learn how to master the art of reading somebody else’s mind.

(Trust me, many have gone before you. Without success.)

There is no need to read between the lines.

Oh, and this. Always a good rule of thumb: If you don’t understand the question, ask the other person to clarify.

 

So, when someone asks you a question, answer it.

And answer it for YOURSELF.

Give your statement. Share your opinion or plan. State your reasoning.

Do it to the best of your ability.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

Because – guess what? – that is what the other person is asking for.

Whatever you do, stay away from starting your reply with “I know what you think about this…I know what you believe about that… and it’s [insert the S word]”

Even our 7-year old knows ‘stupid’ is a bad word.

Which – surprise, surprise –  brings me to the next item on the list.

 

Communication Skills – Lesson No. 3 — Don’t be vulgar

 

This seems like a no-brainer.

Or it should, anyway.

We teach our children this from the time they learn their first word until they leave the house.

And even years past that sometimes.

Yet, once we hit adulthood, somehow the rules have been altered and this became ok to do.

Using derogatory terms to address your spouse.

Utilizing vulgar language in their presence.

Name-calling.

Using accusatory language.

It never serves anyone. Not if you want to get ahead, that is.

People have a tendency to stop listening. Sometimes they completely disengage.

And sometimes, they end up completely dismissing what you have to say when the language you use is dishonoring of who they are.

And you are the only one to blame.

 

Communication Skills – Lesson No. 4 — Trust your spouse first

 

If you are ever questioning something your spouse did, ask them about it.

When they answer, take their word for it. Believe what they say because of the person you know they are.

Don’t accuse them of lying just because.

Don’t accuse them of lying because you are insecure.

Don’t accuse them of lying because that’s your mode of operation.

 

Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty”???

When did it fall on its head- when did we start saying “guilty until proven otherwise?”

Don’t make conclusions with nothing to back them up.

Your spouse deserves better than that.

Enough said.

 

Communication Skills – Lesson No. 5: Beware of your nonverbal communication

 

This is no new thing.

93% of what you say is nonverbal communication.

You know what I am talking about – the rolling of the eyes, the heavy breathing, the smiles when you aren’t really smiling. All of that and more.

Now, while during the presidential debate this may not be that clear-cut, in your intimate relationship this will most definitely come bite you in the behind.

Notice what you do.

Pay attention to what other people say to you in response.

And if that is not your goal or intention, notice what you do with your face.

Note how loud your voice is when you speak.

And please, if there are twelve people lined up telling you one and the same thing, start listening. They can’t all be so gravely mistaken.

Think about it.

It may be that it’s you who is driving the wrong way on the interstate. Not everybody else.

 

And remember, you don’t have to agree on everything. In fact, most couples don’t. But, they figure out how to agree to disagree on some things.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

 

Communication Skills – BONUS (as promised):  Don’t raise index finger while your spouse is still talking

 

Same thing goes for talking over them while they are still sharing with you.

Not only do you come off as impatient.

And rude.

And disrespectful. (I know, this again. It seems to come up a lot.)

Not only is it indicative that you have stopped listening to what the other person is saying.

Because, you know, you can’t listen and formulate your response at the same time.

You can’t come up with your argument – or the answer to: how am I going to defend myself? – and pretend to be listening.

It’s impossible.

Again, many have tried. And failed miserably.

And, how on point is your argument going to be  when the other person hasn’t even finished their point yet?

 

Here’s what the message is that you are getting across when you do that:

It’s saying I don’t really care what you have to say.

It’s saying I am honestly not even listening to you anymore.

It’s saying I can’t wait for you to finish because I have better, smarter, more important things to say.

What you have to say doesn’t really matter.

 

Now, you and I both know that is NOT what you want to communicate to  the person you most care about in this world. So, watch out for this one.

When done right, it has long-term consequences. And the potential to change the way you think about every future conversation. For the better.

 

Final Thought

 

This is it. It’s these 5+1 simple communication skills.

Do you see yourself anywhere in this?

Guilty as charged?

That’s alright.

Change starts with taking notice. And then, taking a stance.

Here’s to me hoping that we can learn something from this. Trusting that we can improve the space we share with the people closest to us.

The ones that matters the most.

 

 


Know someone who would get a kick out of this before the next debate?

I’d love it if you’d share.

 

 

Fun Date Ideas for the not-so-creative couple

Yesterday I made a promise. To bring even more fun into this. And you may have already gotten the idea (since I gave it away in the title).

So….

If you and your spouse are the playful kind, these will – hopefully – get you two well on your way. Or at the least, they will be a springboard from which you can fly and reach the un-reachable. (Alright, maybe I went a little overboard there.)

Because, let’s be real. Who doesn’t like to have fun, right?

Well, here I go – Fun Date Ideas as presented to you by this couples therapist.

Take it away!

 

FUn date ideas for you and your spouse for any day like this one

Fun date ideas, take I: Play the “Bookstore Game”

 

  1. Go to your favorite bookstore. Whether you love to read or you just go in there, accompanying another person out of obligation, EVERYone has a favorite bookstore. If for nothing else, you know you like their fancy drinks or the countless magazines you can have access to with no need to subscribe to a single one.

Decide on a time limit. You decide. It can be 5 minutes, 15 or 45. You are each your own team. When you go your separate ways, you are to go around the store and pick out as many books as you can get your hands on that fit any of the categories below. Once the time is up, you find some comfy space, and go through the titles, and decide who the winner is.

Categories may include but are not limited to (uh-oh! that sounds like it came from an attorney’s letter describing some need to prove your point in a case):

  • Book with the most ridiculous/funny/embarrassing/captivating title
  • The ‘who in their right mind would ever read this’ book title
  • The title with the largest number of words you don’t understand
  • The titles that made you laugh out loud in the store
  • The books you would really like to read. (You decide when – in the next month/year/decade…)

 

Fun date ideas, take two: PLAN A VACATION TOGETHER

 

Seriously, plan out your next vacation together. When was the last time you two went on vacation together? Just you two? You don’t remember, do you… ?

Please don’t say honeymoon…

BUT – if you do – even more so! You’ve GOT to do this then.

Do you even know what your ideal vacation would look like? Are the two sort of collide? Or are you two the EAST & WEST kind of couple when it comes to vacations? How can you combine your preferences in one vacation and still do it together? Compare notes on where you would like to go, what you would like to do.

And then – Ta-Dah!

Find a spot (in your state, the country or on the planet) where you can do just that – and then set a date, and make a plan. Start looking for airline tickets, good places to stay, the whole nine yards…

You should both be blissfully smiling in the end.

 

Fun Date Ideas, Take Three: Designing your Dream House

 

And I mean, go all out. Take DREAM to the next level – or to the level it should be. Maybe it will require you to close your eyes for a moment and just let it all sink in.

If you could do ANYTHING…. Anything in the world….

There are no limits to this.

Seriously. Are you paying attention?

Maybe yours would include an Olympic size pool in the backyard.

Maybe you would have a vineyard right as you walk out on the back porch.

Maybe you would include a hanger and a runway for the plane you are going to fly to get to work. Who needs cars.

Maybe your kids would have a corn maze.

Or an amphitheater to gather all your family and friends for regular children’s plays…

Or a climbing wall that you would need to take a chair lift to get to.

Do you see where I am going with this? DREAM. HOUSE.

 

What is it going to be for you?

Pick up a pencil and draw it on a piece of paper.

(I would suggest a deadline, otherwise you may be playing with this all night and forget to go to sleep)

When you are both done, see how in the dream world you can combine the two of them together, square footage being no issue.

I guarantee you will get some good laughs out of this. And you are guaranteed to learn something about each other that you never knew.

 

Fun Date Ideas, Take Four: The Numbers Game

 

Assuming you know how old your spouse is  – I’m kidding, kind of – get out a few sticky notes. Better yet, improvise with a plain white paper that you have cut up into into small pieces). Write a number on each piece of paper that represents an age, between 1 and however old your spouse is.

(So,say you spouse is 45, you will pick numbers between 1-45. And write them down. Make sense?)

Pick out seven numbers and put them in a pile, numbers facing down. When you are done coming up with the numbers, you give your spouse your pile and they give you theirs.

So, at this point, you have in front of you blank (because the numbers  you can’t see) pieces of paper that your spouse picked and wrote down.

Are you totally confused yet?

Take turns, picking out one of your pieces of paper and, – you go, they go – based on the number on it, answer the question:

What is my all time favorite memory when I was ______ (fill in the blank – 5, 17, 44 etc…)

If you don’t have an all-time favorite memory, what do you remember about that age growing up?

If you want to be more creative – come up with a question that you’ve always wanted to ask each other. Or not. And just stick to the instructions above.

This will take some time so you can see how much ground you can cover in 30 min.

Or an hour.

Alternately, if you are that couple (you know who you are) and get done SUPER fast, do come up with another question and then pick other ages to talk about.

Sky’s the limit.

 

If these fun date ideas are just a little over the top for you – feel free to go back to good ol’ simple date night ideas instead.

No judgement whatsoever.

One way or the other.

Just enjoy.

 


 

If you would like to get caught up on our Date Night Marathon here is what we’ve been up to real quick:

So we’ve asked (and hopefully answered) the question when did date night go out of style – you should check it out for yourself, just to make sure.

Then we went over why some date night ideas are just not up to par (and why that is), followed with a few simple ideas that any couple can pull off at any time.

In all seriousness – See if your go-to ideas align with mine.

 

My 5 Simple Date Night Ideas

If you are just joining us, welcome to the DATE NIGHT MARATHON – we have been talking about date nights all week this week. I’m glad you are here. Some think that date night went out of style and if that’s you, I’d love to prove the contrary right here.

We often get into a rut, right? Always doing the same no-effort-necessary 2-3 things, over and over again. And it gets boring. Besides, it also doesn’t really give you the benefit of a date night that you are probably looking for. If you are one that gets into a routine fast and are wondering if your date night preferences would be “disqualified” or if they would stand the test – and why that would be the case – Check out this article here from yesterday. How did you do?

 

Now that you know what to stay away from – or at least stop doing ALL. THE. TIME – here are five simple date night ideas for you.

Feel free to spice them up a little. They are called simple for a reason.

 

The 5 simple date night ideas and what you can do to spice up your marriage

  • No. 1: Date Night Ideas – For the ‘no-surprise-necessary’ types

Pick up your favorite Caribou drink and go for a walk around your favorite lake (heaven knows there is LOTS to choose from around here).

Everyone has a favorite. Or explore Google Maps, find one that you have never been to and expand your horizons together.

So you don’t have to count your steps, share what your top 3 summertime memories were growing up.

  • No.2: Date Night Ideas – For the geographically not so challenged

 

Pick one of Minnesota’s famous scenic routes and go for a drive together. Summer, winter, autumn, spring – there is magic in all of them.

While you are at it, make sure you remember that favorite CD that you both love listening to.

Also, do your research in advance, find a cute coffee shop to have tasty lunch in the destination town, and for the drive back, find a game to play.

*Extra credit for these sorts of date night ideas: If you want to put the cherry on the top, prepare (yes, make at home, don’t run through Lunds or Byerly’s and pay for it) your favorite snack mix and bring that along for the ride, for you two to share. And yes, that also includes planning ahead.

Now, these are SIMPLE – I never said they didn’t require some time and preparation 🙂

 

 

  • No.3: Date Night Ideas – For the kitchen savvy

If you enjoy cooking, find a recipe that caught your attention last time you were looking through Food Network or Smitten Kitchen) and prepare the meal together.

Guess what?

You could even go and get all the ingredients together.

Over time, take turns who picks out the recipe.

*Fun Credit for these kinds of date night ideas: If you wanted to make it even more entertaining, divide the list in half, and see who finds their items first and beats the other person to the checkout line.

 

 

  • No.4: Date Night Ideas – For the book lovers

Find a book that you both want to read.

After the kids are in bed, sit down on the couch together and take turns reading it out loud to each other.

If it’s not fiction, at the end of every chapter, talk about what you just read.

Tell each other what you thought. What surprised you.

What you really loved or disagree with.

 

 

  • No. 5: Date Night Ideas – For the Game Enthusiasts

Go to your favorite spot in town, order your favorite drink or appetizer.

Sit in the very back so to minimize the chances of running into a million people you know and being interrupted and bring your favorite game to play.

Think of some fun rewards for the person who wins. (Maybe the other person will make their breakfast tomorrow morning and grant what they request. Maybe you end up giving the other a foot massage or a back rub for the next three days. Maybe….:-) … you get the point).

 

 

Date Night Ideas – No “one size fits all” approach

 

I am well aware and realist enough to know that not all of these date ideas are going to be a great fit for everyone reading this.

Yet my hope is that when seeing these, you might be able to either spice up your perhaps once exciting, now gone boring list of things that you do together. Maybe it will spark interest and make you come up with something completely new, that you never imagined yourselves doing as a couple.

What ever you end up doing, as long as you do something, I hope you enjoy.

I dare you.

I dare you to pick just one of these – and let me know how it goes.

 

PS: Keep your eyes open – because tomorrow – we’ll have even more fun!

 

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