“The biggest thing is how people view things. We all have our individual perspectives. Men and women view things differently to begin with. Add to that your upbringing, religious and socio-economic differences, and when you come together, it doesn’t just fit. You have to make it fit.”
“Communication is the biggest issue, and the one I hear the most about. There is a difference between knowing and understanding. There is a difference between hearing your spouse or partner, and really listening.
One story I like to tell is about a couple I had come in, and the wife’s biggest complaint was, ‘Honey, you never spend time with me.’ And her husband heard that, but didn’t understand. ‘I spend time with her every day,’ he says to me. ’I come in the living room and I sit with her when I’m reading the paper, or when I’m on the computer. We’re always spending time together!’
This is when we have problems – when our definitions aren’t the same. Clearly he thought, my body is there, I am spending time with her, when her idea of ‘spending time together’ meant something different. She wanted his attention, holding hands, and engagement, and he had no idea he was doing anything wrong because by his definition, he was spending time with her.I ask couples to complete a Love Map. It’s a 62 question tool created by John Gottman that covers multiple topics from, ‘what’s your favorite tree?’ to ‘what’s your worst case disaster scenario?’ After you answer these questions, get together for a date night.Understand each other’s definitions, and then negotiate what you can and cannot accept.”
“Your feelings are never right or wrong. But one of the hardest things can be to step out of your own feelings and see things from the other person’s point of view. It’s hard to say, ‘okay, I don’t get it, but to her, it’s not trivial.’ He has to leave his opinion and see what it means to her.One tool I use to help my clients with this is role playing. I will say what they are saying, but in a different way. And the husband or wife will say, ‘well that sounds much better. I think I could hear that. I think I could go with that.’”
“You can’t find solutions to things if the two of you are working on different problems. This might sound obvious, but sometimes it happens that we get stuck in old patterns.
Make sure you know what you are both talking about. Name the problem. I like to take couples through what is known as Mirroring, where you repeat back to each other what you have heard. This gives you both an opportunity to really test what you understand. This gets you both on the same page, so you both know what you each said. Sometimes, it also gives you a chance to clarify what you are really trying to say – a chance to get it right.”
“One exercise I like is “When You ___________, I feel __________. This creates a perfect communication loop, and not only gives you an opportunity to name the problem, but to give the person a corrective action as well. Say: ‘When you don’t take the trash out on Monday, and leave it in the garage until it smells, I feel really frustrated because when I have to go in there and smell it every day. I would really like it if you would put yourself a note and be more cognizant of the tasks we have agreed on.’
The great part about this one is it gives the person the corrective action. We all want to know what we can do to make someone happy. The chances of being able to do that are much better if you spell it out.”
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