Finding Solutions For Your Relationship Problems
With Expert Barbara J. Peters
While it’s true that in past years the divorce rate in the US has been on the rise – as high as 40% – the current economy has been having an unexpected opposite effect. More couples are choosing to stay together.
When things get tight, wise stewardship can often yield the most fruitful results.
How can we take better care of the people most important in our life? When it comes to relationships, how can we improve our chances for making what we have work?
Most of us have relationships problems, even when we start out with the best of intentions.
To help give some tools and solutions to improve the relationships most important to you, we brought in relationship expert and couples counselor Barbara J. Peters, author of the books, He Said, She Said, I Said, and The Gift of a Lifetime. We asked her, “What causes people with the best of intentions to have a hard time with their relationships?”
“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.”
So how do you make it fit? What are the biggest issues and what are some tools that can help you solve them?
Issue #1: Communication
“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.”
When you know more about your spouse, then you will understand a lot more about your differences. Taking the time to get clear can make all the difference.
Issue #2: Feelings
Often times, our very passionate feelings can get in the way of understanding. Our spouse or partner might not be able to hear what we are saying because of the way we are saying it.
“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.’”
Find another way to say it. Delivery of your message is as important as the actual message!
Issue #3: Finding Solutions
“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.”
So many conflicts or problems come from the idea that one person is wrong and the other is right, when it’s really more a case of: this is the way it is. How do we make it work? We have all been in situations where things aren’t clicking. How can you work toward a solution together?
“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.”
Thank you, Barbara, for the great advice. I want to add that in business, I have found that sometimes one of the most powerful and easiest things we can do is just ask. Ask for what you want. This can be an effective tool in all relationships, business and personal.
Make an investment in your relationships – try one of these tools and let me know how it goes. What issues have you had trouble resolving? What worked and what didn’t? Join us on Facebook or at www.RichLifeAdvisors.com and become a RichLifer today!