Everything was going so nicely, and then life stepped in. There’s not enough money to pay the bills, the credit card debts are piling up, in-laws intrude with too many visits or too much advice, to keep my job I have to work longer hours and accomplish more.
Suddenly we find ourselves arguing more – tempers flare, anger rises beyond the norm, and the blame game begins. We go outside our marriage to talk about our spouses and get consolation, validation, sympathy, and support.
And the scene is set for more serious troubles.
In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman lays out in a practical format the seven principles for making marriage work, based on years of research and study in his Seattle based clinic, The Gottman Institute.
Communication is a skill that is learned and developed over time. When we recognize what isn’t working, we can replace it with something that will work.
We communicate all the time. We cannot not communicate. With our facial gestures, postures, words, or attempts to change the other person, we need to know how to become the type of communicator who respects ourselves and others.
Knowing yourself is vital in becoming a good communicator.
You need to know what triggers your stress buttons or emotional upsets, your fears of being hurt or looking stupid. Finding ways of dealing with adversity are often hidden from you until you are willing to accept yourself unconditionally, with both the good and the bad. When you feel okay to face your vulnerabilities you are taking charge of your interactions and your life, and that is reflected in your conversations.
“But you said. . . ”
“No, I didn’t. . . ”
“Yes, I heard you say. . . ”
“Well, that’s not what I meant!”
And so, it goes – round and round and round and we end up with two angry people who continue to find ways to attack, defend and destroy each other.
Anger builds as each continues to dig in their heels and insist they are right, and the other is wrong. You probably have had such conversations or have witnessed them. Discussions at this point soon move into the blame game:
“You always try to pin the blame on me. If you were here instead of out golfing, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Oh, and how about you – out shopping again.”
The conversation has gone beyond misunderstanding and name calling.
We gather together with others because we find some commonality with them. We have a human need to socialize and bond. The support we receive is more than just having fun or a sense of belonging. The people we hang out with over time become a statement, a reflection of who we are, our views, values, and beliefs.
Besides the relationships we form with others, the relationship we have with ourselves and God are essential. All three are important to living a life with purpose, integrity and meaning.
Develop Relationships with Others
The relationships we formulate have a deep impact on our lives. Because of that we need to ask ourselves whether we want to commit to or remain in certain relationships.
We enter relationships because we need people. We need what a relationship can bring, such as social activity and interactions, but we aren’t always ready to work on making that relationship valuable and meaningful.
We want to be loved and accepted for who we are in spite of our shortcomings. We want to be heard and understood.
Moving in and out of relationships is not very satisfying over the long term. So, understanding what we bring to our relationships and how we communicate with one another is important.
Perhaps you have experienced misplaced loyalty, broken commitments, and trampled expectations from those you considered friends, colleagues or spouses. If you have been hurt in relationships, you may ask: Relationships – who needs them? Wouldn’t I be happier staying out of any serious relationships?
Bridges are incredible feats of engineering and ingenuity, rising high above deep gorges, over rivers and large bodies of water. I am fascinated by the ingenuity required to design such lofty and expansive works that are both practical and majestic; a combination of beauty and strength.
I like to use the analogy of bridges because we are constructing them every day. They make connections between couples and families. They bridge the gap between our past and future and expand our possibilities as we move from one venture to another.
We’ve been thinking about the stories we create to define what we are going through. We learned that we can change the narrative to work for us instead of against us. Setbacks do happen. But we can turn them into opportunities.
In preparing a speech and workshop for a group of writers on memoirs, I thought about how the threads of our past continue to have an influence on everything we do. Those threads are the many stories that make up our lives.
There are many stories that need to be told – stories that only you can tell. While we may live through similar times, everyone experiences those times differently and each of us will have a different interpretation of what occurred.
There will be funny stories and stories that break your heart, but all have an important message to share.
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