It’s a rainy Wednesday night in New England, (what else is new?), and I’m thinking about the fullness of my work and the emptiness of people’s lives. Once again, I’ve had a number of encounters with couples who wrestle with disappointments, aggravations, insults, and disconnects in their daily interactions with eachother. I am witness to painful stories, and often fights about who was the bigger culprit. Couples are often so graphic about the misery of their partnerships that I will ask them why they hang on, what keeps them in it? And they look at me like I’m clueless and tell me there’s a bigger picture of love and joy and basic respect, and how did I not see that? Now I understand that the therapy context is skewed towards problems, and their solutions, and there’s a bias that it would be a waste of time to sit with a stranger and pay her good money to reminisce about fun times. But I think the Complaint Position is also emblematic of our times– we so seldom stop to “smell the roses”. We’re all so rushed and overbooked and stressed, we don’t notice the things we could be thankful and joyful about. We particularly don’t appreciate our life partners the way we should. We read about keeping gratitude journals, and about maintaining a thankful mindset, but it gets lost.
Here’s a useful (albeit slightly morbid) Gratitude Practice I invite couples to use as needed:
Imagine your beloved has been hit by a truck and you are called to the Intensive Care Unit to their side. The doctors have told you there is not much time left, that your partner is not expected to make it, and that you should say your goodbyes. What do you imagine you will be feeling and saying about your life with them? What neglected truths will you want your partner to hear about what’s in your heart? And if you find yourself praying to whatever your concept of God is, what will you be promising to do if you are given a chance for more time together?
Now backtrack the scene to the present. No fatal crash. Your aggravating partner is alive and well and by your side. Here’s your second chance…..
Good Evening Reader,
I was on a supermarket line and happened to overhear two jocks complaining about how they were always clueless about what went on in their girlfriends’ brains, that females must be an alien species, and that trying to understand them was futile! It took all my self control to not put in my professional 2¢, so I forced myself to be quiet, but loudly had these thoughts:
1. It’s not rocket science to understand women, it just takes some study.
2. Don’t presume you know what your lady wants/needs. ASK!!
3. Stop going to the default position of Rescue and Fix. It’s well intended, but is often misplaced.
4. Be curious, ask questions, show interest in her heart and her mind.
5. If she’s unclear about something, listen deeply for the encoded message by observing her body language and her tone.
It may take time, guys, be patient and respectful, and it will become clear sooner or later.
Good night, and Good luck!
P.S. I will be offering more detailed information about this subject on my upcoming website at www.HowToBeABetterCouple.com
P.S.S. Check out my recently published article about relationship dilemmas at: “How Do I Get My Partner Back?” A Therapist’s Reflection on the Question, and the Road Through Grief
Have you ever wondered if you were talking to someone from another planet when trying to get through to your spouse? It’s all too familiar in my own marriage, and loudly present in my work with couples. During a couples session today I watched the wife struggle with this question, and the subject was mild, like: what to do with the kids this summer. The husband sighed and looked out the window, apparently the way he usually does when she wants to discuss “an issue”. He felt she had just ambushed him again, as she had done in the original attempt at home. My assessment? There was no “header” and no “buy-in”! Partners often don’t preface a conversation with “I’d like to talk about _____” (header), and they often don’t follow it up with “Do you have a minute?” (buy-in). They just start talking, often about something loaded, and expect full attention and participation, even if their beloved is 25 feet up nailing shingles to the roof. If you too are a guilty party, try having a conversation “by agreement” and see if you get better results, like what to do with the kids this summer, so you can have some time to yourselves!
P.S. Check out my newly published article “How Do I Get My Partner Back?” A Therapist’s Reflection on the Question and the Road Through Grief.
Click on the link: “How Do I Get My Partner Back?” A Therapist’s Reflection on the Question, and the Road Through Grief
Hello again, reader,
As I move forward with this new project of bringing my ideas and knowledge about relationships to the internet, it’s like going on a Great Adventure to a foreign place! It is like any huge change– exciting, scary, uncertain, with lots of possibilities…
Think about any big changes you are making, and recognize that they will involve a “what, am I crazy?” feeling which may take over and derail you. Like me, you need to reconnect with your purpose, establish visible markers of the change process, celebrate them, and KEEP GOING!!! If you are part of a couple changing together, talk about it, and cheer each other on.
If you see value in the change, you’ll get there. Be patient. (I’m trying to)…..
P.S. Look for me on my soon to go live website HowToBeABetterCouple.com for more resources on improving your relationship.
This is the first entry in my new blog, where I will be sharing my thoughts, ideas, and knowledge about couples issues. I have been in private practice as a psychotherapist specializing in couples work in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for many years, and it’s been quite a ride!
The work is amazing, but the constant sitting gets a bit much, so I am launching the next phase of my business — online services and products for anyone interested in having better, close relationships. I know you have lots of questions and concerns, so I’ll be here to help!
P.S. Keep an eye out for my articles, special reports, exercises, and Ebooks.