Save Marriage Counseling
As a domestic violence educator in Illinois, I am sometimes referred couples for work on ending power and control issues in the relationship, by probation or the Department of Children and Family Services.
I have used the work of John Gottman and Neil Jacobsen in that regard for a number of years, because they did some excellent research in the domestic violence field in regards to the role of physiological arousal in spousal and family violence. (See "When Men Batter Women-New Insights Into Ending Abusive Relationships.")
Then I came across John Gottman's workshop called "The Art and Science of Love" which is based on Gottman's 30 years research at his "Love Lab", and it is an excellent model available for purchase through their website, with both video and written exercises.
There is a workbook that couples go through together designed to enhance their coupleship, to connect them on a deeper level, beginning with what Gottman calls 'love maps'.
Early on in his model, Gottman speaks to the 'four horseman of the (marital) apocalypse', contempt, stonewalling, criticism, and defensiveness, and the danger those bring to the marriage.
He says all couple do them but the successful couples do not do contempt, and when the other horsemen appear, the couple engages in what Gottman calls "repair phrases" rather quickly.
Gottman also supplies information on physiological arousal early on in the process, and advocates that when either of both members of the relationship feel their pulse rate increasing, they take their pulse, and if it is over 100 beats per minute, they spend time calming down, and he is pretty specific about the 20 minute marker.
Interesting how we can move into a high heart rate arousal in 1/18th second, but it takes us 20 minutes to calm down.
I also teach effective communication techniques earlier on in the save marriage counseling process.
Reflective listening involves some internal processes that I ask my clients to practice, which come directly from the domestic violence protocol. In order to do this, one has to be calm, committed to listening respectfully, and requires repeating the words one hears inside their own head, rather than preparing a retort to interject at the first opportunity.
I ask them to repeat back to each other what it is that they heard, and to check out with their partner if they have heard accurately (not 'right').
If the hearing and repetition are not accurate, the appropriate behavior is to ask the speaker to repeat what he/she has said, until the accuracy question is answered with a yes.
My mentor Tony Kubicki called this "giving the gift of attention."
The listener simply pays attention, and when I can remember to do this, the individual I am listening to oftentimes calms rather quickly. Usually the loudness in an argument is simply a plea to "hear" my idea.
Once folks get the idea that there is a blue print or road map for building a successful connection, and a blue print or road map for respectful communication, and once they get used to another of Gottman's key ideas, that because they are different people and have different values and fears, which can bring a struggle to setting communal goals, they get used to the idea that 69% of issues in a relationship cannot be resolved, so those issues must be routinely renegotiated, perhaps every day, the intensity in conflict is usually reduced because focus now switches to searching the road map together for areas of agreement.
For the guys, I might use a mechanical metaphor, that the relationship is like a high performance engine, which needs tinkering, rather than a rebuilding, to perform at a peak and for the cookers in the relationship, I use a recipe metaphor, that each time the cake is baked, you may add or subtract some bit of sugar or egg and look to see what happens. Tinkering with the recipe.
The goal is to communicate that adjustment and movement by each is necessary within a range of movement, and that if thoughts about unfairness arise, those thoughts need to be expressed assertively, rather than aggressively.
Some issues just will not be permanently resolved, but a couple can talk and compromise very effectively very regularly.
But by the same token, each of the partners can take an interest in building for the other some love, like in the love maps exercise.
This is the kind of love that thrives through courtesy and thoughtful expressions of affection, rather than the Romeo and Juliet obsession, or the teenage infatuation, which can be overwhelming.
(If you are my age, 60, perhaps you remember the first time you 'went steady').
There is also available in the save marriage counseling field, a home study course that you can look at through this link on my website.
I was amazed at the amount of effort put into the materials in this home study course by the authors.
It is a little different the Gottman materials, but very effective because it teaches with some passion.
In fact the authors of this study guide indicate that its use by one partner alone can impact the partnership. I agree.
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.
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