Improve A Relationship: Be The Mirror!

In the book, “Getting The Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., he describes learning how couple-having-serious-conversation-articleto become a skilled listener requires repeated practice and discipline. He talks about the ability to MIRROR our partners.

Here is a little exercise…try it with your partner!

In “mirroring”, one partner expresses a statement, while the other partner listens and then mirrors back what was just said. Here is an example: “Bob” states, “I feel very frustrated when I am reading and you interrupt me, I have a very hard time concentrating. You don’t seem to care at about me.” “Sally” would restate what partner “Bob” just said. “You don’t like it when I interrupt you while you’re reading, it breaks your concentration. And it seems that I do not care about you.” Is that how you are feeling?”

Please don’t think this small task between partners is easy to do. It is not! It IS very easy for “Sally” (the one who is listening and restating) to get annoyed, defensive, or make a joke about “this ridiculous exercise.” Striving to hear what our partner is saying and ASKING our partner if we understood CORRECTLY is vital. This allows Bob to feel heard and understood, It also allows Sally (who may, in fact, not be accurately ‘hearing’, to listen to her partner carefully, without building a wall of defense.)

When we are triggered or upset, it is a known fact that our brains shut down and our ability to manage information declines dramatically. The Brain needs to cool down and by using the “Mirroring” exercise it helps to restore order in the midst of discomfort. Mirroring takes practice, however, there is everything to gain and nothing to lose!

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Nourishing Love

‘Keeping Love Alive and Well’ is similar to nourishing a garden. Gardens, like people thrive with Victoria Faith Huntley“tender loving care”.  This means we must actively ‘cultivate’ with our partner.  Left untended, a garden or a relationship will be less beautiful and in the worst case it may whither and die.  Grab your garden apparel and get ready to show off your green thumb!

Feed The Relationship:  Respect, trust, appreciation, generosity of spirit and deed are basic and vital ingredients in your ‘Garden’. These components are akin to rich planting soil.  Begin each day with renewed kindness.  Make it genuine!  Faking it feels awful and phony and creates mistrust and tension.  Being consciously ‘kind and aware’ of your responses and behaviors like any good habit takes repetition and lots of practice.  Relationships are a complicated dance…”It takes two to tango”.

***The old saying, “Catch your Partner Doing Something Right” and tell him or her about it.

Actively reduce and work toward eliminating criticism and negativity.  They do nothing but cause erosion and decay.  Contempt and defensiveness are ‘Relationship-Killers’.    Accentuate the Positive!

Water the Relationship:  Communication is so important to the foundation of all intimate relationships.   Men are often less comfortable putting thoughts and feelings into words.  Be patient and ‘invite your partner to think about what has been talked about, give him some time to mull it over and ‘check back later’.

***Men may need more time to absorb information, especially if it is about ‘feelings’ and is emotional.  Badgering your partner to talk generally ends up with more silence.  Extended silences turn into withdrawal.  Withdrawal feels awful and is contagious…this becomes a vicious cycle.

***Do not expect your spouse to be a ‘mind reader’.  If you know what you want, make sure you express yourself…and do it clearly without anger and accusations.  Communicating can also take place on many different levels.  Simple eye contact, a warm nod, or knowing smile can speak volumes without uttering a word.  If you see an attempt made…do not ignore it.  Reinforce any pleasing behavior!  Positive reinforcement really works!

***Expressing interest by asking questions is an excellent way to express caring.  However, do this only when you can be a good listener.  Nothing feels worse than having someone ask us something and then “half” listen while being disinterested, distracted or preoccupied.

Provide Sunshine:  Think of sunshine as the ‘pleasures’ of marriage.  Make sure you ‘plan fun’.  Who does the planning?  Who cares? Do not keep a tally.  It is the result that counts.  Just make it happen. Date night, no matter how simple, are good antidotes for difficult days.  The sweetness produced in one evening can last for days…but not forever.  It is imperative to ‘create’ more fun again and again!

***Is either one of you using money as an excuse to avoid having fun?  Why?  Fun does not have to be expensive or take up a huge amount of time.  Create a ‘wish list’ that represents each of you and see where there are some crossovers. The sky is the limit…it is only a list!  Couples can be very different and still enjoy each other immensely.   Sharing dreams and exchanging ideas without fear of judgment are what happy couples learn to do with one another.

Eliminate the Weeds: Finally, yes, you are going to find some weeds growing in the garden.   Weeds are like the problems and disappointments that are bound to occur in any relationship.  They are to be expected.   They will exist in the most magnificent of gardens.  Simply, get out there and take care of them.   Don’t ignore them because they will multiply in time…and choke out the flowers.

•Perfect Gardens Exist Only In Paintings-

•Perfect Relationships Exist Only In Our Dreams-

•Weeds Are Never The Problem, Neglect Is!


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The Art of Listening

People attribute their relationship problems to a lack of, or poor communication.  But, what active-listening-notexactly are the elements that make or break communication in a relationship?

The answer is simple.  We have FEELINGS that ‘bump’ up against logic.  Research shows when people are angry, fearful, deeply sad, or even overjoyed, our listening can be selective at best.  How do we listen if we are full of feelings? Think about a time when you were upset with a partner, friend, or work associate.  Were you effective at telling them what your distress was about? Were you effective at listening to their reply? One beneficial skill of listening is taking turns, like we were taught to do as children.  If you know that you are going to get “A TURN,” it is easier to relax, take a deep breath, and CONCENTRATE on what the other person is saying, not on what you are going to say next!

If you notice you are rehearsing your reply, forget it, you are not listening.  Simply give yourself a gentle nudge and refocus.  If you are talking to someone familiar, you can even say, “forgive me, I wandered for a moment and I really want to listen to you.” We have all had the experience of speaking and the listener has a blank stare on their face, or worse yet their eyes are wandering all over the place.  You can tell by their expression they are not listening.  Challenge yourself to be a better listener from here on out.  You may be surprised by what you hear.

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Divorce and Children

Divorce1Divorce is a difficult and painful occurrence, yet with over 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, it is a reality we must accept.  When there are children involved, divorce becomes even more complicated.  It is important to know that kids DO survive divorce, yes it is difficult and painful, but the resilience of children usually prevails with the love, support, and encouragement of their parents.  It is absolutely imperative, that parents make the process of divorce as bearable as possible for children by adhering to a strict set of do’s and don’ts.  Research shows that parental conflict is far more traumatic for children than the actual separation.  Therefore, badmouthing one another in front of the children and putting a child against the former spouse is extremely destructive.  Children feel torn and overwhelmed beyond belief when they find themselves in the middle of feuding parents.  Keeping the children out of the crossfire is by and large the most important rule to adhere to.

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