Marriage help

Turning Conflict into Dialogue Part 2 of 2

As a marriage coach and wedding officiant in Columbus Ohio, it is my aim to not only officiate for couples on their wedding day, but to strengthen marriages for life as well. This is part 2 of 2 of an earlier entry.

It takes two to tango.

Both must be willing to discuss matters even though communication styles most likely differ in significant ways. You need to talk and communicate in marriage regularly and consistently and abide by the “rules” of healthy dialogue.

An argument can lead to dialogue, but if it does not then it usually involves blame, shame and proving who is right and who is wrong. It is a win/lose scenario where somebody wins and the other party loses, and in marriage since the goal should be to discover ways to strengthen your relationship nobody wins if somebody is out to win. The one who “wins” may feel good and validated as a person in the short run, but lose intimacy with the other in the long run. This is very dangerous to your marriage.

When you find yourself arguing about something pose the question, “Can we dialogue about this instead?” Better yet, when there is a point of potential contention that is important to you to discuss, ask your marriage partner, “Can we get together to dialogue about something?” and then schedule a definite time to talk. Schedule it immediately if possible; not “whenever”.

Healthy dialogue builds a relationship and says to your marriage partner, “I respect and love you.”  By making dialogue the primary way to communicate in your relationship you will build a stronger, happier, healthier marriage…even when your conflicting ideas and disagreements still exist. Over time as you continue to practice the respect dialogue brings, many of your disagreements will get worked out.

Practice healthy dialogue for the future of your marriage and your relationship.

Turning Conflict into Dialogue Part 1 of 2

Healthy Dialogue is essential to a healthy marriage.

Having been successfully married for 26 years I have come to appreciate a form of communication that helps build a lasting relationship. Dialogue. When I work with couples as a wedding officiant and/or marriage coach the topic of effective communication often arises. So, let’s explore together some key points about something that can have a lasting impact on the quality of your marriage, and may actually keep you together as a couple.

What is healthy dialogue? Basically it is “friendly discussion” in a focused setting. It is important that distractions be eliminated or minimized. (Cell phone off, no computer, no TV, etc. etc. – remember you are building your marriage; other non-life threatening emergencies can wait).

It involves listening without judging what is said. When friends discuss things they do so without judging and tend to give each other the benefit of any doubt. They end up feeling closer when done.

To dialogue is to be truly open to hear the other person’s thoughts and feelings. (This may take work if you are not accustomed to this type of communication.)

Dialogue involves listening intently to what your partner is saying with the idea of: “What can I learn about this unique individual who has an equal part in this marriage?”

The listener does not think of how to respond while the other person is still talking.

Pause/reflect/give the ideas expressed a minute to sink in.

Ask only curiosity questions to deepen and expand your knowledge of where he or she is “coming from”. Questions like, “Could you please rephrase that so I can understand better?” or, “I want to be sure that I understand your point, would you please elaborate further?”

Avoid loaded or “gotcha” questions designed to prove your point or belittle your partner in any way. They are poison to your relationship.

To dialogue is to allow the person to explain things from their perspective in a way that validates their thoughts, feelings and perspectives. Validation is not necessarily agreement. Often you are communicating over something you have not grown to see in the same light. However, it is an acknowledgement of your partner’s personal understanding, thoughts and feelings about any issue at any time.

This approach opens up the door to effective communication and growth together as a couple. It says to your partner, “I value you and your opinion and I want to know how you feel and what makes you ‘tick’.”

(Part 2 coming soon)

Marriage Insights - Saving Your Marriage

One of my favorite books to recommend to couples is "The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work" by John Gottman, PhD.

In chapter one page 4 he shares some insights on marriage and divorce. Let' read some of his thoughts:

"The chances of a first marriage ending in divorce over a forty-year period is 67%. Half of all divorces will occur in the first seven years. Some studies find the divorce rate for second marriages is as much as 10 percent higher than for first-timers."

"The chance of getting a divorce remains so high that it makes sense for all married couples-including those who are currently satisfied with their relationship-to put extra effort into their marriages to keep them strong."

One reason that I provide premarital and post-marital coaching is that I really care about your relationship and want your marriage to not only survive, but thrive.

Don't be fooled. No matter how much you love your fiance or spouse, to keep your marriage strong requires knowledge, work, and effort. It will not "just happen" all by itself. The work however, is well worth the lasting benefits of a strong and happy relationship that will affect so many areas of your life.

Thoughts on Marriage

A key ingredient to a happy marriage is illustrated in the following quote.

"In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce.  The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage."  Robert Anderson, Solitaire & Double Solitaire 

"...find, and continue to find..." It's often about choosing to see the good and continuing.                              

Keep at it, husbands and wives. There's more good to be experienced and shared ahead.

Thoughts on Marriage

I encourage brides and grooms to remember to work at the beautiful thing they have found in each other. The reason why I am not just a wedding officiant but also a marriage coach is because it takes work and know-how to keep it together.

“A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.”                                                    

                                           Andre Maurois 1885-1967, French Writer

Why pick up your clothes?

Will she still love you if you don't pick them up? Probably. Has she requested it in some way and you have yet to respond? If so, maybe you should take what appears to be insignificant and re-think it. It may not mean something to you, but if it is important to her than remembering to do so is a good way to affirm her. Love in action is real love. Saying "I love you" has many forms.

Instead of seeing it as a chore see it as a love note instead. Every time you bend down and remove dirty clothes and place them in their designated place, you are saying,  "I value your wishes my darling, because I value you."

On the other hand, if he does not pick up his clothes please do not make the mistake of assuming that he does not love or value you. His disposition on such things may be far different than yours. You may be overly tense about it and he, seemingly over-relaxed. He may have legitimate reasons (upbringing, personality style) why he feels fine about leaving his clothes around, and he may not change quickly enough for your preferences.

So what is the answer when this problem exists? Forgive for your differences and talk it out. Talk it out until you understand each other concerning the issue. Do not fall into the trap of trying to prove to him why he needs to be a "good boy" and pick up his laundry. Ultimately, that will tend to drive him away. Husbands do not fall into the trap of belittling her desires and correcting her for being too tense. This will alienate her. Instead, get together on the issue and really listen with friendly concern for the other's feelings. Here's the problem... you may not find THE answer to THE problem (dirty clothes on floor and elsewhere). Here's the benefit...when you talk it out and really listen you will probably end up laughing, loving, and growing as husband and wife. And that IS the answer to all of your problems in marriage. And the love-relationship-over-time is what will motivate to change.

I used the husband as the awful offender with clothing in this entry. I did it only because this is how it is in most homes. However, the roles can be reversed here. If both are relaxed about it, well then it can oft-times be heard..."WHERE'S MY UNDERWEAR!"

Marriage, a haven and a refuge

Marriage should always be a place of safety and unconditional acceptance. It should be a shelter, and a place where we can find rest from the hardships of life. We should have a place to run when we are in pain, difficulty, or need. That place should be in the heart and arms of our husband or wife.

Most marriage vows contain a provision or promise to "be there" for the other, "no matter what happens". It is not dependent on how we are feeling or if our spouse's behaviour has been perfect. Comments like, "well, it's your fault" or "you had it coming, you idiot", should be completely stricken from our vocabulary in marriage. We should be there for our spouse, especially when he or she is experiencing hard times or setbacks, ready to provide words of comfort and support.

Comments like, "I am here for you" and "you are still my best friend" and "I love you and will love you no matter what", should cover the landscape of your marriage. Marriage involves the initial commitment of exchanging vows and saying "I do". It also involves re-committing yourself to that same lady or man for all of your days, with actions and choices that cause the relationship to solidify and grow stronger. This is not child's play. It is decision making for the sake of another and it may cost you your comfort and convenience. The price of love.

So, marriage for life involves choice, not feeling. The feelings will return and actually grow, but this comes after you have paid the price of dedication. So, be a haven for your spouse. Be the one they can turn to without fear of criticism. If you have made mistakes and have fallen short as a spouse, tell your lovely wife, your awesome man that you are sorry and truly intend to do better. Be the one refuge your spouse can count on, because in this life, you and your marriage are going to need it.