Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why Are You Angry?

anger management enlisteeImage by Mr Malique via Flickr

Most couples to come to my office come with the expectation of having a forum to express their frustration and anger over their partner's behavior. They are initially surprised to find that I do not encourage them to argue during the session.

I find that anger does not help a partner get what they want in their relationship and I want to help couples get what they want. I realized that anger can motivate your partner to give you what you want but more often anger pushes your partner away.

Anger often hides more vulnerable emotions. Hurt and fear are often hidden beneath your anger. You feel stronger when you're angry, but this is a false strength. In fact, you are stronger when you are able to get what you want in a relationship.

The first step in managing anger is to identify your true feelings. When you feel angry, take a moment to reflect on your feelings. Try to get in touch with your underlying feelings. Do you feel defensive? Do you want to fight back or escape? Are you feeling attacked? Do you trust your partner? Do you believe that he or she will respond to your feelings?

By being more transparent with your underlying feelings you will invite intimacy. Anger discourages intimacy. Set a goal to be less angry and more transparent with your underlying feelings.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Responding to Good News

A recent article in USA Today highlights the importance of responding positively to your partner's good news.


In relationships that are the happiest, a partner reacts with excitement and esteem to his mate's positive news the "active-constructive" response. Three other types of responses are linked to less satisfying relationships and more likelihood of a split.

Here are the four responses to news of a promotion at work:

� Active-constructive: "That's great! You'll do very well, and I'm so proud of you."

� Passive-constructive: "That's good news."

� Active-destructive: "That sounds like a lot of responsibility. You will probably have to work even longer hours now."

� Passive-destructive: "Well, wait until you hear what happened to me today."

Source: Shelly Gable, psychologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Marriage and Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is not necessarily an enemy of marriage. Many couples initially bond over drinks. Now the drinks don't establish the bond, the conversation that accompanies the drinks establishes the bond. Never-the-less, it is common for couples to view alcohol as an enjoyable part of their relationship.

Alcohol can also be an enemy of a relationship. Couples frequently share stories of arguments that become hurtful and even abusive. Interestingly, the couple share the story without acknowledging that alcohol was potentially influencing the outcome of the argument. I often have to ask the couple if they had been drinking before they consider this as a factor.

Notice that I am not talking about alcoholism. Just one or two drinks can influence how a couple interact. Alcohol can lead you to be more carefree and playful or more aggressive. Take a look at your relationship and how alcohol affects your interaction. You may find that a few drinks makes your relationship more enjoyable but more than that creates tension or aggression.

You may be interested in examining your use of alcohol. Drink Too Much? is a good site to help you evaluate whether you...well...drink too much.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stop Defending Yourself and Start Defending Your Marriage

Review of the Mental Health Act 1990Image by publik15 via Flickr

When your partner accuses you of doing something wrong, it's natural to want to defend yourself, even if you know you are wrong. Why? You want to say that you are a good guy (or gal) and that you had a good reason for what you did. You want to say, "Even if I am wrong, I am a person of worth who does (mostly) good things. Do not condemn me."

The problem with this stance is that the focus is on the wrong issue. Typically your partner is trying to tell you that he or she has been hurt and that he or she feels distanced from you. By defending your self-worth you miss the opportunity to soothe your partner's pain and give a clear message that you want to be close.

I regularly encourage couples to defend the relationship, not themselves. Yet, when they focus on listening to their partner's viewpoint and feelings a funny thing happens - they find they are able to hook their partner's caring. When the discussion centers on caring, then condemnation fades away.
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