Thursday, June 28, 2012

Searching for Blame or a Solution to Marital Problems


A sure way to create distance in a relationship is to participate in the blame game. This “game” requires you to hold your partner responsible for something dissatisfying in your relationship. Perhaps it is something he or she said, did or failed to do and often is packaged as criticism.

This negative feedback triggers your partner to become defensive. This leads to endless hours of arguing with the only outcome being that you and your partner feel more distant. How do you avoid playing the blame game while still asking your partner to address an issue of concern?

The blame game begins by you making a statement about your partner. We are wired to be sensitive to criticism. Men in particular see any negative statement made as criticism versus an effort to address the relationship. So how can you address your partner without triggering defensiveness?

Talk about yourself, not your partner. The best method is to challenge your partner to care about you rather than focus on defending themselves. Express your view, feelings and desires. Let your partner know how his or her behavior appears to you and how you feel. Here are some examples:

  • When you didn’t call, I felt hurt and uncared for.
  • I enjoy your helping me with the dishes and feel used when you walk away from the table without helping…or more simply, I need your help with the dishes after dinner.
  • When you are reluctant to have sex, I feel pushed away and hurt.

Notice that the message is about you, not your partner. This challenges your partner to care rather than defend his or her behavior. Try personalizing your complaints and requests for change, you may find that it results in fewer arguments!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Good Marriage or Bad?


In the book, Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin suggests that we are not born with talent. Instead, he sights evidence that talent is born of practice. He points out that people who are good at something have practiced specific skills over many weeks, months, and years to achieve their exceptional level of ability.

Someone exceptionally good in sports, business or music is labeled gifted, their skill attributed to an inborn gift that the average person does not have. Colvin points to research that indicates that the best predictor of someone being talented in their field is the individual’s willingness to practice particularly when practicing is difficult.

How do you assess the basis for good marriages? Do you attribute a good marriage to a fortunate choice of partners or to a willingness to practice skills which contribute to intimacy? Most couples think of relationships as stagnant, meaning that they are what they are – either good or bad. Few think in terms of relationship building and the need to build relationship skills. In fact, a popular belief is that relationships should not be difficult and if they are difficult then there is something wrong with the relationship.

Marriage counselors understand that relationships require skills to connect, skills that are not taught in schools and often not demonstrated by parents. Most marriage counseling is sought years after the marriage has become dysfunctional. This is because marriage counselors are thought of as treatment for abnormal marriages that have failed where most have succeeded. It is difficult to admit that you have failed to have a normal marriage.

In fact, the percentage of couples who divorce added to the number that remain married but disconnected suggest that the norm is disconnection. Even though everyone getting married today expects to remain emotionally, physically and sexually connected for years to come, the reality is that most will disconnect. It is the exceptional couple who are able to maintain a connection!

Instead of thinking of marriage counseling as treatment for a troubled marriage, consider it as relationship coaching. A coach helps the athlete achieve maximum performance through practice. Similarly, a marriage counselor can help a relationship achieve maximum intimacy through learning and practicing relationship skills.