Nothing hurts partners more in an intimate relationship than feeling misunderstood. "Having a partner who understands me" and "having a friend" are, in fact, two of the major qualities both men and women look for in a partner in the first place. Nothing fuels a conflict more than the belief that our partner is missing our point of view. The more we feel ignored, the more we think to ourselves, "If only my partner could see the supreme reasonableness of my point of view, our problem would be solved!" Unfortunately, because there are usually TWO reasonable perspectives, trying to convince our partner that ours is best will get us nowhere.
Talking sense means that you and your partner listen carefully to each others thoughts and feelings and show that you sincerely understand them. Communicating understanding to an intimate partner is not an easy task. Although you may be able to listen and demonstrate understanding to business associates and others with whom you have casual relationship, relating depends on your ability to use these skills when you're feeling hurt, unloved, angry and put down.
A relating conversation begins with dedicated listening. You cannot hope to understand what your partner is saying, thinking and feeling if you are:
- concentrating on what you will say next;
- desperately trying to get your partner to see your side of things;
- certain that you already know what your partner thinks and feels; or
- distracted by the TV or stereo.
Dedicated listening means that you pay full attention to what your partner is saying but also that, immediately after your partner is done speaking, you demonstrate your sincere understanding by briefly restating in your own words what your partner has just said. Sound easy? Trust me, it's anything but easy. But it will be worth the effort.
In order to demonstrate understanding to your partner, you must try to crawl inside your partner's skin and see the world as he or she does. I am NOT asking you to agree with your partner's point of view. I am only asking that, during these isolated moments of critical conversation, you try to see the world as your partner does. Remember, the sooner that you, as the listener, are able to communicate a sincere understanding of your partner's thoughts and feelings from his or her perspective, the sooner you will be able to become the speaker and have your partner grant the same empathy to your side of the issue.
Here is another way of thinking about relation conversations that may help you achieve this most important phase of talking sense. Swimmers at the ocean are frequently warned about the dangers of undertow. Undertow is a strong current that can pull unsuspecting bathers away from the beach and out to sea. If caught in an undertow, you should not try to swim directly back to the shoreline; most swimmers do not have enough strength to fight the power of the ocean. Instead, it is best to follow a counter intuitive strategy and swim parallel to the beach. Then, once free of the forceful undertow, you will find it easy to turn toward the shore and swim to safety.
Many couples experience their initial attempts at having a relating conversation as if they were being dragged out to sea in an undertow; the calm surface at the start of relating conversation is often disturbed by the powerful forces of conflict that seem to arise from nowhere. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts to swim to shore, nothing seems to lessen the grip of the "undertow" and bring the partners back to solid ground. The solution is to ride out the power of each person's hurt, anger or disappointment through a relating conversation until the energy is spent and both partners can swim calmly to shore. Here's specifically what I mean...
Pitfall to the Communication of Understanding and Their Solution
Common pitfalls to the communication of understanding are:
1. Listener just says; "I understand what you are saying. The pitfall
: After a speak has tried hard to air thoughts and feelings, it will seem that the listener does not appreciate the full importance if the response simply is "I understand". The solution
: The listener takes everything the speaker said and tries to capture in hos or her own words the ideas and the feelings just expressed by the speaker.
2. Listener parrots back what the speaker just said, as if the listener were a computer. The pitfal
l: After expressing our thoughts and feelings, hearing the listener respond in a cold, distand way makes us feel that our perspective is not appreciated. The solution
: Live up to the spirit, not just the letter, of the new rules for having a relating discussion. The goal of communicating understanding is to show our interest in what is being said and our understanding of our partner's perspective. The best way to accomplish this is to take in our partner's message, try to sense our partner's feelings, and then communicate back a blended mix of those thoughts and feelings.
3. Listener apologizes for "making" the speaker feel bad. The pitfall
: When the listener apologizes to the speaker, it is an attempt to stop the conversation prematurely. It is as if the listener were saying "Okay, I apoloized; let's move on to something else". The solution
: Even if the listener is feeling gulty, an apology focuses attention on the apologizer, when attention should be focused on the speak. The listener should show respect for the speaker's feelings and not try to dilute them by waving an apology at them.
4. Listener offers an explanation for his or her behaviour that makes the speaker feel bad. The pitfall
: This maneuver also will shift the focus of understanding away from the speaker's thoughts and feelings and onto the listener, leaving the speaker feeling frustrated and misunderstood. The solution
: The listener must accept the possibility that he or she did something that the speak did not like, even if it wasn't the listener's intention. The listener must develop a sense of confidence in taking turns, knowing that her or his position will be given equal "air time" as soon as the speak and listener switch roles.
When a relationship event happens that bothers either of you enough to provoke immediate comment, too often the listener's first response is to erect a defense against the criticism. Or when one of you expresses disappointment in the others behavior, too often the first reaction from the one criticized consists of excellent reasons why the feeling of disappointment is somehow invalid.
Speaker: "I'm disappointed you didn't remember our anniversary".
Listener: "You don't understand how much pressure I am under".
This type of reaction from a listener is counterproductive in the same way that is is counterproductive to swim directly to shore when caught in an undertow. When greeted with such strong feelings from your partner, the first step you should take is actively to "ride out the undertow", not to fight against it by trying to lessen the intensity of your partner's feelings, by ignoring them, or by deciding that they are "irrational". One of the most serious mistakes partners make at this stage of discussion is not to allow the initial energy of a disappointment to play itself out.
The listener may need to stay afloat in the troubled waters for some time and attempt a hasty swim away from the undertow. The essential resource her is listening talkd, and it may need to be repeated several times. Only then will the speak begin to feel sufficiently understood (if not agreed with) to move forward in the discussion.
The greatest fear that most partners have trying out this type of communication patterns is that they are giving in to their partner's "irrational emotions". People are loathe to engage in any interaction they see as "admitting" they were "wrong" when they knew they were "right". The trouble is that in all disagreements, both partners believe that they are "right"! That is why there is disagreement. The fight to prove oneself right challenges the healthy forces of nature and is a no-win proposition. The more each person feels that his or her side is being dismissed or not clearly understood, the more he or she will argue. This is a couple battling against unseen undertow, destined to drift out to sea. Partners deserve to know that both of them can, in turn, express their thoughts and feelings and be certain they are appreciated and understood by their partner.(excerpt from "We Can Work It Out", Notarius and Markman)
Word of mouth is often the best way to find a qualified therapist. Network with friends, relatives and neighbours who have had positive therapy experiences. A satisfied customer is living proof of positive results. Keep in mind, though, that although a word-of-mouth referral is a good way to find a therapist, it is not foolproof. Your friend or neighbour might click with someone who might turn you off. As always, you must be the final judge. If you trust and respect the person making the referral, more likely than not you will also have a good experience. In any case,k it's a good place to start.
If you are uncomfortable talking to others about seeing a therpaist, you will probably go on-line to see who/what is available in your community. You will also probably notice that there are literally hundreds of therapist to choose from. Take a look at as many sites as you can and trust your gut instinct. Then call the therapist and ask as many questions of her as you need. Some questions you may want to ask are:
1. What is the therapist's educational and training background?
2. Is the therapist a member of a professional governing body?
3. Does the therapist have experience treating your kind of problem?
4. How much does the therapist charge?
5. Are the therapist's services covered by health insurace?
6. Where is the office and what are the office hours?
7. How long does each session last?
8. How often are sessions held?
9. What is the average length of treatment?
10. What percentage of the couples coming to this therapist are able to resolve their difficulties without ending the relationship?(excerpt from"Divorce Busting", Michele Winer-Davis)
Since my expertise lies in the area of Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy (SBT), I will describe what you can expect from a short-term, solution-oriented approach.
1. You Should Feel Comfortable with Your Therapist
Although your relationship with your therapist will be time-limited, she will play an extremely important role in your life. You will depend on your therapist to help guide you beyond the rough times. Because your therapist plays such a pivotal role, you must feel comfortable with her. You should feel as if your therapist respects you and that your thoughts and feelings are being acknowledged.
This is not to say that you will always agree with or love everything your therapist says or does. It is your therapist's job to suggest new ways of looking at your situation. Some new perspectives may challenge your usual way of perceiving your relationship - and that's good. However, you should never feel that your way of seeing things is incorrect or invalid. Although it's difficult to quantify, you should sense that your therapist likes you and values the information you impart during the session.
2. Goals Should Be Set Within the First Two Sessions
Goal setting is essential if problem solving is to be successful. The same holds true in the therapy context. If you don't identify where you're going, you won't know when you get there and neither will your therapist. Therapy will ramble and be unfocused. Each session will be an opportunity for you to react to the most recent crisis instead of making headway toward a specific goal. Conversations during the therapy session will begin to sound more and more like the conversations you and your partner have in your living room and you don't need a therapist to do that.
It is essential that you and/or your partner spell out your goals specifically so that you and your therapist have a sort of contract. This need not be in writing, but goals should be clearly stated, early in therapy, so that therapy gets off to a good start and no time, energy or money is wasted. If your therapist doesn't ask you about your goals within the first two sessions, make sure you tell her. Then make sure the therapy is structured around the accomplishment of your goals. In other words, it is important that your therapist help you continually monitor progress toward your goals and make suggestions when progress has halted.
3. You Are the Experts, You Set the Goals
It is essential that you and/or your partner be the ones in charge of establishing goals. You know yourselves the best. Although your therapist may have extensive training and education in human behaviour and relationships, each relationship is different. Every person is different. Your therapist just me you. YOU must determine what you hope will happen as a result of seeking therapy, not your therapist.
The reason I am emphasizing that YOU must identify what you want to change is that some therapists will make that determination for you if you don't. Sometimes therapists suggest that you should change something that you don't find problematic. Other times, therapists may suggest that what they consider the real root of your problem requires focusing on something you find extraneous, irrelevant or uncomfortable. Remember that you have hired your therapist to do a job for you. Although you should respect her professional skills, ultimately you are the boss. If something doesn't feel right to you, it isn't. Discuss your feelings immediately with your therapist and, if you don't feel understood, get yourself another therapist.
4. Therapy Doesn't Have To Be Painful
I have often heard it said that the expression "no pain, no gain" applies to the therapy process. In other words, growing is painful. If during therapy you are expected to explore painful memories of your childhood, this philosophy makes sense. However, I believe that you can solve marital problems without painful journey into the past. I am certain that the vast majority of SBT clients would not say that therapy is painful.
Another reason traditional therapy can be uncomfortable is that a trademark of many of these approaches is confrontation, self-destructive or unproductive. Sometimes these attacks occur before a person is willing to deal with an issue or are totally inconsistent with a person's self-concept. Naturally, this harsh and dissonant feedback is disturbing and, in my experience, rarely effective in helping a person change. Typically, one digs one's heels in deeper when feeling attacked.
Confrontation is not necessary during therapy. Most people take the initiative to address issues and concerns they are willing to change. If they don't raise certain issues, it's because they are not willing or ready to deal with them. Therapists should respect people's intuitive sense of direction and self-protection and follow their client's lead.
Obviously problem solving isn't always pleasurable or fun, that goes without saying. However, guard against therapy increasing rather than decreasing the stress your are feeling. Rather that feeling pained by going to therapy, you should look forward to sessions for the relief they offer.
5. The Therapist Must Be an Ally to Both Partners
Therapists who are trained to work with couples have an in-depth understanding of how relationships work. They are trained to observe patterns between people rather than merely focusing on intra psychic phenomena or personal problems. They see relationship problems stemming from a series of interactions rather than from ill-meaning individuals. They understand, for example, why "irresponsible" spouses are matched up with "over responsible" mates.
This nonjudgmental perspective enables therapist to generate varied solutions to relationship difficulties. It also prevents therapists from feeling the need to take sides. Although it may momentarily feel good for a therapist to take your side in the presence of your partner, this maneuver usually backfires. It is human nature to harden one's stance when challenged. If a therapist takes sides, it is likely that the attacked partner will intensify his or her perspective or actions an/or drop out of therapy. What good will that do anyone? A good therapist will make it possible for both partner, regardless of their divergent views, to leave the session feeling supported and validated.
6. There Should Be Improvement Within Three to Four Sessions
Although the rate at which you can expect improvement varies from therapist to therapist, you should expect some change within weeks rather than months or years. This is not to say that all of y our difficulties will be resolved instantly. But within several weeks you should see definite signs that your relationship is headed in the right direction. If it isn't, discuss your concern with your therapist. If the explanation offered makes sense, be patient and hang in there. If not, trust your instinct and shop around for a new therapist. Traditional therapy takes considerably longer to work. Unfortunately, when change occurs slowly, pessimism about the future often consumes couples.
7. Therapy Sessions Should Not Be Complaining Sessions
Make sure you are not just complaining to or about each other. If you start arguing in the therapist's office in a familiar way and your therapist doesn't redirect the session, ask for suggestions. Don't waste your time arguing.
(excerpt from"Divorce Busting", Michele Winer-Davis)
I found another article today as well, and I thought I would share this with you as well.. Good Reading!Jingle hellsBreaking up is hard to do, and the holidays can make splits more painfulBy VIVIAN SONG, NATIONAL BUREAU
If you're thinking about breaking up with your partner, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Couples in rocky relationships are entering what's been called National Break-Up Season, the period between the December holidays and Valentine's Day when, according to a Yahoo Personals poll, people are more than twice as likely to think about breaking up than at any other time of the year.
"My practice is always busy in December," says Gary Direnfeld, a social worker and the tough-love talking voice of reason for couples on Slice TV's Newlywed, Nearly Dead?
"Christmas drives home the message we're all supposed to get along, love one another. When that isn't happening in a relationship, it feels more intense at Christmas."
Christmas and New Year's force people to focus on happiness and self-improvement and invariably leads to couples reevaluating their own relationships, experts say.
And not even the ludicrously rich nor the impossibly beautiful are immune.
In the celebrity world, for example, include the royal couple Madge and Guy Ritchie who are in the middle of a very public divorce proceeding. Paris Hilton and her latest boy toy Benji Madden are dunzo, while Brit pop crazy Amy Winehouse is splitting up from her jailhouse hubby Blake Fielder-Civil.
Last December saw actor Brendan Fraser split with wife Afton Smith, singer Natalie Imbruglia broke up with rocker hubby Daniel Johns. In December 2006, it was Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese.
Another poll by onlinedatingmagazine.com reported that 51% of the 1,000 single respondents admitted to staying in doomed relationships over the holidays simply to avoid ugly confrontations and hurt feelings.
So is it cruel and unusual punishment to break up with someone the night before Christmas? Not if you're being truthful with yourself, Direnfeld says.
"If you wait until after the holidays to break the news, your partner will feel betrayed," he said. "More often than not, motives aren't as altruistic as you want to believe. It's looking to save themselves from the grief it would cause their partner. Who are you saving here? The truth of the matter is, you don't want to be the bad guy."
Psychologist Patrick Keelan says the dumper should consider the "cost-benefit analysis" of breaking up.
The longer the relationship, the harder the fall. The more shared holiday events scheduled, the more stressful the split.
"If you're doing the break-up, consider the impact of the break-up over the holidays on your partner," Keelan, of the Calgary Counselling Centre, said.
Use your judgment about postponing the breakup, he advises, as it's likely to add stress to the holiday season.
While breaking up is hard to do, the holidays can also provide the perfect opportunity to digest a life change, Keelan points out.
"During the holidays people get time off work and life demands aren't as great," he said. "The holidays could be a good time rather than after Christmas because people are expected to perform at a high level."
As the economy hits the world, money can effect relationships, especially marriages. I found this article on the net and even though it is set in the UK, I think it can apply to our situation here in Vancouver as well. I will let you be the judge.Relationship counseling soars as money worries grow
LONDON (Reuters) - Couples are struggling to stay together as they face money worries and the threat of redundancy in the economic downturn, said counseling service Relate, which has seen its workload soar.
Relate on Saturday reported a rise of almost 60 percent in the number of couples seeking help with their relationships in October and November this year as compared with last year.
"The problems are to do with the recession, to do with job insecurity, to do with interest rates changing and also the escalating costs of running the family," Christine Northam, a spokeswoman for Relate, told BBC radio.
"If you're dealing with these anxieties all on your own it can be very isolating, and can lead to depression and anxiety. It can impact on the relationship and that will impact on your children."
Relate said it had received more than 7,500 calls in October to November this year, compared with about 5,000 in the same period of 2007.
With its reliance on financial services and high levels of personal debt, Britain's economy has been particularly hard hit by the global credit squeeze.
House prices have dropped 18 percent since last August, unemployment is soaring and consumer confidence has crashed. Many stores are slashing prices in a desperate bid to pull in shoppers in the run-up to Christmas.
Marriage/Couples Counselling, What To Expect.
Counselling can get "fluffy" if there aren't solid goals laid out during the first session. I need to get a feel for what my clients want, I need to know what their issues are and what they want to see happen. Once that is estabished...it's not always easy...we can set goals for our work together. As we continue in our work, I will always refer to the initial goal. These goals will always ebb and flow, they will constantly be altered, that is up to my clients, but I will also always challenge them as to their initial goal. Common questions will be "why are you here"?, "what do you want from this session"?, "what can you take home with you from this"?. I am not being helpful if the only time there is any progress is in our session. It has to present itself outside of our work together. I almost always assign homework for the in-between times. Some examples of that homework will follow.
A myth about relationships, as I see it.
In their book, "How to Solve Conflicts, Save Your Marriage, and Strengthen Your Love for Each Other" (1993), authors Clifford Notarious and Howard Markman state that "our research has shown that it takes one put-down to undo hours of kindness you give to your partner" (p.18). I vehemently disagree with this statement. Sure, a "put-down" can hit us like a ton of bricks, it can make us feel less-than, inferior, awful. But if we have the tools to recognize that it's one statement, one moment, one emotion, we can usually find a way to fend off the "negating of all that preceded it" aspect of it. If we have the tools to verbalize how that statement affected us, to step up and give ourselves a voice as to how those few words hit us, so much conflict can be circumvented. My experience as a therapist has indicated, over and over, that he/she (the "sword-recipient"), often sits in painful silence, injured and hurt but unwilling to communicate their pain. Of course, the "sword-thrower" has to be held accountable for and own his/her participation in the duel but if kept unaware of the sword's impact, how is he/she to know how deeply it hurt? Both participants in any conflict in any relationship have to recognize that they are indeed willing participants in it. I believe that the key is to recognize and name this participation. Then, and only then, can it be addressed. If one sits in silent pain, mad as hell, they freeze. There is literally no movement. The other reacts to that frozen state by pulling away, also frozen. Nothing is resolved. Often it only means a sort of "rising above", a letting go of that which isn't useful to sit with anymore. It can also mean becoming what is often referred to as "the hero" in the conflict, becoming the person who chooses to say, "This just isn't all that important". The reader of this blog may be thinking that it all sounds too easy. Yes, in many cases it goes much deeper than that. But in so many instances I find that it simply does not. We often get so caught up in the times when we're "off" with our partners, the drama of it all, we forget to remember how we are when we're "on" and we forget how we participated in the "on" times. We forget how to draw from the foundation, the FRIENDSHIP that is the true basis of any relationship.
So yes, a 'put-down' can hurt but it doesn't necessarily undo or negate the 'put-ups'. I focus my work with couples on recognizing opportunities for the'put-ups' and acknowledging their participation in that process.