Tag Archives: relationship skills

8 Tips Behind the Perfect Apology

In a marriage, every conflict point is an opportunity to learn about yourself and your relationship, says Relationship Coach Nancy Pina. But in many relationships, our reaction to conflict often means either quickly apologizing to smooth over the tension, or holding onto the hurt and stewing about it. Neither strategy allows the kind of reconciliation that can enhance the marriage.

In an article for Hitched Magazine (see it here), Pina says other common apology pitfalls include:

  • Not apologizing because you feel you haven’t done anything wrong.
  • Not looking at the deeper meaning behind the argument.
  • Blurting out a quick apology out of obligation to gloss over blowups.

She explains the method of making an apology that leads to emotional healing and allows the offended partner to hear it and accept it includes the following:

  1. Be compassionate. Don’t base the need for apology on your own feelings. Just because YOU wouldn’t be offended doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t have the right to be offended.
  2. Don’t be defensive and try to wiggle out of the conflict.
  3. Express regret. Say, “I am sorry that my behavior/words/tone hurt you. “Communicate your understanding of what caused the conflict, and say you regret it,” says Pina.
  4. No Buts. Saying “but” after an apology negates it.
  5. Ask for forgiveness. This can be hard when you feel you haven’t done anything wrong, but if that’s the way you feel it communicates a lack of respect for your partner’s feelings.
  6. Still hot with conflict after you apologized? Try a cooling off period or writing out your apology to allow it to sink in.
  7. Learn your spouse’s emotional trigger points and learn his/her perspective as a way to improve your relationship in the future.
  8. Honestly assess your spouse’s accusations or feedback. Use it as a teachable moment about your own behavior. Being hope and honest can help you enrich your marriage and your commitment.

Once you’ve made the perfect apology, don’t forget to adjust your words/behavior so that you don’t cause the same hurt again.

Lori Lowe is the founder of Marriage Gems and author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by jscreationzs courtesy

Photo by imagerymajestic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Does Your Marriage Have Areas for Improvement?

If you are hoping to improve or even maintain your relationship in 2012, it may help to know what the major sources of conflict are. What do couples fight most about, and can you assess your personal behavior in these areas to ensure you are not contributing to that conflict?

The Science of Relationships provides the Top 15 Sources of Conflict in Relationships with a brief explanation of each that I think is very helpful. It includes everything from being inconsiderate to poor grooming. First, ask yourself what the most common conflict topics are in your relationship, then check the list. Be honest about an area in which you might be able to improve. This isn’t the time to blame your partner, but rather to look a way you might take some responsibility for a bit of self-improvement. Personally, I hope to improve my daily efforts toward generosity this year.

For some additional helpful reading, The Generous Husband’s Paul Byerly has done a good job dissecting The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America 2011—research completed by the National Marriage Project. This is the research I wrote about recently in which generosity in marriage is said to be the best indicator of a very happy marriage. There’s much more to the study. Paul explains the findings on Money and Housework, which show happier husbands and wives are part of couples for which household chores are shared equally. In addition, the study showed that financial pressure and debt decrease our marital happiness. No matter what our income, increased consumer debt is a hindrance to a happy marriage, particularly for women. He also reports on the impact of family and friends in marriage, which reminds us we should be connecting with those who support our marriage, and preferably spend time with others who have strong marriages. Finally, this is an interesting bit about the importance of shared faith within a marriage. If these reports are interesting to you, check out the full study results. (See link at beginning of paragraph.)

What area of your marriage could use some tweaking—or a complete overhaul—this coming year? Perhaps how you communicate, how you manage your finances, how you share your faith, how you share housework or raise your children, how you manage your time or your home, how you show affection, your sexual satisfaction with one another, making time to spend each day with each other? The options are nearly endless, but discuss one area with your partner in which you both will make an effort to improve, will seek out tools for improvement, and will provide honest and productive feedback with each other. If you have particular topics you would like more information about, please message me or leave it in the comments and I will provide expert insights and research-based tips for you.

For all those who celebrate the Christmas holiday this coming week, I wish you all the blessings and joy of the season. I hope for you a holiday with minimal stress and abounding love. And I wish peace and joy to all of you and to your families and friends. Thank you for allowing me into your lives.

NOTE:
My new book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available. Go here for links to Amazon print version or e-books for Kindle, iTunes, Nook or e-book. If you’ve already bought the book, don’t forget to email me for your 7 free marriage improvement gifts, including everything from an e-book to improve your sex-life to date night suggestions, an iPhone app with daily marriage tips, a marriage refresher workbook, a video to hone your communication skills, and tips for how to connect on a daily basis with your spouse in just 15 minutes a day.

Photo by Arvydas Kriuksta courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Keep Your Marriage Stronger by Fighting Smarter

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

It’s hard to feel loving and romantic when you and your partner spend too much time arguing. Today’s post has strategies for reducing arguments and keeping hostility levels in check.

All marriages have scarce resources, so it isn’t shocking that clever financial experts would write a book using economic theories to help relationships. There were several theories and tips from Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage and Dirty Dishes by Paula Schuchman and Jenny Anderson that I found interesting and worth sharing.

One such theory is loss aversion, which means that we are much more inclined to avoid losses than to acquire gains. It’s why we have such a hard time selling a stock while it’s tanking; we are so focused on how to avoid or make up the loss that we don’t always act rationally.

Many of us act similarly during an argument. The authors explain, “When loss aversion kicks in, you’re liable to stay up all night arguing because you don’t want to lose a fight. You’ll refuse to compromise because it means giving up what you want. You won’t apologize because you don’t want to lose face. And you’ll fail to appreciate the good stuff in front of you because all you can think about is how much more fun married life used to be.”

This is why I’ve long disagreed with the advice, “Never go to bed angry.” Sometimes, the very best thing to do is to take a break or go to bed, sleep on it, let the wind in the sails of your arguments die down, let the anger dissipate, and discuss again when you’re on better terms. This strategy has helped me in my marriage.

One wife interviewed for Spousonomics implemented a simple change after the hundredth late-night fight with her husband that didn’t accomplish anything. During their arguments, each would become more confident in their “rightness” and less able to compromise or hear one another out. She realized she often brought up petty or unnecessary items then fought to the death (while her husband defended himself). So, she implemented a 24-hour rule, meaning she would keep a complaint or a negative comment to herself for 24 hours to determine if it was still important enough to bring up a day later. If she was not still upset about the matter, she would drop it. If she was still very bothered by it, she would choose an appropriate time and approach to deal with it.

You might stop there and say, “Why should I bite my tongue when something is bothering me?” The 24-hour rule doesn’t mean we are bottling up our feelings and emotions, but rather that we realize not all arguments are necessary for a better marriage, and not all issues need to be addressed and solved immediately.

The couple who implemented the new rule found it was very helpful. The first time the wife tried it, she was extremely mad at her husband for forgetting something, but held off on complaining. Within the 24 hours, he remembered, apologized and made it right. She realized that the argument they would have had was completely unnecessary and would have caused much more harm than good. Instead, she gave her husband the opportunity to make something right without her complaining or nagging.  A few months after she implemented the 24-hour rule, the wife reported that the frequency and intensity of their arguments were greatly diminished.

Other argument-derailing ideas from the book:

  1. Each person can call a time-out when they need one.
  2. That person has to set a time limit of no more than one day.
  3. Both people have to spend that time thinking about what in the disagreement led to anger. Rather than blaming the other, they are to ask why they responded in the way they did. 

That last suggestion is an interesting idea that I’ve never attempted. I’m usually too focused on getting my points across or hearing my husband’s feedback to think about why we reacted the way we did. But the tone could really change if we admitted, for instance, that the issue brings up certain fears or concerns and that’s why it upset us so much.

I’ll share other concepts from the book in later posts, for example using comparative advantage to more effectively divide household chores, and how to use incentives to improve your sex lives.

What strategies do you have in place to keep an argument from escalating?

LINKS:
How to endlessly pursue your partner, by Journey to Surrender.

Guys, read this helpful post from Simple Marriage called Five Ways to Ignite Your Wife’s Passions.

As a follow up to Wednesday’s post, is the Royal Wedding creating unrealistically lavish expectations for more brides? Read How Kate Middleton and Prince William could hurt marriage in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

How to Practice Being a Better Partner—5 Tips

“There is nothing worth doing that doesn’t require practice, and having a good marriage is one of them,” says Harriet Lerner, PhD, bestselling author and marriage expert. “One can practice choosing happiness over the need to be right or always win an argument. One can practice playfulness, generosity, and openness. One can practice calming things down and warming them up even when the other person is being a big jerk.”

Dr. Lerner’s advice is spot on. We have the power to control our response, even when our partner is acting badly—especially when our partner is acting badly. That doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to be mistreated, but we can choose to practice behaviors that bless our marriage rather than curse it.

Consider the effort you put forth to improve in your career or hobbies, or in your parenting (where we all fail every once in a while). Yet, we expect our marriages to continue humming along without much effort at improving our skills or attitudes. I know I need some fine-tuning on a regular basis, particularly on choosing to remain positive despite the normal obstacles in life.

In her essay in Creating a Marriage You’ll Love, Dr. Lerner adds to the above advice, saying you may get tired of doing more of the work in your marriage, but since you can’t control your mate, it’s up to you if you want to see improvements in your relationship. “And if you want a recipe for divorce, just wait for the other person to change first.”

Here are some concrete pointers she advises you to practice:

1.  Practice pure listening—with an open heart and with your full attention, and without becoming defensive.

2.  Stay self-focused. This means you aren’t focused on “fixing” your spouse, but rather you are open to how you can contribute to a better life together. You can change without blaming yourself or your partner.

3.  Bite your tongue. You don’t have to share everything that bothers you every minute of the day. Use timing and tact to communicate important matters.

4.  Apologize, even if you’re not fully to blame. “I’m sorry for my part of the problem,” may be a good way to move forward.

5.  Use positive feedback, praise, and compliments very liberally. Remember Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments.

Start today by focusing on just one behavior on this list that you think could help you the most. Once you have incorporated that, add another. When you respond angrily or start to act nit-picky, just start again (and apologize if necessary). Practice makes perfect.

Which of these areas is hardest for you to implement? Do you find yourself wishing you could change one thing about your spouse, or focused on trying to change yourself?