Tag Archives: communication in marriage

Memoir Marriage Book Delivers Honesty & Hope

I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of Project: Happily Ever After—saving your marriage when the fairytale falters, by Alisa Bowman. I interviewed Alisa several months ago here, and many of you expressed interest and excitement about her upcoming book. I’m happy to report the book lives up to the high expectations. Alisa delivers three important factors in this memoir-style marriage book: entertainment, education, and hope.

The premise: Alisa began her marriage with a man who seemed to adore her, but who then appeared to mutate into an apathetic, unhelpful husband and father. Alisa started to dream about his death, because then she wouldn’t have to divorce him, and she and her daughter could go on with their lives.

Suffice it to say the book is honest—much more honest than I would have the courage to be if I were in her shoes. Things get interesting when she is convicted by a friend who asks her what she is doing to save her marriage. When she realizes she hasn’t lifted a finger, and in fact hasn’t even been sharing her feelings of despair with her husband, she starts on a quest to read a pile of marriage books and implement their suggestions. The book includes many of her learnings and how their implementation helped improve their marriage.

I won’t ruin the twists and turns for you, but Alisa promotes that within a few months, she and her husband are renewing their marriage vows and building a solid life together. Somewhere along the line, Alisa realizes that her lack of communication and her negative perceptions were contributing a great deal to her marital failure. Her husband also makes some important changes when he becomes aware of her feelings and struggles. (You see, he couldn’t read her mind, and really didn’t have a clue about what she was going through.)

For couples who may have lost that early spark in their marriage, or even for individuals who are considering divorce or separation, Project: Happily Ever After is an important read. She doesn’t advocate staying in any marriage, but she does give plenty of tips for figuring out whether yours is worth staying in.

Did I mention it’s funny and entertaining? Well, if you read Alisa’s Project: Happily Ever After blog, you won’t be surprised by this fact. She tackles any topic with wit and her trademark honesty.

The book is available for pre-order here and will be coming out next month. Get your copy while it’s hot off the press! Watch Alisa’s sweet video here, and learn about how her falling-out-of-love story turned into a falling-back-in-love story.

Even though I’ve already read a free copy of the book, I plan to buy another copy in hopes of helping another marriage. Alisa even sweetens the deal by offering a free 81-page e-book for anyone who orders by January 31st. Along with the free book, you can enter to win a free Kindle, a romantic get-away, and more. Find the giveaway details here.

I want to congratulate Alisa for succeeding in both the marriage journey, as well as the publishing journey!

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Oh No, I Married an Extrovert!

It’s extremely common for a married couple to be comprised of one outgoing/extroverted person and another who is more introverted. My marriage is no exception, with me being the introverted one (as most writers are), and my hubby on the far extreme of extroverted.

I didn’t expect this to cause much conflict when I got married, but in fact this difference affects how you each wish to plan your days, your weekends, your vacations—pretty  much your lives. That means, while I would love to be reading alone or taking a solitary walk to recharge my batteries, I host large or small groups of people in our home on a regular basis, because that’s what recharges my husband’s batteries. To be honest, I generally enjoy these gatherings and love our friends, but they require much more energy from me than for him. (I also have higher housekeeping standards, but that’s another post entirely.)

What defines an introvert or extrovert anyway? Introverts refuel their energy by spending time alone, while extroverts become fired up and energized when they are socializing with others. One can exhibit different personality traits depending on the situation. For instance, you may be introverted in a group of strangers, but extroverted at home with friends and family. Introverts generally have a longer attention span, are more private and less aggressive. Not all introverts are shy; they just don’t enjoy or thrive on social situations as extroverts do.

I’m fairly social for an introvert (partly because of who I married), but I can’t change my brain’s biology. Introverts and extroverts have different brain wiring then extroverts. Brain scans have shown that introverts have more blood flow to their brains than extroverts. In addition, they showed different pathways for the blood flow in the brain, with introverts showing a longer and more complicated path when involving internal experiences (i.e. problem solving). Extroverts’ brain scans showed their blood flow was shorter, less complicated and traveled to different areas. Clearly, introverts respond to internal stimulation, while extroverts respond to external stimuli.1

So, with the understanding that we can’t change one another, how can we best manage the disparity? It’s best to respect your differences, and negotiate or compromise when you disagree on events or schedules.  My very spontaneous, social husband understands that he should check with me before inviting people over, because sometimes I’m just not up for it. And I understand that being social is part of who he is, so I encourage and make room in my life for that. We help balance one another. However, during the first five or more years of marriage, we were still figuring this out and wondering why the other person didn’t want to do what we did.

In most of the interviews I’ve done with happily married couples, one person has been introverted while the other is extroverted. They also had to learn to adjust to these differences over time through trial and error. Maybe one person leaves church or a party early, so the other can linger and talk. Or, one spouse takes more frequent outings with friends and allows his or her partner some time at home to rejuvenate. Resist the urge to separate your lives too much; we need to be involved in one another’s interests and friends—to be attentive, caring and interested. Read Pour Love on Your Spouse.

I’m glad I married someone different from me, because it stretches me out of my comfort zone. Maybe I even cause my partner to become more reflective at times. I think we are more interesting and better people as a result of our balancing act.

I’m curious… whether are engaged, dating or married, do you and your partner have different social tendencies? If so, how you have learned to negotiate that landscape? If they are the same, does it make you more compatible?

 

1 Source: Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., The Introvert Advantage (New York: Workman Publishers)

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?

Don’t Share Marriage Blips with Family

We’re coming up on a busy Memorial weekend, when so many of us spend time with family and close friends. It’s a great time to reconnect. Unfortunately you’ll also hear plenty of griping about spouses. Don’t join in the fray.

Particularly when a marriage is on the rocks, but also when you’ve just had a disagreement or conflict with your spouse, it’s natural to want to air your feelings with friends, parents, siblings or others close to you. But beware of this tendency, says Michele Weiner-Davis, marriage counselor and author of best-selling Divorce Busting® books and tools.

Imagine that you share with your family that you suspect your husband of an affair, or you think your wife drinks too much. Or you confide in close friends that you have a lousy sex life, and that your husband isn’t concerned for your needs. When you share these details, Weiner-Davis says those close to you will take your side and may even encourage a divorce. They are only hearing your side, and they may think they have your best interests in mind. If and when you and your spouse choose to work on your marriage, and even make great strides or changes, guess who won’t forget all the bad stuff you shared?

“Their loyalty to you blinds them from seeing or understanding the context in which the marital problems have developed over time,” says Weiner-Davis. They likely won’t consider how your actions may have contributed to the problem.

Then when you change your mind about your marriage, and decide you love him or her after all, you may face resistance from those close to you about wanting to reconcile. Despite significant improvements in your marriage, you may have created a community that can’t truly support your marriage. They may even be vocally opposed to it.

“Once a cheater/liar, always a cheater/liar,” or “You’re being brainwashed to stay,” may be the spoken or unspoken words of your allies, says Weiner-Davis. She says situations like this are not uncommon in her marital counseling, and she provides some specific examples in her article “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Your Family.” Sometimes, a family never comes around to supporting a marriage after they learn of transgressions they believe are unforgivable.

Weiner-Davis says if you sense your family members or friends are becoming biased toward you, “it’s wise to limit complaints about your marriage and consult with a therapist instead. (Make sure you hire a marriage-friendly therapist.) Believe you can improve your marriage, and work to do so. Weiner-Davis says “the vast majority of divorces in this country are unnecessary, because most relationship problems are solvable.” She would know, since the couples she counsels are often on the brink of divorce. (I’ll share a story next week by a friend who saved her marriage from disaster.)

I love the quote she shares by David Ben-Gurion, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.”

Whether you are married or single, in a strong or troubled marriage, when you hear other people complaining about their spouse, think about at least being neutral, at best being a support to the marriage. As long as you don’t feel there is abuse going on, be an encouragement for reconciliation. Be supportive, and seek solutions.

Have you made the mistake of sharing something about your marriage that you wished you could take back? I have. I learned pretty early in my marriage to keep marital arguments private. Generally in a day or two, I’ve forgotten about them anyway. If I really do want advice or listening ear, I try to choose someone who’s more neutral and pro-marriage. How about you, do you have someone who gets to hear all your marriage secrets?

Top Reasons Americans Give for Their Divorce

After today we’ll get away from the stats. For the data-seekers, here are some top reasons Americans say they divorce (they could select more than one reason). Po Bronson’s web site has much more analysis on family issues, divorce rates and marriage trends, as well as international divorce rates. The info is a little out of date but Bronson gives real insight. I was surprised at the high rate of physical abuse toward women. Top reasons why American women said they’d gotten divorced:
           communication problems (69.7 percent)
           unhappiness (59.9 percent)
           incompatible with spouse (56.4 percent)
           emotional abuse (55.5 percent)
           financial problems (32.9 percent)
           sexual problems (32.1 percent)
           spouse’s alcohol abuse (30 percent)
           spouse’s infidelity (25.2 percent)
           physical abuse (21.7 percent)*

Top reasons why American men said they’d gotten divorced:
communication problems (59.3 percent)
incompatible with spouse (44.7 percent)
unhappiness (46.9 percent)
emotional abuse (24.7 percent)
financial problems (28.7 percent)
sexual problems (30.2 percent) *

   
 

In a U.S. study, more than 25 percent of the women said that their husbands’ unfaithfulness was a factor in their divorce. Less than half as many men (10.5 percent) said it was their wives’ infidelity which was a cause of their divorce. In fact, more men said that their wives’ in-laws were a reason for the divorce (11.6 percent) than said it was because their wives had had an affair.

Sources from PoBronson.com:

* According to a 1985 study. Totals do not add up to 100 percent because respondents could select every reason that was applicable. Margaret Guminski Cleek and T. Allan Pearson, “Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (February 1985) p. 179, 181.

 

     

*Margaret Guminski Cleek and T. Allan Pearson, “Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (February 1985) p. 179, 181. 

 
 
 
 

How to Ensure Your Husband Never Listens

When Paul McCartney sang Maybe I’m Amazed about his wife, Linda, the song put into words the feelings of connection so many couples share. Listeners swooned as he expressed how amazed he was by his love for her. One of the surprising lines he sang is, “You right me when I’m wrong,” which is followed by, “Maybe I’m amazed at the way I need you.” The truth is, couples do need to lovingly correct one another sometimes. This is part of an honest, intimate relationship.

Unfortunately, many women often suck at this. Wives are six times more likely to fuss and scold than are husbands, according to Dr. John Gottman, marriage researcher and professor emeritus at the University of Washington. The result? Husbands are 85% more likely to stone-wall than wives.

The reason men shut down is not because the communication is negative. Many men deal with negative issues at work all day long. It’s the way the wife communicates that pushes him to silence—the berating, pointing, emasculating, scowling or yelling. These disrespectful exchanges are not tolerated by most men. In fact, they shut down and stop listening. They’re unable or unwilling to process extremely emotional outbursts. Who knows, maybe they’re thinking about the big game or where they’d rather be, but they’re probably not listening to you.

If you have negative information, try to communicate it clearly, briefly and gently. Control your tone and facial expression. Don’t belabor the point. When it comes time for you to hear a suggestion or complaint from your husband, try to receive that communication in the same way you’d like him to respond to you.

A great line in the McCartney song is, “You help me sing my song.” All spouses should be encouraging one another so that they are better off together than alone, to help each other fulfill the purpose you have here on earth. Remember to build your spouse up with positive comments, so that the negative to positive ratio is no more than 1:5.

What are the things that amaze you about your spouse? Share with him/her.