Tag Archives: marriage skills

5 Marriage Skills That Can Also Help in the Workplace

The following is a guest post by Naomi Grunditz with Power of Two, an online marriage education program that teaches the skills couples need to have a healthy, loving, and joyous partnership.

After working with the PO2 curriculum and watching how my coworkers interact using the skills we teach, I’ve realized that marriage counseling doesn’t just teach you how to save a marriage, it’s useful for your interactions in all sorts of relationships, including business. That’s because running a business is a bit like running a family, but with more people. Here are the top five marriage skills we teach at Power of Two that can really help you succeed in the workplace:

1. Just Say It. No matter how well you know someone, it’s safe to conclude that they cannot read your mind. If you want to improve communication in marriage, we recommend you just say it instead of insinuating and hoping your spouse will pick up on your hints. Same goes for the office. Confused about something? Just ask! Think you deserve a raise? Say it! Be clear and concise (but tactful) about what you want and feel.

2. Use “I” statements. Power of Two teaches that while a marriage is the blending of two people, you still remain your own unique individual. Avoid invading your spouse’s space by telling him or her what to do or feel. Instead, talk about yourself and what you want, especially when you disagree (avoid “you…”). Using this skill in the office will help avoid confrontation and arguments.

3. Delete “But.” Using “but” deletes what the other person just said. This automatically sets you up for opposition. Instead, first look for what is right or useful about your partner’s statement. Then add to it by using “yes, and at the same time…” This makes room for both of your opinions and will lead to better decision-making.

4. Exit and re-enter. When an argument starts heating up, sometimes you can get so angry that it’s hard to communicate. At this point, all angry parties should exit the conversation. Take a walk, get a non-caffeinated drink, stretch. Then come back and start negotiating again. Good business is conducted when all involved are relaxed, calm and comfortable (provide food and water at meetings!).

5. Clean up thoroughly after upsets. Even with the best communication skills, there are bound to be a few upsets once and a while. When this happens, never, ever, just ignore it and move on. First, both parties should state what they regret and admit their part in the problem. Then, analyze what went wrong and what can be done differently in the future. End with a solid double apology. This will help you maintain an open and friendly work environment and move towards more constructive solutions in the future.

So why not try using the Power of Two marriage skills outside the home? Next time your boss bugs you about that report for the 10 billionth time, cool down with emotion regulation, then use some “I” statements to state your concerns and improve your professional relationship. I just wouldn’t give him a kiss and a squeeze to make things all better … not everything that works with your spouse will work in the office!

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Marriage Education Reduces Military Divorces by Two-Thirds

There’s more evidence that marriage education works to prevent divorce. Marriage education involves teaching and practicing marriage skills such as communication, conflict management, etc., and is separate from marriage counseling or therapy.

John Crouch from The Family Law News Blog reported on a randomized study recently completed in the military which had a control group of couples that did not take classes, and randomly assigned couples who did take marriage education classes. The “PREP for Strong Bonds” program was delivered by Army chaplains. One year later, 2 percent of the couples who received marriage education divorced, while 6 percent of the control group divorced.

Other studies have also confirmed that professionally developed curricula is effective at reducing divorce, whether the education is delivered in a religious, ethnic or occupational setting.

Marriage education can be effective for engaged couples and couples who have been married for decades. Just a reminder that many organizations offer marriage education, often within different states or within religious organizations. In addition, if you can’t get away for an entire weekend,
poweroftwomarriage.com offers marriage education skills online where couples can have complete privacy and can go at their own speed.

The Divorce Delusion from NYT gives its take on what divorce looks like in modern America.

Related to last week’s post about how reading romance novels affects women’s relationships, a new study just came out that suggests reading romance novels may be hazardous to one’s health. (Someone seems to be on a campaign against romance novels.) The gist of it is that people who read romance novels are more likely to act like the characters in the books and eschew the use of condoms, putting them at risk for STDs or AIDS.

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net by Elliot Nevills

Web-Based Marriage Skills Training is Affordable & Private

Win a free lifetime membership! Power of Two will award two free lifetime memberships to this week’s winners. Read and comment to qualify.

Jesse Heitler was a computer whiz from Yale when he joined his family’s established business, Power of Two, about five years ago. It was his vision to bring interactive, web-based marriage skills training to the company that drastically changed how Power of Two would operate.

A 20-year-old organization, Power of Two (or PO2) was founded by his mother, Dr. Susan Heitler, an experienced marital therapist and author of the book, Power of Two. His sister, Dr. Abigail Hirsch had followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a psychologist and provide training and education on marriage skills; she had joined her mother’s business a few years ahead of Jesse. Their brother, Jacob, also joined the company after earning his MBA.

When Jesse explored the industry and attended a marriage education convention, he realized that most of the couples he knew getting married were of a completely different generation and mindset than the experienced clinicians giving marriage advice. He believed he and his friends would sooner turn to the Internet for marriage advice than to their church pastor or a marriage counselor. Having just sold a previous start-up, Jesse was excited to try working with his mother and sister to see if they could find a way to bring marriage education to the Internet.  The trick would be to determine how to reach couples in an affordable, fun manner. Recruiting a family friend, who was skilled at creative production and also worked as a comedian, was a big part of the solution.

A new business model was born:  a membership-based Internet marriage skills training program. At $18 per month for access to all the videos, articles and interactive programs members want, the company says it’s in the range of coffee money, especially when compared to the expense of couples’ therapy. The company currently has about 1,000 members, and services are scalable to any number.

Initially, Dr. Hirsch told me, the PO2 staff believed they would be targeting mostly women and younger couples with the online model. They have since found the age range to be much more broad than expected. They were also surprised that “a huge percentage of members are men,” and that men tend to be the most active members. Dr. Hirsch explains, “We hear all the time from men, ‘My wife and I tried counseling, and I felt the counselor was always on her side.’” Men value the privacy and neutrality of the online program. They learn the skills, practice, get feedback, can ask personal questions, and see positive changes in their marriage, adds Dr. Hirsch.

Power of Two’s goal is to provide educational resources to all couples, so they don’t get to the point where divorce is on the table, says Dr. Hirsch. The program is based on Dr. Heitler’s many years of clinical practice. The skill sets are useful in the real world, and they’re not a band-aid approach, she adds. For example, many people teach listening skills as “parroting back” what you heard your partner say. Dr. Hirsch says real people don’t talk like that, and they won’t keep that strategy going. “We teach you how to really listen, not to debate.”

The program isn’t only for couples who feel they are struggling. It’s useful for premarital education, for couples early in their marriage, soon-to-be parents, couples who want to tweak certain areas of their marriage, as well as couples who need a major overhaul. The program can be done on a flexible schedule, together or separately.

Dr. Hirsch says she uses the skills in her own marriage, and says her husband attributes the program to enhancing their marriage during the stressful period of their second child’s birth. “We were practicing the skills a ton, trying to learn how to teach them to others,” says Dr. Hirsch. “My husband said, ‘This is changing our marriage. This is what makes things fun and allows us to enjoy each other and not get stuck on the daily wrinkles.’”

Power of Two was in many ways already a company on the cutting edge before moving to the Internet. The organization prides itself on making sure that the solutions they’re advocating for others are hard at work within their company as well. In particular, they believed in work/life balance above all else. Employees’ marriages and families are as high a priority as their work responsibilities, explains Dr. Hirsch. “It’s critical that we all have rock-solid marriages if we sell marriage help. We should be a model of how you can run a business and run lives that work well,” she added. How does a balanced workplace look? Employees take real vacations. They learn how to turn off their cell phones. They sometimes telecommute or work a flexible schedule. Their employees work from offices in Berkeley, San Francisco, London and Denver. “Somehow in America we have gotten out of whack on our priorities. It will only change when someone screams for marriage and family,” she adds. Juggling three young boys of her own, she understands what is at stake. Read the team bios here.

The same principles from the book are used online, with more enhancements, marriage boosters, and quick tips. There’s also more entertainment and humor in the online program. The topics are based on:

  1. Emotion regulation—How to keep disagreements calm and supportive, how to navigate difficult conversations.
  2. Communication—How to say things in a way your partner can hear and understand, and how to listen in a way that makes your partner feel heard.
  3. Decision making—How to make win-win joint decisions.
  4. Positivity/Intimacy—How to express your love day-in and day-out.

Members receive individualized feedback on personalized assessments. They can also ask personal questions. One of the psychologists may recommend they see a professional if the problem is particularly difficult or complicated. Most couples view the membership as similar to the Netflix model; some months they use it a lot, and some months they use it less. “They appreciate knowing it’s there when they are ready or when they need to get back on track,” says Dr. Hirsch. They also receive reminders.

The program sounds unique, affordable and beneficial to a wide range of couples. As always, I receive no financial benefit for sharing this information with you, but since I was excited by the innovative approach, I knew many readers would also be. You can read testimonials, take a quiz, or get started here.

Power of Two has generously offered two free LIFETIME memberships to their program. If you would like to be entered in the drawing for a free membership, simply make a comment below, or send me a private message if you prefer. I’ll hold the drawing in about one week. Everyone else can still benefit from a free 14-day trial membership. And, Power of Two offers a money-back 100% satisfaction guarantee on its site for members. If you decide to join, I would love to hear your input on the program’s impact on your marriage.

Photo Credit: ©huaxiadragon/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?

Project Happily Ever After: Is It Possible?

Alisa Bowman

About the time she began wishing her husband would drop dead, Alisa Bowman decided she had married the wrong man. Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenting a colicky baby (then spirited toddler) while self-employed and working from home, Alisa was exhausted and frustrated. She and her husband had taken out a second mortgage on their house so her husband could follow his dream of opening a bike shop. There was no time left for love, marriage, sex or even sleep. They hadn’t been intimate in more than six months. They argued frequently, with no resolution.

Alisa began writing a novel in which a wife murdered her husband and got away with it. She started dreaming about her own husband’s funeral. Then, she began considering filing for divorce. But when a divorced friend asked her what she had done to try to salvage her marriage, she had to admit she hadn’t tried anything at all. She hadn’t even expressed her own needs in the marriage. “That was a turning point for me. I wanted my marriage to improve, but I didn’t know if we could,” says Alisa. Less than four months later, they were renewing their marriage vows.

In a new memoir/advice book called Project: Happily Ever After, Alisa shares the journey and lessons learned during those months of reading stacks of marriage books and implementing many ideas—some crazy, some mainstream—to see what would work for them.

She now says good marriages are a result of learning and practicing skills, including being assertive, communicating well, and learning to forgive. “It really only takes one person to learn the skills; the other generally follows suit,” she says.

“People often feel doomed when they try a skill once and it doesn’t work. But it takes practice. It’s like weight loss. If it took a long time to gain the weight, it will take time to get it off. And if it took a long time for your marriage to go bad, it will take a long time to improve,” Alisa says. “Patience and practice are key.”

After renewing their vows, the real work took place in the following year, says Alisa, when they had to learn to control their words and anger and continue to practice their new positive skills.

Rekindling their sex life is another important part of her book. Alisa planned an elaborate evening in New York City, where their love first bloomed, to re-consummate their marriage. She got a pedicure, manicure, new underwear, and her first bikini wax. “Lingerie and bikini waxes are more for the woman than for the man,” she says. “They make you feel sexy, and they help with desire.”

As for what led them to be so dissatisfied in marriage, she says her husband wasn’t nearly as frustrated as she had been, since he had time for work and hobbies like biking. “I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I was exhausted. I allowed my husband to walk all over me,” says Alisa. Part of her new skill set was learning to express her needs.

“I also had misconceptions about parenting. I thought babies slept a lot, so I would be able to work,” she says. “Looking back, I can see almost all of our arguments were about time. I felt we were out of love and I wasn’t being respected. I couldn’t see it at the time, but we were really struggling over time.”

Now, three years later, Alisa and her husband maintain a passionate love life and rarely argue, thanks to the skills they still practice. Alisa’s husband now feels it’s his turn to be supportive of her dreams and calling. And he doesn’t even mind her writing about their sex life.

In addition to the book coming out this fall, Alisa shares strategies in her marriage blog. If you subscribe, you will receive her free eBook Relationship Rules.

Alisa’s experience bears out research that shows the year after having a first child is often the most stressful time for a couple. In my experience, the level of stress has a lot to do with whether the baby is cranky and sleepless or easy and compliant to your scheduling. These factors are often out of your control. (I had one of each.) If you have children, it’s important to still put your marriage first—for their benefit and your own.

Alisa’s book comes out this Christmas and is sure to generate a lot of buzz and to inspire couples to put their marriages first. You can pre-order your copy here.

If you have children, did you experience a high level of stress during the early parenting years? What lessons did you learn? If you plan to have children, have you talked realistically about roles and responsibilities in the home?