I don’t get what I want. My expectations go unmet. She doesn’t respond or act the way I think she should. She is in a low mood. I am in a low mood. We are in a low mood. To state the obvious, relationship isn’t always smooth and easy. Too often though we make these events into more than they are and/or we think it will always be this difficult.
I’m reading a book for the second time called Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. Below is a piece from the chapter Take What The Defense Gives You. Parentheticals are mine. Mr. Pressfield says: Two key tenets for days when Resistance is really strong: 1. Take what you can get and stay patient. The Defense may crack late in the game. 2. Play for tomorrow.
Our role on tough-nut days is to maintain our composure and keep chipping away. We’re pros (at relationship). We’re not amateurs. We have patience. We can handle adversity. Tomorrow the defense will give us more, and tomorrow we’ll take it. There’s a third tenet that underlies the first two: 3. We’re in this for the long haul.
Our work (relationship) is practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days are nothing. In the scheme of our lifelong practice, twenty-four hours when we can’t gain yardage is only a speed bump. We’ll forget it by breakfast tomorrow and be back again, ready to hurl our bodies into the fray.
Be well my friends. Our work (relationship) is practice.
“If he desired to know about automobiles, he would, without question, study diligently about automobiles. If his wife desired to be a gourmet cook, she’d certainly study the art of cooking, perhaps even attending a cooking class. Yet, it never seems as obvious to him that if he wants to live in love, he must spend at least as much time as the auto mechanic or the gourmet in studying love. “
- Leo Buscaglia
I love this quote I found on en’theos because it captures what John and I really believe and have discovered about relationships and marriage, ours and those we have coached. It takes study and practice and diligence to have what we want in life in any arena. Even love.
Study love. Spend as much time studying love as you would to study anything you want to have mastery in. Read, observe, ask questions, practice, take classes. How do we learn other things we want to learn in life? We study.
My feelings are a guide to my actions but they cannot be trusted to be the only guide. I must also rely on my commitment to my marriage relationship. Do I base all my actions on my feelings? I don’t. Otherwise I wouldn’t go to my job unless I felt like it, or exercise only when I felt like it, or eat healthy based on if I feel like it. I must at some point take responsibility for the choices I have made in my life. I must choose to honor my commitments in life; keep my promises. I made a vow to my husband in front of my family, his family and witnesses and I’m actually glad it’s not that easy to pull a marriage apart.
I took a vow. And actually it’s a really great thing I did. Otherwise, 29 years later, I might not have stayed married without that vow. That commitment saw me thru times when I wanted to quit. I wanted to give up. I said “this is too hard.” But that vow, that promise, that commitment to be married for life, brought me to the other side of many stormy times in our marriage.
When I was younger, I thought each time we had a fight or disagreement that we couldn’t seem to resolve, it was the end of our marriage. But as I matured and chose to stay married, I began to accept that we will not agree on everything, we will not feel romantic every day, we will not like all the circumstances of our life together all of the time. I now trust that, and realize that tough times don’t need to be the end of my marriage. They have made us stronger and more capable of handling the next challenge. We can, and do, get to the other side, together.
A coaching client came to me a couple of weeks ago and in the conversation revealed that he had lost a client that represented 80% of his income and that his wife was over the top upset. In her upset, she fired off some zingers that confronted his desire for honor and respect. Wisely, he removed himself from the situation before responding in his anger and hurt (great progress over the past!) and called me. He knows I’m not one for a great deal of sympathy in our coaching relationship and his reaching out for help was genuine.
My first question was aimed at identifying his accountability in the scenario so he could actually do something about it. (It never works to try to fix the other person.) I asked, ”what basic need of your wife are you violating?” With a little help, he realized that his wife’s desire for security and surety had been tweaked with the news he presented. So on to the next question we went. I asked “what can you do to provide her some sense of security and surety in this situation?” With more help, he came to realize that he had not provided his wife any insight into his opportunity/sales pipeline and timeline which is robust.
Fast forward three days and a follow up conversation revealed that he had patiently and thoroughly walked his wife through his sales funnel. His comment: “It was like turning on a light switch! She calmed down, was relaxed and actually engaged with me on how we could close and even expand some of the opportunities. She was so positive and gave some really great feedback.”
Notice how his initial disregard for her most basic need triggered her to attack his most basic need. And it was all unconscious. You’d be shocked to know how frequently this occurs. Conversely, notice how when he slowed down, gave her all of the context and at some level met her need for security and surety, she responded in the meeting of his need for honor and respect. And notice when both had their basic needs met they returned to a loving stance. And finally, notice how is staying accountable assisted in coming to a quick, effective solution.
Remember, during upset in a relationship, stay accountable (you can only fix you), look for where you have confronted your partners most basic need (men = honor/respect, women = security), look for actions you can take to restore their sense of that need being met.
If you are an individual who has been married 2 years or longer, you may have started to notice some of your thoughts about marriage or your spouse are shifting. Maybe the honeymoon phase has worn off and you find yourself starting to doubt your choice of a mate. Maybe you find yourself internally criticizing them more often. What should you do?
When you find your thoughts dwelling more on the negative aspects of your spouse, than on the positive, here’s what I have learned to do.
Turn it around. Every time a negative or critical thought about your spouse floats into the ticker tape of thoughts constantly circulating in your mind, turn the thought into a question.
What is 1 really great thing my spouse does? Then let your mind dwell on that thought for a few minutes.
Try it again. This time think of 2 things that your spouse does really well. Let your mind rest on those thoughts for a few minutes. Then think of 3 things your spouse does really well and keep those thoughts in your mind a little longer.
Each time a negative thought comes in, arrest that thought as quickly as you notice it, and turn it around to the question. What does my spouse do really well?
Keep steadily practicing turning it around in your mind on a consistent basis and it will start to form a habit. Studies show it takes 21 days to form a new habit. You will train yourself to turn your thoughts around.
The longer you can dwell on the positive qualities of your spouse and minimize the negative thought patterns, the better you will feel about them, and the better you will feel about your relationship overall.
What shift can you create today in your marriage relationship by following this practice?
“As marriages evolve, they quiet down. They get deeper rather than more stimulating. More stimulating, is like a back scratch. Deeper is like a back massage. Deeper is more satisfying but less dramatic. It seldom occurs to people that the reason they seek so much excitement is that excitement is not very satisfying.
A couple’s sex life reflects this principle during the first two years of marriage. At first, sex is a major source of intimacy in marriage. As the relationship evolves, intimacy comes more from sharing and companionship than from sex. Couples who don’t appreciate what deepening is, become concerned when their relationship quiets down. They think something’s wrong. They worry they aren’t as sexually active and don’t pursue excitement as much. This concern creates unrest in their minds and, thus, in the relationship. Unrest lowers the intimacy level. Now, they have neither excitement nor intimacy.
They need to see that as marriage quiets down it becomes more fulfilling. The partners feel more relaxed-more themselves-in each other’s company, dropping even the most subtle pretenses. They become more open to life and each other. They get more enjoyment with less effort. They become more appreciative. When it is time to be out in the world, they are more rested and refreshed.
When a couple acquires a taste for contentment, they truely appreciate the deepening feelings in their marriage.”
Quote from ‘The Relatonship Handbook’ by Dr. George S. Pransky PhD