communication

The Cookie Jar Marriage

The cookie jar is an interesting concept. It’s so much more than a storage container! It’s where kids head for an immediate snack when feeling down or to celebrate when feeling great. Know what? We never outgrow the lure of the cookie jar. Only now there are different kinds of cookies in the jar. Instead of chocolate chip cookies, there are different kinds of treats, a.k.a. immediate gratifications of primal desires. We head for these cookies when we feel tired, mad, sad, glad or scared. These “cookies” are labeled… Procrastination Sloth Gluttony Booze Drugs Greed Anger Fighting back Withdrawing Retreating into our self-protective bubble Whining Blaming Grumpiness Irritability These “cookies” can become as addictive as the originals are.… Read more...

What new marriages can learn from failed restaurants

As you probably know, the divorce rate for American couples in a first marriage is about 50%. When you factor in the high numbers of couples who don’t divorce, but stay together in mutual misery, the track record for failed marriages is even worse.… Read more...

Doing the maintenance on your ship is worth it.

The British Navy dominated the oceans for hundreds of years. What was their secret? They cleaned and did maintenance on the hulls of their ships. Their enemies took little care of theirs. The British sailors removed barnacles, seaweed and saltwater clams. Keeping the bottom of the boat smooth gave them a critical advantage – a ship that traveled quickly to battle stations. An unclean hull would drag tons of shells and hundreds of yards of seaweed. This debris could cut a ship’s speed in half – a severe disadvantage in battle. Salt water clams were a particular scourge to wooden ships. Clams dug into the hulls and turned them into honeycombs.… Read more...

Is there a corpse in your living room?

Realtors and carpenters alike say that when a couple moves to a new house, they’ll see things that could use some fixing up. The carpenters and realtors also say the couple has about six months to take action on the repairs. After that the repairs fade into oblivion even though they continue to get worse over time. One realtor said to me, “There could be a corpse in the living room, but if they don’t get rid of it in six months they will just keep stepping over it.” Humans have a natural ability to adjust to some pretty bad situations. What's the lesson for the first six months of marriage, or for the first few months after a big change in your relationship?… Read more...

Deep Listening on a Japanese Subway

An account by the first American Aikido Master trained in Japan, Terry Dobson The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows. At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer's clothing, and he was big, drunk and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby.… Read more...

He could have told a lie, but he didn’t.

In a recent couples therapy session we were talking about Taylor’s memory. He forgot (yet again) what we had discussed the previous week. Interestingly, this is a common occurrence for many couples I see even though they are intelligent, high-achieving, and powerfully positioned in major corporations. It turned out his memory problem went beyond forgetting our meetings. And it bothered him a lot. We discussed the impact of his bad memory on his partner Ashley. She had to compensate in multiple ways. She would feel unimportant to him and react in pouty punishing ways which then triggered him. She then asked if the reason he didn’t ever call her during the day just to say “Hi” was because he couldn’t remember.… Read more...

Do you think you listen to your spouse? Think again.

I recently made a shocking discovery. About couples, of course. After 30 years of working with couples of every economic and social class, from CEO’s of major corporations to prison inmates, I thought I had heard it all. So I was stunned – really stunned – by this shocking discovery. Here’s the story. A couple of years ago I started asking most couples during our first appointment if they think they listen very well to their partners. The vast majority say, “Yes I think I listen pretty well – but my partner is not so hot.” Then I ask each person, “What do you think your partner’s major complaints about you are?… Read more...

How to Stun Your Therapist (Or Your Spouse) With Your Attitude.

If you happen to be in couples therapy just say this at your next meeting:  Today I’m here to change my attitude about change, because if I don’t change my attitude about change then I will never be able to consistently apply what we are here to learn. My attitude that needs improvement is: “Why should I have to change?” Because as long as I have that attitude I will come across as insensitive, self-centered, oblivious, and negligent. Even though I seek a pain-proof marriage, another part of me knows that’s an impossible goal. Worst of all – my self-defeating attitude keeps me from creating the best possible team we could create.… Read more...

This Single Communication Tip Will Save Your Marriage

Couple in serious discussionWant to save your marriage? You should know that under stress, couples do three things that are relationship killers. All three are self-protective reactions to pain or fear. But self-protection to one partner is poison to the other.… Read more...

Play “Twenty Questions” with your partner

Do you remember the game “Twenty Questions?” You could ask twenty questions to identify what thing the other person was thinking about. Here’s a variation on the Twenty Questions game, for your next dinner date or when you have some spare time. Using the questions below, you can find out a little more about your partner and vice versa. These questions will help you go a little deeper than discussing work, kids, vacations, or sports. Interestingly these are the kinds of questions couples often ask each other in the early stage of a relationship. But as time hurtles forward, these great questions get neglected and then abandoned.… Read more...
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