teamwork

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...

Teamwork: From now on if someone calls me chicken . . .

From now on if someone calls me “chicken,” I'll take that as a huge compliment. For any person – especially a male – being called chicken is a searing insult. But not for me. Not anymore. Not after what I witnessed. Here’s the back story. It was a summer afternoon on my vacation in Kauai. I was on the patio feeding a mother hen and her five baby chicks bits of wheat bread. They run wild on the Hawaiian island and are protected by state law. I got to the place where the baby chicks eagerly ate out of my hand. Then I fed a chunk to Mama Hen and she dropped it on the ground. Immediately one of the chicks snatched it and ran off.… Read more...

What if your spouse said this on your honeymoon?

“Honey, I’ve been thinking. Nobody who says, ‘I do’ ever thinks they will split up. Yet 50% of marriages fall off the cliff. It seems like most of those marriages have a lot of arguments or unresolved conflicts. So here’s my proposal.… Read more...

What’s better than fixing your marriage?

What if a good marriage was not about focusing on fixing problems? What if a good marriage was not learning a new set of skills or tools? The most common requests couples who are starting therapy have is for communication skills and tools for a better relationship. This is an understandable but misguided request. What if couples were taught skills and tools, with penetrating insights on how to improve, but there was no underlying dedication to growth? What if a great marriage is about character? The sum of moral strength, fortitude, self-discipline, integrity, curiosity and caring. Tools are about using your mind.… Read more...

More on Spinning in Circles with Entrenched Couples

Colorful concentric circlesA reader of my blog on Spinning in Circles with Entrenched Couples described a situation that’s a catch-22 of couples therapy: a partner who doesn’t want to do what is required of him but still wants a better relationship with his wife. Here are my thoughts on the subject.… Read more...

Mother Nature’s cruel marriage trick

Mother Nature has played a cruel trick on your marriage. Although your partner thinks you’re responsible for most of the troubles in your relationship, it’s not you. It’s Mother Nature.     The lizard brain Mother Nature gave each of you two brains inside your skull. One brain developed hundreds of thousands of years ago. It is primitive. It cares only about avoiding risk, pain and threats. It wants to feel fine fast. Among other things, this primitive brain governs four “F functions”: Fight Flight Feed Reproduction This brain is so primitive that it is sometimes called the reptilian or lizard brain.… 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...

Overcoming Passivity and Passive-Aggressive Behavior

…in the Early Stages of Therapy Couples therapy has numerous challenges in the early sessions depending on the type of presenting problem. Our next few newsletters will focus on some unique challenges and what to do about them, beginning with passive behavior and passive-aggressive behavior. A common pattern of highly distressed relationships is each partner wants the other to change first. The complaining partner wants massive personality changes. The “request” is more or less stated as a demand or accusation, with no awareness of how much is being requested. When this happens, the pressure is on either you or the partner to do something to relieve the distress of the complainer.… Read more...

New Ways to Create Collaboration for Severely Distressed Couples

October is here. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all quickly tumble into the family, creating stress for couples. School has been underway long enough for kids’ schedules, the demands of various activities, and homework challenges to create additional stress. Couples start fighting much more than they did in the summer months. Their lack of ability to collaborate effectively becomes apparent. Perhaps they call a therapist or perhaps they wait even longer. Too frequently they wait until their problems have become chronic. John Gottman says, “People wait an average of 6 years to get any couples counseling after distress” (Notarius).… Read more...

The Surprising First Steps of Negotiation

In our 40 collective years in practice, we've discovered that most partners do not negotiate very well. Maybe our sample is a little skewed, since it is comprised of couples in therapy. However, the popularity of books on this subject confirms that most people are deficient in negotiation skills. So this month we ask you to focus on improving your own skills as an effective negotiator.Why do partners struggle so much with negotiation? It's hard work! It's often difficult to clearly define your own desires, plus it requires careful dialogue to elicit your partner's desires. If the topic is complex, you will have to ask yourself and your partner lots of questions.… Read more...
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