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“Free Marriage Counseling: How to Do it Yourself” is a blog that discusses how to do free marriage counseling. The article includes worksheets for couples.
When marriages become strained, couples are often advised to contact a therapist or attend a workshop or seminar to help them work through their problems. However, these choices are sometimes too costly and out of reach for most couples. If your marriage is already strained, it’s generally not a good idea to add financial strain to the mix by paying $100 per hour for professional therapy. And many guys are averse to discussing their sentiments with a stranger or a group of strangers. We like to solve things on our own.
As it turns out, bootstrapping isn’t such a horrible concept after all. Reading research-based articles together as a couple and implementing the recommendations from those articles to your relationship was shown to be equally as successful as attending a workshop or seminar, according to a recent study. ((http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2437)) If your marriage is suffering significant troubles, you may need to consult a therapist, but if it just needs a little TLC, here are some DIY essentials to go through with your spouse and start implementing in your relationship.
Divorce’s Four Horsemen Must Be Extinguished
For the last 20 years, Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D. has been examining marriages in a lab at the University of Washington. While many people believe that what constitutes a successful or unhappy marriage is a mystery and that divorce is difficult to predict, he can observe a couple interact for just a few hours and determine whether or not they will split with 91 percent accuracy. He isn’t a fate teller; he merely observes how the couple communicates and resolves their conflicts for clues. Those who exhibit the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” as he refers to them, are more likely to divorce. A marriage may frequently be preserved if a couple can recognize and correct these tendencies. Let’s take a closer look at the four horsemen.
Complaining is not the same as criticism. Complaints focus on particular acts and behaviors that one’s spouse dislikes, while criticism goes beyond and criticizes the person as a whole. To demonstrate the distinction, consider the following examples from Gottman:
“I’m furious because you didn’t clean the kitchen floor last night,” says the complainant. We decided to take turns doing it.”
“Why are you so forgetful?” says the critic. When it’s your turn, I despise having to sweep the kitchen floor every time. You just don’t give a damn.”
Complaint. The automobile has run out of petrol. Why didn’t you do what you said you’d do and fill it up?
Criticism. Why do you have such a hard time remembering things? You ignored my admonition to fill up the tank a thousand times. (Criticism. She’s hinting that he’s to blame for the situation. Even if it is, criticizing him would simply exacerbate the situation.)
Blame and general character assassination are thrown in with criticism. Add the sentence “What is wrong with you?” to a complaint to convert it into a critique.
Complaints are acceptable as long as everyone is willing to dealing with them politely. And every relationship has to cope with criticism. It is only when it is allowed to fester into the following three horsemen that it becomes fatal to the marriage.
Marriage’s closeness may help individuals recover and accept themselves. On the other hand, closeness offers individuals the capacity to figure out how to harm their spouse the most. Contempt is different from criticism in that it is a deliberate effort to harm and dehumanize someone. Biting sarcasm, angry humor, name-calling, and insults are all examples. Eye-rolling, sneering, and lip curling are all signs of it. Contempt is the most lethal of the horsemen, according to Gottman, since “it expresses disdain.” When your spouse gets the message that you’re disgusted with him or her, it’s very hard to settle an issue.” When spouses lose respect for one another and stop attempting to view things from their spouse’s perspective, contempt arises. They obsess about their partner’s flaws, and the bile builds up in their disputes.
Even if someone’s criticism is true, if it is given in a dismissive way, the individual is likely to respond defensively. They’ll defend themselves by rejecting responsibility, making up justifications, leveling counter-accusations, and debating violently. “You’re practically saying, “‘The issue isn’t me, it’s you.’” This simply adds to the dispute. This simply adds to the couple’s negativity and estrangement. Instead, one of the partners must take the lead and answer calmly and transparently.
A partner may just shut off after enough bad exchanges of scorn and criticism. They distance themselves from the other person and cease to listen to and engage with them. They cease replying and give their lover the quiet treatment during an argument. This often irritates and annoys their companion. The guy is the stonewaller in 85 percent of marriages, and it is by far the most dangerous indication of a damaged relationship. If that’s happening in yours, the relationship is in jeopardy, and you need to move quickly to save it.
No matter how pleasant or secure a marriage is, the four horsemen may raise their heads. You may be on the verge of divorce if they establish a permanent and regular presence in your partnership. But, no matter how much the horsemen have afflicted a marriage, it may be rescued. Here are a few pointers on how to get things back on track:
Avoid a Difficult Start-Up
Short-circuiting the four horsemen is as simple as nipping them in the bud before they get entrenched in your relationship. One approach to achieve this is to make a conscious effort to start your fights in a manner that minimizes negativity. Even if the pair attempts to make nice throughout the talk, 96 percent of conflicts that begin with a “harsh start-up,” as Gottman describes it, end poorly. What goes wrong in the beginning, goes wrong in the end. So, if you have a disagreement with your spouse, never begin the conversation with criticism or disdain. Maintain a calm, courteous, and respectful demeanor.
Strengthen Your Friendship
When Gottman evaluates a marriage, he looks at whether the couple undertakes effective “healing efforts” in addition to the existence of the four horsemen. The couple’s efforts to de-escalate the tension and reconcile their issues are known as repair attempts. Unhappy couples are sometimes so engrossed in their unpleasant emotions that they fail to notice when their spouse raises the white flag. While a therapist may focus on helping a couple work through their differences or improve their communication, Gottman believes this is the incorrect approach. “The key to rejuvenating or divorce-proofing a relationship is not how you manage arguments, but how you are with each other when you aren’t arguing,” he contends. The stock of pleasant sentiments and camaraderie that a couple has built up determines whether or not they are successful in their mending endeavors. According to Gottman, happy couples have a 5 to 1 positive to negative interaction ratio. You’ll still dispute now and again, but the repair efforts will come automatically as a result of “positive sentiment override.” How can you strengthen your relationship by fostering positive feelings? Continue reading.
5 MAGICAL HOURS PER WEEK
Dr. Gottman spent his time in the lab trying to find out what successful couples do that unhappy ones don’t. He discovered that people with healthy marriages spend just 5 more hours each week on activities to boost their relationship. But those “five wonderful hours,” as he refers to them, were enough to make a significant change in the quality of their marriage. Here are the five hours each week that you should devote to your relationship:
Before you depart, make a connection. Take the opportunity to learn about one item each of you has planned for the day before you and your wife separate ways at the start of the day. 2 minutes each day multiplied by 5 working days is 10 minutes per week.
When you get back together, connect. Spend at least 20 minutes at the end of the day talking about what happened throughout the day. Chatting with your mate at the dinner table or in bed might help you de-stress and reconnect. Time estimate: 20 minutes each day multiplied by 5 working days is 1 hour and 40 minutes every week.
Admire and respect. Find methods to tell your wife that you love her and appreciate all she does for you on a daily basis. Be as precise as possible. Don’t just tell her she’s fantastic; tell her she’s stunning, that she lights up a room, that her meatloaf is a tiny piece of paradise on earth, and so on. Time estimate: 5 minutes each day multiplied by 7 days is 35 minutes per week.
Initiate a romantic relationship. You were all over each other while you were dating. You need to start being more personal with one another if you want to reclaim some of that enchantment. Cuddling, kissing, hand-holding, spooning, and so forth. Your marriage will be happier if you spend more time caressing one other. Time estimate: 5 minutes each day multiplied by 7 days is 35 minutes per week.
Make a weekly date with your partner. Make it a point to go out on one date every week, and make it a non-negotiable commitment. Get a babysitter if you have children. This is your time alone with your wife. The date does not have to be extravagant or costly. However, it must provide time for you two to converse, so a movie alone will not enough. Discuss what occurred that week as well as your future goals, ambitions, and dreams.
According to studies, experiencing new activities together as a partner might rekindle the butterflies you had when you first started dating. ((http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/health/12well.html)) While I understand how difficult it is to break out from the Chili’s and TV viewing habit, it is important to make an attempt to go out and do something new. Look for little, hidden eateries, visit a museum you’ve never been before, go hiking on a new track, and so on.
Further reading: John Gottman and Nan Silver’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Marriage counseling is a process that can be difficult to do on your own. If you are not finding the help you need, you can try doing it yourself. There are many online marriage counseling questionnaires available for free. Reference: free online marriage counseling questionnaire.
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