Yes, You Need To Share

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker

Do you remember when you were dating? The two of you could talk for hours. You would laugh and share stories. You would talk about plans and goals. You would share your emotions and feelings and never doubted you were being heard. You felt what you said really mattered and you were taken seriously. If you shared a fear or doubt, it was met with understanding, kindness and sensitivity. You didn’t feel ignored or belittled. You were comfortable sharing. And so you talked, shared, laughed and played. Life was good.

And then you got married….

Now you talk, sometimes. It’s about the rudimentary things of life: the chores, bills, the busy schedule and issues with the kids, the car needs an oil change, grass needs to be mowed, and who gets the house ready for Saturday because company’s coming.

You know. Life.

What happened to the times of sharing together? Did the busyness of life rob you of the closeness you used to experience? Can you ever get that closeness back?

Unfortunately we live in a time of hyper-paced everything. We text, email, blog, and every now and then we actually call and talk to someone. But not for long. Brief calls are almost mandatory because we get five texts while on the phone call. The quality of our relationships suffers because we are so busy. We don’t invest the time necessary to nurture the connection needed for us to experience a truly soul-mate relationship.

How we spend our time is a choice. We can and should carefully manage how we invest our time. We need to choose to allocate time to the most important relationship we have and that’s our relationship with our spouse. If it is deprived of the necessary time, it will suffer and over time it will die.

Stop right now and evaluate how much quality time you spend with your spouse, one on one. No kids, phones, parties, work; just one on one with your spouse.

Are you afraid of that? A one on one alone time may just lead to a fight. That says something, doesn’t it? And some of you would welcome the time as a refreshing oasis that would bring back memories of your times together.

Decide right now to set aside time each week to have quality time together. Share what you are feeling and thinking with each other. Open your heart and lives, your hopes and dreams. Connect as you share and don’t be afraid of opening up with each other.

I Just Want to Quit!

Have you had a time in your relationship when things got so frustrating with a particular issue that you start telling yourself “I’m so done with this. I’m just so tired of trying to make this work.”

You feel alone, you work on the issue by yourself and your spouse is either insensitive, oblivious, or maybe even communicates they just don’t care. They brush off or turn around your efforts and say you’re the problem. You feel like they are saying “If you would just change then the issue would go away.” It seems hopeless that it will ever get resolved.

Maybe you have tried to be loving and communicate your frustration. You’ve tried the “Can we talk about this?” and “I’m not getting through to you, am I?” And how about the “You’re just not listening to me!”

The issue starts to cloud other parts of your relationship. You were once pretty close, but now the unresolved issue hangs like a black cloud over other areas of your relationship. You’ve tried so hard to make it work, yet you are still drifting apart.

A pretty dark picture, isn’t it? Pretty dark indeed.

Photo by dafna avra

Photo by dafna avra

If you’ve read our blog for any length of time, you already know that Darleen and I experienced up close and personal the dark cloud described above. We refer to it as “The Desert Years”. Our relationship had drifted apart. I would go through long periods of apathy telling myself “I just don’t care anymore.” I tried to cope by emotionally turning off and becoming distant. But inside I was frustrated to the core. I DID care and I was so frustrated that we could not work out the issues that were keeping us apart.

  • So, what do you do when you are faced with trying to work through an issue and it just never gets resolved?
  • What do you do with the feelings of anger and frustration that dominate you?
  • How do you live in the dichotomy of wanting to love your spouse and at the same time feeling isolated and so hurt?
  • How can this be worked through?

Because if it isn’t worked through, it will weaken the very foundation of your relationship.

In part 2, we’ll look at some things that you can do, by God’s grace, to work to a positive resolution.

Hey, I Need Help!

Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

How many have fights and arguments about who does what chore around the house?  Who’s responsible for each chore and do you divide up responsibilities equitably?  What if you feel that you’re doing more than your fair share?

You get up at 5:30 in the morning, work an eight-hour day with an hour commute each way, arrive home, start dinner, then you clean up the dishes, get the kids ready for bed, and put in a load of laundry, get a quick shower before collapsing in bed around eleven, set the alarm and get ready to do it again tomorrow.  If your spouse gets home from work around the same time you do, eats dinner, watches the news, plays a few video games before his favorite sport on TV, then manages to arrive in bed about the same time you do and asks if you got the laundry done today because he’s out of clean socks, you would probably feel that something is wrong with this picture.

Since every family situation is unique, there is no right answer to how to divide up the chores that we do every day.  Unless you have the luxury of 24/7 maid service, most families share the common chores around the house.  We have to shop, clean, vacuum, laundry, yard work, the trash, feed the dog, pay the bills, cooking, caring for the kids, and more day to day tasks.

If there’s an imbalance, one spouse will feel resentful that they are doing more of the work.  What do you do with those feelings?

Some may internalize these feelings, play the martyr, and not voice the frustration they feel.  It will seem unfair and unloving, and cause them to be overwhelmed, exhausted, and resentful.  When that request for clean socks comes at the end of the day, it is easy to act out the resentment that has been building. A simple discussion balloons to a big fight over fairness.

Others will express their feelings, but come across as nagging. When they constantly badger their spouse, it puts a guilt trip on them.  And if the spouse does the chore, they may feel resentful about being forced into it or not having a choice of timing or method. It is not a good feeling to be forced into doing something so some  may just refuse and that provokes a fight.

Either dynamic will be a major source of conflict and separation in a marriage.

So how do you divide these chores up so that no one is feeling that they are doing an unfairly large percentage of the work load?

Next time we’ll take a look at some solutions to this age old problem.

More From Dr. Gottman – Stonewalling

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage by John Gottman, Ph.D.  Today we’ll take a look at the fourth and final of the four negative relational interactions, Stonewalling.

When the cycle of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness continues for an extended period, one spouse may eventually just tune out and give up.  They no longer engage inthe argument, they stop trying to give an answer, and will usually just walk away.  They stop the back and forth pattern in the

By cal-retroart

By cal-retroart

critical and contemptuous cycles, and give up trying to defend themselves.  They shut down, walk away, and hide.  But in so doing they also walk away from a meaningful relationship.

Stonewalling is avoiding.  You avoid the fights, arguments, bickering, and critical hurtful comments.  You avoid tension, hostility, and anger.  Your defensiveness has found a new tactic as you seek the peace that comes from silence, but it’s at the cost of your relationship.

You avoid the conflicts, but give up hope for being close.

I remember the years of being apathetic in my relationship.  I tried many times to find a way to get closer to Darleen, but something wasn’t right.  After reading books and going to seminars and still not being able to get close, I thought to myself, “I don’t care anymore.”  There would be long periods of stonewalling when I would not engage.  I was distant, cold, and unapproachable.

I look back on these years as the desert years.  I was telling myself a lie that I didn’t care, when I really cared very much.  I wanted a closeness in our relationship but I would get frustrated and distance myself, believing the lie.

After many years, I rejected that lie, and embraced the truth that I loved Darleen very much, and I needed to act on that belief every day by praying for a healing in our relationship.  No more stonewalling.  It was a time to be fully engaged and to pursue removing the barriers that kept us apart.

I was confronted with a choice: that I could remain apathetic and we’d have another 30 years of a marriage characterized by distance and separation, or I could determine to work on it and we could spend the next 30 years as soulmates.

I chose soulmates, and by God’s grace, we are now enjoying years of closeness like we never had before.

Stonewalling kills a relationship.  It signals I would rather be away from you in silence than to be close to you working on being soulmates.

If you see a pattern of stonewalling in your relationship, I hope this has helped you see the need to work through your issues so you can enjoy a soulmate relationship.  You must be willing to take the steps to grow personally.

I truly hope that you choose to grow.

More From Dr. Gottman – Defensiveness

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. Today we’ll take a look at the third of the four negative relational interactions, defensiveness.

We can all think of times when we have responded to our spouse in a defensive way. We point out why something did or didn’t happen that way. We’re saying,

“Hey, it’s not my fault because…”

We go on to explain why we aren’t to blame. We deflect a perceived attack by shifting the blame to someone or something else.

“Yes, I said that, but it’s because you did this and caused me to say that!”

Defensiveness deflects the attack and changes the focus to someone or something else.

Dr. Gottman says that this rarely has the desired effect. The attacking spouse usually doesn’t back down, tending to ignore the excuses and continue the attack. The defensive spouse does not apologize and is trying to shift the focus off themselves. The battleground is set with repeated attack and defend, attack and defend cycles.

Are you thinking this sound a lot like your arguments? You bring up something to your spouse and immediately they’re defensive. They never admit to doing anything wrong, but instead come up with every excuse in the book to justify themselves.

If you have a habit of being in this kind of a cycle, try using the “take a break” approach. When you feel attacked, ask your spouse to tell you what they think you did wrong. Listen and repeat back what you heard. Then ask, “Is that accurate?” Listen only to clarify their perspective.  Ask, “Is there more?” When you both agree that you understand ask, “Could I have time to think and we can talk about it later today? I need time to reflect on what you are saying.”

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Whenever things escalate into a tense hostile exchange, it is usually best to step away so that we can calm ourselves down. Remember that your relationship and closeness is more important than winning a particular argument. Make it your focus to have your relationship win.

Hopefully, your spouse will respond by giving you the time you need and not just continue the attack. Then use that time to truly self-evaluate. Be honest with yourself and take responsibility for your own wrong-doing in the matter.

If you recognize yourself as the spouse who usually is the attacker, I hope you will be convicted that attacking is not a loving way to approach your spouse. When you are in an argument, try asking questions that seek to understand why your spouse responded a particular way.  You may hear new data points that change your perspective.

Seek to understand, not attack. It may be true that they did something wrong, but be quick to forgive and give them space to come to that conviction on their own, not because you railroaded them in to conviction.

Stop attacking and start loving.

More From Dr. Gottman- Contempt

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. Today we’ll take a look at the second of the four negative relational interactions, contempt.

Dr. Gottman calls this particular negative interaction the “worst of the four horsemen.” It is characterized by name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mocking, and hostile humor. It can be described as a style of communicating that is sarcastic, cynical, and often conveys disgust. It can have deadly consequences to relationships.

Photo by vladimirfloyd

Photo by vladimirfloyd

Contempt can usually be seen in comments dripping with sarcasm such as, “You’re so lazy. You’re just like your mother. You expect everyone to do things for you.” Or the wife who says “You don’t have enough to pay the bills because you don’t have a job that pays enough. You’re too stupid to get a good job”. Hateful sarcasm like this is intended to deliberately hurt and demean the listener. It’s a direct attack on the person.

In some cases, the attacker sees the argument as a battle to win. The better they attack their spouse, the better they feel about themselves because they are winning. They win by belittling their spouse.

Contempt is a product of long periods of having issues and negative thoughts that are left unresolved. The issues tend to build up like a pressure cooker. This neglect of solving the issues breaks out in harsh attacks directed at the spouse. There are cutting, critical, caustic, demeaning words intended to hurt the other person. They are by nature, a show of deep disrespect.

If you resort to contempt in arguments with your spouse, you need to step back and take a serious look at your relationship. A relationship that is marked by interactions that show contempt is on a course designed for failure.

  • Are you harboring anger towards your spouse?
  • Are there issues that are making you so mad that you have lost respect for your spouse?

You have probably tried to deal with these issues but have lost hope that they can ever be resolved, so you have given up. You may want a better relationship, but you feel that it’s useless because they’ll never change.

Please seek help if you find yourself in a relationship marked by contempt. Resolve in your heart that you want a restored relationship marked by love and understanding. Ask your spouse to go with you to seek counseling. Find someone to help you walk through your issues. Look for a godly couple or counselor who can guide you through the issues that are destroying your marriage.

Humble yourself and pray for God’s grace as you seek to heal your marriage.

More From Dr. Gottman- Criticism

In several of our previous posts we got some interesting insights from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. In the next four blogs we’ll look further in to what he refers to as The Four Horsemen – characteristic negative interactions between spouses.

Dr. Gottman acknowledges that all relationships have disagreements that can escalate into harsh and bitter exchanges. In his studies of couples over a twenty-five-year period, he found that there are four distinct negative interactions that are lethal to a relationship. In order, they are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. We’ll look at each of these Four Horseman separately.

But before we dig in, we must understand that we can all be overcomers. We can all choose to take the path of personal growth and reject our negative tendencies. We can choose to forgive even when we have been hurt repeatedly. We can choose to love, even when we have been hated. Jesus said on the cross,

“Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. Luke 23:34

We can choose words of life and reject a carnal tendency that speaks words of destruction. By God’s grace we can all find the way to overcome and respond in love.

Now let’s take a look at Horseman number one, criticism.

Dr. Gottman makes a distinction between making a complaint and criticizing. A complaint focuses on a specific action like the trash not being taken out. “Why didn’t you take out the trash?” A complaint looks at the problem and asks for an explanation. More like data gathering without judgement.

Photo by Zdeslav Schreiber

Photo by Zdeslav Schreiber

On the other hand, criticism looks at the specific action but adds a character assault tothe complaint. “You didn’t take out the trash again like you said you would. What’s the matter with you? You always forget and have some lame excuse”.

Criticism attacks the character. It judges, then blames and demeans. Criticism can be extremely hurtful because it attacks the person. Yes, the trash wasn’t taken out on time and the person may have been wrong, neglectful, lazy, selfish, repeatedly forgetful, and defensive. But when we move from dealing with the problem itself to attacking the person, we put our relationship in danger. We move from being able to work on the problem with an eye to a positive solution to an attack on our spouse which is unloving and hurtful.

If you find that you are in a pattern of criticizing your spouse and not just lodging a complaint, you need to reflect on what you say and how you say it. You need to break the pattern and make a daily conscious choice to withhold critical remarks. Pray for a change of heart.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29