A new study reveals startling statistics about divorce in the U.S. According to the Minnesota Population Center, divorce rates are higher than previously imagined among older people. Baby boomers who are on their second or third marriages are divorcing at a high rate. However, “two thirds of divorces can be prevented with education and intervention.”1
Where will you be educated? What intervention will make the difference in your relationship?
LIFE Marriage Retreats—as opposed to other marriage retreats in Dallas, Texas—offers comprehensive marriage retreats to help couples create lasting change and a lifetime of growth.
LIFE helps couples achieve their marriage objectives by being dedicated to these Training Retreat principles:
The four-day format provides couples with the focused time needed to reconnect and to begin using the principles and skills being learned. The location and environment are also crucial to fostering an atmosphere where healing occurs, trust grows, and communication flourishes. In our beautiful locations you will experience a sense of harmony and feel peace and connection come into your lives and relationship.
But no matter how beautiful the locale, the couple’s success will depend upon what is being taught and the processes used. Participants will discover, learn, and internalize the principles and skills that define every successful relationship, delivered through the finest curriculum and innovative experiential training techniques that allow the couple to experience and practice the principles and skills on a hands-on level
Plus, LIFE offers ongoing support, first through personal support in private sessions during the retreat, then through post-retreat coaching that helps ensure continued accountability, permanent change, and ongoing relationship growth. The couple’s dedication combined with LIFE’s support leads to a lasting commitment to the relationship in the long-term.
If you are looking for marriage retreats in Dallas, check out LIFE Marriage Retreats close by.
1 Minnesota Population Center http://guidedoc.com/does-marriage-counseling-work-statistics-facts
A commitment to healing marriage can include this simple exercise:
Imagine you are standing on the edge of a small forest, and you can faintly see your partner through the trees, standing on the other side. Imagine the trees as the issues, hurts, and irritations that currently stand between you both, the ones that you argue about or that keep you silently fuming or withdrawn from one another.
You want to come back together as a couple, but the forest of issues and disagreements seems too thick. Your first instinct might be to pull out the axes and begin attacking the trees, chopping at them, working to resolve dozens of seemingly big relationship issues. But you quickly discover there seem to be too many, and more trees/issues are growing all the time. What to do?
Perhaps we can learn something from a ranger tasked with keeping a real forest environment healthy. The ranger will evaluate the the trees in a given area and place a bright ribbon or splash of paint on those designated for removal. Those trees are then removed and the entire forest benefits as light and nutrients are better distributed.
I don’t want to take the analogy too far, but ask that you note a couple of parallels with your relationship management. Can you identify those issues/trees that lie between you that are truly sucking the light and life out of the marriage? Now, as a couple, “mark” those trees and commit that your problem solving energies are going to be directed only toward those issues. Make certain the problems designated for attention are true issues that lie between you, not just sapling misunderstandings, irritants, or idiosyncrasies that you wish your partner didn’t have.
Work together on the big trees:
- Clearly define the problem
- Use a formal communication technique to keep things under control and on track (we teach some great ones at LIFE Marriage Retreats)
- Commit to seeing and understanding one another’s perspective
- Both partners make meaningful, written commitments to one another, including promises to change when appropriate
- Follow through on your commitments
After working with hundreds of couples in a marriage healing retreat setting we have found that most really have only 2-4 significant trees that are damaging the relationship ecosystem. As couples focus on those issues they invariably discover that many of the other relationship-blocking issues were related to the few major issues, and fade away.
Now, what about those remaining seemingly irritating trees? Certainly some of those will be naturally taken care of in a healthier marriage environment and as both partners commit to ongoing growth and change. But it is essential that you realize that NEVER will they all go away. You will have the choice to see remaining differences as twisted sun-blocking trees, or simply as part of a fascinating and beautiful garden. You will either continue to be endlessly and uselessly frustrated by them or you will learn to appreciate your partner’s different perspectives and ways of doing things. It is your choice.
So if you are committed to a healing marriage, start with some careful but committed pruning of real problems, but also be willing to sit back and simply enjoy some of the natural and exhilarating differences between the gardeners! And if the forest seems too thick, don’t hesitate to contact LIFE Marriage Retreats.
In the old television series (and later a movie) Dragnet, Detective Joe Friday was always demanding that witnesses cut through the fluff, feelings, and speculation in their statements and just “stick to the facts.”
Do your conversations with your partner often turn into competitions over who has the most facts and data to support their point of view? Does it sometimes feel like an endless defending of your respective turfs and proving yourselves right? Sometimes in my own relationship conversations I am distracted from what is truly important, the feelings of the other person, and instead find myself keeping score of points made and defending my perspective.
To be successful in our communication and problem solving efforts with our partner we must show that we care about their feelings and understanding their point of view. We won’t always agree with their perspective, but as long as they sense that we are open to listening and seeking the best solution, whether theirs, ours, or something in between, the relationship trust and safety will continue to grow.
The next time you are tempted to argue with your partner or point out an errant fact, instead take a moment and listen more deeply, more empathetically. See if you can better understand why they might feel the way they do, and work to see the positive aspects of their perspective. When your partner believes that you care about their feelings, they will be more open to your point of view.
If we are in the habit of fighting to be right and prove the other person wrong, we will do well to ask ourselves the question, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?”
We recently worked with a couple who had just completed a relatively demanding experiential activity that required significant teamwork and communication. They had some bad moments during the activity, falling back into old patterns of behavior and both of them were feeling upset with themselves and each other.
This couple had felt that the activity in which they were participating had to look a certain way; that to be deemed a success they had to accomplish certain things in specific ways in a certain sequence–and they disagreed about some of the ways and sequences.
The couple allowed the desire to be right and to force things to look a certain way to overwhelm principles and skills such as kindness, mutual perspective, patience, accountability, and communication. They bickered and demanded and moved back and forth between being passive and aggressive and in the process gummed up both their activity and their relationship.
As we helped them process and learn from the experience we shared with them one of the key “secrets” of successful relationships: Never place external results above the relationship.
Certainly we all want to find good solutions to the various obstacles and challenges we face in our lives and families, but we often get caught up in the need for solutions Right Now and sacrifice our relationship along the way.
In the future when you and your partner are facing one of life’s challenges, make certain that as you begin seeking solutions that you both agree that the relationship comes first and that your communication and problem solving processes will be based primarily on the goal of strengthening your relationship, with an immediate solution being a secondary goal. Sometimes the solution might take a little longer to discover and implement, but as you show mutual respect and patience, and exercise healthy communication skills, you will build the trust and safety of your marriage AND find better solutions as a result.
As you always place the relationship over any external results you are seeking, you will be able to have your cake and eat it too.
The story is told of a wife growing more and more frustrated over her husband, Harvey’s, progressive hearing loss. She insisted he go to the doctor for tests and hearing aids but he claimed nothing was wrong and refused to go (you know how it can be with prideful men). She called the doctor and poured out her frustration to him, and the doctor gave her a simple way to determine the extent of her husband’s hearing loss. While Harvey was standing at the kitchen counter making a sandwich, she quietly came up to 15 feet behind him and said in a normal voice, “Harvey; Harvey, can you hear me?” There was no response from Harvey so she moved to 10 feet behind him and called his name once more, again with no response. She then moved to 5 feet behind him and said, “Harvey; Harvey…” Harvey responded, “For the third and last time, what do you want!!??”
In my experience, virtually every time I form a perspective of a loved one’s behavior, motives, feelings, etc. I later discover that my perception was significantly flawed and way different than their reality and perceptions. And just as Harvey’s wife was the one experiencing the hearing loss rather than Harvey, I most often find that I bear some accountability, whether through my own behaviors or flawed perspective, for many of the misunderstandings and frustrations that sometimes arise in my relationships with others.
Let us learn to not entirely trust and act on our initial perspectives as we try to understand the behaviors of others. First we can look at ourselves to see our own involvement and accountability, then through healthy communication we can find clarity, understanding, and empathy for those we love, and resolve issues from a place of shared perspective.
I have been thinking a lot lately about three little tools. In fact, they cross my mind nearly every time I help a couple to communicate better with one another. They are to Mirror, Validate, and Empathize. The bottom line to understand about communication is that people want to be heard. That is why we tend to speak louder, harsher, and without cessation when no one is truly listening. No doubt you have experienced this in your relationship at one point or another. Mirroring, validating, and empathizing in a conversation can ensure that your partner feels heard.
To Mirror, you must simply repeat what you have heard your partner say, but in your own words. Don’t repeat it word for word, because no one likes a parrot and it is not sincere.
To Validate, you must acknowledge that what your partner has said is indeed valid for him/her.
To Empathize, you must convey that you understand how your partner feels and that you can relate to it on some level.
Next time you are in a conversation with your significant other and you sense that the volume is getting louder, the words are becoming harsher, and there is hardly a pause to breathe, take a step back and listen. Then, mirror, validate, and empathize. Chances are, the mood will change, the conversation will be more productive, and your relationship will be strengthened.
From Biblical Proverbs to Shakespearean plays to common modern idioms we can find wise counsel that the outcome of any event is most dependent on how it starts. Even rappers know this truth–” You know where it ends yo, it usually depends on where you start!” (“What It’s Like;” Everlast)
A common mistake in marriages is that of beginning what we hope will be a discussion of possible solutions to an issue with a harsh verbal attack of blame and demands. Invariably the result of such a beginning will be an ending that is as bad or worse than the start. No lasting resolution will be found and the trust and safety of the relationship will be violated.
While there are many keys to ensuring healthy and productive communication on thorny issues, a “soft start” is a crucial one. You can let your partner know of your concerns without turning it into personal attack or a blame-game.
When we criticize our partners, their natural instinct is toward defensiveness which leads to either counter-aggression or “checking out” of the discussion emotionally and/or physically. So rather than accomplishing our goal of a solution and a better relationship, we get damage, frustration, and misery.
Rather than heatedly saying to our partners, “I am so tired of your laziness and not getting any help from you!” we might say, “Honey, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Could you give me a hand with a few chores?” You will likely find some immediate help as well as a safe way to discuss longer term solutions.
You don’t need to hide your needs or play the silent martyr when things aren’t working in your relationship. Just remember that your partner has their own perspective and will be more open to yours when they feel invited to seek solutions rather than forced to defend themselves.
A very common bit of advice all of us hear is to be ‘open and honest’ in our marriage relationships, and that if we have any issues or negative feelings we should not delay in expressing them and talking them out.
For many people that bit of advice fits well with their natural inclinations and so they hold it up as an example to their partner of how their relationship should be. For other people the phrase ‘open and honest’ conjures up images of confrontation, complaining, criticizing, and frequent verbal ambushes, and so they feel it more healthy to avoid what they perceive as negative discussions.
So who is right?
For most couples the answer is probably somewhere in between. Recent research seems to indicate that we unilaterally can work out many of the day-to-day issues and irritations in our lives, without having to make a big production out of it. Sometimes when we think about setting some irritation aside for a while we translate that to mean we are stuffing it and it will just fester. That does not have to the be the case.
More often than not we can resolve our own irritation just by looking at the issue from different sides and realizing there are other valid points of view, without having to engage in a deep and emotional discussion to dot every i and cross every t of those points of view. Sometimes we can just put an issue out of our mind for a while and when we come back to it will find the negative energy has dissipated, or an easy solution has become clear.
In fact, many couples find that the supposed healthy “venting” they have been advised to do very often causes the problem to grow and to take on even greater negative energy. Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness says, “Emotions, left to themselves, will dissipate…Expressed and dwelt upon, though, emotions multiply and imprison you in a vicious cycle of dealing fruitlessly with past wrongs.”
As we focus on the issue and irritation we will find it growing and becoming more malignant, and if we take that negative judgment and energy into a conversation, it will just make things worse.
We NEVER want to remove the phrase ‘honest and open’ from our relationship vocabulary. We never want to stuff feelings or avoid healthy relationship communication because we are afraid of conflict. So how much venting of emotions and perceived problems and issues is needed in a healthy relationship? Here are a few guidelines:
1. Personal Accountability. Before bringing a perceived problem or complaint to your partner, take some time to consider your personal accountability and how you are perceiving the issue. You might see some things that you can change about you and your point of view and discover that solutions are within your individual reach.
2. Don’t confront your partner on any issue in the ‘heat of the moment.’ Set it aside for a while and see what it looks like after a night’s sleep or after some reflection. With a little time the issues that deserve to be handled by both partners will rise to the surface and can be approached in a healthy and productive way. Others will simply fade away or be handled unilaterally.
3. If it feels like you are stuffing an issue and allowing it to fester, then that is a sign that it is something that needs to be discussed. Approach your partner in kindness and patience and with a sense of your own accountability and you will be on the road to finding a mutually satisfying solution.
4. If it feels as if you are hiding something from your partner or that honesty is being violated in your relationship, chances are you (or your partner) are avoiding accountability and perceived painful confrontation, and something needs to be discussed.
5. Some relationship issues should always be addressed and dealt with together. On the right hand column of this page under Categories you will see one section entitled “3 Non-Negotiable Baselines.” These postings will give you some ideas of issues that always must be dealt with and resolved as a couple.
There is a great saying that goes, “What you choose to Suppress, your partner will eventually Express.” If there are unresolved issues or emotions in the relationship that are introducing tension, dishonesty, or mistrust into the marriage then absolutely deal with those in a healthy, honest way through appropriate communication.
But on the other hand, if there are issues and irritations that can be resolved through exercising some unilateral patience and kindness, or by setting them aside for a time, or dealing with them from your own space of accountability and change, it will save some wear and tear on your relationship.
Like so much in our relationships, it is just a question of balance.
Those of you of a certain age might remember the epic movie “The Ten Commandments” in which Yul Brynner plays the part of the Pharaoh of Egypt. The Pharaoh had a custom when setting a new policy or law to state with due gravity, “So let it be written; so let it be done.” This meant that negotiations and considerations were over and woe to anyone who did not obey the edict or deliver on their commitments.
For many years after that movie it was common to hear a teacher or meeting facilitator say, somewhat jokingly as an instruction was given or a decision reached, “So let it be written; so let it be done.” That was the signal for everyone to be on the same page and get to work on bringing the desired outcome to fruition.
During our Marriage Retreats our couples deal with the most important issues, challenges, and opportunities facing them and their families. They are thrilled as they build a solid base in their relationship then use the principles and skills they have learned to communicate effectively and find resolution to problems and set a new vision for their future.
After every successful discussion the couple is deeply relieved to have succeeded and somewhat giddy in their happiness. But we always gently bring them back to the task and ask them to:
1. Clearly state the commitments they have made to one another.
2. Repeat back what their partner has said so they both know they “get it.”
3. Write the commitments down in their journal and read them to one another to make certain what is written is clearly understood by both partners.
In other words, the final step in a crucial conversation aimed at solving a problem or making a plan is represented in the Pharaoh’s ancient edict: “So Let It Be Written—So Let It Be Done.”
Try this as part of your problem solving processes and you will find that the follow-through of you and your partner delivering on your commitments on time and on task will increase; and you will find yourself with fewer of those relationship and life “weeds” that otherwise seem to just keep growing back time after time.