Fighting is not compulsory – first aid for couples conflicts

Fighting is not compulsory – first aid for couples conflicts

Do you have painful repeating habitual fights in your relationship? Do you have eruptions you can’t control, walk-outs that scare you to death, or repeating fights about the same things over and over and over … and over and over? In an earlier post I wrote about the importance of If It Doesn’t Work, Do Something DIFFERENT. This present post is a few all-purpose first-aid measures you can do to interrupt those stale, dead, painful repeating cycles.  Then you can make room for listening, understanding, intimate closeness. Many of the couples tell me  they find these rather enlightening: Oh! We don’t have to fight!

You can do any one of these on its own, or two, or three, or all four, whatever works.

[Find more exercises, including watching films together, here on the index page for relationship posts] (more…)

Don’t complain about feelings, make requests for actions

Don’t complain about feelings, make requests for actions

Relationships are about love, sex, fun, communication, emergence, transformation.  Whether you travel together for a day or a lifetime, every journey is step by step from this here and now … to this here and now. Communication works best when it is rooted step by step in the here and now. Sometimes the heart invites us to flow with deep currents; still, there is no other moment than now. This post is about keeping communication in the here and now. It is, if you like, a form of relationship meditation or communication mindfulness.

It’s simple and it is useful and it is basic to good communication. The key is grammatically-positive communication. That means that you ask for what you want instead of complaining about what you don’t want.

Far too often, we tell the other person either what we don’t want or don’t like (“I’m not happy about our sex life”, “You spend too much”),  or we ask for vague things like. “I want to feel you want me”, “I want you to respect me.” Mostly this is combined with hurt emotions imported from our own past. Such communication has no root in here-and-now physical life.  At best it goes round in circles. At worst it degenerates into a toxic cycle that can easily sink even a relationship full of love and affection.

This isn’t by any means all there is to intimate communication. But grammatically negative communication is like potholes on a runway, it stops love from flying.

Click here for all “pop songs with truth” posts   ♦   Click here for all relationship and couples posts   ♦    Click here for  all radical meditation posts (more…)

“You Colour Me” by Pocket Universe – deepen your relationship via pop songs

You Colour Me by Pocket Universe – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Here’s a simple exercise to make your relationship deeper.  Listen with your partner to this track (You Color Me by Pocket Universe) – a woman laying it on the line about not being seen straight. Then talk with your beloved about seeing the real person that he or she is, and letting yourself be seen. That’s it, listen and share, and your relating will move a step towards deeper intimacy. 

Click here for all “pop songs with truth” posts   ♦   Click here for all relationship and couples posts   ♦    Click here for  all radical meditation posts
(more…)

“Love, look at the two of us” – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Love, look at the two of us  – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Here’s a fun exercise to make your relationship deeper.  Listen with your partner to “For all we know”, famously covered by the Carpenters. Then talk about it; I’ve also suggested an exercise you could do. That’s it, listen and share, and your relating will move a step towards deeper intimacy.  (More relationship postsmore  pop songs of truth and love)

I got the idea from some great research by Dr. Ron Rogge that newly-wed couples can halve their divorce rate simply by watching and discussing five movies about everyday relating.  I don’t claim any such dramatic results for this playlist of pop songs. But listen together to these tracks, discuss them together, and you will at the least have a more loving understanding of each other.

Click here for all “pop songs with truth” posts   ♦   Click here for all relationship and couples posts   ♦    Click here for  all radical meditation posts (more…)

“Your true colours are beautiful” – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Your true colours are beautiful – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Here’s a fun exercise to make your relationship deeper.  Listen with your partner to Your True Colours are Beautiful by Cindy Lauper, then talk about your true colours; I’ve suggested some topics. That’s it, listen and share, and your relating will move a step towards deeper intimacy.  (More relationship postsmore  pop songs of truth and love) (more…)

If it doesn’t work, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Icon insanity different einsteinIf it doesn’t work, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.” – Anon

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If it doesn’t work, don’t do it. It if works do it more. If it might work, give it a try.” – Anon

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

OK, you get the message – this post is about trying different things. Particularly it’s about doing what works, not what doesn’t.  Simple, but effective. Obvious, but almost universally overlooked. Do what works for you!  There’s an exercise lower down that page, Moments I’d Like More Of, that I can’t recommend too highly. Not only will it help your relationship a lot. It will immunise you from having to read those silly lists on the internet of “Ten things to improve your relationship.”   You already know this, you just need to trust yourself and do those things more.   [More like this: index page to relationship posts] (more…)

“Thank you for hearing me” – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Hawking gratitudeThank you for hearing me – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Here’s a simple and fun exercise to make your relationship deeper.  Listen  with your beloved to Sinead O’Connor singing about gratitude. Then share together things you are grateful about. That’s it, listen and share, and your relating will move a step towards deeper intimacy. 

I got the idea from some great research by Dr. Ron Rogge that newly-wed couples can halve their divorce rate simply by watching and discussing five movies about everyday relating.  I don’t claim any such dramatic results for this playlist of pop songs. But listen together to these tracks, discuss them together, and you will at the least have a more loving understanding of each other. (more…)

Barefoot stress counsellor: a solution-oriented self-help tool

Be realistic miracle colourThe Barefoot Stress Counsellor: a solution-oriented self-help tool

This is a good self-help technique which is different and effective. Its a series of questions you can ask yourself, based on a research-validated method called solution-oriented therapy.  You can do it on your own, or with a friend. The exercise was originally by Chris Evans of the Brief Therapy Practice in London, but I’ve edited it so much over many years I can no longer be sure where what he wrote ends and mine begins – anyway, BIG thank you Chris.

(Click here for all “pop songs with truth” posts   ♦   Click here for all relationship and couples posts   ♦    Click here for  all radical meditation posts)

(more…)

Romantic film lists for the couples self-help exercise

bullet waves 11 washed-out red aa-img030_crGood films to use for the relationship deepening exercise

Here are Dr Ron Rogge’s original lists of films from his research, for use with the movie relationship deepening self-help exercise (explanation and instructions here.)  But you can use any other movies, as long as they feature two people sincerely trying to  solve a relationship issue and show the day-to-day dynamics. So pure romcoms, or films about falling in love, are not necessarily suitable. [Index page to all relationship posts ] (more…)

Snuggle up, discuss films, and save your relationship

Save your relationship – just discuss romantic films

This page is a fun, easy, and effective relationship self-help exercise to bring you and your beloved closer together. You watch five movies and discuss them together – and that’s it. It works. You can help your relationship as easily as that. Give it a go! – click here for instructions lower down on this page.  (And if you enjoy this, please do share it using the links at the bottom.)

It’s based on a great piece of 2014 research from Dr Ron Rogge of the University of Rochester. Couples in the first few years of their marriage  watched five romantic movies together and then discussed them, one a week for five weeks. They halved their divorce rate. Indeed watching movies proved more effective than various kinds of training offered to control groups, including couples conflict management training and acceptance and compassion relationship training.  (more…)

Actually helpful relationship self-help books, a short list

Actually helpful relationship self-help books, a short list

Index page to all relationship posts

(1) Relationships from the inside: Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives by Carl Rogers

This readable, enjoyable volume is unique. It isn’t a self-help book. but will surely help any relationship. The author, American therapist Carl Rogers, had an unparalleled gift of listening. Here he puts it to excellent use in interviewing a number of couples of varying degrees of relationship grown-up-ness. The result is a documentary that’s much more than journalism.  Rogers gets himself out of the way and lets the individual’s voices be heard. The result is an intimate understanding from the inside of what each relationship is like and how change and growth happens for different couples.

Rogers was writing in the 1960s when the structures of up-to-then conventional marriage were starting to loosen. His project was to write about how he thought relationships would develop in the future. Some things have come to pass, many others not. So the the book has a slightly quaint quality. It’s a bit like those 1930’s post-art-deco buildings that boldly stake out a future that never happened and manage to be futuristic and dated at the same time. Despite that, this is a timeless book. Rogers particularly emphasised the power of listening and understanding to move relating past an impasse; for practical help with that, please see the next item.

(2) How to listen, and talk so you are listened to:
Non-violent Communication
by Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall Rosenberg has succeeded in reducing communication to a number of simple schemas and protocols which he teaches in this practical, useful self-help book. This is a great achievement, indeed one of those things “that ought to be taught in schools”.

A couple of health warnings. It’s not intended to keep on talking forever in schemas and protocols, if you do conversation gets formulaic and mechanical. The rules are just learning devices. Also, as he is talking about all type of communication, Rosenberg misses many things specific to love relationships. Nevertheless, an outstanding guide to how to talk to your fellow human beings. Many workshops in NVC are available.

(3) Different is not wrong:
Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types
by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates

Your partner is different from you, and it drives both of you crazy and you fight about it all the time. You are tidy, he or she is not; you plan things, he or she wings it; you spend money as it comes in, she or he saves …  Read this book, learn that “different is not wrong” and never fight again!

I’m not a big fan of personality tests, but this one has value. It’s a version of a famous Jungian-inspired scale called the Myers Briggs, which classifies people on four scales:

  • Introversion-versus-Extroversion
  • iNtuitive-versus-Sensing
  • Thinking-versus-Feeling
  • Perceptive-versus-Judging

and gives you a tag such INTJ (Introverted – iNuitive – Thinking – Judge) or ESFJ (Extraverted – Sensing – Feeling – Judge) and a potted character assessment of your type. The Myers-Briggs itself is copyright. This is an independently-developed scale with the same themes.

It’s pretty accurate. I like it because it’s not at all judgemental or scary to fill in – whatever you find about yourself is good. It’s really useful for you are your partner to both read the book, fill in the scales and find you are different, and, Different is Not Wrong.

A practical note: the  cheaper, secondhand, earlier versions of the book are simpler. They are as good if not better than the later editions for this purpose.

(4) Do what works:
The Divorce Remedy
by Michele Weiner Davis

If you’ve never read a relationship book before, start here. This is a relationship self-help book that’s both practical and inspiring about how much can be done to keep the flame of love alive. It’s is unique because unlike other books it doesn’t impose a programme on you  – first do this, then do that – nor explore generalities. It says: “Is what you are doing working? No? – do anything different, anything. What do you do that works even a little? – do it more.” It shows you how to do that: as random examples, if talking doesn’t work, write. Or talk in strict 3 minute turns; do anything different. Weiner Davis helps you to get beyond “nothing works” to find what works for you as an individual and as a couple. (Incidentally “Nothing works” commonly means “I know that what I’m doing doesn’t work but I’m addicted to the bad feeling I get by doing it anyway.”)

Health warning: Nothing whatever in the book about communication (see Rogers / Rosenberg) or emotions, shadow, and the unconscious (see Winkelman, next). But brilliant at what she does cover.

Practically: no need to also read her earlier book, Divorce Busting.

(5) Emotions and shadow:
Embracing Each Other: How to Make All Your Relationships Work for You
by Hal Stone and Sidra Stone

Every one of us has a multitude of different inner personalities. There’s the competent strong adult we show at job interviews, and the tiny frightened person we become if we lose our job. There’s the affectionate lover we show to our partner, and the person infinitely needy for love we carefully hide from our lover, and indeed from ourselves.

When parts of our being are criticised or traumatised as a child we hate or fear those “shadow” parts of our selves.  Strange things happen. The shadow parts get disowned from us and oftentimes hidden inside our partner – this is what is termed “projection.”

Hal and Sidra Stone developed one well-known system, Voice Dialogue, for working with the inner parts and shadow energies. When we don’t realise what is going on, relating becomes a complex mess with hurt inner child reacting emotionally to hurt inner child. This book explains how the inner parts play out in relationships and what to do about it.

This book will often be eye-opening about what’s going on in a relationship. Like non-violent communication, this is essential emotional preparation for the journey of life, basic self-knowledge which everyone ought to have but few do.

(6) Love as a journey:
How to Make Your Relationship Work: Learn How to Love and Be Loved
by Anne Geraghty

This is an advanced book, and if you’ve never read a relationship book before this isn’t my first suggestion – in that case start at the top with Carl Rogers. If however you and your partner feel a commitment to each other and to the process of relating and want to go deeper in intimacy then I can’t think of a better book.

Mild health warning: Anne and her husband Martin have a very intense style of relating and not everyone has to do it like that. But she really, really knows about love and understands how relating carries each partner deeper on the unfoldment of each person’s own individual journey.