Recently, I had the fortune of attending the Level 2 Training for Gottman Couples Therapy in Seattle, WA. Came back with new resources and knowledge that I am eager to apply to my work with couples.
Back in my Information Technology life, I worked for this company for what was probably two or three weeks. My job was to set up an intraweb which is a way for computers inside a setting to connect to each other and share information through web browsers such as Firefox and Internet Explorer (bet you didn’t know that you would get information on things not psychology related here, huh? I’ll stop now.) Jobs were scarce back then due to the economy and this sounded like my best option. The owner of the company and hence, my boss, was a volatile man that barked instructions left and right and expected things to get done his way and right away. I was still a student earning my bachelors degree, and I still had some things to learn about web programming. While I knew many other things about computers, this was a first for me an I was on a learning curve. I did express my limited knowledge during my interview and my boss said it was fine.
Because of this learning curve, my web sites were far from perfect. Still, I was making improvements daily as I was learning. The owner of the company was checking my work daily and telling me that my work was no good. There was no constructive feedback and a lot of putdowns. Within this time, I started to dread having to go to work more and more. The owner started giving me more and more assignments and expecting me to work on this one. I felt pressured left and right. Not only that, but the workstation that I was working on was an older model and it was situated by a window with broken blinds and the sun was hitting me from behind four hours a day. “Suit and tie,” he said, “you can’t take off your coat, we have an image to uphold!”
I tried to express that I felt overwhelmed and perhaps he could help out by understanding where I came from and perhaps taking it easier on me and his response was, “I treat everybody here the same way, and nobody complains. If you don’t like it, you know where the door is!” It was true that nobody complained, to his face, at least. During lunch hour, his employees were talking left and right about how they hated working for this man, but they were afraid that they could not find another job and they just had to fess up and go to work. One day, I got to work and tried to login to the machine and couldn’t. The boss came by and told me in front of everyone else that he did not like my work and he had formatted the machine. Just like that. He said that I would have to start from scratch, turned around and left. I felt disrespected, worthless, stepped on and humiliated. I was so upset that I asked for the rest of the afternoon off. The next day, I went to a computer lab at the university and asked for a job. The following day, I went to Mr. Scrooge and quit.
If Mr. Scrooge had had empathy, other interpersonal skill notwithstanding, he would have earned the respect of his employees and not their fear. His employees would have been happy at work and would have more than likely been more productive. Empathy is the ability to experience the thoughts, emotions and feelings of others, or in layman’s terms, to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. How are the other people feeling? Would I feel the same way in the same situation? For some people, empathy comes simpler than to others. Perhaps, for some, it would be simpler to think of the Golden Rule, ”One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.” Would I want to be respected all the time by this person in front of others, and when alone? If I was learning something new, would I want the person to give me some slack and give me some constructive criticism without ridiculing me? Would I like my opinion to be valued?
Once I start thinking of how I would feel, I can start realizing how others are feeling. Then I can understand their situation if I am lending an ear, and I can also start treating others more nicely as well. Some say that empathy can’t be taught, but I disagree. Empathy just takes a lot of practice. Try it out today with your partner, kids, coworkers, teachers, students, etc. and practice it as often as possible until if becomes an unconscious reaction. Better relationships will be built, you’ll see.
I was talking to a friend of mine that said he spent several hours a week with his wife and he still knew nothing about her. When I asked him what kind of quality time they spent with each other, he mentioned the movies, watching TV, going to nightclubs and being out with friends. Is that really quality time?
Think of all the people that you would like to know more from. More than likely you’ll mention your partner, your kids, your siblings, your friends, etc. The dictionary defines quality time as “time during which one focuses on or dedicates oneself to a person or activity.” Another definition is, “an informal reference to time spent with close family, partners or friends that is in some way important, special, productive or profitable. It is time that is set aside for paying full and undivided attention to the person or matter at hand. It may also refer to time spent performing some favorite activity.”
What does that mean? Well, let’s look at the example of watching TV or going to the movies. Where is one’s attention at? It is certainly not with our loved ones. Is this productive for our communication? Highly doubt it. You might have a wonderful time watching the next superhero movie on the screen, but when are you learning about your partner, or your kids? When are you finding out about their day, their likes and their lives? This is not to say that all of your time has to be quality time. Having a fun time watching the tube together is fun and is necessary for our health. We should ask ourselves if there is a balance, though.
Well, the argument goes, times have changed. No longer (if ever) is there a time where the family does many things together, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, think “Leave it to Beaver.” Now, mom and dad work, not only dad, or in a one-parent household, the parent works a lot more. Thing is, that because of our hectic lives where we need to run around from place to place and always be on the go, it is not as easy anymore. Still, there might be a way for the family to have quality time even if it’s just for 30 minutes to an hour of dinner. Try turning off the iPhones, iPads, and iWhatever it is that they come up with and just talk while sitting down at the dinner table. Think of all the things that we could learn from one another. Is your spouse having a tough time at work or at home and is acting a certain way because of that? Are your kids surrounded by healthy kids or are they surrounded by drugs and gangs?
You’ll be surprised how a little time spent goes a long way towards prevention of failed relationships and bad outcomes in life. My suggestion use it if possible once a day or more. Sit down and enjoy yourselves, Super Mario and the Real Housewives of anywhere can wait.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle
A few days ago, I was reading an El Paso Times article (online, of course, because who reads the newspaper anymore, right?) where one of their famous writers was telling people to give up on new year resolutions because most of them will fail anyway. On a gym Facebook page, gym members were complaining that at the beginning of the year, the gym gets packed and it’s hard to exercise. They were saying such things as, “Stay home, you’ll never lose the pounds” and “Why even bother? We won’t even see you after the Superbowl!” Actually, a lot of people do give up way before the Superbowl is on the big screen in our living rooms.
Which brings a question to mind. Should we listen to the naysayers because they are correct in saying that only a few people will succeed? To me, it’s like telling our kids not to go to college because only a minority of El Pasoans graduate. Isn’t that setting a glass ceiling there? Follow the sheep and you’ll be alright.
We are full of old habits such as fighting at home, screaming in anger when we are frustrated, not being able to trust others, not being able to make a lifestyle change, and many others, that it seems impossible to do something different. Creating a new habit takes a lot of time and effort, it’s not magic. Yet we look for the magic pill in everything that we do and we put our time and effort into it hoping that we don’t have to do a thing.
Well, the magic pill doesn’t exist, but there is something else for us to choose that will help us even better. It’s called perseverance. Every habit can be changed, and most a small step at a time. Persevering with the right strategy is the way to go because using the wrong strategy over and over will not do.
The time is now, you either follow the sheep like the naysayers say or you make your own path of living a life of happiness and harmony. It is up to you and no one else. Nobody can tell you that your marriage or family will fail or that you can’t come out of your shell. Only you can dictate that. Yes, the time is now.
Thank you for reading once again,
When it comes to anger, either in adults, children or as a couple, it is easy to ignore any other feeling behind it. Could it be sadness, shame, hurt,depression or any other feeling that might make the angry person feel vulnerable.
When we look behind the smoke screen of anger, we might realize that this is about a lot more than what is being presented at that moment. A feeling so threatening, that is it hard to reach for
it and express it as it is., and it might leave us confused.
So next time you feel angry, ask yourself- What other feeling can I be experiencing right now? and open the conversation to other venues.
Is porn substituting real love for fantasies- or can the love co-exist with it. Many wives asks themselves this question. The injury of a husband’s porn watching can leave a wife feeling insecure. She might be comparing her physique to those of porn stars and end up feeling unattractive. To add insult to injury, her husband is most likely not interested in having sex with her. In her mind then, her fears are confirmed- her husband does not love her anymore. What I know is that men addicted to porn, do not want to leave their wives, and they do claim love for them.
It is hard to see through all the flaws and to identify and experience such a love. A lot of work may have to be done in getting a couple closer. It is possible though, many couples do make that commitment.
You’re in it to win it at all cost and nothing is going to stop you:
“If to save my neck, I have to risk yours- I will do anything in my power to bring you down. I will play dirty–calling you names to make you feel worthless- and therefore an easier prey. Manipulating, lying, and humiliating will not be too much for me to do until I get my way.”
When you take this stand, the marriage looses. Everybody loses because in a partnership- such as that of marriage- you cannot claim all the earnings, while your spouse walks away empty handed.
“The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, is an excellent book about what love means to us individually and how to identify and communicate that to our spouse/partner.
Chapman describes how the way that we give love, is not always the same that we would like to receive it.
For instance, you may be in your comfort zone when you buy your spouse some chocolate. However, you may prefer to receive affection from him/her. By the same token, your spouse/partner may have preferences of their own.
This concept is so effective that the Military has adapted it as the basis for one of their couple’s retreats.
Chapman describes the Love Languages as follows:
#1 Words of Affirmation- Thank you, you are looking good, etc.
#2 Quality Time- meaningful time together- fully present with each other
#3 Receiving Gifts- just as I mentioned above- tokens of love
#4 Acts of Service- making you a cup of coffer, doing laundy.
#5 Physical Touch- a favorite of many- from affection to sex.
The book includes a self-test for Men and Women to identify your primary and secondary preference.
When you take into account these differences, and identify your preference, as well as your
spouse/partner’s preference- you stand a better chance of getting what you want and giving
your spouse/partner what is most meaningful to them.
Please take a minute to read this article – very interesting material.
Dan and Grace (fictitious names), sat on the couch in my office, looking straight at me and not quite acknowledging each other. It seemed that anger and hurt feelings were getting in the way of their relationship. But when I asked what had brought them in for couples therapy, Grace quickly replied “We don’t communicate”— in a tone that reflected the feelings I intuitively perceived coming from them. Dan did not bother to look in the direction of his wife — he only sat stone-faced staring at the floor. If I could had read his mind — which I cannot, by the way — I would have probably heard him saying. “Bear and grind, bear and grind,” as if it were a mantra. (more…)