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Is it OK for wives to verbally abuse husbands for not helping more around the house?

In situations like that, women often feel justified in being angry, frustrated and fatigued—and verbally expressing their discontent. But, wives are not justified in verbally abusing their husbands to get them to do more.

Assertive communication

The right way to get your husband to help around the house involves teaching wives a better way to communicate and motivate their husbands. This is one of the most important ways marriage counselors can reduce relationship anger.

Assertive communication involves learning to express what you need or request without anger or rage. Anger and rage usually makes things worse and invites retaliation. In addition, parental anger is very harmful for children to witness.

Husbands need to be reminded…

But, assertive communication and better communication skills are only half the equation. The therapist must also explain to an irresponsible husband that his behavior is severely jeopardizing the marital relationship.

A skilled therapist must change the husband’s attitude by making him more receptive to the idea that in today’s society marriage is a partnership. For their relationship to survive, husband and wife must agree on how they are going to deal with routine home chores and parental responsibilities.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 50-50 split; it is the ?agreement and the perception that makes the difference.

The therapist must convince the husband that it is to his advantage (peace at home, better sex, more closeness, etc.) that he and his wife see things as equitable in terms of home chores, even if one still does more of the home chores than the other.

A skilled marital therapist can help balance things out, reducing hard feelings and conflict; improving toxic communication patterns that have become disrupted.

New book for new parents

The challenges that accompany the arrival of a couple’s first child are chronicled in Jaycee Dunn’s recently published How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jaycee Dunn.

Jaycee is a professional writer who sought therapy for this issue, chronicling her experiences in a humorous book backed by much research. They met with Terry Real, a famous Boston therapist. Terry conducted a weekend intervention that saved their marriage (along with follow up sessions in their local community.) Now, Terry Real is not your typical therapist. Half of the intervention that got her husband to be more responsible was Real’s confronting Jaycee’s husband with the rather blunt statement, “Get off your ass and help her out!

Most therapists would not even dream of being so direct. Yet, strong therapists must educate their patientsand—when necessary–act as catalysts for positive changeby frankly telling couples what needs to be done to turn things around.

Just asking couples “how they feel” as many therapists do during counseling sessions, is not enough. As the famous German poet Goethe said:

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. ?Willing is not enough; we must do.

Having children drastically changes things

Terry’s outburst shocked her husband and jolted him into seeing things from a completely different perspective. Why was this needed?Because things drastically changed in their marriage after they had a child.

As she writes: “When it was just the two of us, my husband and I, both peaceable writers, rarely fought. Then we had a baby.”

She continues: “And even though fathers have stepped up considerably in sharing childcare duties – since the 1960s, nearly tripling the time they spend with their children – mothers still devote about twice as much time to their kids as fathers do.”

She cited the United States Government American Time Use Survey, women reported feeling significantly more fatigued than fathers in all four major life categories: work, household, leisure, and childcare. Furthermore, even when husbands didn’t have jobs, they still did half the amount of housework and childcare that women did.

A survey of US mothers by NBC’s Today program revealed that for nearly half of them, their husbands were a bigger source of stress than their children!

What happens when men help out?

Study after study have shown that when men take on their fair share of household responsibilities, their partners are happier, less prone to depression, disputes are fewer, and divorce rates are lower.

As Janice Dunn puts it: “The day-to-day labor of keeping a household running is a remarkably significant issue for couples.”This was supported by a Pew Research Center survey that revealed that sharing household chores ranked third in importance on a list of nine items associated with successful marriages.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology suggests the frequency and quality of a couple’s sex life goes up when male partners think they do their fair share of the housework. My clinical experience through the years confirms that sex lives also improve when men help out more.

Verbal abuse won’t motivate your husband

Getting back to our very pissed off young mother, Janice Dunn–like many young mothers–was constantly angry and resentful, often calling her husband names that I shouldn’t repeat in a family-oriented blog.

During the other half of the intervention, therapist Terry Real told her: “…the idea that you can haul off and be abusive to your partner and somehow get a pass, that you can’t control it, or whatever you tell yourself to rationalize it, is nuts. Also, your whole “angry victim” role is going to get worse. You are extremely comfortable with your self-righteous indignation.”

He bluntly told her that she needed to take verbal abuse off the table:

You can say, ‘I’m angry.’ But don’t say ‘you’re an asshole.’

Likewise, you don’t yell and scream. You don’t humiliate or demean. They’re off the table. He concluded: “You are verbally abusive.”

He goes on to explain, as I often do to couples dealing with anger in their relationships, verbally abusing your partner to get them to do what you want is a very poor strategy.

Replace verbal abuse with respect

Even if you are furious with them, you need to show respect for each other. Successful couples avoid intimidating, demeaning, lecturing, and criticizing. The negative behaviors build resentment in your partner, then resistance, and—ultimately–push-back.

There is a world of difference between assertively standing up for yourself and aggressively putting your partner down. Here’s a suggestion, starting today, simply use the phrase, “What I’d like you to do now is…..”  Simply tell your partner what it is that you want them to do instead of disrespecting them.

Curb the urge to rocket straight from demand to anger and frustration. Most men do better if they know exactly what to do, if it makes sense to them, (always give them a reason), and if you request help rather than demanding it.

Can I Fall Back in Love After The Thrill is Gone?

Having been a therapist for over thirty years, I am always pleased to find new ways of helping couples. A few years ago, I discovered a treatment approach by Willard Harley that’s short term and practical. Combined with other techniques that I use, this approach has proven effective. Furthermore, it offers hope to relationships that seem hopeless. I’ve had several successful cases where one member had fallen out of love, ready to leave the relationship. If you’re interested, read on.

We really do keep score: the Love Bank

In relationships, we really do keep score. The way that we “keep score” is not necessarily a conscious one. Our mind automatically keeps an account of how well our partner is meeting our emotional needs. Our partner has a Love Bank of us too. The way it works is simple.

  • When we act in a way to please our spouse, we gain points in their Love Bank. When we act in a way to displease them, we lose points.
  • Most of us are not aware of our partners needs let alone our own. We frequently give to our mate what we need but often miss the mark in meeting their needs by not giving them what they want.
  • There are two ways to increase Love Bank scores:
    • Increase behaviors which meet our spouses important emotional needs.
    • Stop behaviors that make our partner unhappy.
  • The latter is called Love Busters.
    • When we have accumulated a plethora of points, we fall in love.
    • When there are less points coming in than are going out; when we are bankrupt or overdrawn, then we fall out of love.

Love Busters

?Love Busters are the things that we do to negatively affect our partner. We lose points in their Love Bank when we exhibit these behaviors. The most common Love Busters include the following:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Criticalness
  • Dishonesty
  • Annoying Behavior
  • Selfish Demands
  • Other “bad behaviour”

I have often found that stopping bad behavior (Love Busters) is often as important as starting good behavior (meeting our spouses Emotional Needs). ??

Emotional Needs

?We all have emotional needs. Furthermore, we have expectations from our partner to meet these needs. Men and Women generally have different emotional needs. Duh! The most common emotional needs for men are:

  • Sexual Fulfillment
  • Attractive Spouse
  • Admiration
  • Domestic Support
  • Recreational Companionship

The most common emotional needs for women are:

  • Affection
  • Conversation
  • Openness and Honesty
  • Family Commitment
  • Financial Support

How We Fall In and Out of Love. When we meet someone who makes a favorable impression on us, they will earn points in our Love Bank. For example: Bob is attracted to Jan. She gets 200 points in his love bank just for being pretty. He asks her out. She says yes. She gains another 100 points. They have a good date. She gains another 100 points. After the date she kisses him. It is a very passionate kiss. She gains another 150 points. You get the idea.

Now, what goes up can also go down. Let’s assume that they have been dating for a month and Jan cancels a date with Bob at the last moment. She loses 50 points but already has a score of 1000 so the reserves cover the loss and the relationship is good. If she was to continue to meet Bob’s emotional needs in a meaningful way, then she will have earned a high Love Bank score with Bob and he will fall in love if the score is high enough.

Now, let’s assume that Jan and Bob keep doing a wonderful job in meeting each others needs. They have romantic candle light dinners, great sex and good conversations. Basically, they don’t want to be out of sight of each other. They are crazy about each other. Their Love Bank scores are high and they get married.

Now, let’s suppose that they have been married for several years and have three children. Bob has a new job that requires him to work late so he is not as physically and emotionally available. The children are demanding more of Jan’s attention. She is frequently too tired to have sex and is not as emotionally available to Bob’s needs. Over a period of time, the couple’s emotional needs may not be getting met.

Furthermore, there may be bad habits that may be stealing points from their Love Banks. If their scores drop too low score (in the red, over drawn) they will fall out of love. Bob may all of her emotional needs into her children. These patterns may lead to an affair or a divorce.

So, How Do We Get Back in Love??

First off, many romantics do not think that it is possible to recapture love. Love is like an illusive butterfly. Once it is gone, it is gone and you can’t get it back. Of course, I do not agree with them. If you think of the Love Bank Concept, Just as it is possible to fall out of love, it is possible to fall back in love. Falling in love is achieved by getting a high enough Love Bank Score so that your partner falls in love with you. Gaining points by meeting the partner’s emotional needs can do this. Stop losing points by changing the Love Buster behavior (angry outbursts, dishonesty, etc.)?

Treatment

?Couple’s are made aware of their partners emotional needs. After learning about each other’s needs in detail, they discuss ways to meet these needs. With the help of the therapist, strategies are developed for each partner to meet the other’s needs. Progress is discussed weekly in treatment and revisions are made as needed. This approach used with communication skill building has proven effective.


Rockman Family Counseling Inc
4701 Von Karman, suite 328 Newport Beach, Ca 92660
(949) 230-9602
steverockman@sbcglobal.net
rockmanthx.com

Angry because your partner just won’t change? Try a fresh approach.

Aaron and Mary
Aaron and Mary have been married 23 years. She is often angry. He is a very gentle soul who has a lifestyle admired by many. He has a lot of money, he “works” by playing golf 2-3 times a week while courting new clients, he has a gorgeous loyal wife and two beautiful children who are doing well in life.He is rarely angry. So, what’s the problem? Aaron drinks a little too much some times at his watering hole with his buddies but tells his wife he is somewhere else if she calls. He does this because he want to avoid being yelled at and criticized. He feels he is a grown man and shouldn’t have to “report” to his wife every time he has “a few beers- even if she had made family plans around his being home as promised. His attitude triggers Mary’s underlying anxiety and anger.

How does Mary React to this behavior? To put it in simple term, she becomes angry, ballistic, yelling, screaming and criticizing. She angrily threatens to leave the marriage. He quietly sits there and takes her criticism, promises to do better, but then several weeks later does the same thing, with another excuse as to why he didn’t notify her of his change of plans.

Mary sees the problem as quite simple: Aaron needs to control his drinking and become more transparent as to where he is when she asks him. She truly believes that he is much more to blame for the problem than she could possibly be. She blames him and sees him as needing to change his behavior in order to fix the problem.She even goes to a therapist who tells her that his drinking isn’t really a marital problem…. it is a personal problem. Neither think that Aaron is an actual alcoholic. Alcohol is not the problem as much as her not trusting where he is because he has a history of lying about it.

So why doesn’t he just change to please her and keep peace? Because, as noted above, he does not see himself as an alcoholic; rather, he sees himself as just someone who drinks too much sometimes and then lies about it to his wife,in order to avoid trouble. He argues that he only does this once every two months. She says it is biweekly. Besides, in his mind he has “earned” the right to have the life style he wants….including the merriment, as long as he is not hurting anybody, he is responsible, he is not unfaithful, and he also spends sufficient time with wife and kids. He reasons that she should be more flexible considering the great lifestyle that he gives her.

So, they are gridlocked. The issue they are struggling with is called a perpetual issue because it appears to be unsolvable. Her reaction to it isn’t getting the result that either one of them wants. He wants more leeway. She wants more reliability and trust.

So, how exactly should Mary react differently that might deal with this perpetual problem so that both an get more loving behavior from each other?

Here are some steps I would suggest to Mary:

Step 1– Stop criticizing /blaming if he drinks too much or he is going to miss family dinner to be with his friends/business associates. Accept that he is passive-aggressive and/or locked into a lifestyle and figure out a new reaction to it.Try to broaden your scope and diminish the importance of this specific behavior in your mind, in the context of many other good things he might do for you or your family.

Step 2– Sit down and have a “heart to heart” talk with him pointing out how you FEEL when he does what he does..mainly disrespected and not prioritized by him.Let him know that it causes resentment and anger in you which makes you want to pull away from him. The marriage may be at stake if his behavior continues. Point out that it is the NOT LETTING HER KNOW THAT CAUSES MORE OF THE PROBLEM THAN HIS NOT BEING THERE.

Step 3- Stand up for yourself regarding how you are going to handle it in the future….BUT do not threaten. Simply tell him how things are going to change if he continues….such as

-stop planning family activities around him…do not count on him being home at certain times. Do not schedule your events around his having to be home. Accept that this is the way he is sometimes and focus on his positive characteristics. Reward him when he is on time or when he does call.

-distance yourself emotionally from him and tell him that you cannot have a secure love for a man who treats you this way,because it is not fair, it is disrespectful, and it is very upsetting to you.

-start building your own life around things you like to do as a person. Be with your friends more, try not to make your husband the center of the world so much and stop feeling guilty about “me time” you need.

The idea here is that chances are very good he will change if you changes how you deal with the situation. By standing up for yourself, it now puts the ball in your husband”s court….it is now his decision what he is going to do.

Remember, you cannot control another person. But you can control how you react to the other person which often greatly influences what they do decide to do in the future.

10-hour local anger management classes

Successful Couples Repair Conflict

Let’s face it. All couples fight. In successful relationships as well as others. Having fights is not necessarily a sign that your relationship is doomed to failure.

If all couples fight, What then makes the difference between successful vs unsuccessful relationships?

Simply put, one major difference is having the skills and ability to repair the emotional damage done during the fight. Some couples simply can’t get past it and simmer for days, weeks, even months. I know of one couple that kept a resentment for years. They didn’t divorce – they simply built a wall between them and added a few more bricks every month until there basically was no hope of reconnecting.This couple slept in separate bedrooms, rarely talked to each other, ate meals separately and kept separate financial resources. They basically were roommates.

Other couples fortunately have better skills and can bounce back from a conflict, a bad behavior on the part of one or the other, or from the pain of a grievance. Some couples just know how to do it. Mary and Jim were such a couple. They were a young professional couple with no children but strong personalities and a strong need for autonomy. She often wanted to do something that he considered irresponsible or not practical (she was an artist). He would “question” her on it (which she heard as a challenge). Her response? Anger, saying to herself “he is not going to tell ME what to do.” He replied that he was not trying to tell her what to do, he was just inquiring as to what was going on.

This led to an escalating fight with each “pushing the buttons” of the other until they no longer could stand to be in the same room. In effect, they had activated each other’s psychological alarm system so both their brains were now in a “fight and protect” mode. So they sulked for a while, until their nervous systems calmed down to normal levels. This allowed one of them (Mary)to quietly say “I’m sorry.” Then came, “I really love you and can’t imagine life without you.” Jim then said, “Let’s get on the same team and figure out a solution to the issue.”

More generally, partners with good repair skills do with following:

  • They keep the relationship itself in mind when arguing over an issue. It’s not only about “winning” – certainly not at the cost of rupturing the relationship. They WANT the relationship to work. They strive for emotional connection and harmony.
  • They realize that not all couples problems are fixable – some issues will always be there. The trick to repair is to learn how to live with each other around the issues rather than trying to change the other person to make them less irritating to you. The challenge is to cope (within reason and without losing your “self” in the process) better while finding ways to satisfy each other’s needs.
  • They are mature enough to realize that their partners have a perfect right to their own opinions and ways of doing things. They try to drop judgment and instead strive to understand their partner better.
  • Finally, couples with good repair skill do not bring up the past to use as a weapon. They stick to the current issue without slamming their partner with insults, name-calling, accusations, or “dead cow” issues.
AngerCoach Online

Couples Conflict – The Dance of Anger

Jim and Sally have been married for 10 years. They argue so much that friends invite them for dinner a lot because they provide the evening’s entertainment with their bickering and constant conflict. Their arguments are over many of the same issues over and over again. They just seem to trigger angry responses in each other and it is never ending. Watching them reminds one of seven year olds fighting in the sand box.

If you took a picture snapshot at any point in time you might think that one of them is the culprit starting the fights. But, taking a snapshot at another point in time might give you a different impression, as you observe the “victim” actually now provoking their partner.

Truth is, they are in a strange, intimate dance with each other even though they probably don’t realize it. Psychologists might say that we are observing the battle of part of the brain called the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure in the limbic system. It is in the amygdala that hurts, pain and anger are stored. Its purpose is to protect you from harm, even though the threat is not physical but the verbal assaults of your partner. So, it immediately prepares you for fight and survival. You are programmed to attack back,to protect yourself.You are reacting on a nervous system level but may not be aware of this fact. It happens so rapidly that things can spin out of control before you know it. And the anger dance begins.

The “Issue” Is Not The Only Issue
It may appear that you are fighting over the kids,who should do the dishes, or how much money you should spend on a new car. But you are also fighting on deeper levels often without your awareness. My experience with many scores of couples is that you are really fighting because you are triggering in each other old ways of feeling or behaving toward someone you love which you learned as a child from caretakers or others. Under stress, your brain reverts back to that earlier learning, never mind that you are now an adult professional, a responsible community member, and a parent. So, instead of being a reasonable human being, you become that petulant child who is not getting his way, you grind on your partner over minor infractions to wear him or her down (just like you wore down your parents), or you openly rebel to communicate feeling hurt and rejection.

In the heat of battle. many partners forget to pay attention to the damage they may be doing to the relationship itself in how they are fighting or arguing. They focus on winning the battle, but lose sight that they may be losing the war. What good is winning the argument if you are pissed at each other afterward or experiencing feelings of hurt for days or weeks? Successful couples broaden their lens and see that they must always be aware of how what they do or what they say will affect the relationship itself. Successful partners know that even if they conflict or disagree with the benefits of softening your water, they have each other’s back and they feel secure in knowing that they will be there for each other, regardless of the outcome of the specific argument.

<strongThe Dance of Security
Feeling secure in a relationship seems to be a basic human need. Secure functioning should be a major goal of any intimate connection. When there is secure functioning, partners protect each other at all times, in both public and private. They notice how they are affecting each other. When they emotionally injure each other, they know how to make quick repairs. Secure functioning partners are skilled at being able to quickly change their own emotional state and positively influence the emotional state of their partner. They think in terms of what is best for both of them not only as individuals but also as a couple.

Problem is, partners often come into relationships with different styles of feeling secure. This is because of different backgrounds and different ways of learning how to “attach” to loved ones. Unless partners learn to deal with each other’s styles of attachment, they will trigger INSECURITY in each other which often leads to anger and other negative emotions.
Jim, for instance , doesn’t believe in talking in public about personal things; he believes in strict boundaries. He is self-contained and doesn’t turn to others for emotional support or problem-solving. Sally, on the other hand, loves to talk and to share everything with everybody, especially after a few glasses of wine. Talking and getting feedback from others helps to regulate her emotions and feel good and connected with others. She firmly believes that Jim should love her no matter how she behaves in public; if he shows disapproval, this means he doesn’t really love her (in her thoughts). She doesn’t see that she is doing anything wrong.

Clearly, they are working against each other. That which reduces her anxiety, increases his, and vice versa. She becomes more and more angry and resentful as he pulls away and increasingly avoids her. He doesn’t deal with anger directly, so he starts to “passive-aggress” her by snipping,jabbing, innuendo and sarcasm. She fights back by denying him sex later that night. He complains. The next day she accuses him of not loving her for her and says that he is emotionally unavailable and she can’t stand it any longer. The dance is on but it is anything but a fluid tango….it is more like a war dance.

Putting the Pieces Together
Partners come in all sizes and shapes emotionally, many with ragged edges which we sometimes don’t see until later when the dating hormones settle down. At this stage, sometimes partners worry they are fundamentally incompatible with each other, that they may have made a mistake or that they were deceived by the other who is now clearly showing a different side to their personality. In couples therapy, we explain to the partners that they are probably going through a developmental period in which they are challenged to learn how to function as individual yet learn to do things differently so as not to trigger insecurity and anger in the other.

The simplified principle is this: Instead of trying to change your partner,find a way to give your partner what they need so they will be more motivated and eager to give you what you need. Both of you will feel more secure and will co-create what Dr. Stan Tatkin calls “the couple bubble.”

In our case example, Sally and Jim both have hard-wired (and different) styles of attachment and ways of regulating their emotions to feel comfortable. It is highly unlikely that either can change this. They can greatly decrease their levels of conflict, however, by accepting the differences between them and doing things to make the other more emotionally secure. Each needs to ask himself/herself what they are doing to make their partner feel better, not worse. They need to further ask themselves why they are doing things (like bringing up personal marriage thing in public) that they know emotionally (and socially) harms their partner. Or why Jim doesn’t share more with Sally when he knows that she needs this to feel secure inside and feel loved.
If we love someone, shouldn’t job number one be to try to make them happy (within reason) and be a source of need satisfaction for them (as long as it is reciprocal and we are getting it back)?

10-hour local anger management classes

Anger Class 101: Silence is an Anger Management Tool

They say that silence is golden.

Tell that to Sally and Jim who argue constantly and fight like cats and dogs over almost every issue. Both are highly successful, intelligent and verbal so there is no end to issues over which to fight. If perchance they do run out of issues temporarily, they creatively start fighting about fighting. They need anger class 101.

Let’s listen to the dialogue for a moment:
with one accusing the other of being unfair or talking “with that sneer of yours,” or “shouting at me.” while the other insists they are not shouting.

As a couples therapist, and someone who has conducted over 1000 anger classes in Southern California and a calgary naturopath, I sometimes want to say to one or the other: “Why don’t you just keep your mouth shut so avoid an argument? Partners often inflame each other, escalate anger, and talk themselves into major fights which could easily be avoided with the practice of temporary silence. This is known as the tool of “Retreat and Think Things over” in out system of anger management.

As Lao Tzu is quoted as having said:
“Silence is a Source of Great Strength.”

But, back to Sally and Jim who continue the argument:

Yes, Jim says, but I am right and she knows that I am right, so why should I silence myself?” “The restaurant WAS where I said it was – NOT where she kept insisting (wrongly) it was located.”

“Oh Lord, It is so hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way”
…….Mack Davis song, 1980

Know anyone who ALWAYS has to be right, like Jim? Not only do they always have to be right, they have an irrepressible urge to point out when they factually know that you are wrong. So,like Jim, they correct you, contradict you, argue with you, contest everything you say, and then later remind you that “I told you so” if there is any evidence that you are wrong and they were right.

The frustrating thing is, often these people ARE right, or partiality right as http://stridestrong.com says. But, few important issues in the world are about absolute right or absolute wrong. They are about shades of each. Only very rigid people divide the world into absolute rights or absolute wrongs. Partial truths often drive arguments because of mis-communication or misunderstanding.

“Black and White People” vs “Gray” people.

“Black and white” people see the world in absolutes. It is either this way or that way. “Gray” people see in between possibilities, and understand that “truth” or “reality” in many cases is a matter of perception..not a matter of fact. Often, “black and white” people marry “gray” people and the fight is on.

Some common examples: Jim sees wife Mary as stubborn and unbending. She sees herself as morally right, principled, and duty-bound to do things Jim does not agree with. As another example, Mary sees Jim as lazy, not ambitious, and negligent in his household duties. Jim sees himself as evolving to the place in life where he can enjoy life, have fun with the kids, and generally appreciate his good health and financial freedom.

Who is right and who is wrong in these examples? Honestly, is your experience that the world most people live in is black and white, or do most issues fall in the gray area?

Four ways to deal with a partner who sees the world differently than you do.

1.LET IT GO.
For some people, it is part of their personality and their ego. They cannot stand not to be right, correct an injustice, or make sure you know the right way to do things. It validates them and makes them feel good about themselves to be right and to prove you wrong. You should not be around a person like this unless you are super-secure. Let them be right in their own minds, if they have to. Let it go! (Most times). If they swear it is noon; calmly show them a clock showing it is 1pm. Do you want to learn more? Then just click here and read the website.

2. AGREE TO DISAGREE
On many issues in a relationship (research shows 69%), you are never going to agree anyway. So, agree to disagree and don’t bring the subject up unless the “house is on fire.” (or unless it is really doing damage to someone)

3. SEPARATE IN YOU REMIND THE ISSUE FROM WHO YOUR PARTNER REALLY IS. Personally, I like many people even though they are diametrically opposed to things I truly believe in. If you get irritated over one slice of behavior displayed by your partner, try to see him or her as a total person.

4. DON’T TALK AN ISSUE TO DEATH TRYING TO PERSUADE YOUR PARTNER OF ITS TRUTH OR YOUR RIGHTNESS. Sometimes the more it is talked about, the worse it gets. Let the issue get some rest. MAybe it will recover sooner.

Anger Management In Action: Let sleeping dogs lie?

Silenced

“How did your week go, Samuel?” I asked my married patient who  consulted me for anger management and anger management skills to deal with his wife.

“Much better,” he replied, “because I kept my mouth shut this time when I desperately wanted to argue with her because I knew I was right. I decided to apply one of the anger management tools you taught me.”

“What did you do instead?” I asked him.

Sam replied: ” I took your advice and simply left the house, went into the back yard for 10 minutes to cool off, then came back in and everything was OK. I didn’t argue with her over the issue because it wasn’t that important. I didn’t have to win this time; I just let it go.”

We continued our therapy session pet hair vacuum guide by agreeing that “talking” about an issue doesn’t always solve it. In fact, sometimes it makes it worse. In intimate relationships, sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie, as they say.  Believe it or not, over-asking about the issue sometimes becomes the issue.

Have you ever had this conversation with your partner?

“What are you upset about?”

“I’m not upset.”

“Yes, you are. tell me why you are upset. Was it something I said?”

“OK. if you insist. I am upset because you keep asking me if I’m upset.” Continue reading “Anger Management In Action: Let sleeping dogs lie?”

Anger Management In Action: Relationship Blowups Can Be Costly

Conflict 10“Dr. Fiore,” the voice on the phone pleaded, “I need anger management classes right away. I blew up at my girlfriend last night and she said it’s over until I get help”.

As Kevin recounted the first night of anger management class, he and his girlfriend had argued in the car over which route to take home from a party. Events progressed from mild irritation, to yelling and name calling.

Things escalated at home. He tried to escape, but she followed him from room to room, demanding resolution of the conflict. He became angry, defensive and intimidating. he had not yet learned anger management skills.

Frightened, she left. Later, she left an anguished message saying that she loved him, but couldn’t deal with his angry, hurtful outbursts.

Kevin said that he normally is a very “nice” and friendly person. But, on this occasion, his girlfriend had been drinking before the party. In his view, she was irrational, and non-stop in criticism. He tried oxiracetam to reason with her, but it just made things worse. Finally, as Kevin saw things, in desperation he “lost it” and became enraged.

How should Kevin have handled this situation? What could he have done differently? What anger management skills would have helped? What actions should you take in similar situations?

Continue reading “Anger Management In Action: Relationship Blowups Can Be Costly”

Angry Over Power Struggles in Your Relationship?

A young angry misguided soul sat in one of our anger management classes dejected. The instructor asked why he was there. He said that his wife was angry over his not putting the toilet seat down after his use. Other class members looked at him incredulously and remarked: “you spent all this money on an anger management program for that? Why don’t you just put the toilet seat down? His answer: “because last week I asked for sex and she didn’t come through. So, this week why should I do what SHE wants?

tanking relationship

Perfect example of a ridiculous angry power struggle that some couples seem to get into constantly.

What is a power struggle?
A power struggle occurs in a relationship when partners battle or conflict over who is going to win an argument, prove a point, accomplish a certain goal, or have things done in a certain way. Often in a power struggle one partner is attempting to force their will upon the other, or is trying to make the partner do something they don’t want to do. In retaliation, one partner will try and “even the score” or have a “win” even if it makes no logical sense. It is about winning, not about being rational or solving the problem at hand. In fact, partners gridlocked into this pattern often become angry if the other does not comply, tries to compromise or wants to discuss alternative solutions to the problem.

Why is this concept important to you and your relationship?
This concept is important because it underlies many angry arguments and conflicts you and your partner may be having. Think about it. Do you have angry arguments that often are more about the power one has over the other rather than about the issue itself? Some people just have to dominate others. It is their way or the highway. They are rigid and unbending. They know what is best, in their minds, and refuse to bend, ‘give in to the other” or admit they are wrong, mistaken or misguided.

Often angry power-struggle people are lost in a “get-even’ mentality or “everything has to be equal” mentally with their partner. It is tit-for-tat with them so a volcano vaporizer should relax your partner and you. It’s about the balance sheet and all behavior is ultimately motivated by that “score” on the sheet.

What are some other examples of it?
*one partner insists that the other is not allowed to smoke pot (for severe pain) or it will end the relationship. The pot-smoker refuses to give it up, although he agrees to not do it in the home, in front of the children, or in public and will also get a legal marijuana medical card.

*One partner insists that their 5 year old child will only be fed “healthy” food and has a fit when her partner feeds their child “normal” (like a McDonald’s hamburger)food, yet often does it herself when alone with the child.

*Partner argues for hours over a political point to convince partner that he/she is right about it and they are wrong. The righteous one keeps both of them up until 3:00 AM arguing over the point until the other concedes.

*Partner insists that other take a certain route to a friend’s house even though other wants to go another way that is equally distant. This leads to a fight they have had for years.

How do people get “power” in a relationship?
Some partners just bring this trait into the relationship with them and are often like that in other areas of their lives too. They just have to right, to be first, to have done it better, to know things you don’t know. Everything is a competition with these folks – it is part of their core personality.It makes them feel good to always be in the driver’ s seat, so to speak. Often they are very insecure underneath and being right feeds their ego and their sense of being adequate. Being wrong validates their feeling of inadequacy.

But in other relationships, the partners seem to trigger it in each other, even if they are not like that in other areas of their lives or even in other relationships. There are many other bases for power in relationships and it is quite a complex subject, when you really stop and think about it. Where does “power” come from? How can you get it? It is often thought among professionals that the person who loves the most (or is most needy) in an intimate relationship has the least power while the person who loves the least(is less needy) has more of the power (they have less to lose if it doesn’t work out).

Money and PowerBut, people gain (or lose power) power in relationships for many other reasons too. How about money? Does earning level bring power?

Example: Dave was recently divorced,and pretty much lost his business and most of his assets. Soon thereafter he met Martha who was quite well off through rental real estate properties. He started managing her properties but was also her lover. Soon, she controlled his whole life, ordering him around like he was an $8 per hour employee. She said “jump” and he asked, “how high”?

She literally would lie in bed while he popped grapes in her mouth as requested, while seething inside and then coming to his therapist exploding in anger. When asked why he put up with it, turns out that it was about the money. A “Yes, dear” response to her requests ensured that she would be willing to finance a new business venture he needed to get back on his feet.

Sex and Power. Many partners control their partners through sex (or lack of sex) which tends to generate anger and resentment in the sex-starved partner. This can go both ways, but more often than not, it is the man who feels sex-starved or experiences resentment because he has to “beg” for it.

Example: Dan was a 41 year old plumber and father of two children. Married for thirteen years, he said that he and his wife used to be like rabbits sexually before they had children. Now, “she has no interest, devoting almost 100% of her time to the kids and their needs. He is constantly angry due to sexual frustration but can do nothing about it. Yes, he has talked to her on many occasions. Her reply: “live with it.” He does not want to have an affair, but asks: “why should I have to give up something so important to me?” “It is like I am dying of thirst, she has the only well in town which is dry and she forbids me to visit other towns.”

Competency and Power:Sometimes partners sort of inherit power in certain areas of the relationship because they are clearly more competent in that area. For instance, if one partner is a better money handler, he or she should probably handle the budget and be in charge of financial management. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the financial handler will have more power in other aspects of the relationship such as parenting, vacation planning, or setting the emotional mood of the household.

Mood Setting and Power: 40 year old Peter told me that his wife of 12 years is extremely moody due to numerous medical problems as well as a core personality of many mood fluctuations. “The minute I walk in the door,” he says, I sense her mood.” “If it is bad or negative, I pour myself a glass of scotch, go to my room and hibernate for several hours, just to be alone.” If, on the other hand, his wife’s mood is positive, the family has a joyous evening with each other that night. In this case, his wife has all the power as a mood setter in the family.

Status and Power; Sometimes couples equate differences in perceived status as a basis for trying to dominate or control the other. Status might mean “social” status, occupational status, or gender status. In many cultures, men are seen as the head of household by default; these men get very angry if they do not receive “respect” from their women or children. They tend to use anger, authority, and bullying to get their way. Sometimes they are married to women who use sadness (tears) and appeals of helplessness to influence their mates. In the United States, most woman do not accept these stereotyped roles any longer as they have have gained much ‘power” through economic and occupational equality.Obviously this change can create mountains of conflict if they couple does not agree on role definition, and who does what around the house and in the relationship.

On the other hand, I have seen many couples wherein it is the woman who has most power and control in the relationship. These women emotionally abuse their mates through contempt,disrespect, guilt, chronic complaining and criticalness of their partner and sometimes even alienation of the children against their father. Upon occasion, these men finally “blow up” out of shear frustration of never being able to please their wife. Then these men are accused of having an “anger problem” and required by their wives to seek help.

How can it be fixed?In healthy relationships, power struggles are resolved naturally through a natural balance. You win today over finances; she wins tomorrow over parenting.

But, diffusing defusing power struggles in a troubled relationship can be tricky indeed. Sometimes it is best to just let it go..and give the power to your partner, especially if the power is based on superior competency or skill (like money handling or culinary expertise). Another case where it might be better to let it go is when it is part of your partner’s personality, as described above. Can’t change it. What else are you going to do? Acceptance of that which is not changeable in a relationship is a major tool of anger control.

A wise person comes to realize that being right isn’t always important – being happy or content or in peace may be much more important.

Why is it so hard sometimes to just let it go? Here are some reasons that I have observed and some solutions that should be of help to you:
1. Most conflicts between partners do not have a “right” and a “wrong” answer at all. In fact, most relationship conflicts are based on opinions, judgments, and attitudes – not facts that provide firm guidelines about what is the correct “answer” to a relationship dispute.Take the case above with the fight over what their child should eat. Will a McDonald’s hamburger once a week truly hurt a child? Will a vegetarian child be healthier in life than other children?

The Solution: Realize that just because you believe it, doesn’t make it absolute fact, or doesn’t make it the ONLY fact. Your partner has a right to their opinion too (even if you think it is wrong or misguided). So try to loosen up and be more reasonable instead of righteous and rigid.

2. Arguments that appear to be logically based often are emotionally based, so they can’t be solved logically. Prime example: the couple described above who fight in the car over which way to travel to a friend’s house. In this case, the point of the argument stops being about finding an objective solution and starts being about who is more entitled to be ‘right’. That is an emotional issue – not a logical one. The emotion is “Autonomy” -or the need to make one’s own decisions, to have free will, and not be dominated or controlled by the other one.

The Solution:
Take a time out to cool down before the argument gets out of hand. Before doing anything, take in a deep breath, talk to yourself and de-escalate that emotion inside of you that wants to be right. Do this before things get out of hand. In our system of anger management, this is one of the first tools we teach our clients, using the metaphor of the bullfighter needing to step out of the way of the charging bull. When calmer, try talking about it and compromising (Maybe go one way this time, and the other way the next time; or, establish a driving ritual or rule: the driver decides the route and othe must be quiet)

3. One partner has lost respect for the other and frankly doesn’t care anymore what the other thinks. Loss of respect is tough to recover from, if it is possible at all. If you are on the other end and he or she has lost respect for you, sometimes what really helps is for you to demand less disrespecting behavior from your partner. Stand up for yourself! Don’ t let yourself be emotionally abused. Even if they don’ t like you anymore, you deserve to be treated like a human being, especially in front of the children.

The Solution:One strategy to gain respect is to start acting and behaving in ways similar to other people who do indeed get respect from their partner. Put another way, be deserving of their respect.

On the other hand, if you want to respect your partner, but can’ t get past an issue that prevents it, you will need to find a way to shift your perspective of him or her and focus on other aspects of their behavior or personality.

This is not easy. Often, professional help professional intervention is needed to help you develop strategies and coping skills.

8KEYS-AD

MCO-AD-Blue

Anger Management in Action: Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

I have listened for over 30 years to couples fighting in couples therapy. This includes dating couples, newlyweds and couples that have been conflicting for 50 years, still trying to understand each other and relate to each other. Why so much conflict between people who  truly love each other – or used to?

While it is obviously complicated, most unresolved conflicts remain unresolved because people use logic only to solve the issue rather than understanding that it is emotions- not just logic- that determine our behavior, get us so upset at each other and motivate us to change. To influence behavior , motivation(emotions) has to come first, then information (logic).

In my experience, many peopke do not care what you know until they know that you care! A person has to be OPEN to listening to what you are saying, or your words will fall on deaf ears. 

Having understanding of this concept can make you very bright……that is, it will give you high emotional intelligence.

What is emotional intelligence and how will it help your relationship?

Emotional intelligence (EI), as used here,  is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, and understand the emotions of your partner and how you should respond to elicit cooperativeness instead of rebellion from your partner.  It is a crucial skill to have in relationships because, in my experience, it is nearly impossible to solve an emotionally based argument with logic alone without dealing with the emotions  lurking beneath.

As proof this, remember the 1996 movie, “The Break-up” starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn? In the “wash the dishes” scene, Jennifer’s character (Brooke) asks Vince’s cahracter (Gary) to help her wash the  dishes after a dinner party. He resists. She insists. He relents but with an attiitude and says “all right, I’ll help you with the dishes” to which Jennifer gets angry because of his attitude. Gary then says, What’s wrong? I told you I’d help you with the dishes” Brooke then says: “I want you to want to help me with the dishes.”

Gary, like many partners, had no clue as to what was happening. So, he replied: “Who (in their right mind) would want to do dishes” ?

And on it goes. Neither could understand the other or why the other was so upset. Neither could understand why the other was so uncooperative. Both initiated in each other patterns of responding in their brains (neural circuits) which were pretty much beyond their control at the time they were occurring.

The problem escalated because neither could respond effectively to their partner at a time when the proper response would have de-activated the whole thing. 

Emotional intelligence is a set of skills to elicit cooperativeness from your partner-  at a time when your partner is being the most uncooperative. It is a set of skills to influence your partner’ s level of cooperativeness through your responses to their behavior rather than responding on automatic pilot as you may have done in the past.

This is not easy to do because we are wired (in our brains) to respond in certain ways to other people, including our partners. Too, when we are upset with our partner, we usually think that the solution to the problem is for THEM to change their behavior.  However, those with emotional intelligence skills understand that you can also get your partner to change sometimes by modifying how YOU respond to what they do. This may have immediate impact on them and on the argument. In fact, it may stop the argument dead in its tracks. It may also impact how your partner behaves in the future.

In our example, if Gary had hugged Brooke and acknowledged  her for all her work in preparing the meal, can you imagine there may have been a different outcome? If Brooke had responded to Gary’s refusal in a less hostile way, would that have made a difference? Maybe. The odds certainly would have improved.

Successful couples sometimes experiment and try different ways of responding to each other until they find a way to “fine-tune” their communication and learn to interact with each other to elicit cooperativeness instead of defiance, rebellion, or passive-aggression.

Being mindfulness of the affect that your response is going to have on your partner is another skill of emotional intelligence that should be practiced daily- but only by those who want a more peaceful and less conflictual relationship!

Emotional intelligence skills are central to our approach to both anger management and couples therapy. Two of the most important emotional intelligence skill that we teach are empathy and social awareness. To learn more, we suggest:angrcoach or angecoachonline.com

Can a Relationship Survive Anger?

Contrary to popular opinion (even among professionals), anger isn’t necessarily bad or destructive to a relationship. All couples have conflicts and frustrations. It is not the anger itself that separates successful couples from other couples. Rather, what separates them is how anger is handled and how the partners communicate with each other while angry over the issues that bother them.

For instance, communicating with sarcasm or contempt are very destructive modes of communication that will bring down a relationship if done too often or too intensely. Another very destructive pattern of anger is something called passive-aggressive where the hostility is kept undercover, but the partner “gets even” with the other with snide remarks, emotional withdrawal, or underhanded actions which sabotage the other.

On the other hand, research shows that communicating anger in a straightforward way can be healthy for a relationship, as long as it is done correctly. For instance, successful couples use what is known as a “soft startup” which does not antagonize the other causing them to stop listening to you.

Furthermore, successful couples have the ability to complain but not criticize the other over an issue that is bothering them. Registering a complaint can be  healthy for a marriage, but attacking the character of your partner(criticizing)  over the issue is not.

As we teach in our anger management classes and in our online anger programs, successful relationships depend on partners having learnable skills to make the relationship successful. Among these is the skill of expressing and communicating anger in ways that resolve the conflict, that don’t drive an emotional wedge between the partners, and that allow both partners to feel better about things later.

 

AngerCoach Show – Episode #15 – Peace at any price?

This month we discuss the whether the concept of “Peace at any price” is really valid when dealing with issues that come up in marriage. When dealing with problems in any relationship, assertive communication will often yield better results because it communicates feelings better than simply “clamming up”.

“Peace At Any Price” is Often The Wrong Strategy

Jeffrey was a beleaguered husband. Married for 15 years, he reported that his wife criticized him for nearly everything without giving him any recognition or credit for the good things he did for her and the family. He felt he could do nothing right, despite the fact that he was a very good provider, he was very engaged with his children, he was well-respected in his community and he had never done anything “awful” to her in their fifteen years together. Yet, he says he gets yelled at or criticized for all kinds  of little things like forgetting to take out some trash on trash pickup day, not answering one of her questions correctly or quickly enough, asking for sex after a 60 day dry spell, or forgetting to pick up supplies at a store for their son needed for a school project.

When I asked him how he responded to her, he replied : ” I just keep quiet most of the time, but then I blow up every once in a while when I can’t take it anymore.” At this point, he maintains that his wife accuses him of being both “passive aggressive,” and also having “anger control issues.” When asked what he thought about that, he replies: “I often clam up because I just want to keep the peace.” When asked how well that strategy is working, he had to admit that often his silence or withdrawal makes things worse.

Assertive Communication
In therapy we are teaching this husband the skill of assertive communication in dealing with his obviously angry wife. Assertive communication is Tool Number 5 in our 8-tools model of anger management used in our local classes and our online anger programs. In marriage, it means respectfully but firmly standing up for yourself by communciating how you feel and what your limits are for tolerating disrespecful behavior from your partner. Asserting yourself also means to calmly and rationally explain your point of view on things and the fact that you have a right to your opinion also. To be assertive, Jeffrey needed to learn how to honestly tell his partner how her remarks or criticism makes him feel and how  it creates more emotional distance in the marriage.

Finally, assertive behavior clearly communicates what you will or won’t tolerate in the future and involves giving alternatives of communicating that will work better for you. For instance, “your sarcasm turns me off and makes me not want to do it; but, if you ask me nicely, I’ll be more than happy to do it.”

What Assertive Communciation Is  NOT
Many people confuse assertive behavior with aggression or being “mean” to their partner. Nothing could be further from the truth! Assertive yourself DOES NOT mean attacking back, name-calling, getting revenge, becoming aggressive, threatening, or making wild accusations. It simply means honestly communicating how you feel, how their behavior is affecting you, and how you would want them to communicate to you differently. It also gives the message  that you deserve respect in the relationship, just as your partner does.

People who practice “peace at any price” instead of assertiveness in relationships often build resentment which then “explodes” periodically or creates emotional distance in the relationship. It is the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge, yet it is there. As I tell my clients and I explain in our online marriage class program, you can be honest now and deal with it( even if it is painful), or put it off and deal with it later(again, it may be painful), but deal with it you must at some point in time. Of course, sometimes it IS best to let thing slide, but doing so for long periods of time allowing resentment and frustration to build often makes things worse.

Assert yourself before Peace At Any Price turns into War Without Borders!

Can’t change your partner? Try Looking in The Mirror!

Anger is an emotion. But, angry emotions often trigger a specific behavior (like yelling, throwing things, hitting, insulting someone, etc) which causes problems for you either at home, at work, on the road, or in your family. Most people in our anger classes tell us that one of the reasons they exhibit the angry behavior is because they want to change someone or something, they want somebody to think a certain way (or not)  or to do something (or not).

That is another way of saying that the angry person is trying to somehow “influence” the behavior or thinking of another. Unfortunately, angry behavior usually does not work; even if it does, the cost is so high that it almost always just isn’t worth it. We teach that there are better ways to influence others without getting angry or antagonizing others. But, where to start?

Questions to ask yourself:
The place to start is by looking in the mirror. As painful as it might be, ask yourself if you are behaving in ways that increase the probability of getting what you need and want from your partner? In other words, you have a lot more influence than you might think in terms of getting different responses from your partner. Ask yourself, how do other partners behave that do get what they want or need? (I know what you are thinking: “The reason they get more of what they need is because they have a better partner.” That may be true, or partially true,  but it also may not be. So, better to first ask, “Do I behave like people that do get more of what they want or need ” and then see what happens if you change.

Case study
Jose and Maria have been married for ten years. Jose has his own business; Maria is a stay- at- home mom. Jose sees Maria as lazy because she often does not prepare meals regularly, she does not clean the house up to Jose’s standards, and she often is too exhausted to do fun things in the evenings. Worse, according to Jose, Maria rarely ackowledges his great contributions to the marriage (he is very successful in business, and he is a good dad) ), she rarely shows affection, and praise of any kind is very rarely given.

Jose handles his frustration by yelling at Maria, calling her horrible names related to laziness, and accusing her of using a diagnosis of depression as an excuse for  not doing the things, in his mind,  she should  be doing. As I asked Jose in one of our sessions, what does he think the probability is of getting her to do more around the house by yelling, calling her names, and criticizing? Research shows, I told him,  that yelling, name-calling and criticizing decreases the probability of change in partners.

Jose decided to try to change things by applying the tool of  Respond Instead of React (The third tool of anger management in our system- Video; Respond Instead of React). Next morning, the kids were screaming, he needed help and his wife was still in bed. But, instead of yelling at her as usual, he went upstairs and calmly told her, “Honey, I need your help. I am overwhelmed down here.” Guess what? Maria at first did not stir, but five minutes later she came down the stairs and pitched in. Now this was not an earth-shaking change, but it was a start and it meant a lot to Jose.

There are ways to influence the behavior of someone that work much better than other ways. These ways can be called “relationship habits.” Just like you should copy the golf swings habits of golf champions if you want to improve your golf game, or the financial habits of very successful people if you want more financial success, you should copy the habits of those that may be more successful in relationships than you may be. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks- and often they should!

Related Articles and Blogs:

How to tank your relationship – Part 1
How to tank you relationship – Part 2
How to tank your relationship – Part 3

    Anger in your relationship? Guys: Before Trying To Fix, Just Listen

    In our local anger management classes, we regularly hear from clients as to what causes anger in their  relationships. Recently a young woman revealed that “99% of our fights occur because my husband tried to fix what is bothering me.” At this point, the males in the class were astounded that this woman could be upset because her husband was trying to help her with a problem. After all, isn’t that what a good husband is supposed to do? Here is what happened:

    Wife (who was home all day with their three young children) to husband home from work: “The kids were horrible today. I can’t get little Tommy to do his homework, Jessica is always whining and Andrea always has to get her way.”

    Husband: Do you know what your problem is? Lack of organization with the kids. I have been thinking about it and here is my plan for you to solve these problems with the kids.

    fixing husband

    He then proceeds to lay out the whole plan.

    Wife: (now feeling defensive because she is hearing his response as critical, demeaning and unsupportive:) “You think I haven’t thought of all those things? Do you think it is easy to parent three children? You can leave every day and get away from it and then come prancng home like a hero. That really pisses me off! ”

    Husband (who is completely flummoxed at her anger because he sees his response as logical, helpful and supportive. He loves his wife and wants to help her not be so frustrated at the end of the day.He also wants to come up with new solutions so she will look up to him) : ” Well, if that is how you feel, why do you ask me for advice to begin with? I’m just trying to help!”

    Wife: ” I DIDN’T ask you for advice. I was just sharing my day with you. I just wanted you to listen and also to help me with the family stress now that you are home. “

    Sound familiar? This scenario and similar variations of it commonly occur in otherwise good relationships, as well as in disturbed relationships. In our society many males are taught that it is their responsibility to “fix” things that are not right in his family and in his marriage. Problem is, sometimes while he is “fixing” (and being a good guy in his own mind), he is  is being seen by his partner as “controlling,” invalidating, or intending to make her feel “less than.”

    Often conflict can be avoided if “fixer-husbands” can learn to sometimes just listen instead of immediately jumping with  solution to the problem or issue. Not that they should never come with solutions; instead, they should wait until they are ASKED for solutions or help. Until then, just being supportive and empathetic to your partner’s issues can go a long way toward relationship harmony. Click on the following short video to help you understand the power of empathy in relationships.

    Empathy as an Anger Management Skill

    How To Tank Your Relationship- Lesson 2

    blackandwhitethinking

    In our last blog, we taught you Lesson 1 of how to tank your relationship: React to bad behavior by your partner  in way that indicates that you think they are 100% wrong and you are 100% right. Then assume that there is only one way (your way) to view or look at the situation, so there is no need to try to see things from the perspective of your partner.

    Today we continue with our lessons on how to tank a relationship- just in case Lesson #1 hasn’t worked for you yet:

    How to tank your relationship: Lesson 2- Handle anger toward each other poorly.

    african american couple fighting

    To tank your relationship, get “stuck” in your anger either as the partner with the original anger or as the partner who is on the receiving end of anger. Either way, getting stuck in anger can quickly turn to  disgust. Eventually, you might even get to contempt for your partner which is a deathblow to most relationships. With a contemptuous attitude, you don’t even bother to get angry back at your partner because you tell yourself “I won’t stoop to my partner’s level by getting angry.”  So you stonewall (don’t talk at all to your partner), become passive-aggressive (get back at your partner in a sneaky way), or emotionally shut-down.

    Fact is, research on successful couples (as described in a book by marital therapist Brent J. Atkinson called “Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy”) shows that anger itself is not a dangerous emotion for marriages. Many highly successful couples regularly blow up at each other. Blow-ups are not necessarily destructive (within limits). Rather, partners getting stuck in their resentment for having been attacked is an equally serious  issue that brings down a marriage.

    That is because when a person fails to stand up forcefully when feeling disregarded or criticized harshly, they almost always harbor resentment and in internal attitude of contempt (That is, they think of themselves as “better”  in some sense than their exploding partner.) And, as mentioned above, having contempt toward your partner is a very serious problem in terms of longevity of the relationship.

    Caution: Only read the next paragraph if you have decided NOT to tank your relationship:

    So, what is the healthy way to handle anger in a relationship? First, if you are the primary angry partner, learn to communicate better and deal with normal angry feelings more effectively without destroying your partner or the relationship in the process. There are many ways to handle anger so that you get a better result and you get more of what you truly want from your partner! These techniques (including something called a “softer startup”)  are what we teach in local anger management classes as well as in our online distance-learning program.

    Second, you do not have to suffer in silence if you are in relationship with a person who handles their anger poorly.  The trick is to stand up for yourself and deal with the issue rather than “stuffing it” and building resentment through the years. (Of course, do not put yourself in a dangerous situation by standing up for yourself with a truly raging or violent partner).

    Research strongly shows that partners of people who act badly in any way (including anger) have more influence than they think on future occurrences of that bad behavior by their spouse. You do not have to tolerate it and can even change it to some extent if you do the right things.

    How To Tank Your Relationship – Lesson 1

    tanking relationship

    Miguel has just gotten off the telephone with his buddies with whom he made arrangements to play basketball Saturday morning. Unfortunately, he did not discuss this first with Maria who obviously is very upset over this. From her point of view, Miguel often makes plans independently, just as if he was still a single guy. She had other plans for them Saturday morning and now she has to re-plan her whole day. Worse, she wanted more time with Miguel and was looking forward to it this weekend. Miguel, on the other hand, doesn’t have a clue as to why Maria is so upset. To him what he did was “business as usual.” Besides, he felt that a man shouldn’t have to get “permission” from his wife to play basketball with his buddies.

    With this blog, we begin a series of reports on how to tank your relationship.  Researchers now know which habits predict relationship success and which predict disaster, so we herein present a tutorial on what to do to increase the probability that  your relationship won’t succeed or that you will never get from your partner what you need.

    On the other hand, if you learn how to respond differently to your partner (that is, use better relationship habits)  when you feel that he or she is not treating you well, you might just start seeing changes in both your partner and in your relationship.

    In our example, it is obvious that Miguel  acted in a way that Maria saw as selfish and, from Maria’s perspective, he should have talked to her  before he made his plans. But, partners often act  in ways that the other sees as selfish, uncaring, misguided or just plain wrong. (Miguel  sees the situation very differently, as he has a different perspective). May marriage survive and even thrive with one or both partners having these negative traits. So, it is not the traits  themselves that tank a marriage.

    According to marriage research, because of this difference in perspective,  what causes additional damage to the relationship is how Maria responds to Miguel’s behavior (and how Miguel responds to Maria’s upset).  So, let’s now look at different ways Maria could handle the situation:

    HOW TO TANK THE RELATIONSHIP: Lesson 1–   If Maria wants to cause more relationship damage and decrease the chances that Miguel will change, she should repeatedly do the following:

    • Take the attitude that Miguel did what he did because he was selfish, uncaring, or immature.
    • Take the attitude that he did not care enough for her to think about it before he made his plans with his friends.
    • Assume that there is a clear “right” and “wrong” way to deal with same-gender friends and same-gender activities when in a marriage.
    • Seeing Miguel as the whole problem instead of seeing the issue as  their having different opinions, priorities or ways of navigating life.

    Alternatively, Maria can respond differently and increase the probability that Miguel won’t do this again in the future, if she does the following. These are relationship “habits” that research has found are related to better success.

    • She should avoid jumping to conclusions and keep an open mind, asking Miguel calmly why he did what he did.
    • Hear Miguel out and refrain from disputing or debating what he was saying before he was able to explain fully.
    • Tell Miguel in a loving way that she feels hurt and unloved when he makes plans without including her and she would appreciate it if he did not do that in the future.
    • Rather than criticizing Miguel, ask him to work with her to find a solution that takes both  perspectives of the situation into account.

    In our next blog, Lesson #2 on ways to tank your relationship and how to avoid that outcome, if you wish.

    Why don’t some marital problems change?

    Having been a marital therapist and psychologist for many years, I often wonder at the amazing ability some couples have to NOT change. These couples are often intelligent, reasonable people in other areas of their life, but nonetheless become gridlocked with each other around certain marital issues. Issues in this category are called “perpetual” issues by marital researchers; all couples have them, but not all couples fight or conflict over them.

    Some couples find ways to either solve the problem or find ways to live with each other around it. What about the other couples? The ones that get stuck? Why don’t they  do what they know they should do to avoid conflict around the issues that get them into trouble? The simple answer is that they often times do not want to. Change requires both skills to change and sufficient motivation to do so. Stuck couples  are often locked into ways of thinking that prevents them from moving out of conflict into resolution.

    self talk

    Some common thought patterns that prevent change:

    • I don’t really want to get closer to my partner. I just want to complain about my partner and keep them at a distance.
    • I like the role of victim.
    • I enjoy feeling superior and looking down on my partner.
    • I like feeling angry and bitter.
    • Our problems are all your fault, so why should I have to change?
    • I’m right and you are wrong.
    • You’re such a stubborn, self-centered jerk that nothing could possibly work. Why should I bother to try?

    Do any of these thought patterns look familiar to you? Can you identify with any of them? Seems to me that couples who really want to improve things will work at changing these and other beliefs that prevent the change from occurring.  Often a special kind of therapist called a “cognitive-behavior therapist” can help you identify and change these and other thought patterns.

    For self-help, I would also recommend a book called “The Feeling Good Handbook” by Dr. David Burns.This book is full of practical, helpful suggestions to improve your life and your marriage.

    In summary, it has been my experience that many couples could improve their marriage, if they really wanted to and they were willing to do the necessary work to do so. Looking more deeply at the roots of the resistance to change on either your part or your partner’s part can go a long way helping things along.

    Anger and Intimacy: Part 2- Betrayal

    marital betrayal

    Few things shake the foundation of a marriage more than perceived betrayal of one partner by the other. It seems that lately, in my practice at least, the betrayal is more in the direction of husband not being able to accept what they see as betrayal by their wife, but it certainly works both ways!

    Betrayal, of course, is a matter of definition and expectations to begin with. The range of behaviors that may be classified as “betrayal” may include

    • innocent things like talking with your parents about your marital issues
    • revealing marital frustrations to an opposite-sex  co-worker over frequent lunches or text messages,
    • kissing someone else at a party after 3 martinis, while basically ignoring your partner
    • actually having a physical affair with someone.

    Do People who Betray See Themselves as Cheating?
    Some people who engage in these and other similar activities feel like they are indeed betraying their partners while others do not feel that way at all until “caught” by their partner.  Regardless of their own perception of their behavior, their partners are often devastated when they find out, even though they my have been poor marriage partners to begin with.  This is often because many married people expect loyalty and faithfulness from their partners regardless of the lack of emotional connection between them, regardless of how badly one of both act in the marriage, or regardless of their own contributions to marital misery.

    What Happens when Betrayal Is Discovered?

    For the non-cheating partner, discovery of betrayal often leads to complete lack of trust, emotional hurt, anger and strong feelings of retribution or emotional punishment of the other. To preserve the relationship, forgiveness is a skill that is most often needed, but often beyond reach. In our anger management classes we teach the benefit of forgiveness as well as the skills to forgive, but many people cannot forgive or trust again after perceived betrayal. Statistically, only a small percentages of marriage survive physical betrayal of one partner by the other.

    For the accused, discovery of betrayal often leads to intense feelings of guilt and/or shame. The accused also often becomes very defensive and justifies what they did by listing all the problems in the marriage or in their partner which lead them to the betrayal in the first place.

    Should the Betraying Partner Be Forgiven?

    Of course, every person has to answer that question for themselves. Some people are incapable of getting past it, while others could if they tried harder and had stronger commitment to do it. Here are some things that you can do that many couples find helpful:

    • Try putting it in a broader context. Ask yourself why your and your partner lost emotional connection with each other. You don’t have to see the betrayal as a character flaw in either yourself or your partner; if you wish, you can elect to see it as an indicator of a deeper problem in the relationship.
    • Ask yourself how strongly motivated you are to repair the marriage. There are many skills you can acquire to get to forgiveness and improve your marriage, , but none of them will work for you if you don’t want to forgive your partner or you don’t really want to improve your marriage. Ask yourself honestly if there are more advantages to NOT forgiving than to actually forgiving. On the other hand, if you see more benefit in forgiving and improving your marriage than in remaining angry, resentful and bitter, you will forgive and work on improving things.

    What Can the Accused Partner Do?
    The accused partner can also do many things to repair the marriage, but again, you have to want to and you have to  be willing to do some hard work to pull things back together. Following are just some examples of what it may take to recover from being seen as a betraying partner by your wounded spouse:

    • If you did betray your partner, start by asking for forgiveness and commit to not doing it again.
    • If in your eyes you did not betray your partner, discuss with your partner what your expectations are of each other and what each of you consider  appropriate behavior for a married person in different situations.  Try to agree on these expectations of each other. Many times a therapist is needed to help you sort-out these issues.
    • Start a program of trust-building behaviors so your partner can start trusting you again (e. g. let them know where you are at all times, take offending phone numbers off your cell phone, etc).
    • Find ways to improve your sexual  life with each other so that you both feel more secure and more bonded with each other in this important aspect of your marriage.

    Can you change an insecure, jealous spouse?

    young angry woman pointing finger

    Thirty-eight year old Lisa (a stay at home mom) was absolutely convinced that Jose, her husband of five years, was cheating on her. She secretly checked his cell phone messages daily, timed how long it took him to return her numerous calls during the day when he was out of town on business, and constantly monitored his facebook and myspace entries.  If he left the house to shop, she yelled at him on his return that “that was just an excuse to meet a girl in the park.”  If he even glanced in the direction of a female when they were out together she accused him of “wanting” her.  When they made love, and it ended too quickly for her, she yelled at Jose for “wanting to get it over with so you can be with your girlfriend.”

    In therapy, Jose pleaded innocence and stated with absolute conviction that had never been unfaithful to Lisa. When pressed for concrete evidence, even Lisa had to admit that she had none, despite  her obsession with finding such evidence.

    Mood Setter In House
    Jose was tortured

    Jose was a tortured man. He felt he could no longer put up with the daily unfounded accusations of his wife, yet he loved his three children and did not want to cause them to grew up in a broken home, as he had as a boy. So, he tried to cope as best he could, but everything he tried seemed to make the situation worse.

    What can both Jose and Lisa do to help the situation? While there are no easy answers to complex problems  like this, the following guidelines may be helpful, which we teach both in individual and marriage therapy, as  well as in our anger management classes.

    Guidlines for Jose:

    • Assuming his innocence, it is not up to Jose to “fix” Lisa. Most of the time, this is not even possible. Lisa has to fix Lisa, probably with outside professional help.
    • Jose may have to decide if he feels he can cope with his wife, or if she is too “toxic” for him to continue the relationship. Sometimes “anger management” requires protecting ourselves from toxic people in our lives before common arguments turn into domestic violence.
    • Jose should focus not so much on defending himself from his wife’s verbal assaults, as on re-assuring her that he loves her.
    • Jose should find ways to make her feel more secure in the relationship.
    • Joe should find ways to increase trust with Lisa by being open constantly about his whereabouts, his activities, and his associations.

    Guidelines for Lisa:

    • Lisa has deep feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. She probably will need therapy to overcome these issues. She should not be defensive or feel shameful about needing therapy. Her problem stems from childhood experiences which will require a competent professional to help her sort out.
    • Lisa should increase  self-confidence by finding things in life to help her feel better about herself such as getting more education, acquiring job skills, and developing healthy friendships with other women and couples to serve as positive role-models in her life.

    Couples Reduce Anger By Sharing Tasks

    Together but apart

    Married for 10 years, Mary and Joe rarely argued, yet were slowly drifting apart from each other, each feeling emotionally distanced from the other. Underneath their emotional distance was anger, but it was “hidden” and lived as resentment, passive-aggression toward the other, and emotional detachment. In therapy, it was learned that a fairly common patterns of estrangement had developed between Mary and  Joe who at one time were deeply in love with each other.

    The pattern started with Mary not doing what Joe considered to be her share of the household chores. She worked only part-time while Joe rose at 4AM every day, worked until 2PM and then came home and did all the housework, the yardwork, and then often started dinner. She spent much of her time with her family of origin and her friends. Joe slowly developed resentment toward Mary for having to “do it all.” He complained to her, but she didn’t see what the problem was. Her attitude toward household chores and standards of cleanliness were much more relaxed than his:

    “So will the world stop turning if we do the laundry this weekend instead of today?” was a common Mary retort while looking at mountains of dirty clothes. Joe,  meanwhile,  was smoldering inside because of what he saw as her “laziness” and irresponsibility.

    After awhile, he stopped complaining and simply stuffed his negative feelings toward Mary, while continuing to do almost all of the household chores.   But, he found himself losing sexual interest in her, which greatly wounded Mary who placed a high value on being sexually attractive to her husband. Of course, sexual deprivation led to further emotional distance and estrangement between them.

    The Solution?

    Agreement on Division of Labor
    Agreement on Division of Labor

    Often the problem is the other way around: many married woman justifiably complain that they too work yet are expected to do their “second job” once they get home at night.

    Either way, a major breakthrough can be achieved by a  couple sitting down with a pencil and paper, listing all the household chores, drawing a vertical line down the center of the paper, and deciding who is going to do what and when it will be done.And then doing it!!

    Sound like a simple solution? As we teach in our local anger management classes, our online anger program, and our local clinical clients (in marriage therapy with us), many times simple practical changes in how a couple does things often snowballs into other, more substantial changes in the relationship. Of course, there were more problems than just division of labor between Mary and Joe, but once Mary started doing more of the home tasks, Joe’s resentment lessened and his sexual interest in Mary picked up. This, of course, motivated Mary to try even harder to do more of her share of household chores.

    Do they now have a perfect marriage? Of course not, but they are happier, have less conflict, and are feeling closer to each other.