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Episode 36, Enjoying a Happy & Healthy Marriage, Even in Difficult Parenting Situations
In This Episode:
Parenting can get really stressful at times, especially if you have difficult circumstances. Kids are so very different in regards to their strengths and special needs. And, some situations are definitely more difficult than others. Some children really require a specialized set of skills, as well as an environment that helps them function. For example, parents of kids with ADHD really benefit from having patience and parenting strategies that help their child focus and to minimize impulsive behaviors, as well as helping their child with organization skills. While other parents of a child with early childhood trauma, need lots of understanding about how trauma works and how best to respond. Difficult situations lend themselves to parenting disagreement, which can strain a marriage. On today’s episode, we’re going to discuss the 4 predictors of divorce and how to not only prevent divorce by make your marriage more enjoyable, even when you have a perpetual problem like how to parent. Unfortunately, some parents become gridlocked on this issue and sometimes lead to divorce.
I’m strongly influenced my level 3 training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. This is a type of therapy that is based on research from thousands of couples. It the very best type of marriage therapy available, in my opinion. So if you are considering couples therapy for your relationship, consider finding a therapist trained in Gottman Therapy. Your time will be used more efficiently and your therapeutic treatment will be designed around your custom needs. It starts with assessment, then the creation of a treatment plan, and interventions to address specific areas that are problematic. It tends to be a bit more expensive than your traditional therapy approach, because the sessions are usually longer (I provide 90 minute sessions) and more in depth. It is much cheaper than divorce though, and much less painful for everyone involved.
Here are some important parts of Gottman Method Couples Therapy:
5 Positives to 1 Negative Ratio Keeps a Marriage Healthy
When a partner makes a “bid for connection” (attempting to connect with your partner in some way) there are 3 options: Turn Toward / Turn Away / Turn Against. Turning Toward is ultimately what makes marriages flourish throughout the years. On the other hand, Turning Away and Turning Against may lead to the bids slowing down or quitting altogether. And, that looks like a marriage that feels like you’re living with a stranger or a roommate. So accept the bids for connection, even if it’s your parther showing you a pic on their phone or a quick smile. And, physically turn toward your partner. This is true for parenting too. It’s send the message of “I’m interested in you.” and “You are important to me.” This is a biggie.
Gottman Research provides us with 4 predictors of divorce or an unhappy relationship and their antidotes, aka 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse:
1. Criticism: This is really attacking one’s character, who they are and what they stand for. It can start out sounding like a complaint, but quickly transform into a hurtful form of communication that can be difficult to heal from. This can cut deep, especially if it’s done on a repeated basis. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blaming your partner. To be clear, complaining can be healthy, but not when it take s the form of criticism. Without complaining we put our self at risks for resentment about things that are unexpressed and bothering us. It can cause us to get bitter and shift into “negative sentiment override” – when your negatives about your partner overpower the positives. It may sound like, “You always scream at him during homework time.” The antidote may sound like “I’m feeling frustrated about homework time. Can we please discuss ways to help him focus?”
2. Defensiveness: This can be a way of a partner defending themselves against an attack that they believe is coming. In an indirect way, it can be a form of blaming your partner. The antidote for defensiveness is for you to take blame for part of the problem. “It’s not my fault that she’s failing school, it’s your fault for not helping her with her homework.” The antidote may sound like, “Well, part of this is on me. I could’ve helped her with her homework too.”
3. Contempt: This can start as a criticism, but it takes a deeper, more painful level with actions such as name calling and putting down your partner in a global way, attacking their overall personality or being. It’s really like sending the message of “I’m superior to you” and it can take the form of mockery, cynicism, sarcasm and an overall degrading tone. It can be really hurtful. The antidote to contempt is really shifting into a culture or respect and appreciation for your partner. This may sound like, “You are the worst parent ever.” The antidote may sound like “This parenting stuff is hard. I’m glad we have each other to handle this together as a team.”
4. Stonewalling: Having no response to your partner’s actions, whether good or bad. Shutting down and withdrawing from the interaction in an unresponsive way to send a message to your partner that I am not even taking in what you’re doing or saying. It’s like speaking to a stone wall. This can escalate emotions quickly and leave people feeling gridlocked because processing of the information halts and feelings of resentment can set in heavy. The antidote to this is to self-soothe and really pay attention to your body and learn ways to calm it down to reduce the likelihood that it gets to the point of stonewalling. The antidote to this is to take a 20 minute or more calming break and use self-soothing techniques such as deep belly breathing, counting and distraction. Also, it’s helpful when partners express that they are flooded and need a break. This can make a big difference. We do this in therapy as well. I have the couple where pulse meters to measure their physiological responses.
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