Marriage & Couples

Understanding Your Spouse or Significant Other

What would happen in your marriage if you understood your partner?

Being understood is one of the primary longings we have in marriage.  We wish our partner would understand what we think and why, how we feel, and what our hopes and dreams are.  But sometimes in the process of living a busy life together we end up functioning well as a couple (paying the bills, getting groceries, running the errands) but not feeling understood in the most important areas of our personal lives.

What is understanding, anyway?  This is one of those subjective things that many people only qualify when they feel it.  “He gets me,” “she understands me,” “he knows me so well,” “she’s got me tagged.”  You know when you feel understood by someone and when you don’t it can feel like something is missing.

Here are 3 Keys to better understanding:

  1. What is the core point your partner is trying to get across?  Understanding is not agreeing.  You can understand your partner’s position or conviction about something and still freely have a different perspective.  But what is their perspective?  If you restated their perspective would they say you got it?  But understanding goes farther – it is understanding why they have the position in the first place.  This is where your spouse feels like you not only understand them but that you have their back.  Understanding your partner is the starting point to being the strongest advocate.  And having an advocate feels good.
  2. What is important to them might not be important to you.   But that shouldn’t matter.  Partnership means just that – two interests together into a combined unity.  Unity does not remove individual insights and interests.  It provides a safe place for them to grow.  When you understand what is important to your partner and that begins to figure in your decision-making in the family you will gain more cooperation and compatibility from them than you could ever imagine.  They begin to feel like you have their interests in mind because you do.
  3. Making them feel important.  When we understand our partner’s core perspective on things and value what is important to them they feel like they are important to you.  This is so critical because a chief complaint among conflicting couples is that they no longer feel like they are a priority to their spouse.  And trying to buy flowers on top of the other person not feeling important will get you nowhere.

We have incredible opportunities every day to understand our partner, value their perspective, and make them feel important.  What will you do to show you understand them today?

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What Would Happen in Your Marriage if You Really Forgave?

This is Part I of a 3-part series Titled “What Would Happen in Your Marriage if…”

If you really forgave what would happen in your marriage?  Well, if you forgave a single incident or event would it really stick?  Would it really matter in your marriage?  Would it have an effect?

How about this.

What if you really forgave?  Forgiving single and isolated incidents almost has a taste of superiority to it.  You have to ask yourself if your forgiving there really draws you back to your spouse and reconnects you or does it just ingratiate them to you temporarily until the next offense.  Then the accounting of forgiving begins.  Reminding them how many times you gave them a break.

You want things to be better with your spouse, more connected, more happy.  Becoming a forgiving person is something we all really long for – to be able to go off duty, not keep score, to really see and address the wrong with authenticity and directness but with the intent of forgiveness.

What Forgiveness is not

1.  Forgiveness does not fear.  Being afraid to face what is really going on in your relationship and labelling it “forgiveness” will not remove the problem but likely make it worse.  Chaos, confusion, and deception breed in the fertile ground of fear.  One way to test this is to see if your forgiveness brings more clarity to a situation or more confusion.

2.  Forgiveness is not isolated.  A characteristic of abuse is isolating the person so they have no social support from family or friends.  If you have something to forgive I would think your close family and friends probably know and understand.  But if you have been isolated this causes more problems that forgiveness will not solve.

3.  Forgiveness is not waiting.  What are you waiting for?  If forgiveness is in your hand what is keeping you from extending it?  Or is it really a conditional forgiveness and so you’re waiting for the conditions to be met before you forgive?

What Forgiveness is

1.  Forgiveness is eye-to-eye contact.  It is direct.  We know so many things by looking people in the eye.  This seems to address the wrong as well as the sincerity to let it go.

2.  Forgiveness is connected.  It reconnects you with the one who hurt you.  It hits the restart button.  However, some people do have trouble accepting forgiveness.  But on your end it can help you love better.  The other part of connected here is that anyone else familiar with the situation is often positively affected when you forgive.

3.  Forgiveness is active.  Go.  Forgive.  It ends the brooding.  The resentment.  The past.  It restarts today.  Somehow there is this internal emotional, mental, spiritual, physical feeling of building up such that you can’t stand the issue anymore and you must let go of resentment and go and forgive.

What could really happen in your marriage if you started becoming a forgiving person? 

On Wednesday:  What would happen in your marriage if you understood?

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How to Communicate with Your Spouse

How to communicate with your spouse is a must-have for couples. Poor communication breeds mistrust. There are three principles that will improve talking with your spouse.

1) Non-verbal communication is important. Non-verbal communication is our posture, eye gazing, facial reactions, and tone of voice.   It’s how we feel towards each other – our affect.  In every interaction we are reading each other.  We have this amazing network of nerves in our body called the Vagus nerve.  It connects different parts of the organs and brain as well as facial muscles.  When we talk with each other our bodies are reading all this information at the same time.  This is where our gut instinct can tell us that something is off between what is said and what is felt.

2) Give and receive. This is not attack and defend. Good communication is when you both can give and receive from each other. Any feelings of defensiveness or knee-jerk reactions block communication. If you expect your partner to receive your feedback or opinion you need to be able to receive theirs as well. Think of the “information” piece here as something personal about your feelings – rather than “information” about how you perceive your spouse has failed in some way. Another way to give to each other is to validate each other’s feelings. This is not pacifying the other person. Validation is where you value what the other person feels. Validation is something to give and receive, not demand or take.

3) Be close. Verbal communication is great but you need to be physically close.  When you are physically present with each other you can see the reactions, feelings, and the mood in each other’s body. Being close helps you to be physically close, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and romantically. Text, email, and electronic means is limited. Marriage is important, it deserves attention and closeness.

Talking with each other is really a gift to offer. But it does take consistency and intentionality to improve it.

What is one way you can offer communication to your spouse tonight?

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Valentine’s Special Part 3 – Making a Future Together

Making a future together as a couple and as a family starts one day at a time, one routine at a time.  These don’t have to be huge performances to mean something and create memories.  The everyday routines and rituals couples have together are how they connect in small steps that lead to a lifetime of satisfaction and health.  Do your routines include each other?  Having separate routines is necessary to take care of yourself but in a couple relationship there must be routines and rituals that include each other and if there are kids, additional routines that include all members of the family.  These would be some examples: Continue Reading

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Valentine’s Special Part 2 – Understanding Your Partner’s Feelings

I’m watching the Olympics pairs skating with my wife right now.  They skate so perfectly, in unison, making it look easy and strong and graceful.  All of these incredible moves and they’re both kicking their legs at the same time, spinning together, parting and returning to each other with sensual embraces.  The passion and intensity.  They both look healthy, rested and fit.  The commentators are in awe, “Look at that elevation, it’s absolutely fantastic!  Here’s their rotation – PERFECT!  Watch their emotion and connection with each other – it’s dazzling!” Lovely bows and kisses to the cheering crowd.  Leaving the ice with roses thrown at their feet.  And, all in HD.  But this one Olympic performance did not include the years of hard work, the training, the cost, the highs and lows and disappointments in self and each other.  That’s why I also enjoy the side stories on the athletes and what their real life is like.  This is easier to identify with.  Instead of perfect feelings we see they’re human just like us.  But understanding each other’s feelings does not have to be complex. Continue Reading

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Valentine’s Special (3-part series) – #1 The Couple Friendship

This is Valentine’s week so we’ll be looking at three parts of a successful relationship:  friendship, emotions, and making a future together.   Let’s start with friendship.   (This information was adapted from Dr. John M. Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman, Bridging the Couple Chasm, 2000-2011).

We all have stress throughout the day and week.  How we handle that affects us in our relationship.  Couples that greet each other several times a week and talk about the events of the day tend to be less lonely and are able to create buffers to their stresses.  How about the romantic spark in each other?  Humor?  Feeling heard and understood?  Dropping your guard?  Picture coming home to your castle and taking off the armor.  This is comforting, reconnects us, and makes us allies.  Talking about the events of the day also calms and prepares us to face together the demands of kids who are bringing home a busload of stress themselves.  Committed couples can even do this from a distance when one is out of town, just simply touching base with each other and giving support.  Difficulty here can cause us to feel vulnerable to the stresses we face and result in feeling disconnected from each other, disliking each other, and feeling lonely. Continue Reading

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Valentine’s Day – Dating Your Spouse

Dating is essential to the life and longevity of a marriage.  When was the last time you and your spouse went out?  I know that prior to marriage most of us are crafting dates (or hoping for them) that are “Wow! experiences” designed to capture our prey (or get captured).  Dating does not go out of style in long-standing relationships although the nature of them does change.  It seems that dating is still that chemistry inside the institution of marriage where we return to the good manners of being men and women to each other and the values that brought us together in the first place.  That’s a good place to elaborate… first place.  Her, being first place. Continue Reading

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Self-Esteem in Couples

One of the best ways to build esteem in each other in a committed relationship is through acceptance.  Accepting who your partner is at their core, in their character and history.  The events that shaped them and their feelings about those events.  Acceptance is not passive but active.  Acceptance is taking the simple positives of our partner and highlighting them in kind ways both privately and publicly.  It means being constantly curious about what made them who they are and expressing that in happy ways.  Recently one of my daughters (aged 6) said, “I can’t wait for Mommy to get home, I’m going to paint with her!”  I responded, “You’re excited!  Yeah, Mommy is great at crafts, she loves it.”  My wife’s sister had shared with me some time earlier that Jill loved crafts as a little girl.  I am learning to roll with the enormous mess that comes with creativity in our house and knowing Jill’s love for this art gives me an opportunity support her as well as esteem her in front of our children.  I hope I also showed esteem in receiving what her sister shared with me and taking interest.  How we talk about our partners is extremely important to our children. Continue Reading

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Moving Past Gridlock – Part 4 The Opportunity in Conflict

Every conflict in a couple relationship has an opportunity.  It’s like a door – it can be opened or left closed.  It’s natural to want to just move on but often it is the re-connection with each other that’s left behind.  Continuously walking away from each other causes a separation that can be hard to overcome.  Opening the door gently to what happened can help you reconnect.  Use these 5 steps to move back towards your partner. Continue Reading

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Family Vacations – Balloon Glow at Steamboat Springs, CO

(c) 2014, Dean Wisdom
(c) 2014, Dean Wisdom

I just returned from a 5-day ski trip with my wife and children and extended family to Steamboat Springs, CO .  I snapped this picture on the last night – catching the Balloon Glow at the base in Mountain Village.  Watching the balloons fire up with rock music going was great and several runs on the mountain were lit up for night skiing.  The weather was perfect this past weekend – sunny clear skies and lots of powder.  This is one of our favorite annual vacation spots.  I thought I would include this trip in my post today to zero in on the importance of vacations. Continue Reading

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