Friday, 24 June 2011

Get Connected at the Heart Level

In his book Finding Ever After Dr. Robert Paul makes some interesting observations about more effective ways of interacting when couples are experiencing a difference of opinion.

He says, “Human beings have an uncanny ability to sense insincerity, judgment, and manipulation, and we have a natural inclination to avoid all three. As we pose a question to our spouse we must ask ourselves “Am I motivated by a quest to understand and care, or do I have some other agenda?”

When experiencing differences of opinion, too often we are motivated to win our point of view, to prove we are right and/or to maintain power in the relationship.

Dr. Paul offers the following advice for dealing with differences of opinion which should net much better results in the long run.

Legitimate questions you might ask:
o What would you like me to understand about you and your heart on this issue?
o What are you feeling?
o Where would you like our focus to be?
o What do you think would be the best here?

Things NOT to ask:
o Who is right and who is wrong?
o Who is at fault and who is to blame?
o What really happened?
o What should we do to fix this problem?

Dr. Robert Paul
Unfortunately problem solving can shift the focus (prematurely) from the heart to the head without first connecting at an emotional level. It is important that each person believes that the other cares about what they feel, think or want.

Just understand this is not where guys normally live. Guys tend to be problem solvers. Connecting on an emotional level for many men might be like learning a foreign language.

Here’s what I know about men and women in general. We all like a good outcome, one which leaves us feeling good about ourselves and good about the solution. What Paul is proposing is to alter our normal process. He advocates a “no loser policy”. Which begins as outlined above with the ultimate goal of clearly hearing one another and arriving at a solution that pleases both parties. NO solution that isn’t satisfactory to both is satisfactory. Arriving at such a solution can take a great deal of creativity but it eliminates the competition because you are striving to seek a solution that both are pleased with.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Begin With the End in Mind

Taking a page out of Steven Covey’s book we should “begin with the end in mind.” If you were to write a story about your marriage that covered the span of your marriage how would you want the last page to read? For example “and they lived happily ever after”. If living happily ever after is how you see your marriage in its twilight years what would you need to do on a day-to-day basis from the beginning to achieve that end?

Dr. Robert Paul of the National Institute for Marriage offers the following tips:
Dr. Robert Paul
o Agree to be accountable to each other. Let your spouse be your mirror to help you see what would otherwise be hard to recognize and, thus would hinder your success.

o Allow for trial and error. Sometimes we think we know what we want or need only to discover something different as we go. Keep an open mind.

o Accept disappointment as part of the package.

o “Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional” (Max Lucado). Dr. Paul proceeds to outline how to resolve conflict in a more effective way.

Step 1: Commit to a No-Losers Policy. You both must feel good about where you end up. Commit to finding an alternative you both like. You’ll find that defenses start dropping once you don’t have to watch your back or worry about being strong-armed or sold on an idea. Take comfort knowing that being one of the team’s key members means you won’t accept a solution unless it works for you too.

Step 2: Hear each other’s hearts. This amounts to truly understanding where your spouse is coming from. Identify the emotion behind what is driving each of you to your separate corners. What is truly underlying each of your positions?

Step 3: Pause, Pray and Seek God. Actively include God in the process. Ideally you want to pray together and pray out loud, making sure that part of your prayer includes asking God to help you rediscover unity and to guide you to a decision that honors Him and satisfies each of you. In addition to whatever insights might be derived from inviting God into the midst of your struggle, when a husband and wife come together to seek divine guidance, unity is instantly restored.

Step 4: Seek to Find a Win-Win Solution. Remember the no loser’s policy.

Step 5: Land on One You Both Like. Decide on a solution that works for both of you. Don’t settle easily for something you don’t really care for; because it’s not a win if you don’t like it, and it’s hard to stay enthusiastic and committed to work out an option you’re not excited about.

Step 6: Try It Out

Step 7: Rework If Necessary

Monday, 20 June 2011

Symptom Relief

The following question has been raised. “In your blogs you seem to indicate that marriage counselors who rely on behavioral change techniques are doing their clients a disservice. If they actually work, what’s the difference?”

This is a good question since the great preponderance of marriage counseling is based on instructing couples on how to change the way the couple interacts. Sometimes this is very effective and the couple begins to restore the relationship they once had. Statistics would suggest that more often than not, learning some new techniques do not change the underlying reasons why the couple is not doing well relationally. Simply teaching techniques would be like a doctor prescribing medication that would provide relief for a patient’s symptoms without addressing the underlying cause of the problem.

Granted, telling a couple to establish one date night a week; telling them to set aside 30 minutes a day to talk about feelings, concerns, dreams, and worries; learning to communicate using “I” messages; suggesting that the couple talk about what drew them to one another during the dating years; and asking them to write a love letter to one another, etc. can have a positive effect. And it is much easier than going after the underlying problem in the marriage.

Biblical counseling starts with the assumption that there is something wrong with the hearts of the couple. It presumes that there is little or no vertical connection with God. It surmises that the couple has failed to accept that God brought them together for His glory, not theirs. At the heart of the problems is often self-centeredness. “He’s not meeting my emotional needs.” “She’s doesn’t give me the respect I deserve.” It’s all about the kingdom of “me”. Dealing with heart change and submitting oneself to God is far more humbling and difficult than learning some skills.

Biblical counseling informs the couple that their problems do not stem from not loving each other enough, they stem from not loving God enough. (1John4:8). If a husband even attempted to love his wife as Christ loves His bride the church (Ephesians 5:25-29) his wife would never have a complaint. If a wife gave her husband the respect that God has commanded (Ephesians 5:22-24,33) no husband would be unhappy.

There is only one question you need ask, “How can I love my husband/wife in a way that would bring glory to God?”