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Western Reserve Psychological Associates, Inc.Empowering change for over 40 years
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Archived Article

Simple Steps

Recently, I heard something from a client that I found disturbing. He was separated from his wife and children, and wanted to go home. He said, "We fight all the time and I know I contribute to it because I want to win!" My response was to ask "What's the real goal? Do you really want to win?" I think every fight he won was a battle won, but he was losing the war.

Gottman, a researcher and mentor for marital therapists, says he can tell within three minutes of an argument whether a couple is headed for divorce or not. Unfortunately, it is not necessary to be Gottman to see the gentleman mentioned above and his wife are at risk.

Professionals like Gottman offer a great deal to us, (Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Gottman '94) but here are some simple ideas to help us get on and stay on the right track. First, think things over before you say anything. Check your reasons out. Are they significant enough to even put out as issues? Second, talk to and about your partner as if he or she were a good friend. We tend to respect our friends and often give them the benefit of the doubt. Third, stick to facts rather than interpretation (e.g. Please don't leave wet towels on the new quilt. vs. What? Were you born in a barn?).

Based on "Grandma's Wisdom" that you get more from honey than vinegar, find something positive to say to or about your partner. One lady couldn't think of any positives for her taciturn and gruff husband. I asked, "Is he a good provider? Did you ever wonder if he was running around on you?" She said "No, I never worry about that and he always took care of the family. Always! " She added, "He's really quite a guy, isn't he?" And yes, he really is.

Barbara A. Buchanan, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist

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