|Stop Reacting and Start Relating
It’s been a time of celebration, beginning with a trip to the Book Expo America 2007 in New York City to sign the advance copies of my newest book: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Destroy Your Marriage. Richard and I were married 25 years last month, and we celebrated with a big party before we left. While we were on the east coast, we took a couple of days to drive up to my hometown of Roscoe, a beautiful place in the Catskill Mountains. My first 18 years were spent growing up in that bucolic, small town paradise. Richard and I had a great time both in the City and in Roscoe, and I got to show him my childhood home. We travel well together, and there’s no better delight than sharing your memories and old friends with your life partner, provided you get along as well as we do. My new book is all about relating instead of fighting, so I thought I’d share an excerpt with you.
Responding, not Reacting
Any willing couple can learn to build a happy relationship if they stop reacting and learn to respond thoughtfully. As an individual you have ideas and beliefs about how certain things in life should be handled, and so does your partner; and we all tend to assume everyone, especially a person who loves us, will see it our way. During dating, you two may have felt that you agreed with each other on everything. But, after you married things changed. You were probably shocked when you realized the object of your affections, your dream come true, the Prince or Princess Charming you fell in love with had different ideas about how life, love, home, finances and children should be.
In thirty years of counseling, I’ve spent many hours teaching couples the techniques and information that will allow them to communicate and solve problems, rather than fight endlessly about the same things. In twenty-five years of marriage, I’ve also learned from my own experience that there’s a big difference between the skills and attitudes one needs to date and fall in love, and what is needed to make married life, home and family work smoothly. There’s a difference between being lovers and being partners, and on top of all that, keeping enough romance and fun alive to make it all feel worthwhile. Those of us who succeed are the blessed ones, the happy ones, and you can be, too.
In this book, you’ll learn a view your relationship as a partnership, rather than a challenge or a competition, and you’ll discover new ways to think about sharing and working together to make all your decisions about money, sex and kids mutual ones. With a little information and practice, you can stop fighting become a successful, happy couple. The point of this book is to show you how to create a partnership that will cause you to feel blessed and happy.
Solving instead of Struggling
According to researcher John Gottman and several other studies, couples who can solve problems successfully together tend to have relationships that last. If you've been through a tough time together, then you’re probably frustrated, hurt and anxious. This erodes your patience and reasonableness with each other, and makes it difficult to think clearly.
Successful couples don’t have any special magic. By trial and error, through counseling, books, and talking to other couples, they figure out how to create a relationship that works. To create a working partnership, you need to teach each other how understand one another, so you can get along. When you’re working together or spending time with each other, instead of complaining, criticizing or resenting each other, try asking each other what you’re thinking about the situation. “I think it would work better to do thiswhat do you think?” If you listen to each other, and focus on sharing what you know, you’ll grow in understanding and teamwork. Most partners would rather have each other’s company than do it all alone, especially if what you’re doing is new, and if it's companionable company. The best way to end the ‘who is supposed to do what’ argument is to do it (or at least work it out) together and make it fun. A smart partner will make this as easy as possible make it fun, affectionate, and focus on becoming a team. Rather than figure out who’s right, couples need to focus on what works, and find ways to motivate each other to work together.
Celebration + Appreciation = Motivation
Motivation comes from celebration and appreciation. When partners get frustrated, they have a tendency to complain to and criticize each other rather than appreciate each other. If you give in to your urge to criticize, you'll mortally wound your marriage. If you want to motivate each other, you need to share as much appreciation and celebration as possible. Work with each other, thank each other, and make doing the work as much fun as possible.
You Can Stop Fighting
If you've had a difficult time with each other, I’m sorry, and I know you’re frustrated, but if you will renew your patience, start working together to fix the problems, and give the information and exercises in this book a couple of months, you will see results. Most of the couples I counsel succeed in fixing their problems, and you can, too. If you’re reading this book, which means you’re looking for a solution, and that’s a big step toward success. In subsequent chapters of this book, you'll learn how to change focus from fighting over money, sex and kids to developing the ability to talk about what is going on and focus on solving the problem, which leaves a lot more time for having fun and getting things done. Any willing couple can learn to build a happy relationship -- and so can you.
Adapted from: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Destroy Your Marriage (Adams Media) ISBN# 978-1-59869-325-6 © Tina B.Tessina, 2007
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California, with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 11 books, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction (New Page); How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (New Page); The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley) and The Real 13th Step: Discovering Self-Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the Twelve Step Programs (New Page.) Two new books will be out from Adams Press in 2007:Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Squabbling About the Three Things That Can Destroy Your Marriage and Commuter Marriage. She publishes Happiness Tips from Tina, an e-mail newsletter, and the “Dr. Romance Blog” http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/ and has hosted "The Psyche Deli: delectable tidbits for the subconscious" a weekly hour long radio show. She is an online expert, answering relationship questions at www.CouplesCompany.com and Yahoo!Personals, as well as a Redbook Love Network expert and former “Psychology Smarts” columnist for First for Women. Dr. Tessina guests frequently on radio, and on such TV shows as Oprah, Larry King Live and ABC news.
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