Drama Queens and the Brain

I spoke this week at a Kiwanis meeting and thought what I shared with them might be of interest to you as well. I began by illustrating that while we are all so different, we are also, in many ways so much alike. To prove my point I asked them to draw a big 6 with their right hand, and then a big 9 with their right foot. Most were easily able to accomplish these tasks. Then I asked them to do both at the same time and that is when their human frailty and inability came to the forefront. Not a person in the room could summon the mental and physical coordination required to do both at once.

I know you’re going to want to see if you’re the one who can do it, so I’ll wait. Please be seated for this exercise to minimize the damage when you fail. I don’t mind if you fail, I just don’t want you to fall.

To further prove my point that we share commonalities I asked them to hold up their right thumb and then extend only their left forefinger. Again, most were able to comply with my request. I then asked them to switch hands and hold up their left thumb and extend their right forefinger. Again, success was prevalent throughout the room. But then I asked them to continuously switch back and forth as rapidly as they could – and that’s when the laughter began, and feelings of clutziness began to appear.

Another way we are all so similar is that we all have basic human needs beyond those of food, clothing, and shelter. We have certain relational needs which must be met if we are to do life well and to function at our optimal potential. Among the most common relational needs are Acceptance, Affection, Appreciation, Approval, Attention, Comfort, Encouragement, Respect, Security and Support.

For most of us, three of these ten will carry more weight than the others. Often this is because we got these needs met in our childhood and they contribute to our mental and emotional well-being. It is also true that we might need them because they were not met in our past and their absence is problematic.

If you and your mate would like to know each other’s top three emotional needs, send me an email to ron@productiveoutcomes.com, and I’ll send you the link to an inventory which will help you identify them and determine how to best meet those needs in your relationship.

While all ten are important, today I want to focus on one particular need we all share, but one which if taken to the extreme can be problematic to the person and to those connected to him or her. The need to which I refer is Attention. Again, we all have a basic need for attention. Babies who receive sufficient amounts of food, clothing, and shelter, but are denied human contact and attention suffer what is known as Failure-to-thrive Syndrome, an ailment so severe it often results in death.

People who crave and seek out excessive attention are often called Drama Queens who, by the way, can be of either gender. Pause for a moment and consider if you know anyone who you feel falls into this category. I’m curious, do you consider these folks to be people who can brighten up any room just by entering it, or are they more likely able to brighten any room just by leaving it? Most of us would likely say the latter.

Drama Queens, for quite apparent reasons, are not typically people we want to hang out with. Most rational people would consider an inordinate need for attention to be a character flaw, yet this may not be the case.

Now, before we go any further, let’s make sure we all share the same, or at least similar, concept of what a Drama Queen is. Here is an eight-question test to determine one’s DQ or Drama quotient. I got this information from a post by Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D. titled Relationship Threats: Are You a Drama Queen?

Ready? Here we go:

  1. When you are listening to a friend recount some recent triumph or sorrow, are you already flipping through your own mental roster of “Great Moments in the Life of Me” to find just the right “I can top that!” vignette?
  2. When something relatively minor in life doesn’t go your way – the elevator door closes just as you walk into the lobby, the last “best seat” is taken at the movies, or the featured special of the day is sold out at the café – do you take it as a personal insult or attack on your dignity?
  3. When something relatively minor in life doesn’t go your way, do you feel compelled to make sure everyone within earshot- at that moment or three hours or even three weeks later! – hears about what happened and how unjust the world can be to you?
  4. When something wonderful happens to you – you win the lottery, you get that promotion, or you ace that class – do you feel the need not only to brag on your success, but pick apart the good fortune you just enjoyed to point out how things could have been even better, if the world was truly a just place?
  5. Do you often feel like you are “playing to an audience,” rather than sharing with your friends?
  6. Do you believe that there can only be one star in any relationship or gathering?
  7. Does it seem like your personal “drama in three acts” production is losing audience members even before the first intermission?
  8. If you were in the middle of a conversation with a friend, and you were asked point blank, “What did your companion just share with you?” would you be able to answer correctly? Or would you have been so lost in our own head thinking of how you can divert the attention back to you?

Dr. White goes on to write ”If you answered yes to any of the questions above it might be time to rethink your perspectives on self-important and two-way relationships.” I would be a bit more generous and say if you answered yes to three or more, but that’s just because I’m such a nice guy.

Again, more than being a character flaw, the cause for most Drama Queens acting as they do is more a function of their brain. The human brain is an amazing invention. It starts working the moment you wake up in the morning and doesn’t quit until you get to the office or job site, or sometimes to noontime Kiwanis meetings.

To simplify our discussion today, I will limit the brain to just two major areas which serve entirely different functions. The Frontal Lobe, which works closely with the Pre-Frontal Cortex and, the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, is located behind the forehead. This area of the brain is responsible for thought, rationale, logical thinking, etc. By the way, the Frontal Lobe is where we get the expression “I would rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. I wonder if rather than being a Drama Queen I’m more of a Comedy Queen? Oh well, that’s a subject for another time.

The second part of the brain I want to highlight is the Limbic System, sometimes referred to as the Deep Limbic System, which I believe is located in the inner portion of the brain. Components of the Limbic System include the Hypothalamus, the Hippocampus, and the Amygdala. This is the portion of the brain where emotions are centered. It is also where memories of everything we have ever experienced are stored – both pleasant and painful.

If a child is deprived of appropriate and adequate attention, this area of the brain will be the most deeply impacted. An infant being denied attention will go to any means possible to rectify the situation, much as he or she would if food, clothing or shelter were being withheld.

Drama, or acting out, is a very common response to attention deprivation. I’ve read that drama causes the Pituitary gland and the Hypothalamus to secrete endorphins which are pain suppressing and pleasure-inducing compounds. Heroin and other opiates mimic the natural production of endorphins, so attention seeking may be thought of in similar terms to drug addiction.

Early childhood neglect can cause the Hypothalamus to shrink or be stunted thus limiting the number of receptors for Seratonin and other neurochemicals which are vital to one’s overall sense of peace, comfort, and life satisfaction.

So, while it is easy to observe the behavior of drama queens and make negative evaluations of their character or personality, we should be very careful in doing so.

As humans, it is so easy to judge others and to label them when we have no clue about what is causing the outward behavior we see.

What’s that saying that before you judge someone, you should first “walk a mile in their shoes?” Actually that is excellent advice because you will then be a mile away from them and you will have their shoes.

Ok, bad joke, but the truth remains we can never be assured that we would not resort to the same coping mechanisms and life practices had we been subjected to the same situations they faced.

Often times excessive drama is harmless and easy to ignore. Other times it could be an indication of more serious mental-emotional distress such as Histrionic Personality disorder or Borderline Personality disorder or perhaps an aspect of Bi-Polar disorder.

While jokes abound about people with these conditions, they are no laughing matter for them or for people who care about them.

So what you may ask should you do when confronted with a Drama Queen? I’m so glad you asked.

For one, you can do your best to not take anything they say personally or take offense. This may be easier said than done, but only you can control your reactions and responses to others.

Come up with a name for such individuals that is courteous and not derogatory. Giving them a name can help to remind you that they are doing what they are doing for reasons even they might not fully understand. I would never suggest you feel sorry for them for that is anything but respectful, but pity is likely a better option than anger or resentment.

You must do whatever it takes to remain in the thinking portion of your brain, and if possible help them get back to the thinking portion of their brain. Drama queens will often cease their behavior if it is not getting them the results they seek. By remaining calm and not getting sucked into the drama you might just bring it to a quicker final scene.

It could be helpful to ask them questions. I don’t mean asking “what the blank is the matter with you.” That’s not likely going to gain you a positive reply. But keep a calm and friendly tone as you ask them questions about what has them so upset, or ask them to help you understand where they are coming from, etc.

One technique I write about in my book is to grab your thumb, look at your fingers and think about how you should respond to the situation. There is a big difference between reacting, which involves little or no forethought, and responding which is calculated and planned.

 

In conclusion, let me just say you will have Drama Queens in your life at times. Learning how to treat them with decency and respect could be a worthwhile experience for both you and them.

A Solid Investment for Your Marriage

You have likely heard that more marriages end over money issues than any other source. I’m not so sure that is true, but all couples need to find a way to navigate this challenging aspect of marriage and life. This week’s post is guest written by Virginia Ramalho. She and her husband Greg gained mastery over their finances through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and now they seek to help other couples do the same.

As you are about to read, there is a class starting soon and I wholeheartedly recommend you check it out. You’ll also read other information about Virginia and Greg, about the class and how to enroll.

 What’s coming up?

We are revving up to lead the next Financial Peace University Class at Pinon Hills Community Church 5101 N. Dustin Ave.; Farmington, NM 87401.  FPU will begin on September 24, 2017, at 10:00AM (90 minute classes) for nine consecutive Sundays.

What is FPU?

Dave Ramsey teaches a nine week class outlining and describing his ‘baby steps’ model to gaining financial freedom and teaches us to manage money God’s way.  Dave helps us to understand the misnomers of today’s society and culture in regard to debt, insurance, and investing.

What lead you to FPU?

We had heard of Dave Ramsey in the past, but didn’t really know what Financial Peace University was all about.  After friends of ours took Financial Peace University, we did some investigating into the upcoming schedule at our church.  At the time, our church did not have a class scheduled and we were asked if we’d be interested in leading the next FPU.

What is your personal experience with FPU?

FPU provided us with the tools we needed to get unified with our financial goals as a married couple.  In the first few months we attended class, we saved $1500 in annual auto/home insurance premiums and in the first year of following FPU’s ‘baby steps’ we eliminated over $35,000 of debt.  Life has brought us lots of change in the last few years, but we are extremely grateful that we had the tools FPU teaches to get us through some rough patches.

Why do you continue leading groups through FPU?

FPU has been a game changer for us, the way we communicate, and the way we manage our money.  Previously, we made a life time of bad money decisions, but the good thing is that it’s never too late to change.

We believe strongly that the tools Dave teaches in FPU provide what’s needed to take charge of your money and build the financial wellness we all dream of (saving, spending, giving, and living).  Each time we coordinate an FPU class, we get to re-calibrate our plan for financial success.

We have enjoyed meeting new people, making new friends, and watching this program improve the lives of others.  Sharing our successes and hearing others’ throughout the class is very moving, builds on accountability, and encourages everyone involved.  After class, it is very rewarding bumping into FPU graduates and hearing the successes they’ve experienced and continue to experience.  We’ve never met one disappointed FPU graduate.

Who should take FPU?

No matter where one is in life (student, single, married, divorced, retired) there are huge benefits to learning the steps taught in FPU and we enjoy having the opportunity to share this with others.  This will be our fourth FPU class (as coordinators), but we truly do learn more each time we go through the process.  We believe anyone can do this.

How does one register/sign up for the class?

Go to the website/link below to sign up and pay for the materials.  Once registered, you will be a life time FPU member.

http://www.fpu.com/1047560

Love and Respect

Back when I wrote my weekly column for the Daily Times I would occasionally reach out to others to write the column for us. You will soon realize I did that this week. Our guest columnist is Johnathan Dobbs, who is the Preacher at the Aztec Church of Christ. He told me about an exciting marriage program they are about to begin and I asked him to share the details with you. I’m so glad he did and I believe you will be as well.

I am familiar with Emmerson Eggerichs and his Love and Respect program. I got to attend in Grand Junction several years ago and came away very impressed. I invite you to check it out and see what you think.

So without further ado, hereeeeee’s Johnathan:

If you’re married, or plan to get married, there is one thing of which you can be sure: At some point you and your significant other will have a severe disagreement. It’s inevitable.  No two people as similar, and yet different, will agree on everything all the time. This difference of opinion and perspective can actually bring health and vitality to a marriage, but often times couples allow those disagreements to drive them apart rather than bring them together.

You probably know the popular scenario. You say something, and your spouse disagrees.  This doesn’t have to be a decision about furniture.  This can be as simple as a critique.  The disagreement may look more like defensiveness. Yet, you have said something the other person does not like, and now they are frustrated.  So what do they do?  They say or do something hurtful in return, which escalates your feelings on the matter, causing you to react in like kind, and before you know it, you’re yelling and slamming doors, and the whole household is full of tension because of this fight that started off so simply and escalated to something out of control.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs calls this the “Crazy Cycle” in his book “Love and Respect”. It feels pretty crazy, doesn’t it?  Two good natured people begin to tear one another apart because of something seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  However, what we say and how we say it greatly affects the ones we love.

Dr. Eggerichs recognized that the Bible paints a pretty clear picture of how a man is to treat his woman, and how a woman is to treat her man.  What he realized fit perfectly with known psychology, yet he also noticed that most of the marriage help books miss a major component of what the scripture lays out so plainly.

In Ephesians 5:33, the apostle, Paul, says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Did you see it? Did you see the difference? Marriage books that fill the shelves of every bookstore focus on one concept, love. Yet Paul states, and Dr. Eggerichs agrees, that love is what a woman needs most, but it is not what a man needs most.  What he needs more than love is respect.  The crazy cycle he sees looks like this: Without love she reacts without respect he reacts without love she reacts without respect… Before you know it, your marriage is set on the spin cycle, and, seemingly, there is no way to stop it!

Does this sound familiar? Does your marriage spin out of control like this at times?  You still love him/her, yet you find yourself at odds oftentimes, wondering how this could happen.

People go to marriage counseling all the time for problems such as these.

Are you interested in finding out more about this crazy cycle and even how to stop it and start something better? Dr. Eggerichs calls that something better the “Energizing Cycle” which leads to the “Rewarded Cycle”.

Beginning September 17, the Aztec church of Christ is offering a marriage class that explores all the concepts within Dr. Eggerichs’ research.  This class will feature a video of Dr. Eggerichs (filled with humor) followed by discussion.  The class, due to the amount of information covered for the health of your marriage, will be held each Sunday night for 14 weeks, ending on December 17.  It is free to the public (you don’t even have to go to church to attend).

If you’d like to be a part of this class meant to revive and strengthen your marriage, give Johnathan a call at the church at 334-6626 or check out the event on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/aztecchurch or send an email to aztecchurch@gmail.com. Please RSVP so that they can prepare materials for you that will help you along throughout the class.

Marriages everywhere are hurting.  Every marriage can use some encouragement. If you know someone who could use the information in this seminar, please have them call or click online. Let’s work together to help marriages throughout the Four Corners be strengthened and healthy.

A New Beginning?

I’m a big fan of Yogi Berra quotes. As a devout Boston Red Sox fan they about the only New York Yankees related matters that I appreciate but that’s a subject for another time. Yogi had a way of twisting the English language without even trying to do so in a comical way. One of my favorites is “oh nobody ever goes to that restaurant anymore – it’s always too crowded.” He is also credited with saying “it ain’t over till it’s over” and that is where I want to focus this week.

Far too many of us know the disappointment of ending a relationship we thought would last until “death do we part.” To be clear, I am innocent of the charge that I feel divorce is never warranted under any circumstances. I do not believe that for a moment. I also know that we should be very careful not to judge others who have gotten a divorce for often it was not of their choosing.

Having said all that, I do believe many couples call it quits in marriage simply because they have lost all hope that things can ever improve. I have been privileged to have twice attended a weekend program which totally convinced me that no matter how depressed a marriage may be “it might not be over until it’s over.”

The program to which I refer is called A New Beginning, and it is just as the name implies, a new start for a struggling couple to get on the path to joy and oneness. I must tell you there is a cost involved in attending the weekend, and it is heavily based on Biblical principles and Christian faith. I don’t know that participants have to be very religious or even attend church, but some belief in a “Higher Power” is certainly beneficial if not required.

My two weekends were quite similar in that on Friday morning the air in the room was thick with tension. I don’t remember seeing a lot of smiles or looks of hope on participant’s faces. Saturday morning was a bit more relaxed but still not what I would describe as cordial among the couples. That all changed by Sunday afternoon as the couples, by all appearances, had fallen passionately in love with each other in just that short time span.  I remember sitting in the back of the room and wondering if these were really the same couples who started out on Friday.

While those results might be called miraculous, the program should not be. The participants gain a clear understanding of the mistakes they each made that brought them to divorce’s doorstep. They also learn new ways of interacting and connecting with each other far different from what they had been doing previously.

No one should ever assume that marriage is easy, or that success just comes naturally. It may seem to for some couples, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Marriage does not take work, but it does require some basic understandings and skills to help couples weather the inevitable storms that will come their way. If prepared for them, these storms can serve to strengthen their relationship and deepen their bond with each other. If ill prepared, as is often the case, these same storms can wreak great havoc and destruction.

Along with A New Beginning, I am familiar with three other marriage intensive programs which have a great track record for turning disappointing and hopeless marriages around and getting them back on the right track. I’ll be happy to share them with you if you or someone you know is in deep distress.

I also know of a local marriage coach who in 90 minutes can help couples understand five germs that have sickened their relationship and show them some simple-to-implement remedies.

I often tell couples who are contemplating divorce that they should view such as a last, not a first option. Especially when children are involved, couples who divorce are actually just trading one set of problems for a different, often more difficult and long-lasting set of problems. I’ll be working with a couple next week who have a total of 10+ marriages between them. I hope to help them realize some factors that might just make their present marriage their final one. Give me a call if you feel I can be of help to you.

 

Again, nobody ever said that marriage is easy, but the benefits of doing it right are well worth the investment of time and money to learn how to do it well.

 

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.

Be Thankful

I enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving. Doesn’t it seem odd, though, that we designate only one day per year to recognize all we have to be thankful for? One day just doesn’t seem to be nearly enough

In regards to marriage, having a thankful attitude can make a huge difference. As I often say,  your mate will get on your nerves once in a while. It’s not a question of if, but of when. At those moments you tend to focus on his or her negative features, and they are certainly valid. But lest you think it is only your mate who can be difficult at times may I suggest you find the nearest mirror and spend some time there?

Those times when your mate is disagreeable, and perhaps hostile, are likely when he or she most needs a hug. I realize it is difficult to hug a cactus, but you might just want to give it a try.

It’s also a good idea to balance the negatives with an honest appraisal of the positives. Your wife or husband has qualities which once attracted you to her or him and chances are those qualities are still very much present. It could be that you have stopped looking for them or have become blind to them for various reasons.

So much of marriage, of life itself, is about perspectives. How you choose to look at another individual or a situation, will greatly impact how you feel and what responses you choose to make. An “attitude of gratitude,” while having become a bit of a cliché, is still a wonderful ingredient in a healthy marriage.

May I suggest you take some time today and make a list of your mate’s top qualities? Depending on the state of your marriage this might take some time and effort. For too many marriages it has become far easier to list the other’s negative qualities than the positive.

So let me increase the challenge a bit. Would you consider taking a few moments at the start of each day and writing down five to ten attributes which you appreciate in your spouse? I promise this won’t take very long if you can do it objectively. Is she pretty? Is he strong? By the way, the odds are that she and he don’t think they are, but that’s a matter for a whole other column. Are they intelligent? Careful how you answer this one as they were smart enough to marry you.

I’m reminded of the argument when a husband blurted out in anger “I was a fool when I married you” to which the wife calmly replied: “I suppose you were dear, but at the time I was too much in love with you to notice.”

By my count that is likely the 30th bad joke I have shared with you over the past few months, but keep reading anyway. How much worse can they get?

While I’m on the subject of humor and laugher, I am of the opinion that more is just about always better. The only caveat is when men try to be funny to diffuse the strained emotions in their wife. But, that too, is a matter for an entire column of its own.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, laughter is a great medicine. It helps us get along better in all of our relationships, including, if not especially, marriage. It is so easy to get caught up in the pressures and disappointments in life that we don’t take the time just to laugh and enjoy each other’s company. I am so thankful for a wife who still thinks I’m funny and who can make me laugh.

I’m thankful for lots of reasons, and my hunch is that you can and should be as well. I’m thankful that I am today officially beginning my 7th month of writing this weekly post and so thankful for the many gracious comments I have received from so many of you.

Thank you to those of you who have shared your comments on what makes for a good marriage. I am always on the lookout for more. In fact, I have a couple of comments from readers, but not yet enough for a column. So please take a moment or two and consider helping me help our community by sharing lessons you have learned over the years. I’m looking for suggestions both of what to do in a marriage and what not to do in a marriage. Let us learn from your successes and your failures.

So let me close by encouraging you to look for the good in your life and in your marriage and to be genuinely thankful. Let me encourage you to take some time in the coming weeks to laugh together, be joyful, and grateful for all that you have. I submit that it is often easier than you might think and the benefits are out of this world.

(ps: if your marriage is not working as well as you would like please consider improving it before you consider ending it. Help and happiness really are available to you if you know where to look.)

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.

What’s Your MQ?

I was visiting with a friend recently talking about marriage which happens to be one of my favorite topics to discuss. Somehow the conversation brought up IQ or Intelligence Quotient. We’ve all long been aware of this measurement of intelligence though none of us remembers being tested for it in school.

There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about EQ, or Emotional Quotient. This is a measurement of how well an individual manages him or herself and how well he or she gets along with others.

I’ve heard of SQ, Spiritual Quotient, or how well established a person is with the spiritual component of their life.

Well, I got to thinking we should have MQ, which you can probably guess would be Marriage Quotient. We could develop a measurement of how well an individual is doing in his or her marriage.

While the term MQ might be new, the assessment tool is not. One of which I am fairly familiar is called Prepare-Enrich. This is an instrument which has been around for decades in one form or another.

Currently, there is an online version of this assessment wherein each person can answer upwards of 200 questions about their marriage. The computer will then combine their scores and print out a snapshot of where they are in relationship with each other.

Among the components measured are communication and conflict resolution. Most hurting couples score fairly low in these scales. Other areas addressed include Partner Style and Habits, Friends and Family, Finances, Household Chores, etc.

There are ten items measured, and typically folks will score higher in some than in others.

Those areas with low scores are called Growth Areas. Slightly higher scores are described as Possible Growth Areas. Scores above 50% are called Possible Strengths and higher scores are listed as Strengths.

These ten scores are then averaged together in a way that correlates to one of four categories: Vitalized, Harmonious, Conventional and Conflicted.

According to the creators of Prepare-Enrich, Vitalized couples “are typically most satisfied with their relationship, skilled in communication and conflict resolution.” Harmonious couples “also enjoy high levels of satisfaction across most areas of their relationship.”

Conventional couples, which may include the majority of us, “are often committed to one another, but not as skilled in communication or conflict resolution.” The couple you don’t want to be is called Conflicted who are described as having “a lower level of satisfaction and often struggle with many areas of their relationship.”

Unfortunately, this seems to be a rather large group in our society today, both nationally and right here in San Juan County America.

The very good news is that MQ can be increased. IQ is thought to be fairly static. My score of 346 is what I am stuck with for the rest of my life (if you believe that score I have a bridge I might want to sell you). Actually, there is some debate about whether or not IQ can be improved. I’m leaning (and hoping) towards believing it can.

EQ, SQ and MQ can all be increased if people will learn how to do life better.  All marriages will experience periods of highs and lows. Enjoy the highs – the legal ones that is- and be so very careful during the lows that you don’t say or do anything that might make the situation worse and longer lasting.

Divorce does indeed solve some problems, but it can also create more problems than it solves. I saw a study once that said that of couples who divorce approximately 50% report being happier five years later.

Of those couples who considered divorce, but didn’t, approximately 80% reported being happier five years later. So if you’re looking for happiness in life, the odds say you should stay and work on your marriage rather than breaking it off and seeking happiness elsewhere.

The discouraging fact is that often you are a major reason your marriage isn’t working in the first place. So if you end your marriage and start another, you are very likely going to bring that one to ruin as well. Doesn’t it make sense to see what you might learn to be a better spouse?

If your car starts acting funny, do you automatically replace it with a new one? Some of you actually do, but while that may be okay for a vehicle, it is not wise for a marital partner. There are several folks in this area who practice marriage counseling and/or marriage coaching. There is a difference, but I’ll have to cover that another time.

For now let me encourage you to examine your MQ, or Marital Intelligence and see if it might be in need of improvement. There truly is help and hope for most every marriage to move from Conflicted to Conventional to Harmonious and ultimately to Vitalized. Why not find out for yourself?

 

 

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.

Change for the Better?

Not everything in life is easy. Many would say dealing with conflict falls into that category. And many would feel the same way about dealing with change.

I share some thoughts on change and marriage in this week’s post.

 

 

Chapter A2: Change for the Better?
“The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change;
the realist adjusts the sails.”

—William Arthur Ward

There’s an old expression that a rut is just a grave with openings on each end. True or not, your marriage can easily fall into the form of ruts if you’re not careful to keep that from happening. Most people will admit that change is difficult, but so is trying to resist change. I’ve heard it said that people do not actually resist change nearly as much as they resist being changed. I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement. I’ve also heard it said that a woman marries a man hoping he will change and a man marries a woman hoping she never will. I’m not so sure I agree with that one, but it’s likely true in some cases.

The point I hope to make in this chapter is that trying to change your mate is wasted energy at best and highly toxic to the relationship at worst. While dangerous to the overall health of the relationship, attempts to change one’s partner are very common in marriage. Such attempts are often well motivated from a deep sense of love, care, and genuine concern. But when you’re on the receiving end of such attempts, they do not come across as well intended, no matter how much they may actually be.

If you are the requestor of the change, you are likely thinking about all the potential benefits to your spouse and/or to your marriage that will result from your suggested changes. If you are on the receiving end, however, you are likely hearing that your mate is not pleased with you or how you are doing life at the moment and that he/she wants you to change not just what you do but who you are.

As is the case in so much of life, right intentions and motivations do not always gain the desired results. So let me give you a piece of advice which might make change in your spouse more likely to occur. That advice is to change yourself first in ways that he or she is likely to notice and appreciate.

Have you ever noticed that often when you are upset with your mate, it is because you are already upset about something else? How often do children pay the price for how poorly their moms or dads were treated at work that day?

The next time you find yourself perturbed with your mate, you might want to stop and examine whether he or she is the true cause of your agitation. You may realize you are upset because you didn’t sleep well the night before, or because you’re hungry, or because a pressing problem is weighing heavily on you or . . . You’ve likely heard the expression that negative emotions often arise from feeling H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired). I like what Mark Twain said: “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.”

Another truth I have picked up along life’s journey is that often the changes you desire for your mate are actually changes you desire in yourself, but somehow seem unable to accomplish. You want to start an exercise program, so you get down on him or her because he or she doesn’t. You want to eat a more healthful diet, so you get upset when your mate brings home junk food. You want to reduce the amount of garbage you put into your mind, so you get upset when he or she watches questionable television programs or movies.

Numerous other illustrations abound, but I think you get my point. You resent it when people try to force changes on you, so please give up the notion that your mate is going to appreciate when you do the same to him or her.

So am I suggesting that when you see your mate engaging in self-destructive behaviors, you simply stand by and do nothing? I hope not. What I am suggesting is that you do what Mahatma Gandhi is alleged to have said: “Be the change you desire to see in the world” or, in this case, your marriage. There is some dispute about whether this is in fact what he actually said, but the sentiment of the thought is still valid nonetheless, especially perhaps as it applies to marriage.

So often, each spouse waits for the other to change before he or she is willing to make improvements in the marriage. Rather than waiting for your spouse, may I suggest you consider taking the initiative to be the change you want to see in your marriage.

I remember watching the TODAY Show several years ago. I was about to turn it off and go back to work when I heard that the next segment would feature an animal trainer who used animal training techniques to train her husband. Needless to say, this piqued my interest enough to stay tuned. While I can’t remember the guest’s name, I will never forget her words.

She told of techniques used in animal training whereby you look for the behavior you want from the animal, and you lavish praise and rewards each time you see that behavior. Rather than look for what you don’t want and criticize, she admonished, it is far better to look for the good and to recognize it appropriately. So she decided to stop criticizing her husband and to make a determined effort to thank and appreciate him for what he did to contribute to the household and the marriage.

As she concluded her segment, she told the interviewer that her husband responded very positively to her new approach. She stated, “He really changed.” Her final words were in the form of a rhetorical question: “Or was it I who really changed?” While I’ve never considered myself to be much of a dancer, I can assure you I did a joyful jig in my office when I heard those words that morning. And how true it is that one person can dramatically turn a marriage around.

Will this be quick? I didn’t say that. Will it be easy? I didn’t say that, either. But will it be worth it for you to make changes in how you treat your spouse in hopes the relationship will improve? Only you can answer that, but in most cases, the answer should be a resounding YES!

Along with being less critical and more encouraging, let me share with you a few other ideas to help make your marriage happier and healthier. My first suggestion comes from the movie, Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron and a whole bunch of folks you’ve never heard of. Mr. Cameron plays the part of a firefighter whose marriage is falling apart. At first, he doesn’t care but then realizes what he is doing to contribute to its impending demise. His father gives him a book titled The Love Dare, which is a 40-daychallenge.

Each day lists a specific exercise to reach out to your mate in a loving fashion. The exercises are designed to help your mate know how you feel and how much you value him or her and your relationship. Trust me when I tell you it’s not all that easy to keep to the schedule, especially as some days’ exercises are more involved than others. I teamed up with a friend to take the Love Dare for our wives and hold each other accountable. I believe it took us some 60 days or so, but we eventually did, as they say, “Get ’er done.”

I would share with you the results of this experience on my marriage, but frankly that’s just none of your business. You can get your own copy of The Love Dare by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick online or at a local bookstore and find out for yourself what might happen. While not easy, I can assure you that taking the time and spending the energy to help your mate feel appreciated by you will be well worth the investment.

A second suggestion comes from Dr. Scott Stanley, esteemed marriage and family researcher, and co-founder of PREP Inc. Dr. Stanley suggests you consider two things your mate would appreciate receiving from you. These can be actual gifts or simple tokens of affection that he or she would enjoy receiving. Your task, obviously, is to make the time to deliver, each week, whatever you’ve chosen as your intentional demonstrations of love.

What do you suppose would be the impact on marriages if both spouses were to form the habit of giving their partner two purposeful love gestures each week? My hunch is that it would be fun to find out.

You may have heard of the immortal words of John F. Kennedy, our 35th president, who said at his inauguration, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Again, with only a slight revision, this is wise wisdom to apply to your marriage: “Ask not what your spouse can do for you; ask what you can do for your spouse.”

Will any of these suggestions bring guaranteed results? I can’t make such a declaration. But, if you’ll permit me one last quote, I’ll turn once again to my Jewish grandmother who often said, “it couldn’t hurt.”

Chapter Challenge: Determine to take personal responsibility for the state of your marriage. As you begin to make changes in yourself and pay more attention to your marriage, you are likely to find a reciprocal response from your mate -in time. Please note, I said, “in time.” You must demonstrate your change before your mate is likely to follow suit. And even if he or she doesn’t change, you will be better for your efforts.

Admit When You Are Wrong

John Steinbeck said “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I often feel the same for the best laid plans Price and men. I had hoped to have my second book in the PLAY NICE series out by April 1. I moved that date to July 1 which obviously did not happen. I’m now at a place where PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home will be released when it is released.

In the meantime, I thought I would share a couple of chapters with you – one this week and another next week. I’ve had some writing pros look over the book and they tell me it is worthwhile reading. I hope you agree.

Section Three: Admit When You Are Wrong

“To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the wedding cup,

whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up.”

—Ogden Nash

 

I don’t know how much you weigh, but I can give you a great weight-loss recommendation. You could quickly shed needless pounds through this one recommendation: take off the mask you have been wearing for several years.

 

In case I’m getting too personal, let me ask you to think of others you know who spend much of their time and energy trying to get others to believe they have it all together. While this might not actually add to their physical stature, I can promise you it takes a toll on their relationships and their outlook on life.

 

Please don’t take what I’m saying too far. Some degree of self-protection is necessary and helpful to healthy relationships. We all need a healthy ego, an accurate, and positive self-image. But, like so many aspects of life, a good thing taken to an extreme becomes a bad thing. You likely know people for whom admitting they are wrong is difficult, if not impossible. A key component of a healthy ego, however, is the ability to admit when you are wrong and to accept any consequences connected to your wrong actions or behavior. So many problems in marriage could be avoided if one or both parties would suspend their efforts to “save face” and admit they did or said something inappropriate.

 

Dr. Mark Goulston, one of my all-time favorite authors (Just Listen; Get Out of Your Own Way; Talking to Crazy), observes that when people are verbally attacking one another, they are actually defending themselves from perceived attacks from the other. If that is true, and I believe it is, when either party stops the attack, the other can stop his or her defense and the battle can end. This “truce” would give the couple an opportunity to reasonably and rationally discuss whatever got them so upset in the first place. And, as Charles Herguth states,“ Truce is better than friction.”

 

Another book you might want to add to your library is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Ms. Brown makes the bold assertion that while most of us shun vulnerability at all costs, we should rather embrace and enjoy it. I consider that concept to be “R” rated in that it is not suitable for children.

 

Can you remember being around young children and being amused by their assertions that they are the “strongest,” the “fastest,” the “best?” These boasts are comical and harmless when coming from children. They are anything but comical and harmless when coming from someone who is supposed to have outgrown their childhood and become an adult.

 

Face it: we are all fragile and imperfect in some respects. Some people have gotten very good at hiding their vulnerability from others, and perhaps even from themselves. Such efforts make admitting when you have wronged someone difficult if not impossible.

 

It is a certainty in any close relationship that, over time, one party will hurt or disappoint the other. The only unknown is how long the impact of that mistreatment will last. The quickest way I know to lessen the time is to honestly admit your wrong, ask forgiveness, and move on.

 

I caution you, however, that for your admission to be accepted, it must be genuine. Please don’t ever try to sugar coat your misdeeds. To say something like “If I wronged you” or “Maybe I hurt you, but . . .” is not likely to put the matter to rest. As the expression goes: “If you mess up, ‘fess up!”

 

I read of a physics teacher who held out a cup of water and asked her students how heavy it was. The correct answer she received was not very heavy at all. She then asked her students how heavy it might be if she were to hold the cup for an hour or a day. Holding on to pride or ego and refusing to admit when you did wrong can get very heavy over time and take a serious toll on your relationship and happiness.

 

Chapter Challenge: Learn to practice the fine art of humility and see what it does for your household harmony. Please don’t go out of your way to hurt someone just so you can admit you did wrong, but you might want to look back to a time when you wronged your spouse or children and never admitted it. There likely is no better time than the present, so Nike, my friend: “Just do it!”

Marital Happiness Commandments (Part Two)

Last week I cited what I consider to be five of the Ten Commandments for Healthy Marriage. Here, as promised, are the next five. Again I remind you that these are just ten suggestions for marriage among dozens if not hundreds which could be considered. I’m hopeful that this will get you thinking what your top ten commandments for healthy marriage might be and that you’ll share them with me so I can share them with others.

  1. Thou shalt pick your hills to die on. In any marriage, there will be ample times to disagree and get upset with one another. In my humble opinion, some of these disagreements are serious enough that they merit earnest, respectful confrontation.

    There will be many other disputes, however, that are more indicative of one or the other’s present mood than an actual threat to the marriage. These, I suggest, are better off ignored and allowed to pass away – which they will if you don’t make too big a deal out of it. So it’s a good idea to decide what issues are worth fighting for and which are best relegated to the “let it go” pile.

  2. Thou shalt “Think Win-Win” in all marital decisions. Fans of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People will recognize this commandment. A healthy marriage is one in which both parties feel they have a voice and that their concerns matter.
    If you end a dispute or disagreement with your spouse feeling you won, and they lost then trust me, you haven’t won anything. You are on the same team, so unless the matter is resolved to each one’s satisfaction, there is no winner. If you view your marriage as a competition that in itself is a likely warning signal.
  3. Thou shalt “Seek First to Understand Your Mate, Then to be Understood by Him or Her.” This is based on Habit Five of the Seven Habits. While it is good for individual growth, it is also an exceptional practice in the home.

    You have a deep seated desire to be understood by others. That goes double for the person to whom you are married. He or she doesn’t always have to agree with you, but he/she must demonstrate that they care enough about you to be willing to understand your point of view.

    Since you have this strong desire to be understood, do you think there might be a fair chance your partner has the same desire? So take turns. Rather than insisting that your mate understand you first let them explain how they see things before you give him or her your version.

  4. Thou shalt invest regularly in your mate’s “love bank” account. This concept comes from Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs and many other wonderful marriage enriching books. When you and your spouse first met you began to interact in fun ways. These didn’t have to be expensive or grandiose. Just being together and doing things together was enough.

    You enjoyed each other’s company and did nice gestures to each other. These gestures are what Harley would call “deposits in the love bank.” Silly cards, doing errands, leaving notes, baking cookies, etc.

    Over time you also began to make withdrawals which caused a decrease in the love bank balance. That’s a topic for a future article, but for now, let me suggest you concentrate on making deposits which your spouse would consider a deposit and do your best to avoid making withdrawals.

    And lastly,

  5. Thou shalt love your spouse unconditionally. If I were to ask you why do you love your spouse you might list some of his or her attributes or their personality or their character. But what if illness or accident removed some of these qualities? Would your love for them then also disappear? Sadly this is often the case because most love is conditional.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but to love unconditionally makes it much easier to put up with the petty annoyances that your mate will cause you to experience from time to time. Unconditional love is a solid protection against the attacks which will come your way seeking to undermine the security of your marriage.

If you missed the first five commandments and would like to see what they are please send me an e-mail to ronp@fccmf.org, and I’ll gladly send you a copy of the post. Also, I again ask those of you who have successful, notice I didn’t say perfect, marriages to send me your tips and pointers so that others may benefit from your contributions. We all have a vested interest in preserving and strengthening marriage in our area, so I thank you in advance for your help.

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.

Recent weeks have been more hectic than usual and I expect the next couple to be even worse. I mention that only to explain why I reached back into my archives for this week’s post. In May of 2012 I wrote this column for the Farmington Daily Times. So, without further ado – whatever ado means – here you go.

I thought it might be interesting to list what I consider to be the Ten Commandments for healthy marriage. I plan to list my top five this week and the next five next week. I don’t expect that any of you will agree with all ten, but I’m hoping it might challenge you to formulate your own top ten as a couple.

So here goes:

  1. Thou shalt never threaten divorce. When you marry you typically make a vow which cements your decision to be united to your spouse until “death do you part”. There will be times in most every marriage when you’re upset enough with your spouse to think you may have made the wrong decision. It’s ok to feel this way – it is NOT ok to voice it.

    When you threaten or intimate in any way that you are considering going back on your word it sends shock waves through your partner. He or she will likely then begin to consider how much they want to continue investing in the relationship if you are willing to bring it to an end.

  2. Thou shalt always protect the dignity of your spouse and yourself. The best marriages are built on a foundation of mutual respect and admiration. This despite the fact that each of you is seriously flawed and anything but perfect. It’s ok to be upset with your partner’s behavior, it is NOT ok to attack them personally when you see those behaviors in action.

    The golden rule is absolutely applicable here – treat your spouse as you would want them to treat you.

  3. Thou shalt take a time out when either or both are too upset to deal effectively with the issue at hand. Face it, life is hard at times and often frantic and stressful. When you are not at your best you are quite likely to take out your frustrations on your mate.

    Some of you remember the old song: “you always hurt the one’s you love.” That song rings true if for no other reason than that when you are upset it’s your loved ones who are in striking distance and likely to be recipients of your wrath. It is ok to be stressed and hurt and times, it is NOT ok to take it out on your spouse of other loved ones.

    By the way, this idea of hurting those who are nearby is similar to the statistic that most accidents occur within 25 miles of your home. The reason, again, is that that is where you are most of the time. When I heard that statistic I moved.

  4. Thou shalt remember to keep fun in your relationship on a regular basis. Far too often the thrill of the courtship gives way to the mundane monotony of marriage. People get so caught up in making a living and raising the kids that they stop focusing on them and their relationship.

    When they were dating they couldn’t wait to be together and to do things together. You may want to take an assessment of the last time you went out on a date, or away for a weekend, or even took a week off to vacation just as a couple. My fear is that for many the results will be distant memories. It is certainly ok to focus on the necessities of living, it is NOT ok to forsake the joys of marriage in the process.

  5. Thou shalt discover and speak your spouse’s love language. Many of you are familiar with the ground-breaking work of Dr Gary Chapman, author of numerous books including The Five Love Languages. Dr Chapman makes a compelling case that we all give and receive love differently. Since you did not marry your clone the odds are way above fair to middlin that your mate’s preferences are different from yours in this vital area.

You might want to pick up a copy of his book or visit          www.fivelovelanguages.com and take the free on-line inventory to discover        your own and your mate’s love language. It is certainly ok to have your own        love language and to expect your mate to speak it on a regular basis. It is   NOT ok to expect your mate to speak the same language or for you to             ignore his or her’s just because it may be foreign to you.

Now I certainly realize I am not God. I’m not even Charlton Heston (you younger folks may need to ask your parents or grandparents what I mean by that). But I absolutely believe that these commandments, along with the one’s I plan to detail next week will, if converted to regular practices, have a dramatic and positive impact on your marriage.

 

 

Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.