I remember how long it took me to write my first book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work so I’m not terribly distressed with how long it’s taking me to finish the second in the series: PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home. It’s looking like early 2018 will be the release date. In the mean time I thought I would share a chapter from that book for this week’s post.
Chapter P2: High-Low-Learn
“The shortest distance between two people is a story.”
One of my favorite movies is The Story of Us, which stars Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s a Rob Reiner film, which tells you two things right off. One is that it likely has a family-friendly theme and two, the language is horrible and definitely not family-friendly. If you can get through the language, however, The Story of Us has a very powerful message for couples in marriage.
Without giving away too much of the movie, I’ll tell you that it details how a very young Bruce and Michelle meet and fall madly in love. Love leads to marriage, marriage leads to children, children and life lead to difficulties, and ultimately difficulties lead to divorce. If that’s where the story ended, I likely wouldn’t recommend it. But I wish every couple in America—make that the world—could view the final scene. It alone could deter many couples from going through with their divorce and inspire them instead to reenergize their efforts to make their marriage work.
While I’m on the subject of marriage-friendly movies, another personal favorite is Fireproof, in which Kirk Cameron wakes up to the fact that he is largely responsible for the imminent demise of his marriage. Rather than waste time blaming his likely soon-to-be-ex-wife, he goes on the difficult journey to win back her heart. It’s rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested). I believe the rating is due to the graphic depiction of Christianity, and of course we simply must guard our children against such potentially harmful material. But that’s a subject for another time.
Both of these movies drive home the point that marriage is supposed to be for keeps. Every married person will encounter difficult times when he or she does not like his or her spouse very much. This is normal and to be expected. If it happens repeatedly, then, by all means, get help. But for those occasional blowups, assuming they are not violent or abusive, the best response is usually to take some time to let things calm down and address them later when cooler heads can prevail. Trust me, you don’t want to say things to each other when you are angry or upset. I believe it was George Thompson, author of Verbal Judo, who advised: “Never use words that rise readily to your lips, or you’ll give the greatest speech you’ll ever live to regret.”
Now lest you think I’m auditioning to be a movie critic, I guess I should let you know the main point of this chapter. It’s a game I adapted from The Story of Us, and one which I wholeheartedly recommend to couples and families. In the movie, the parents asked the children to tell them what was the high point of their day and what was the low point of their day. As memory serves, the parents then also answered the same questions. The game is called High-Low, and it’s a good way to find out what’s going on in the daily lives of your loved ones.
My adaptation of this game is to add a third component -learn. In High-Low-Learn, you still inquire into the high points and low points, but you also ask, “What did you learn today?” It’s a lot better than asking “What did you do in school today?” and hearing the typical “nothing” response. By playing this game on a frequent and regular basis—daily could work well—you will find the family drawing closer together and being more aware of what’s going on in each one’s life. This is also very helpful way to build or maintain a strong marriage.
According to John Gottman Ph.D., a noted marriage and family researcher and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Washington, “A powerful predictor of relationship stability is how much detail each partner knows about the other’s life.” At his website https://www.gottman.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Love-Maps-White-Paper.pdf, you can download his Love Map Exercise, which is a game designed to “bring partners closer by helping them get more familiar with each other’s world. Thoughtful questions and additional opportunity questions enable partners to connect emotionally, and increase intimacy and understanding in a fun, gentle way.” You can also purchase his highly regarded book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, in which you’ll find his 20-question Love Map Game.
We tend to invest in things or causes that are important to us. May I suggest you give some thought to investing in your marriage and your family. I am talking about investing some money, but perhaps more importantly, investing your time. I can just about guarantee you a wonderful rate of return on that investment.
Chapter Challenge: Take some time to visit www.gottman.com and see the variety of resources listed there. Download the Love Map or another of the communication resources they have. Then schedule time—perhaps the same time each week—to get to know each other more deeply than you do now. Also, introduce your children to high-low-learn and make it a regular, fun activity for all.