Love Bank

Did you ever notice that you tend to enjoy those activities at which you excel? For instance, I enjoy playing tennis. Now I know I’m nowhere near good enough for the professional circuit, but I am good enough to often beat my long-time friend Kemp Lewis. This is especially true on the days he lets me win, which are getting fewer and further between.

I have been playing tennis for several years, decades in fact. It seems my enjoyment of the game has increased in recent years largely due to lessons and tips I’ve gotten from local pros Richard Yancy and Pat McGrath, along with others I have encountered on the courts.

Pointers such as knowing how to grip the racket better, how to prepare for a backhand or forehand shot, how to toss the ball for a more accurate serve, etc. have helped to make me feel more comfortable in my role as a tennis player.

So let me ask you a question. What do you enjoy and in what areas of life do you feel competent? Have you always been competent and well equipped or trained for those pursuits? Could I join you tomorrow and be just as competent as you?

I’ll answer that last one so you won’t have to. The answer is likely no simply because I have not spent the time learning how to do whatever it is you do.

So what’s my point? Just that marriage is one of those life experiences that is far more enjoyable if you know what you’re doing. And the sad reality is that most of us don’t. We’re not necessarily stupid (or is that intellectually challenged?), we just have never been taught how to do marriage.

Most of us likely have the opinion that we don’t need to be taught how to succeed in marriage. So long as you love each other that should be all it takes, shouldn’t it? (If I knew how to spell facetious I would tell you that’s what I’m being.)

Think back to weddings you’ve attended in recent years where the couple seemed so much in love. The odds are that if the wedding was more than seven years ago, they are quite possibly more in hate with each other now than in love.

The divorce rate in our society is abysmal, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Marriage really can be an experience that you enjoy and at which you feel successful and competent.

It just won’t come naturally, however. Most marriages can be dramatically improved if the people in them will learn to stop doing a few negative things and begin doing a few positive things.  Willard Harley calls those negatives “love busters” and his book by that name helps couples discover exactly what is causing their love and enjoyment to wane.

Harley, a Psychologist and prolific author from Minnesota, describes a concept of the “Love Bank.” Whether you know it or not you have a love bank balance with your mate. In fact, it was opened when you first met and began to get acquainted. You began to do little “niceties” for each other. Silly cards, giving spontaneous backrubs expecting nothing in return, small gifts, offering to run errands, etc. All of these sent messages to the other that you cared, that he or she mattered to you.

The net result was that your Love Bank balance rose. It likely rose so high that you decided you wanted the relationship to continue forever, so you got married. And then what happened? Well, you continued to make deposits – at least in the early days. But over time you began to make withdrawals as well.

Over time you began to take each other for granted. You got too busy with “life” to focus as much on your spouse. More deposits were countered by more withdrawals, and now your Love Bank balance may have grown dangerously low.

If you’re not careful, you can then begin to think you married the wrong person and that you would be happier with someone else. While that may be true in some cases, for couples with children, divorce will likely produce far more problems and challenges for you than it will fix. I firmly believe that parents who divorce are usually just trading one set of problems for a different set of problems, and not necessarily bettering their situation.

So here’s a better option to consider – learn how to be a better spouse. Research abounds that a marriage can dramatically improve when just one partner makes an effort to change. When both partners put forth the effort, the results can be remarkable and relatively quick.

And help is readily available in our area. I offer private marriage coaching, and there are several local marriage counselors who can help you get from where you are to where you want to be. I know of several marriage intensives for deeply troubled marriages that have a great success rate for turning even the most damaged marriages into thriving ones.

Add in all the books and online resources available to help marriages, there is little excuse to put up with a less-than-satisfactory marriage or to end one in hopes of finding a better one.

I often say there is nothing better in life than a good marriage and nothing worse in life than a bad marriage. Whatever the current state of your marriage, please consider what you might do to keep it healthy or get it to that state.

An Attitude of Gratitude?

Watch this brief video with Dr. Mike Hattabaugh

OK, so the title has become somewhat of a cliché, but our attitude does truly impact so much of our overall life satisfaction. This might be especially true when it comes to our important relationships – marriage of course being one of them.

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching I asked my friend and colleague, Dr. Mike Hattabaugh to share some thoughts with us. As you will see he chose to do so with a brief video which I believe you will enjoy, and which I believe will get you thinking about your attitude. While it is not specific to marriage, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions for how it might help to strengthen and encourage yours.

Who are you listening to?

You may have heard that it’s always the second person who determines if an argument will occur or not. All of us have moments when we are not at our best. Moments when we say or do things we likely would not do or say if we were more in control of our emotions.

Unfortunately, those closest to us are usually the first to know when we are in such states. Once the first person acts inappropriately the second person has to choose if he or she will react or respond. There is a big difference between the two.

Reacting typically involves little or no thought. By definition is it instantaneous and automatic. Reactions are often followed by an escalation of the situation usually leading to an unpleasant outcome. “Oops, I shouldn’t have done or said that” often follows reactions.

Responses, on the other hand, are typically reasoned and thought-out. Reactions come from our emotional brain, responses from our thinking brain. There may be some among us who are always in total control of their emotions, but I promise I’m not one of them and forgive me for saying this, but I doubt you are either. I know I do life far better when I respond to situations rather than react.

That’s why it is so important, when dealing with a friend, co-worker, or loved one that we avoid reacting to unpleasant outbreaks. I’ve written before about the power of grabbing your thumb in such instances and thinking your way to your best response. In fact, it’s a chapter in my upcoming book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home. Send me an e-mail to ron@ProductiveOutcomes.com, and I’ll gladly send you that chapter.

This week I want to bring your attention to another technique I recently learned that could help you keep calm in the midst of an emotional storm, and to do your part to bring it to a rapid, and productive conclusion. When you find yourself getting upset, and you fear you are about to go off on someone, I challenge you to be especially aware of your self-talk.

All of us talk to ourselves regularly throughout the day. That is normal and nothing to be concerned about. If you often find yourself answering “huh?” to yourself, you might want to consider getting some help.

But, seriously we all have to contend with thoughts in our mind that sometimes work for us, and sometimes, not-so-much.  The new technique I learned is to talk to yourself in the second or third person. Rather than using the “I” pronoun in your self-talk consider using “you” as in “you really should just keep your cool and calmly walk away.” Current research is showing that this practice serves to cause you to return to your thinking brain, from which you are more likely to make a wise decision.

While I need to look into this more, I believe the principle is that speaking to yourself as if it were someone else speaking is likely to help keep you on your best behavior. It is similar to the recommendation I often give that sensitive conversations should be held in public places such as a popular restaurant. That location will cause you to keep your voices down and to avoid blowing up at each other for fear of what others might think.

Again, I believe if we hear the second person voice we will respond as if someone else is listening in to the conversation. Wow, isn’t that a scary thought!

Talking to your self in the third person might be even more powerful. In my case it would sound like “Ron, do you really want to blow up over this?” or “Ron, what would your best self do in this particular situation?”

I am not saying this is a fool-proof way to keep peace in your relationships or to avoid all negative interactions. I hope you agree, however, that it certainly could not hurt, and that it might prove quite helpful. Please don’t expect to form the habit of speaking to yourself in the second or third person instantaneously or without effort and forethought. You will need to be intentional about it and consistent for it to become a natural part of who you are.

I challenge you to do a Google search such as “speak to self in the 2nd person.” There you will find an abundance of posts such as “Talking to yourself in the third person can help you control your emotions” or “Gain a psychological edge by talking about yourself in the third person.”

Of course, relationships work best when parties speak with each other in addition to speaking to themselves. But controlled conversations, especially in the face of charged emotions could prove to be beneficial for the overall health of the relationship.

Yield: It’s a great investment strategy

I enjoy coming up with new posts each week – well at least most weeks. This past week went by way too fast for me. So I decided to tap into my still soon-to-be-released book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Home. Actually it should be available by the first of the year, but who knows you may have read the entire book in these posts before I even publish it 😊

 Section Four: Yield: It’s a great investment strategy

“A good marriage is a contest of generosity.”
—Diane Sawyer

I had the privilege of preparing a couple for marriage, and of performing the wedding ceremony in which they made lifelong commitments to each other. Since I am seemingly incapable of doing anything without humor, I suggested to them that by getting married, they were giving up certain rights. As an example, I explained that they were now giving up their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I shall never forget the look on the bride’s face. Behind the abject horror was a sincere hope that I was kidding—which I certainly was.

I went on to explain that marriage is not like eating at Burger King. For those of you too young to remember, the Burger King Company ran an ad campaign in the 1970s that proclaimed at their restaurant you could always “have it your way.” While that might work at a fast-food restaurant, I assured the couple before me, as I assure you, the reader: this is not always the case in marriage, nor should it be.

While you certainly have the right to determine if, when, and to whom you might get married, once that decision is made, you voluntarily relinquish your right to make future decisions by and for yourself alone. For a marriage to be successful, the partners must have a mindset of “we” rather than “me.” Having said that, I have a personal pet peeve against the practice of extinguishing each spouse’s individual candle after they have jointly lit the unity candle. I understand the symbolism, but feel it can be taken too far.

When you marry, you do not have to abandon who you are and join with your partner to form an enmeshed blob. That is just not healthy for the parties or the marriage. You do, however, need to realize that as a married person, your identity will and should change. Marriage is a special relationship unlike any other known to man, in which two people form a bond, determined that they shall go through life together as an “us.”

By definition, therefore, there will be times when each partner will have to yield to the wishes and concerns of the other. I say “have to,” but what would your marriage be like if each of you chose to yield, not so much as an obligation, but as a gesture of love and caring?

In his faith-based book Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas asks, “What if God designed marriage to make us Holy more than to make us happy?” Marriage is a wonderful living laboratory in which we may practice selfless love. It is not always easy, but frequent demonstrations of self-sacrificing love usually pay huge dividends and bode well for a long, satisfying marriage.

Again, there will be times in every marriage when each spouse will need to yield his or her preferences to those of his or her spouse. But what do you do when each spouse feels strongly about how a particular matter should be resolved? One way to determine the situation is to ask each one “on a scale of 1–10, how important is it that we do what you are asking?” This calls for honesty on each person’s part. You cannot simply say “10” every time the question is raised. Typically, one partner will feel more deeply about the issue than the other, and his or her preference should prevail. In a healthy marriage, these situations will balance out over time.

I’ll leave you with one more suggestion to get around apparent gridlocks in your marriage. My wife and I met and married in Cortez, Colorado. Five years into our marriage, I had a strong desire for us to move to Farmington, New Mexico, about 70 miles away from Cortez. I broached the subject to my wife and quickly realized she did not share my enthusiasm in the least. To be fair, I must tell you that my wife was born and raised in Cortez and that her mother and sister still resided there. Her roots went deep, and she did not want to entertain the thought of a “root canal.” I decided to drop the matter.

A few months later, I again asked my wife to consider agreeing to let me move us to Farmington, and again she made it abundantly clear that she did not want to do that. I dropped the matter once again, but only for a few more weeks. I then explained to her that I realized I did not have the right to demand that we move to Farmington, but neither did she have the right to deny the move. Since the “irresistible force” (my desire to relocate) met up with the “immovable object” (her desire to stay), I proposed a middle position.

I explained in depth why I felt so strongly that a move would be in “our” best interest and then gave her an offer she could not refuse. I suggested she give me the next year of our marriage and allow me to move us to Farmington. Whatever happened, she would have the next year and could move us back to Cortez if she wished. She asked if I was serious and after assuring her I was, I sweetened the deal. Knowing how close she was to her mother, I assured her that if she consented to the move, I would never ask her to move further away from her mother than the 70 miles that Farmington is from Cortez.

I’m not sure if I finally wore down her resistance, or she simply accepted the reasonableness of my offer, but in either event, we are still contented residents of Farmington as we enter our 37th year of marriage.

You’ve heard the expression “give and take.” I propose you adopt the mindset of “give and give.” When each party goes out of his or her way to yield to the other, the taking will take care of itself.

Chapter Challenge: Spend some time this week looking at your marriage from your mate’s point of view. Look for opportunities to put your own needs and desires aside to better meet those of your spouse. A great resource to help you do this is called The Love Dare from the movie Fireproof, which I referenced in Chapter A2. It’s available at www.thelovedarebook.com and other book outlets.

Everybody’s In Their Own Movie

I am a huge fan of training and coaching. In fact, someone once referred to me as a “training junkie” to which I plead guilty. Lately, it seems I have acquired a few new coaches to help me venture into areas I have little or no knowledge about. One such coach is Tamara Monosoff who is guiding through the world of book writing, publishing and launching. I have joined her Mastermind group and through that became acquainted with today’s guest columnists.

Bill Murray and Gretta Keene are deeply committed to helping people succeed in marriage. Though I do not know them yet as well as I would like to, my impression is they “practice what they preach.” After watching them on a recent webinar, I asked them to share some thoughts with us and here is what they sent. By the way, at the end of the post, I’ll give you information about an upcoming online course that starts real soon.

Everybody’s In Their Own Movie

by Bill Murray, PhD & Gretta Keene, LCSW

We’d been camping for a week, up through the Smoky Mountains, into Pennsylvania and New York. It was all about improvising and making do—finding a site, pitching the tent, gathering wood, finding water, cooking on a fire. I love that stuff!

Next, we were headed into Canada. We’d cross the St. Lawrence and head east to the Maritimes, camping in places we’d never been before. But rain was in the forecast. Torrential rain. We broke camp as the drops began to fall, and we improvised: Gretta searched on her phone for a hotel in Montreal while I steered a course through the deluge and into a foreign land.

Can’t you just hear the soundtrack? Energetic, purposeful music with a steady pulse. A jarring chord as brake lights flash in the gloom ahead. A fanfare when the hotel room is booked! And the fade-out as we tumble into the hotel room, exhausted but victorious.

All that remains for hunter-gatherer me is to scout the location of our next meal, improvising with what’s at hand. In this case, the hotel’s compilation of recommended local restaurants. And here we go: five-star, nearby, Indian food. We both like Indian food a lot. Score!

I say, “We could get Indian food!”

Gretta looks at me like I’m insane and says, “Are you kidding?” (Cue dissonant arpeggios.)

Rewind. In the car, as Gretta looks at cute hotels in the romantic quarters of Montreal, she mentally changes out of her grubby camping clothes and into the dress she packed “just in case.”

She recalls the only other time she’d been to Montreal, the “poor man’s Paris.” She was a kid, over the moon with the prospect of going to a fancy French restaurant, then saddled with babysitting her younger brothers while her parents dined in style. Not this time!

You can imagine the soundtrack to Gretta’s movie. The windshield wipers move to an up-tempo melody full of romance and excitement—a fantasy on the road to fulfillment. The orchestra swells as a sign appears: Bienvenue à Montréal!

In the hotel room, there’s still music in the air as Gretta searches her phone for just the right French restaurant, until Bill says, “We could get Indian food!”

Then the music stops, and our movies collide. “Are you kidding?” seems like the only reasonable response.

We had a fight. We went to our familiar corners—the ones connected to our Sticky Beliefs about ourselves and each other—and we came out swinging.

“My suggestions are never considered!” I said.

“I’m never allowed to disagree!” she replied.

“You’re being sarcastic and critical!” I countered.

“Why are you being so sensitive?” she demanded. Back and forth it went until we remembered one of our tools—taking a Pause. Gretta took a shower, and I lay on the bed.

We’ve made a commitment to use a Pause not to rehearse the story of our Sticky Beliefs, the evidence that proves the other guilty of the crimes we’ve charged them with. Instead, we use the Pause to discover clues about why we got so upset.

One helpful approach, we’ve learned after much research, is to think in terms of, “What was my movie?” That metaphor captures so well the physical, emotional and psychological bubble in which we live our lives.

For not only do we cast ourselves as a main character, we assign roles to others as well. When they play their roles according to our script, things go smoothly. But when they stray, acting and speaking out of turn, we can become upset, disappointed, angry, scared, hurt.

After the Pause, we talked about our movies. Gretta could understand how the force of her reaction would feel shocking to me, given what I was imagining. And I could understand how my suggestion was jarringly out of sync with the picture in her mind. In this case the decision of where to eat felt clear.

We went to the French restaurant, where Gretta could finally enjoy what she had missed out on so long ago, and I could improvise to secure a vital need that would leave us both taken care of.

Next time you find yourself squaring off for that Same Old Fight, take a pause and ask yourself, What’s my movie?

Ok, I’m back and I really appreciate Bill and Gretta’s concept of competing movies. If you are honest, you can likely recall several unpleasant episodes in your marriage which could likely be explained by competing scripts and thought processes. Well, now you know, and it never has to happen again if you pause and discuss each one’s movie.

As I mentioned, Bill and Gretta are starting an online course you and your spouse can take in the privacy of your own home. It’s an 8-week course titled: Stop Having the Same Old Fight (and get what you really want instead).

The course will feature live presentations which will be recorded for later viewing, Q&A sessions, eWorkbook, guided explorations, and lots of helpful tools, tips, and techniques to help you have the marriage you always wanted. The live class will meet on Thursdays at 1 pm Eastern time starting on October 19. The cost is just $247 per couple which is a bargain at two or three times the price. You can find more information at https://practical-guides-to-being-human.teachable.com

When you marry Jethro – you get the Clampetts

I so wish I could take credit for the title of this week’s post. Come to think of it there are a whole bunch of famous quotes I wish I could take credit for, but I best protect whatever credibility I might have and not do that. This one I’m fairly certain comes from DR John Van Epp, author of How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk and other relationship books. By the way, the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage and Family partnered with Knowledge Equips to bring Dr Van Epp to Farmington a few years ago to help high school students, in particular, learn to make better decisions when entering a relationship. If you have a young person about to enter the dating realm, Dr. Van Epp’s book would be a wonderful gift to give him or her. It’s not limited to young people. If you are considering a 2nd, 3rd or higher re-marriage, you might just want to pick up a copy for yourself.

As the holidays are rapidly approaching I want to share with you some thoughts on a common source of irritation in what should be a joy-filled time of the year. Holidays are typically times when we get together with family members we do not see regularly throughout the year. Many travel long distances to re-connect and enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, that enjoyment too often is short-lived.

In-laws are a vital component of most every marriage. According to marriage and family expert Dr Kevin Leman “it’s not just two people who get married when they walk down the flower-strewn aisle, but at least six.  And in the case of a stepfamily, it can be ten”. He goes on to explain “the reason is that the person you marry is a result of how they were raised, good or bad.  The influence has been from their parents, and perhaps more parents if they were part of a step-family”.

First off let me state for the record that I truly love and appreciate all of my wife’s relatives. Some are easier to love at times, but look who is talking. People are people and they are bound to get under your skin from time to time. In-laws just seem to have a special ability to do that more often than others. They can do it with such expertise you might think it was their goal in their life to make yours miserable.

A basic tenet for dealing with in-laws is actually identical to that when dealing with anyone else. Most people find that respect and the Golden Rule go a long way towards improving and maintaining healthy relationships. It would also help to realize that while these folks are not your blood relatives; they are to your spouse. I absolutely agree with Dr Leman that he or she is who they are largely due to the influence of these others. In my book in-laws deserve a special place of honor within your home.

Having said that, may I make an earnest plea that you and your spouse come to terms on exactly what their place should be. Once you make a commitment in marriage to forsake all others and to cleave (or join) only to each other you are committing to putting your spouse and his or her needs above your other family members.

I’ve heard it said that a major factor in marital discord is the failure to establish boundaries with family of origin and not make the couple the priority. A huge mistake so many couples make during their marriage is to run back to mommy or daddy when they are in conflict. This often happens in the first year of marriage, but whenever it happens it is likely a huge blunder. The wise mother or father will gently, but firmly, close the door and encourage their son or daughter to back home and work it out with their spouse.

Balance is also a positive component in dealing with in-laws. I’ve dealt with many divorcing couples where one spouse forbade the other from having anything to do with his or her family. I’m at a loss to think of a good reason for this, but I can sure come up with a whole lot of bad ones.

You’ve heard the old expression that before you judge someone you should walk a mile in their shoes – that way you’ll be a mile away from them and you’ll have their shoes. Ok, bad joke, but it is good advice when dealing with in-laws. Take some time to see yourself as they might see you. Might they see you as a thief who has stolen their son or daughter or brother or sister away? Might they see you as an intruder into what had previously been a happy, cohesive family?

So here’s a thought for you in dealing with your in-laws, especially the mom and pop variety. Take a few moments and write them a thank you note for the incredible person they raised. Thank them for their sacrificial giving and nurturing and training which resulted in the incredible person who has become your life partner. You don’t need to go over the top, but the letter need not be skimpy either. Since your spouse knows his or her folks better than you do, you might invite him or her to read it before you send it. This just helps to make sure the letter comes across as you intended, plus it might just earn you a point or two with your spouse – if you get my drift.

And one last thought on dealing with in-laws. Be respectful, but be united. If you are to succeed as a couple it is vital that you not let anyone drive a wedge between you – as in-laws will occasionally try to do. It is likely best for each spouse to address their own family if they are out of line in some respect. It is too difficult and awkward for one spouse to tell the other’s parents that they are intrusive and/or offensive. But if your family attacks or demeans your spouse in any way your immediate response should be to come to the defense of your spouse and let your family know such treatment will not be tolerated.

And just one more last thought. Practice AGI with your in-laws. I write about AGI in my book PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work. While I believe the entire book has good information for healthy relationships at work and at home, you don’t need to buy the book. Send me an e-mail and I’ll send you the chapter on AGI, which by-the-way stands for Assume Good Intent. When you practice AGI you give someone the benefit of the doubt that while he or she just hurt you they likely didn’t intend to. AGI allows you to stay calm and not automatically react and attack when someone does or says something you don’t like.

As I said earlier, people are people. You have to admit there have been times in your life when you hurt someone inadvertently, but the damage was done. Would you have appreciated the other person giving you the benefit of the doubt that you just messed up but didn’t mean to hurt them? We both know the answer is yes so please make it a point to extend the same courtesy to others – including and perhaps especially your in-laws.

 

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.

Hi-Lo-Learn and The Love Map

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.”
Patti Digh

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.

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.