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Couple's Net

By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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Premarital and Couples: Join the Club . . .

Uploaded: Jan 15, 2021
. . . of women who do not complain about their husbands (and talk with them instead).

On the one hand, some women will not say negative things about her husband because she wants to protect his image with her girlfriends and family. And so in a way, she gives up the empathy and support of her friends. On the other hand, some women indirectly complain ("This trip would be more fun with my girlfriends; my husband is boring."). They at least have the women in their life for girl-talk. Other women complain outright.

A couple of caveats:
1. I'm not saying that you have to like, agree, or comply with what he does.
2. I don't get to hear how husbands talk about their wives when women are not around. I have heard women talk about their wives.
3. When you do talk with him, how you say it does matter.

For now, take a moment to think about how you talk to your friends about your husband . . . I'm not asking you to change anything just yet. Over the next week or so, just notice how you talk about him, and how you talk to or with him.

As is true with all of us, your husband is human and therefore has human traits that are not your favorite. Of those traits, a few probably really matter to you and the rest don't. Please wonder about yourself and how come those specific traits bother you. For example, it reminds you of when you were growing up and __________ [fill in the name said/did/implied/misunderstood/etc. [choose one or more, and you felt ___________ [unloved/sad/scared/angry/abandoned, etc.. In other words, what's the meaning and overlay that you place on what he does that has little or nothing to do with him? I know, this sounds like psychobabble, but there's something to it (brain science and neural pathways).

And of course, at times he just does something annoying, and you don't have to put up with it (especially if it is an unhealthy pattern).  This is where things get complicated and why couples counseling can help unravel the ball of yarn slow enough to distinguish the threads rather than yank and knot them tighter.

I am a big proponent of speaking kindly and with the intention of understanding and connection. Many couples who come in the door want to make a point. I ask, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?"

As to how men talk about their wives, I may ask a few men about that.

As for how to talk with him, there are choices, and you get to experiment. First I'll tell you what I recommend, and then what I do not recommend.

Find a relatively good time to talk with him (not right when he walks in the door, or when he's engrossed in a basketball or baseball game, or when you've both had a couple of glasses of wine). "I want to talk with you about something that's bothering me. Lately I've been feeling ____________ [lonely/annoyed/upset/taken for granted/etc.. I know you love and care about me, so I'm sure it is not your intention that I feel bad when _________ happens. I would really like to understand your thoughts, feelings, and intentions, so we can find a better way to deal with this."

Are you now thinking that this is Leave it to Beaver? Well, it's not -- they didn't talk.

Next, listen to what he says, and whether or not you agree, you let him know you heard him ("Oh, so you see it this way . . . " or "Oh, it sounds like you  . . ., or "Oh, your sense of it is . . . "). Hmm, interesting.

Next, continue to be curious and use this format, back and forth. Talk in short bites. Ask questions to gain understanding.

Here's what to skip:

"You __________."
"I feel you __________."
"I think you __________."

I know you know that complaining to someone other than the person you're having an issue with does not give you any opportunity to work through the issue, create connection, and be heard and seen by your beloved.

And let's face it, not every little thing is worth bringing up, and none of us are saints. Just do it well enough, often enough. Remember the Gottman ratio of 5:1 good interactions to each poor one.
What is it worth to you?


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