Psych-Talk with Dr. Mike: More on marriage

Here is a list of 18 points of collected wisdom from the field of marital therapy.

DrMike298 (photo credit: Photo Courtesy )
(photo credit: Photo Courtesy )
Dr. Mike Gropper is an American psychotherapist and marital therapist living in Ra'anana. For further details, see end of article. Recently I wrote about the importance of active communication in a marriage. Our role model was Tevye in his very direct and clearly stated communication to his wife Golda, "Do you love me?" What was beautiful, in fact, about Tevye's communication, was his persistence. He kept on asking her, without anger and denigration, to validate what he needed to hear. Finally, his patience paid off, and he was rewarded for his positive communication. After all, think of what could have happen if Tevye would have called his wife a nasty name or just walked away, keeping his feelings locked up inside. Since then, I have been asked to write more on the subject of marriage. Here is a list of 18 points of collected wisdom from the field of marital therapy. • Research has shown that most couples have approximately 10 issues they'll never resolve. Even if you switch partners, you'll still have irresolvable issues. Therefore, while some conflicts and differences will be resolved with good communication, don't expect a perfect marriage. • More than 90 percent of all arguments between couples are over money, time, kids, sex and jealousy, in-laws and friends. Learn how to live with and accommodate your differences. • Love ebbs and flows depending on how you treat each other. Learn new ways to interact, and the feeling can come flowing back. Be creative and try to remember the little things that you use to do that worked in the past to please your partner. You'll be surprised how, with just a little bit of effort, a spouse can rekindle the flame or put a warm smile on the face of their partner. • Remember marital satisfaction drops with the birth of a baby. It's normal. Hang in there. And remember, that even in a triangle, there is room for a dyad to emerge. Don't forget about the dyad. • Sex ebbs and flows, too. Enjoy the flows. Communicate with your partner about what in lovemaking are the things that turn you on. Remember, your partner cannot read your mind. • Welcome change. The marriage vow is a promise to stay married, not to stay the same. Learning to see change as a challenge for personal and relationship growth, not devastation is the true test of making relationships last. Give each other permission to change. • It is fascinating to note how much more couples know about each other early in their relationship than they do once they have been together for years. The reason? People stop paying attention. If you aren't learning something new about each other every week or two, you simply aren't observing closely enough. You are focusing on other things, not one another. • To improve positive communication, I usually urge couples to practice simple skills. Share things you appreciate about your partner. Express your wishes, hopes and dreams. Update your spouse about changes in plans and circumstances. Also, don't be afraid to let your spouse know what is bothering you. And when you have complaints, don't just criticize - describe what bothers you and suggest how you'd like it done. • Clear up little mysteries before they become suspicious. • Effective conflict resolution starts with the self-awareness, self-caring, self-honesty, knowing what one wants and valuing it enough to speak up for it clearly. Lots of pathology grows out of not knowing oneself. Caring is listening to you, owning what you've done and haven't done. Then listening to your partner does the same. • The starting point for relationship enhancement is empathy, learning to see things from a partner's perspective. Empathy is what people are really seeking in marriage, and that expectation represents a major break with the past. People are looking for someone to be emotionally supportive, an emotional friend, a helpmate, a soul mate. • Don't personalize all of your partner's bad moods; you're not that powerful and certainly not guilty for the 90% of the time that your spouse is simply having a bad day. Get beyond the over- identification with guilt, and try to be your spouse's friend by asking him or her what is wrong. You may just discover that this is all your partner is looking for is source of empathetic understanding to help overcome those negative moods. • Think "team" when making decisions, such as whether to work overtime or accept a transfer or promotion, ask yourself this question: What will the choice I am making do to the people I love? Try to make the decision that will have the least negative impact on your marriage and your family. • Manage anger better. This is a big one for a lot of people. Don't turn a small problem that needs to be solved into a catastrophe. And, try to solve the problem rather than blaming your partner. Placing fault on your partner only serves to create more distance and hostile feelings. • True long-range intimacy requires repeated affirmations of commitment to your partner. And don't forget that love is not only in what you say, but also in how you act. Buy flowers for each other. Do the dishes without being asked. * Forgive and forget. Don't be too hard on each other. If your passion and love are to survive, you must learn how to forgive. You and your partner regularly need to wipe the slate clean so that anger doesn't build and resentment won't fester. Holding on to hurts and hostility is a way of blocking real intimacy. It will only assure that no matter how hard you otherwise work at it, your relationship will not grow. • Listen to your feelings instead of being swayed by others when it comes to your relationship. Your emotions are the inner radar that help you to navigate the storm moments that occurs in your relationship. • Don't ever hesitate to seek professional guidance when it comes to your marital relationship. Going to a professional when there is a problem is not a sign of weakness or failure, but instead, it is a sign of strength. Dr. Mike Gropper is an American trained psychotherapist and marital therapist. Contact him at Golan Center, Ahuza 198, Ra'anana, (09) 774 1913, From November 1, Dr. Gropper will be accepting new clients at the Jerusalem Medical Center, Shalom Mayer Center, Diskin Street 9A, Kiryat Wolfson, Jerusalem. To arrange an appointment call (09) 774 1913 or (02) 563 6265. Send your comments >>
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