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ourWORKZ

The official blog of familyWORKZ™

May 19, 2010

Valuable Arguments

Filed under: Couples,divorce,Families — Tags: — admin @ 12:23 pm

One thing we all have in common is that we don’t always get along with everyone. While our wildest dreams can imagine that we “should” get along with everyone all of the time, such dreams never come true.

So, what we know is that sooner or later, likely when we least expect it, a wedge will be driven between ourselves and another person. Typically the wedge issue erupts into an argument. That is, we will disagree.

Now, the problem with arguments is not that we have them, but that they often lead to further disruption and bad feelings. In this way, the arguments have a way of driving the wedge even deeper. What drives the wedge down is our tendency to judge the other person. When our minds go into “judgment mode,” we stop learning. Stated another way, when our mind judges, it closes down and, in this way, our mind stops working. That is, when the mind has made up its mind, it believes itself to be right and becomes stuck with its knowledge of knowing that it is right.

When the wedge becomes obvious, the key is to do the opposite of what the mind always does. Instead of closing down and becoming judgmental, it is important to open up our minds and learn. In this way, learning is the opposite of judging. When an arguments arises, try opening up your mind and try something valuable – try doing what is best for the relationship.

February 11, 2010

Humptydumptying

Filed under: Couples,Families — admin @ 11:57 am

Referencing Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking-Glass. When Alice asks Humpty Dumpty what he meant by “glory,” he replies, “I meant there’s a nice knock-down argument for you.” Alice protests that this isn’t the meaning of “glory.” “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty answers, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

Sound familiar?

In the context of relationships, many times, when one person says something (sends a communication signal), the other person improperly receives the message – resulting in a disconnection or invalidation or both.

Once disconnected, either or both people have a tendency to become disjointed, annoyed, frustrated, or otherwise psychologically distressed. What we desire most during these times of disconnection is connection and help. What we often receive, by contrast, is further distance and isolation.

Stated another way, instead of turning to the wisdom of Humpty Dumpty (stand up for self without putting the other person down or meaning what we say without becoming mean), we experience mounting intolerance and end up feeling like either jumping off the wall ourselves or wanting to push the other person off the wall. Either way, someone is bound to have a great fall.

October 11, 2009

Crisis of Infidelity

Filed under: Couples — admin @ 8:40 am

Within every marriage lies an agreement that is mutually cultivated and serves as the foundation from which the relationship begins, prospers and, when neglected or broken, fails. The roots of this agreement are cultivated under a wide assortment of conditions: active discussion, constructive negotiation, or passionate play. The voices exercised when developing this agreement can range wide: soft and caring, sober and calculated, or just simply reasonable. This agreement conveys the very essence of the couple and it is what bonds the twosome together uniquely. The agreement is trust – that basic understanding that frames the couple’s relational code of confidentiality. In this sense, trust is meant to convey something more than just the rules of the couple’s contextual and intimate interplay (i.e., rules of engagement). With greater complexity, yet with graceful and economic motive, trust begins in earnest at that moment when the couple defines themselves more as “we” than separate and distinguishable “I’s.”

With the prodigal status of trust being bracketed in the manner described above, it follows that the ultimate breach in a relationship is when this trust is dishonored. This phenomenon can be referred to as a “crisis of infidelity,” a phrase that expressively and plainly captures the crisis “in the breaking of whatever agreement has been accepted by both partners in the marriage.” In short, it can be argued, infidelity is much bigger than adultery. It is less about one person’s error in judgment, with or without intent, and much more about a relational trauma at a very deep and intimately contextual level that leaves behind an attachment scar.

Infidelity is that hurt that is unspoken brought on by the one person who communicates with you best when not speaking.

In an article entitled “Secrets of the Marriage Doctors,” in the premiere issue of My Generation, Scott M. Stanley, PhD, clinical psychologist, codirector of the Center for Marital & Family Studies at the University of Denver writes: “80% of the problems people deal with do not need to be solved, just well discussed.” Allow this just-let-it-soak-in message to ruminate in your brain for awhile, then ask yourself the following questions.

1. When the extramarital affair becomes public, is this therapeutically disastrous? Is the couple unfathomably broken and does it spell the end of the relationship?

2. When trust is breached, it would seem that the couple has entered into a room without any exits. Does this type of situation implicate long term therapy? It would seem that affectional abandonment leads to attitude entrenchment difficulties (e.g., “What did I do to deserve this,” After all these years of faithful commitment look what I get in return,” and, on the other side of the coin, “She drove me into the other person’s arms when she stopped loving me a long time ago.”).

3. Can relational forgiveness occur without a spiritual reference or guidepost? This question is prompted by the comment that “intimacy in marriages is developed through confessions, explanations, and soul-searchings.” Clearly, whether intended or otherwise, this observation has a tone of religiosity.

4. Do possessiveness and intimacy always inversely correlate? Continually? Or can there exist episodic “healthy” pockets of this type of dueling? It seems that that both of these concepts are measured along a common axis (distance), but with disproportionate degrees of mutuality. That is, possessiveness involves closeness that is “commanded” by one person who speaks from a position of control. Intimacy, on the other hand, involves closeness that is “embraced” mutually.

September 18, 2009

What’s the Question?

Filed under: Couples,divorce,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 12:58 pm

The kinds of unspoken questions we ask ourselves can stimulate curiosity, inspire new discoveries, and compel us to move in the direction of success. When this happens, our unspoken questions help make our world bigger.  Or, our private and innermost questions can invite despair, inactivity, and failure. These types of questions make our world small.

When our private questions shrink the world, our tendency is to shift into survival mode, seek safety, and refrain from taking chances. Paradoxically, it is our willingness to become daring and vulnerable that opens our world up to new possibilities and discoveries.

If your future continues to be a recycled version of your past, then the process of thinking about the way you think and, next, observing your thinking in real-time can together help your find a different path out of your situation.

Based on the above, the real question is, “When the moment becomes the ‘moment,’ what questions are you asking yourself?”

Is your question blame-oriented? – “Why is this person such a loser?”

Is your question dark and gloomy? – “Why do bad things always happen to me?”

Does your question make you selfish and unlikable? – “How can I prove I’m right?”

Does your question create dead-ends? – “How can I lose this time?”

Does your question end all hope? – “What’s the point of going on?”

The point becomes evident when your mind intentionally and consciously turns toward questioning your thinking instead of being a know-it-all and believing every thought your having is correct and worthy of trusting. When our minds have made up their minds, then we believe that what we know is right and we stop looking into the situation. Put another way, we stop learning. Since the purpose of our mind is to make sense out of what doesn’t make sense (the mind is puzzle master), when our minds have settled on an answer, reached a conclusion, or merely given up, psychologically we remove ourselves from the situation. The end result is we become stuck.

In the service of becoming UNSTUCK, let’s try asking different types of questions:

What works?

What am I responsible for?

What are the facts?

What’s the big picture?

What are my choices?

What can I learn?

What can I unlearn?

What’s useful about this?

What’s possible?

What is the other person feeling, needing, wanting?

August 25, 2009

The Value of Time

Filed under: Couples,Families,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 11:21 pm

Values are beliefs that influence people’s behavior and decision-making tendencies. That which is important in our lives, directly and silently guides our actions.

At one level, on the surface, we know what is important. It is likely our children, our family, our spouse, or our pets come to mind. Yet, at a much deeper level, when we are pressured or stressed, that which is most important is not readily reflected in our actions or behaviors. Under stress, our kindness toward those we most value interestingly diminishes. This conflict illustrates one of our uniquely human frailties – selfishness. That is, while “others” are highly valued most of the time, when things get tough our minds rapidly retreat back to our “self.”

Don’t beat yourself up if this is happening to you. Instead, take a breath, examine your values, and then ask yourself,” What am I willing to do about this situation?”

If you experiencing a conflict between your stated values and your actions, then reflect on The Value of Your Time. This is done by becoming more conscious about how your values and time collide. Here is an exercise to rebalance yourself.

Exercise: Over the next week, consider your values (e.g., work, important relationships, leisure time activities, community, family, spirituality) and ask where you are willing to DEVOTE MORE TIME, DEVOTE LESS TIME, and DEVOTE THE SAME TIME. By doing so, it is likely you will be more “in-control” of your values, rather than being “controlled” by time.

July 29, 2009

Big Money – The Power of Context

Filed under: Couples,parenting — Tags: — admin @ 6:47 am

Most of the time what couples fight about, what families quarrel about, what individuals complain about is what is right in front of them. Whatever is up close and personal, perhaps it’s a lack of money or a spouse coming home late or a child using an ugly word – this is what gets our immediate attention. And, this is what grabs our energy. With the child we might say sternly, “Don’t you ever talk to me that way again!” When money runs low we might say to ourselves, “Why can’t I ever get ahead; what’s wrong with me?” To the tardy spouse we might say, “If you’re going to be late again, don’t bother coming home at all!” All of these thoughts end up in the same place – being disconnecting.

Why? Because all of these responses makes someone the problem, instead of making the problem the problem.

So – how do we change this situation?

The short answer is by looking past the problem into the background. Let me share a story about “Big Money” to help you understand the power of context, which is best explained as that which is going on in the background, not the foreground.

A small child, let’s say she is four-years-old, goes to the hairdresser with her mother, who is kind of in a grumpy and distracted mode. The child is given a seat in the front of the beauty salon where she can pretty much see everything that is going on. So, the child does what she does best at four years old – she pretty much watches everything that is going on while she pretends to be looking at a book.

When the child’s mother is finished and comes to the register to pay, the child says, “Mommy, you look beautiful.” The mother responds with a smile from this collision with an unexpected compliment. But the smile goes away quickly and the mother returns to her routine and pays for the hairstyling. At the very end of this transaction, the mother reaches into her purse and gives a dollar to her daughter and asks her to give it to the hairdresser. Not understanding the purpose of this extra step, the daughter asks what the money is for and the mother says it’s a tip. The daughter, true to her observant form, asks “What’s a tip?” The mother replies, “It’s something you give a person when they make you feel good.”

Instead of walking directly to the hairdresser, the child detours back to her seat and reaches into her sparkly pink purse for something. After fishing around for a long moment, the child finds what she is looking for and then goes to the hairdresser and gives her the dollar and a quarter.

Becoming curious about this transaction, the mother asks the daughter what the quarter was for and the child replies, “I liked the way she made me feel when she turned you beautiful so I gave her the “biggest” money I could find.

Obviously, this child has a poor concept of the value of money. Or, does she?

Perhaps the child’s ability to see what is going on in the background allows her to more fully and honestly appreciate the “context” of the moment. By comparison with the mother’s tip, which was given out of habit, the child’s gift was more proportionally generous because it was given from a different context, it was given from her perspective of big-hearted generosity.

How might the concept of “big money” change your point of view as related to a lack of money, a husband who comes home late, or a child that uses an ugly word?

July 7, 2009

Day-to-Day Shocks

Filed under: Couples,divorce,Individual,parenting,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:43 pm

When life goes “according to plan” there isn’t much to complain about. In fact, one might argue, under such conditions, life is good. But is it really?

Think about all that you most remember. Do you recall with vivid detail those moments when life is undisturbed by disappointment, frustration, or rejection? When life is running its course and the expression “smooth sailing” best describes your situation, are flashbulbs going off capturing these events? The answer is most likely “no.”

Why is it that when we are sailing along and perhaps “on top of the world” our brains aren’t enjoying the high life with detailed recollection of such grand times? The short answer is that when life remains the same, regardless of its quality or lack thereof, our minds begin to shut down because it already knows what it knows and there is no reason to remain interested or active. Stated differently, consider that are minds are basically pattern-recognition machines. They look for information against which to compare against what it already knows – a template. When sensory information is collected, even a small piece, that appears to match a previous experience, it’s as if the mind says “voila” and it goes back to its resting position. Think about, for example, two simple dots drawn on a blank piece of paper. One might believe that it is a straight line that is being contemplated. However, the mind remains uncertain. However, when a third dot is introduced that is equal distance from each other, the mind sees the outline of a geometric figure and the person responds by saying “triangle.” Once the mind becomes convinced that it is right, it goes on to other things. In this way, when our lives are doused with comfort, our minds respond by going off-line or at least transform into a more acquiescent state.

Turning our attention to relationships, which is where most of our human drama occurs, if it is true that our minds are keenly interested in differences, change, and adjustment, why is that this is the same stuff that most upsets relationships? This conundrum can be explained referencing the Doom Loop. Think about our lives being arranged along two axes, which comprises a 2×2 matrix. On axis-X, there are two situations: “what I like” and “what I don’t like.” On axis-Y, there is “what I’m good at” and “what I’m not good at.” When “what I like” intersects with “what I’m not good at” the outcome is excitement. When we apply ourselves in this zone and eventually acquire some skills, then we move into the “Comfort Zone,” which is made up of “what I like” and “what I’m good at.” However, when we stay in this zone too long, we eventually stop liking whatever it is that once gave us comfort. In this way, we move from the comfort zone into the Boredom Zone. It is in this zone that trouble begins brewing. If we don’t do anything constructive about the situation, then we shift from the boredom zone into the Doom Zone – consisting of the combination of “what I don’t like” and “what I’m not good at.” Returning to the issue of relationship dynamics, think about a situation in your life that is best described by the Boredom Zone.

Perhaps you have been playing golf your whole life and the luster of this game no longer appeals to you like it once did. In a word, you have become “bored.” Once bored, it is easy to take your eye off the ball, lose your concentration, and your score begins to noticeably suffer. In this way, you have entered the Doom Zone. Similarly, relationships can be measured in accordance with the zone you most find yourself in – Excitement, Comfort, Boredom, or Doom. It is in the comfort and boredom zones where our minds begin to shut down. Interestingly, by comparison, it is in the Excitement and Doom Zones where our minds become most active. Related to this phenomenon, it appears, at least to the mind, that there is not much difference between these two zones. In fact, the distance between the two zones is really a matter of perception and attitude. The difference is made clear when what you “like” and “don’t like” is analyzed carefully.

Using this concept of our mind’s pattern-matching predisposition, when the day-to-day shocks of life’s uncertainties confront you, contemplate which direction your mind leans. Does it become excited for the challenge and remain in a learning mode? Or, does it become frightened and defensive, preferring to judge the situation and, thus, become closed minded.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to be more in-control of life’s day-to-day shocks, instead of being controlled by them? The difference lies in one’s state of mind – having a mind that is either in learning mode or judgment mode. In both cases, according to how our minds make memories, flashbulbs will likely be popping. Your role in these momentous events is to determine whether the memory is worth savoring or will end up being more unsavory.

What kind of flashbulbs have been “POPPING” in your life lately?

July 3, 2009

Antidote for Anxiety – Marriage Therapy

Filed under: Couples — admin @ 3:21 pm

The notion of marital therapy serving as the foundational paradigm in the treatment for such anxiety disorders as agoraphobia, OCD, social phobia, PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorders appears, flat out, right on target. The inclusion of the spouse in the treatment environment as an additional support structure as well as improving the very underpinning of the person’s primary relational connection, the marital relationship, appears to be bothy therapeutically intuitive and consistent with the belief that treatment of such conditions requires the development of a generally supportive interpersonal background.

But, and this is a big but, an essential aspect of this antidote is contingent upon possessing or developing an anxiety-reducing spouse. It is proposed that this is easier said than done. Beyond the big hitting forms of anxieties listed above, it is easy to list numerous events that occur in the everyday rhythm of marital life that occasion situational jitteriness and, therefore, can and do serve as seeds for much bigger problems in the future, such as alcohol abuse, general medical illnesses, midlife crises, loneliness, workaholism, and economic hardships, to name but a few.

How do you develop an anxiety-reducing spouse? Ask your spouse to join you in therapy and focus on teaching him or her how to better meet your most important emotional and psychological needs – belonging, intimacy, and feeling special.

June 29, 2009

Crisis of Infidelity

Filed under: Couples — Tags: — admin @ 4:35 pm

Infidelity is that hurt that is unspoken brought on by the one person who communicates with you best when not speaking.

Within every marriage lies an agreement that is mutually cultivated and serves as the foundation from which the relationship begins, prospers and, when neglected or broken, fails. The roots of this agreement are cultivated under a wide assortment of conditions: active discussion, constructive negotiation, or passionate play. The voices exercised when developing this agreement can range wide: soft and caring, sober and calculated, or just simply reasonable. This agreement conveys the very essence of the couple and it is what bonds the twosome together uniquely. The agreement is trust – that basic understanding that frames the couple’s relational code of confidentiality. In this sense, trust is meant to convey something more than just the rules of the couple’s contextual and intimate interplay (i.e., rules of engagement). With greater complexity yet with graceful and efficient motive, trust begins in earnest at that moment when the couple defines themselves more as “we” than separate and distinguishable “I’s.”

With the prodigal status of trust being bracketed in the manner described above, it follows that the ultimate breach in a relationship is when this trust is dishonored. When trust is broken or violated, a crisis of infidelity is created. The infidelity is the breaking of the agreement that invisibly ties and holds the couple together. The foundation of such an agreement is based loosely on the assumption that both parties will faithfully attend to the other person’s needs while balancing their own needs with the needs of the marriage. When this balance is disturbed by a trend of unrefined selfishness, faith in reciprocity, in general thoughts of being care about, and in the hope of a better tomorrow is lost.

In this way, infidelity is much bigger than adultery. It is less about one person’s error in judgment, with or without intent, and much more about a relational insult at a very deep and intimately contextual level that leaves behind an attachment scar.

Making the Marital Bed

Filed under: Couples — Tags: — admin @ 4:12 pm

The Chinese saying “Same bed, different dreams” directly speaks to the two-sided, complex interplay that exists between intimate couples and represents the emotional fulcrum point that precariously balances relational dynamics. The teetering nature of relationships seems to be lurking at every bend. It’s as if the marital balance can tip at any time and when it does or even before it does, sexual functioning and various other expressions of intimacy have changed, and usually the change has occurred at an imperceptibly slow rate.

“I just woke up one day and realized that we had drifted far apart,” is an example of a typical spousal expression of relational distance.

It is likely this type of relational drifting can be forestalled if the couple is able to listen more attentively to their non-verbal messages that are being uniquely expressed and shared in the marital bed. Different intimacy messages can be gleaned from the answers to the following questions:

“As a couple, do you go to bed together?”

“Do you touch while sleeping?”

“What is your lovemaking expressing?”

“Who controls the sexual interaction?”

“Do you talk in bed?”

“Who makes the bed?”

“Who messes it up the most?”

It is proposed that teaching couples how to remake their marital bed increases the likelihood of improved interactional joining that may effectively halt relational wandering.

In summary, the problems of a distressed marriage easily, naturally and unavoidably spill over into the sexual relationship. Sex and bedroom behavior may be issues that people prefer to avoid, but they can’t avoid them forever, after all they go to sleep with them every night.

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