Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday - Social and Emotional Strength

Today's topic is on Marriage and the tips come from the talk "When Marriage Have Problems" by Terry Baker.

Couples work through their differences at varying levels of effectiveness, with different methods.

1. Putting Each Other Down (the Worst Way)
This method is often characterized by physical fighting, swearing, and throwing things. It is accompanied by excessive selfishness and stubbornness, the idea that “my way is the only way and that I am obviously much wiser than my partner will ever be.” To make sure that the other person gets this point and believes it, the partner chooses an emotional outburst designed to put the other down. It’s easy to function at this level; it takes little practice.

2. Burying Feelings (a Little Better)
This method of resolving differences consists of pretending that problems don’t exist. But feelings buried alive usually refuse to die. They keep surfacing, disrupting us and those close to us. Some people suffer from buried feelings for decades. Unresolved resentment, anger, disappointment, frustration, and hurt can destroy physical health and ruin marriages and families.

Functioning at this level is a small step above level one because it does require some self-control. Those practicing this technique usually adapt it from such sayings as “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” This is sound advice on occasion. But when we repress important feelings, the one who feels hurt will continue to feel hurt, and the spouse will always be wondering in frustration what the problem is.

3. Compromising (Better, but Not Perfect)
This level is advocated by communication specialists. It is particularly useful, they say, in solving problems of limited family resources. It is similar to the process nations use to negotiate peaceful settlements.

Couples functioning at this level usually go through a sequence of steps. First, they recognize that a conflict exists and decide to negotiate a settlement. Next, during the negotiation period, each partner recognizes the other’s rights and tries to be sensitive to the other’s needs. At the bargaining session, each person states what he or she would like, and then demonstrates willingness to compromise and trade. Above all, both sides try to make the settlement fair and equitable.

This level of problem-solving is popular among many couples in the world today and is a definite improvement on levels one and two. It takes work, self-control, empathy, and a desire to place the relationship on at least an equal level of importance with our own personal needs and wants. But it lacks charity.

4. Being Charitable (the Best Method)
This level is based on gospel principles, especially charity—the opposite of selfishness. If we have charity, we have as much love and concern for our mate as we have for ourselves. We try to understand our partner’s feelings and needs; we value our relationship more than our own wants. The level and tone of voice we use in problem-solving is the same we would use if we were talking to the Savior.

When Paul defined charity (1 Cor. 13), he used such words as “suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. … Never faileth. … is the pure love of Christ, and … endureth forever”. What useful counsel for husbands and wives trying to overcome differences!

These suggestions might help us use charity in solving marital problems:

a. Deal with personal feelings first. Intense feelings affect our self-control, which in turn influences our ability to be charitable and to communicate clearly. Therefore it is best to “cool off” first before we try to talk to our mate about the issue at hand.

b. Be sensitive to timing. Some times are better for discussions than others. We may need to wait until the best time comes. It is unwise to discuss important feelings when we or our partners are tired, pressured, or hungry.

c. Own up to the problem. In this simple but important step, we acknowledge that we are concerned and that we aren’t trying to blame the other person. Instead of saying “you make me mad when …” we could say something like “I have a concern that I’d like to talk to you about. Is now a good time to do it?” If the answer is yes, then continue.

d. Begin with a sincere, positive statement related to the issue. When we are angry, this is difficult to do—that’s why we have to be in control of our feelings.

e. Honestly and kindly state feelings associated with this concern.

f. State the concern in a tentative manner rather than using absolutes. By so doing, we acknowledge that what we are saying is only the way we see it and that our partner’s views are just as important as our own: Some tentative phrases are: “I wonder if …”, “As I see it …”, “I may be wrong but …”, “It seems to me …”, “In my opinion. …”

g. Be descriptive in explaining the problem. Avoid passing judgment. It is important here to be as specific as we can in describing the other person’s behavior, rather than making judgments such as “You don’t even care if we are late or not.”

After we are sure our partner understands both our feelings and our perception of facts about the problems, and after we have given our spouse a chance to state his or her own feelings and perceptions of the facts, then it is time to move on to the resolution step. Unfortunately, too many of us try to skip all of the above steps and just blurt out such things as “What are you going to do about always making us late?” This type of attack is dishonest—it nearly always makes the situation worse.

h. Make some suggestions, stating what you are willing to do to help accomplish those suggestions. This shows that you are not just a complainer but are willing to help make changes.

i. Be flexible. If your suggestions are not acceptable, be willing to accommodate your mate’s perceptions of how the problem can best be resolved.

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