Couples Homework (1)

1) Keeping a Journal

During the week jot down your (triggers, thoughts, actions, consequences) as below in a journal.

Do this anytime you have a disagreement with your partner or if they make you feel anxious.

  1. How were you feeling just before?
  2. What happened? (Trigger).
  3. What thoughts went through your mind at that time about the situation? (Perception).
  4. What did you say or do? (Action).
  5. What emotions did you feel before, during and afterwards? (Consequences). i.e. Angry/Sad/Anxious/Hurt.
  6. What was the final outcome? (Result).

This is something you can bring to your appointments. In the moment (the emotional wave) things can seem very overwhelming. It is helpful to look at these times later when are emotions are not involved. Then we can see more clearly the problems and find ways to resolve them and reduce them from happening in the future.

2) Listening

Choose two free time slots during the week and take turns.  You could do this by flipping a coin heads or tails to choose who goes first.

  1. Partner number one can talk for as long as she or he likes about any topic without interruption.
  2. To ensure partner two has listened properly he or she will summarize the main points after partner number one has finished talking.
  3. Next time swap roles. Partner two can talk while partner one listens without interrupting.
  4. Partner one will summarize the main points after partner two has stopped talking.
  5. Repeat the above as many times as necessary.

It is important not to comment in a negative way afterwards about what the other person has said.

C1. Communication – three part statement

90% of communication happens without words – and this is particularly the case when we are under stress.

Our assumptions can cloud even a simple conversation and our unconscious body language complicates matters further. It is a miracle that any couple can communicate well. Love normally smooths over most mishaps, but when one partner or both gets upset repeatedly over seemingly unimportant matters this is a warning sign. So how can we stop our hidden assumptions clouding our communications?

The three part statement

Assumptions happen because we fail to give our partner enough information. This is why the three part statement is so powerful!

I feel (x) when you (y) because (x).

An example could be – I feel (annoyed) when you (Don’t fill up the car) because (I don’t have time in the morning and you make me late).

How to use the three part statement

In times of conflict careless remarks can be loaded with hidden assumptions – from both the listener and the speaker – clear communication is almost impossible. The three part statement allows you to get as much info as possible and limit the potential for misunderstandings.

Don’t skip any parts or improvise.

  1. I feel ………….,…………………………….
  2. When you ………………………………….
  3. Because ………….,……..,………………..

Very few people can put their thoughts into a three part formula, it takes practice.

  • Think back to the last time you wanted to say something and it came out wrong.
  • Write down the frame above and fill in each part. For example – I feel upset when you ignore me because I am trying to change.
  • Try and come up with four more examples from the past.
  • Now think of something current that you need to communicate. It doesn’t necessarily need to be your partner – the three parts work well for anyone.
  • Write down the framework and again finish off each part.
  • Ask yourself “Is this statement clear; accurate and do I need to add anything?” If so, make any changes.
  • Practice the finished statement a couple of times, this will help it flow naturally when you tell the other person.

C2. Communication with joyful arguments

Arguments (disagreements) have such a bad reputation that we can only see the downside. Rows can also be positive if we stick to certain rules.

  • They bring all the issues to the surface.
  • They help you realize what issues are truly important.
  • They show our partner we care enough to take a risk (rather than sweeping everything under the carpet).
  • The process of disagreeing, making up and finding a compromise is one of the most bonding things a couple may do.

These positives only occur if you stick to the following rules.

  • Deal with the problems as they come up, rather than letting them fester.
  • Criticize the behaviour and not the person eg please leave your shoes in the hall rather than saying you are selfish.
  • Take one issue at a time
  • Listen to what your partner has to say and try and put yourself in his or her shoes.What part of their argument is valid?
  • No name calling.No doing anything to make your partner feel fearful.
  • Don’t walk away from the argument unless one of you has or will break the previous rule.

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