Blue and Pink language, I figure that it’s almost the most appropriate thing to call the communication between men and women. We think in completely separate ways, and our actions prove it! Before you’re hunny retreats to his “man-cave” after a fight the two of you have had, or guys, before she decides to go shopping with your credit card, let’s take a look at what is really the culprit behind our “talks”. Coming to our rescue and Making Your Relationship Work, will be Dr. Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning, and Dr. Kim Paleg.
Some of the problem is social media and the “trend” of who’s-who on sites such as Facebook, and how couple behavior is modeled for us on television reality shows. I don’t believe I’ve seen a romantic movie or novel that didn’t have the couples pouring their hearts out and working for the best relationship. (Possibly I don’t watch enough movies, but you get my point.) There is also the issue of what was it like at home? It’s a time-old indication that plays a role in how we choose to act.
Testified in the second edition of Couple Skills, “…it’s not just the screaming fights that damage your relationship. It’s the sarcasm, the put-downs, and the name-calling. It’s the body language of hostility, the folded arms and clenched jaw. After each interaction, you feel more alienated. Your anger, hurt, and disappointment grow.”
Ladies and Gent’s, this is what we are going to move away from. We are going to talk about clean communication, thought distortion, and anger management. Many have already joined the movement to a healthier lifestyle and way of thinking. A key to success will be to actually listen to your partner. Not only do you want a better communication pathway with them, but also, to further into every connection you make with other people in our world.
Following are 10 Commandments of Clean Communication:
1. Avoid judgmental words and loaded terms. (Leave exaggeration to fairy tales)
2. Avoid global labels. (She/he isn’t a female dog, they’re a person)
3. Avoid you messages of blame and accusation.
4. Avoid old history. (What’s the issue at hand?)
5. Avoid negative comparisons. (If you want another ex, keep comparing them)
6. Avoid threats. (Deliberate intention to hurt? You’re choosing to Love or Disrespect.)
7. Describe your feelings rather than attack with them.
8. Keep body language open and receptive. (It’s the atmosphere!)
9. Use whole messages (Components: Observation, thoughts, feelings, and needs)
10. Use clear messages. (If it can be taken 4 different ways, it will be)
Many of your strongest emotional reactions are generated by your internal monologue. This internal monologue includes assumptions about your partner and your own interpretations of reality. In 1988, Beck Ellis created strategies like the Daily Dysfunctional Thoughts Record to help couples identify distorted automatic thoughts and the Three-Column Technique to challenge and change distorted thinking. The ABC theory shows us the relationship between events, thoughts, and emotions. A is the event, B is thoughts that attempt to assign meaning to what’s happening, and C are the feelings that respond (Ellis and Harper 1966). There are particular cognitive distortions that create specific thinking errors that act as lens, filtering, and changing the real event. If you think inaccurate, distorted thoughts, your emotional reactions will be exaggerated!
8 Cognitive Distortions that Impact your relationship
1. Tunnel vision. (Can’t see the forest for the trees)
2. Assumed intent. (May not always be the case.)
3. Magnification. (Mountain or molehill?)
4. Global Labeling
5. Good/bad dichotomizing. (Black, White, Rainbow?)
6. Fractured logic. (Don’t jump to conclusions)
7. Control fallacies (Pointing fingers…)
8. Letting-it-out fallacy (“It’s their fault, punish them!” It takes two to tango, rumba, and even swing)
The honeymoon phase of the relationship is largely based on illusion, and sometimes anger and conflict result as the by-products of perceptions that weren’t composed entirely with the right logic to begin with. No matter how close, eventually partners will experience a differing of directions and of different needs. This realization is the first prompting to develop a constructive method for resolving conflict.
First off, sometimes we resort to using “coping” strategies that we saw (as children and/or former relationships) to fight with in an argument.
8 Aversive Strategies
1. Discounting (Your needs aren’t as much as mine.)
2. Withdrawal/Abandonment (The ultimatum)
7. Derailing (Changing the subject)
8. Taking away (“I’ll punish you, if you refuse me.”)
Many of us are guilty of one or more of these strategies from time to time; we may even know that they are wrong! Yet we still use them. The point here is that in a fight, someone wants to “win”, which means that the other person has to lose. In the concept of the battle of the sexes, this is a zero-sum war. What partners don’t realize is that, actually, both of you are losing. Making your partner feel inferior isn’t you winning; you’re drawing a divide in your relationship and making bigger disconnections, which ultimately create a snowball effect into disaster. What type of attitude should you take towards your next disagreement? Glad you asked, the following will present attitudes to help guide more effective communication with in-the-moment conflicts and making time-out structures work.
The Key Attitude
1. Conflict is inevitable between intimates; it’s okay to want different things.
2. Each partner’s needs are equally valid. (Instruct yourself to relax)
3. Conflict must be solved together as partners. (Stay calm)
4. Develop more effective strategies for reinforcing your partner.
5. Take care of the need yourself. (Or be willing to, remember: independence)
6. Develop new sources of support, nourishment, and appreciation.
7. Set limits.
8. Negotiate assertively. (But respectfully)
9. Let go.
1. No last words. (No exceptions)
2. Leave immediately (Stop and cool down for at least 55 minutes)
3. Always return when the time is up. (This is not a revenge set-up)
4. Don’t use drugs or alcohol during time-out.
5. Don’t rehearse what you’ll say or should have said. (Don’t fan the flames)
6. Check in when you get back. (Both parties need to be ready to talk in order to communicate.)
7. Don’t use time-outs to block communication.
Many external factors can play into why couples may be having a harder time communicating. Examples are situations such as seasonal effective disorder and/or holiday stress.
One acronym to try and always utilize when talking to your partner, or anyone in general, is THINK.
T – Is it thoughtful?
H – Is it helpful?
I – Is it intelligent/said with integrity?
N – Is it necessary?
K – Is it kind?
Do you know what that “other” person as been through in entirety? We need to stop judging and disappointing ourselves from creating false illusions. Yes, emotions are high when there is any form of misperception or fighting, but another key element that everyone should also work on is…forgiveness.
Girls and guys, I cannot tell you how much this simple virtue can change your life. Do I advocate staying in emotional and/or physically abusive relationships because you forgive him or her? Definitely, and absolutely, not. I am talking about the little everyday things that a simple “I’m sorry” can fix. Putting away your ego, to give care for the mental wellbeing of another person. Apologizing when you realize you’ve hurt someone. What you put into this world, you will get out of this world. As idealistic as it sounds, can you not remember that “bad day” when someone was unnecessarily kind to you, and it made all the difference? Why aren’t you taking the time and doing that for someone else?
Lastly, I’d like to end this article with an ironic statistic. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” has been proven to be scientifically true! Jenn Sturiale from CNN quotes, “’Long-distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back,’ says Crystal Jiang, Ph.D., coauthor of the 2013 study, which appeared in the Journal of Communication. ‘People in long-distance relationships often have stronger bonds from more constant, and deeper, communication than normal relationships.’” This doesn’t mean that we “same-town” couples can’t have this too. We may have to work for it, but isn’t everything worth having, worth working for?
Kathy Fortner, EdS, LPC, CCMHC
Crystal Eaddy, Contributor
Photography © CLRaven Photographics, Crystal Lynn Eaddy