There’s the usual trap that couples get stuck in,
the symmetrical, escalating argument of whose
character is worse, who suffers more, who works
harder, whose family of origin is worse, etc. The
essence of the arguments is around proving to the
other that one’s position is ‘’right’’, with the
inevitable implication that the other is ‘’
Each has been trying to convince the other that
the other is ‘’more wrong’’, a bigger jerk, or
whatever worse than ones self. The argument is
unsolvable, so the talking goes in circles until either
or both give up and stop talking.
We now put the conversation in terms of
“feeling” and describing emotional needs. Since a
feeling is inarguable, [nobody can tell you how to
feel] the conversation is taken out of the arena of ‘’
right/wrong’’, and is about what is subjectively true
for each partner.
The alternative to the usual argument is to talk
primarily about one’s feeling at the moment. It’s
amazing how unskilled partners are at simple
identification of any current feeling, putting the
feeling into words, and staying with that statement
only. Each has to be convinced that being loved is
preferable to “being right”.
The other part is that each is taught how to
listen, and to listen to feeling content only, and to
acknowledge/reflect this content back to the
speaker. In the 70’s, it was called active listening.
Again, it’s amazing how unskilled so many partners
are. The purpose of this exercise is to generate
the odd new feeling of ‘’being listened to’’ by the
other. Each usually wants to hijack the discussion
in service of being right, so the moderator needs to
return the subject back to the feeling. There’s no ‘’
winning’’, any argument of how you feel, just saying
what is one’s truth is at the moment.
This discussion is a new skill, and it doesn’t
necessarily solve the ‘’problem’’, but can move the
rut, and put the couple on the path to solve, adjust
to, or grieve their own problems. Most people have
the necessary intelligence. With the experience of
feeling “listened to”, the tension and defensiveness
diminishes, and reason may prevail.
I do not attempt to influence any couple to split
up or stay together. My purpose is to assist them in
identifying their feelings [rather than opinions], to
improve their own communication weaknesses, and
then to talk through their own concerns so they can
make their own decisions.
See the Family Tree-Genogram Page
|"..................These triggers could be found in the quotidian tasks of the day, such as shopping, where a simple
decision over what to make for dinner took on cosmic weight. The basic pattern underpinning all these
day-to-day interactions is as follows: Jane fears (but unconsciously seeks) connection. connection. Peter
establishes the connection. Jane begins to trust the connection, but feels she has to be in control of the
connection in order to continue to trust. She begins to make more an more impossible-to-meet demands to test
the connection. Peter resists the control she is exerting by failing to meet simple promises. This gives him a
reason to not only try to re-exert control, but to prove he is right to be angry with himself for having failed to keep
his obligation. This gives Jane a reason not to trust him and an excuse to break the connection. This gives Peter
a reason to vent his anger. This proves to Jane that connection is dangerous. This proves to Peter that his
anger is unacceptable and so he is unacceptable. They are both sent back to their opposite corners. Jane fears
(but unconsciously seeks) connection. Peter seeks (but unconsciously fears) connection until the next dance
Isa Gucciardi, PH.D.
Opening the Doors to the Self: Relationships and Regression Therapy
Journal of Regression Therapy, Volume XIII (1), 1999
What is your own contribution to the problem?
Is there a difficult feeling you get around your spouse? Can you identify it? How old is it? How long has it been with you? Go to before
you met. Previous relationships. Is the feeling still present?
If so, then how could your spouse have caused it? If the feeling predated meeting your spouse, then how could your spouse cure it?
The best your spouse could do is distract you from that old feeling that you have been running from for so long. In time, your distraction
fantasy dissolves and stops working. Is that the spouses' job, to distract you from the past, to save you from preexisting pain? No present
spouse can cure your past, or fill in the void, or pay for the mistakes of previous people.....
How do you react when you believe that difficult feeling and the thoughts associated with it? Who would you be in this relationship if you
rejected that feeling and those thoughts as untrue in the present?
What if you rejected that thought, "If you loved me, you'd do what I want...."
From Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?"
".....Excluding your partner's
perspective and insisting on
your own, no matter how you
put it, implies that being right is
more important to you than how
your partner feels and more
important than the well being of
your relationship......As long as
they each failed at compassion
for the other's subtle
vulnerabilities, and remained
stuck in their own perspectives,
all the ''right things'' they'd
learned to say in therapy had
the wrong effect."
Patricia Love, EdD., and
Stephen Stosny, PhD., How to
Improve Your Marriage
Without Talking About It
"I remember so vividly a day in early spring when my whole reality gave out on me. Although it
was before I had heard of any Buddhist teachings, it was what some would call a genuine spiritual
experience. It happened when my husband told me he was having an affair. We lived in northern
New Mexico. I was standing in front of our adobe house drinking a cup of tea. I heard the car
drive up and the door bang shut. Then, he walked around the corner, and without warning he
told me he was having an affair and wanted a divorce.
I remember the sky and how huge it was. I remember the sound of the river and the steam
rising up from my tea. There was no time, no thought, there was nothing--just the light and
a profound, limitless stillness............... Then, I regrouped and picked up a stone and threw it at
Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
Marital Communication Exercises
1. Colors Game; The speaker says colors [letters, numbers] that the listener says as the speaker is finishing,
reflecting unusual attention, eye contact, and focusing. Then, switch to feeling words. From AMP Training video.
2. Do you get back more, the same, or less than you give to your partner/relationship?
3. Frame Game; Observer identifies ‘’snapshots’’ of noticing the other and reports what he sees at each
moment in time. From AMP Training video.
4. “I’m really turned on by you”, Lance’s AMP lesson.
5. Three Statements; My first impression of you was…., When I felt you the most was……, and What I now
really understand about you is….From the AMP Training video.
6. Recognizing the positive intent from the other’s [unskillful] behavior, and acknowledging the
7. Identify which of the 5 love languages your partner desires most; Affirmation words, Quality time, Receiving
gifts, Acts of service, and/or Physical touch. From Robinson.
8. Exercises of Mirroring the other’s presence.
9. Electric Sex; sit facing partner, hold hands, eye contact, and he follows her breathing. Get in sync and go
for 5 minutes.
10. Move into blaming mode and identify the accompanying feeling of loneliness. Use as a doorway into
exposing and grieving the loneliness. How old? Partner didn’t cause and can’t fill.
11. And What Else? Exercise; moves through list of complaints at the listener simply saying ‘’and what else?”
Complaining partner will sound from attacking to softening, from angry to wider feeling, from rigid to flexible.
12. “You’ve Got It” game. Partner feeds back what the speaker says until the speaker is accurate. [Robinson]
13. Focus on what you want and own it, rather than complain about what you don’t want.
14. When she speaks, follow Garrison’s ideas; where it lands in the body, feel the sensations w/o resisting,
make eye contact, turn sensations into words.
A man becomes more masculine when he faces his feelings because he stood and
conquered the dragon within. The man-coward, boy-man runs from his feelings, remains
weak, puerile, inauthentic, afraid. After he stops running, there’s nothing within to fear right
now, no pretences, nothing to hide. His acknowledged wound becomes his sorrow, open
to grieving, and folded in to his wisdom and compassion, not like the boy’s hot-headed,
arrogant judgment and reactivity. Action replaces motion.
When phony, a man is pussy whipped, not by his women, but by his shame. Women have
generally been gifted with a tendency towards greater perception and expressiveness of
feeling, and when she encouraged to be fully expressive, she’s radiant, fully feminine, fully
present. When a man is fully feeling, his penetrating desire, passion and vulnerability are
the masculine magnet's north pole to attract the woman's feminine south pole and capture
her own femininity and passion.
"How can I find the partner I want?" Do the work of growing up and you will attract the partner
that is on your level that you are ready for. What quality/maturity partner would be attracted to
you now? You will keep the partner that you are prepared enough to handle. Confidence in
your attractiveness and worthiness will eliminate the necessity of chasing and begging, buying,
pursuing and trying to impress.