Rescuing Your Marriage From Disaster
Great marriages are made when husbands and wives make a lot if everyday choices that say I love you rather than choices that say I love me
Myths and advice abound when it comes to what to do about marital relationship issues. From counselors to well-meaning friends and family and everyone in between, everyone has an opinion. There are many scapegoats and just as many solutions, so it can be hard to sift what works from what doesn’t. Unfortunately, there is an overabundance of downright bad advice that can lead a couple down the path to disaster even more quickly.
I am certainly no expert in this field, but I would like to share the experience of two experts with years of experience in studying relationships and working with couples. Dr. John M. Gottman (foremost relationship expert) and Dr. Joe Beam (of Helping Marriages) both offer workable wisdom in helping couples recuperate from disastrous marital situations, some of which have been at the point of no return.
Dr. John M. Gottman, in his research, has identified the predictors and stages of decline in marriages. One of the biggest is: The Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen
In his book entitled The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, Dr. John M. Gottman identifies 4 disaster bringing attitudes that can slowly and then swiftly tear a marriage (or any relationship for that matter) apart.
We are not always going to be in agreement with the other person and from time to time we will have to lodge some complaints, but as the book points out, complaints are not the same as criticism. A complaint focuses on behavior or events whereas criticism comes as a personal attack. Criticism gets personal in a negative way. Criticism is the first of the horsemen to ride as it often appears as the novelty wears off and the reality of living and coping with another person with different habits, and attitudes takes its place.
Contempt is a form of disrespect, of thinking that we are somehow superior to another person. this contempt can be expressed in various ways: sarcasm, name-calling, mockery, cynicism, eye-rolling, nasty humor. It is poisonous to any relationship. No one feels comfortable in a relationship where one partner clearly gives the impression that he or she is disgusted with the other. How does contempt come about? It comes through a simmering over time of negative thoughts about the other person. This contempt can also easily turn into aggressive anger as well.
Defensiveness is our natural reaction to perceived attacks on our person. In effect, we go into a “righteous mode” of being the innocent party and through our words and actions we blame the other person for being “wrong” about us. In any event, defensiveness will only escalate the conflict even as we may think we are trying to rectify the situation and “set the records straight”.
In a relationship where criticism, contempt, and defensiveness are commonplace, eventually, one partner will choose to tune himself or herself out. Stonewalling is turning away from the other partner in order to avoid confrontation and conflict. It is a defense mechanism used in order to bring about some form of protection. The stonewaller gives an impression of indifference or an “I don’t care” attitude.
Falling in Love
In his book entitled The Art of Falling in Love, author (and founder of Marriage Helpers), Dr. Joe Beam teaches about what he calls the “love path” or the process of falling in love. Essentially, he says that if there are relational areas to be fixed in our marriage, we need to understand how it was that we fell in love in the first place and try to start again at the beginning (reboot the marriage). He says that we can’t expect to relate on an intimate level if we have lost the basics of what attracted us to one another in the first place. And the “love path” is not a means to an end; it is a path that we need to continue to travel on. If we leave it, we can very easily fall out of love. There are four stages of falling in love are attraction, acceptance, attachment, aspiration and this order needs to be respected.
If we are having difficulty communicating our feelings to one another or feel insecure in doing so, maybe it is time to backtrack to safer topics. Love is not about making us or the other person feel uncomfortable. It may be time to listen more and try to discover their thoughts on safer, mundane topics.
Falling in love with someone makes you see their imperfections as being perfect, their flaws make you want to stick to them more.
As with anything, we can not excel at advanced levels if the foundation is shaky. In a relationship, we can not have intimacy if trust and friendship are lacking. The four stages of falling in love are levels of increased trust and intimacy. However, if we try to have relational intimacy (sharing hopes, dreams, feelings etc.) but we are not accepting of one another or even attracted to one another, intimacy is not possible.
Each level requires a greater degree of trust and brings us into new levels of both vulnerability and strength. When a marriage is experiencing relational issues and when the 4 horsemen have moved in, trust has been broken, intimacy is threatened and vulnerability is heightened. The only possible solution is to take steps backward to where it all began. To this end, Dr. Beam focuses on the aspect of attraction, as in how to attract your spouse once again and remain attractive.
Four Types of Attraction
Physical attraction does, of course, mean physical, but it is much more than physical attributes. It refers to sight, sound, and tactile clues that a person emanates. A person can be physically attractive by being someone who takes care of himself. Paying attention to basic hygiene, health needs, exercise and balance between rest and work are all ways to boost physical attractiveness. Furthermore, a person is more physically attractive if he or she is doing it for themselves and not for someone else.
Intellectual attraction refers to the idea that two people connect in sharing ideas. A person who is intellectually attractive to us is one who is growing personally and interested in learning to become a better person in general and to better relate to a variety of people in a variety of contexts. The attractiveness comes from the fact that this person is open to new ideas and is willing to adapt or change based on new information.
Emotional attraction is by far the most important of the four types of attraction. Human beings are emotional beings so it makes sense. When a person feels positive emotions from another person, they are more likely to be drawn towards them. Conversely, negative emotions felt will cause them to want to push back or push away. Charismatic personality types instinctively know this and they use positive input and feedback to evoke positive emotions in others. We will always want to spend time with people who make us feel good about ourselves.
The spiritual attraction is not so much about religion as it is about our beliefs and values system. People want to know who we are and what we stand for. They also want to know if our lives reflect what we say we believe and value. People who are spiritually attractive reflect strength and stability which are desired traits for someone seeking a long-term relationship and a foundation on which to build a family. People tend to look for people with values systems similar to or superior to their own.
This acronym encompasses the four types of attraction we have just discussed and is being used with great success by the organization called Marriage Helper of which Dr. Joe Beam is the founder. Applying the principals of P.I.E.S. (physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual attractiveness) will help you to get back to the basics of falling in love, essentially rebooting your marriage. When people are first falling in love they spend time learning about each other. They ask questions, they listen and they are generous with one another. They have a genuine fondness and want the best for the other person.
Whatever the state our marriage is in, there is always hope. The key is focusing on how to serve the other person and not on whether or not our feelings were hurt, on whether or not we misunderstood or on the actions of the other person. We can’t control them, but we can control how we choose to see them.
- Don’t invite the 4 horsemen into the relationship
- Reboot – go back to the initial stages of falling in love
- Be attractive for yourself and no one else.
- Be the best you can be
- Be positive
- Praise your spouse
- Appreciate your spouse
- Be attentive to your spouse
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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca