HOW TO LISTEN WITHOUT GETTING DEFENSIVE IN RELATIONSHIP CONFLICT
Understanding your partner requires the capacity to listen. Really listen. Couples are advised to hear each other’s complaints without feeling attacked, and as great as this sounds, it’s often unrealistic.
When something you said (or didn’t say) hurts your partner’s feelings, there’s a strong impulse to interrupt with, “That wasn’t my intention. You’re misunderstanding me,” even before your partner is done talking.
Unfortunately, when the listener reacts to what the speaker is saying before the speaker gets the chance to fully explain themselves, both partners are left feeling misunderstood.
THE LITTLE THINGS THAT WILL MAKE OR BREAK YOUR RELATIONSHIP
He comes home from work exhausted again. After yet another frustrating meeting that could have been covered in an email, a tense conversation with a co-worker about the state of the break room refrigerator, and predictably awful traffic on the way home, he crashes onto the living room sofa, lets out a deep breath, and turns on his favorite show. All he wants to do is decompress in silence.
As if on cue, he hears the back door open. His wife is home — and somehow she’s more chipper than ever. As she enters the room and removes her coat, she takes a moment to pause at the front window, saying, “What beautiful weather — it’s just lovely today.”
What should he do next? The answer may matter more than you think.
THREE DAILY RITUALS THAT STOP SPOUSES FROM TAKING EACH OTHER FOR GRANTED
When my wife and I got married, more than twelve years ago now, we were convinced that we would have a happy life together. Our courtship was exciting, and our wedding day was a dream. Little did we know that a switch flipped in both of our heads on the day we said “I do.” Indeed, the very next day—the first full day of our married life—my wife and I would begin taking each other for granted.
It’s only in looking back that I can understand what happened early in our marriage. At the time, the change was so gradual that we didn’t even notice it.
Before our wedding day, our focus was each other, having fun, and building our love. After our wedding day, our focus began to shift. Without realizing it, I viewed our wedding day as the finish line in the courtship race, and I had won the prize: my wife’s love.
HOW TO REPAIR THE LITTLE THINGS SO THEY DON’T BECOME BIG THINGS
All couples argue. Happy couples argue well. They have strategies for dealing with their inevitable disagreements, and they process their feelings so they don’t bottle up.
We know from Dr. Gottman’s research that both partners in a relationship are emotionally available only 9% of the time. This leaves 91% of our relationship ripe for miscommunication.
The difference between happy couples and unhappy couples is not that happy couples don’t make mistakes. We all hurt our partner’s feelings. The difference is that happy couples repair, and they do so early and often.
A FATHER’S LOVE: IT’S COMPLICATED, AND QUITE SIMPLE
“Daddy, is there going to be music for us to dance to, or did you just trick me into coming to a party?”
It’s our first Daddy-Daughter Dance. In the corner of the gymnasium, one particularly stressed-out father is fidgeting desperately with an iPhone and the big speaker to which it’s attached. The speaker remains silent.
Meanwhile, the rest of us dads stand in a ring around the gymnasium. We’d prepared ourselves for the awkwardness of dancing in front of other men, but it turns out talking to each other is just as awkward. While we pretend to be comfortable in our own skin, our daughters are turning the gym into a beehive of little girls and pink, popping balloons. Caitlin is right—it doesn’t look like a dance; it looks like a party. On meth.
THE 3 REASONS YOU SHOULD NOT TRY TO MAKE ANYONE HAPPY
We are shoveling mulch like our lives depend upon it.
My three kids are loading wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, and I’m hauling and dumping and spreading and sweating. Eventually, my nine-year-old son Quinn asks a completely reasonable question. “Why are we going so fast?” I tell him I want the flower beds to look beautiful when his mom gets home. To which he responds with another totally reasonable question: “Because you are trying make her happy?”
The word “exactly” is on the tip of my tongue. But then I bite my tongue.
THE REAL REASON BACK-TO-SCHOOL MAKES US SO EMOTIONAL
The summer is fading—and the sun is rising—as I drive my son to his summer job.
At thirteen-years-old, Aidan has spent his summer riding a bus into the cornfields, along with other teenagers, walking row after row of corn, and pulling the tassel from each stalk, so the rows can pollinate each other. As we cross a river, he looks to the west, where the night is slowly giving way to day. He says it’s beautiful how you can see the layers of night disappearing in the sky. We talk about how, even farther west, there are people still sleeping in the dark, unaware of the passage of time.
This image haunts me.