Fight Less, Love More
- Arts and Entertainment
- Published on Saturday, 08 February 2014 18:47
- Stacie M. Waldman
With Valentine's Day upon us, many have love on the mind. Whether you're in a long-term relationship, just starting a new one or searching for the right partner, it would be good to know the secrets to a good relationship. What makes love last and how should you talk to your spouse to improve communication and the quality of your relationship? Is there such a thing as a good fight?
This year, rather than buy your love a goofy bear, chocolates or an expensive bracelet, why not commit yourself to being a better partner? Scarsdale's own Laurie Puhn Feinstein, author of Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In and Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life, has some expert advice on how to make this Valentine's Day more meaningful for you and your partner.
Puhn graduated from Harvard with a law degree and used her skills to launch a rapidly successful career in mediating. This led to invitations to speak about marriage and divorce on talk shows and radio programs, and she is now a regular contributor to programs such as Fox News, Good Day New York, CNN, and the CBS Early Show.
Here's what she shared on this much-discussed subject:
What is the biggest thing that couples don't know about a lasting marriage? Couples don't know that love is conditional. The people we love unconditionally are our children. No matter what they do, we will love them. But the truth is, love between partners is conditional. We expect and want to be respected and appreciated. We don't want to have to teach our partner how to do that. To be in love, certain conditions need to remain alive every day: respect, appreciation, compassion, intimacy, and cooperation. When we dated, all of these conditions were met but as time passes, what come to expect from our spouse we come to neglect. We assume the values exist so we stop saying good morning or I love you. We fail to give compliments. In fact, we did a study and found that when we asked people whether they'd prefer their spouse compliment them for being good-looking or for being kind, 83% of people chose kind. Our character is a key part of what brought us together with our spouse, and yet when was the last time you verbally recognized a deep quality in your spouse? These conditions for love are critical to feeling joy in your marriage and they live and die by the words we choose to use every day.
Then how do you communicate values when you speak to each other? It only takes a small tweak with words to revitalize values in relationships. Every couple has a communication routine. Do you wake up and say good morning to each other, or instead ask honey, did you unload the dishwasher already? Each day, do you thank your partner for the little things they do, even if they benefit from those things as well (like picking up the pizza), or do we expect and assume these things? This kind of indifference breeds neglect. Over time, it's how we end up saying things like, "I love him, but I'm not in love with him."
Another important time to choose words carefully is when we fight with each other. Disagreements are a natural, normal part of communicating and any couple who says they never fight is either lying or one of them is a doormat. But, rather than having a fight that goes on with no resolution, the goal should be to have a "good fight" that leads to a solution. A good fight is only future-focused and unites you in coming up with a solution to avoid the same problem from happening again. You don't want to have the same fight twice. In Fight Less, Love More there is more detail on how to have a "good fight." But here's a quick tip: the best solution to a fight is never one you already thought of. You have your idea, he has his idea, and you need to throw both out the window. When all parties participate in creating a resolution, they are more likely to comply.
How can I get my spouse to come around if he won't read your book? Become the coach. In the midst of a fight, you're no longer taking the bait and letting it get out of control. You're fighting the good fight and choosing your words wisely; that will, by default, encourage the other person to do the same. You married someone that you liked a lot, no matter how long ago. Without them knowing it, by practicing the skills outlined here and in my book, you're improving your own communication and his or hers at the same time.
What can I do TODAY to improve the quality of my relationship? There's something I suggest called "eyeball to eyeball love play." Grab your partner when he or she gets home from work and tell them that you are grateful for them. There's also the "follow up love play." If your spouse tells you he or she has an important meeting, make sure to follow up with them to ask them how it went whether it's by in person or by text. It's quick and easy but it shows them that you remember and care about what matters to them. Lastly, there's the "touch love play." When your partner comes home, give him a kiss. Try to touch each other more. It shows that you care about each other. Valentine's Day is about love, and it sometimes takes a more conscious effort to show it several years and/or several kids into it. Even if you show your appreciation with an expensive watch or piece of jewelry, be sure to verbalize your gratitude or include a special card as well. Everything that was extraordinary in the beginning of a relationship becomes ordinary and falls below our radar screen. We think, of course he knows I love him. I'm still here, aren't I? That assumption is exactly what leads to "growing apart" and divorce. By not greeting each other warmly at the end of a work day, we are implying that we don't care that our mate is home with us. If we stop paying attention to the expectations that were met, we become simply roommates.
I always emphasize that as a spouse, it is our job to acknowledge our spouse and appreciate them; be their head cheerleader and encourage them, respect them, cooperate with them, be intimate with them, and show them compassion. We can find reasons to deny our mate gratitude, or find reasons to give it. It takes an active decision and effort to continue to make our relationships fun and loving, and it certainly takes humility. You need to feel valued, and you need to make your mate feel valued, because if you're not the one making your mate feel valued, you leave the door open for someone else to take that role.
Do children benefit when parents learn to communicate with each other more effectively? In all the courses I teach and in the mediations I work through, I emphasize communication as key. The simple words we choose to use can make a person feel valued and respected, or not. This Valentine's Day, make a commitment to your spouse to speak more kindly and appreciate the small things he does, rather than focusing on the things he doesn't do. Your children see this and they mimic it. Mommy and Daddy had a fight but they still say good morning and I love you. It's a gift to yourself, to your marriage, and to your children to keep this in perspective when you fight.
Tell me a little bit about your book and why it would be a great read for anyone in a relationship. It's written as an easy to use, entertaining handbook to improving your marriage quickly. Couples have had excellent results after using the skills taught in the book and it is geared towards both men and women. The premise of the book is that it's logical. For instance, if you want something from your mate, ask for it; don't wait for them to read your mind. Thinking that he or she should know you well enough by now to know what you want is a plan for disaster. You can be angry that they don't know, or you can be assertive, speak up, increase your chances of getting what you want, and have a nice evening together.
Learn more about being a good partner by visiting www.fightlesslovemore.com. In addition to her books, Laurie's shares her advice at courses offered live at venues around the country and will soon debut an online virtual classroom. Happy Valentine's Day.