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Improve your relationship by learning to resolve conflicts for good

By Denise Schipani Posted July 30, 2010 from WomansDay.com

Quick question: When you’re in the middle of a fight with your spouse about—fill in the blank: the kids, money, your families, housework—do you feel like you’re following a script? He says this, you say that, it breaks into shouting, until the curtain falls and you realize you’ve just had the same fight you had last month or last year? Well, surprise: The reason couples press Rewind on the same old arguments is because usually they are never totally resolved, says Scott Wetzler, PhD, executive director of the Supporting Healthy Marriage program at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, New York. Yet you can break the pattern of your most repetitive fights by learning what’s behind them, and working toward compromise. Here’s how to short-circuit fighting about…

Chores

Wait just a second if you’re thinking that those tiresome marital spats over housework—who always mops the floors, who always shovels the snow—can be “fixed” by instituting a fair and equitable division of labor, because there is no one correct answer, says Susan Dutton Freund, executive director of ThinkMarriage.org. As with other sources of spousal conflict, the division of labor at home is, at root, about the perception of unfairness.

Getting past it: The key here is to try to understand that both of you bring assumptions (usually from your family of origin) about who should do what, which get complicated by modern life (two working parents, never enough time, etc.). Don’t let resentments simmer by avoiding the topic, or come in with attacking language—both types of communication can, over time, erode a marriage. Instead, use the “approach” mode, says Freund, which involves being open to your partner. Really talk about what’s feeling unfair to you, so you can reach a compromise. It may not be 50-50, but a little understanding goes a long way.

Time

You’re always working late. You spend too much time with your girlfriends. When you’re home, you’re never interested in hanging out with me… Arguments about time spent (or not spent) together boil down to an elemental worry plaguing many relationships: “Do you really care about me? Do you still love me?” says Dr. Wetzler. “When you’re upset at your spouse for working long hours, what you’re really saying is, ‘I’m not sure you care anymore.’”

Getting past it: Realize that there are plenty of healthy marriages in which one spouse or the other works long hours, or where the couple is not joined at the hip. If you think about what happens when you are together—one of you works late, but then you sit and have a late dinner together, or save up DVR’d episodes of Mad Men to share—you’ll begin, hopefully, to see that it’s quality, not quantity, that matters. But if you’re feeling your needs aren’t being met, then you have to talk about that, without being accusatory.

Money

Opposites may have attracted to create this marriage, so chances are pretty good you two have divergent money styles, which can trigger repeated fights, says Freund. “If you have an ingrained money-style difference—one’s a saver, one’s a spender—you may never change the other person or fully resolve the issue.”

Getting past it: Try to see your partner’s point of view, which you can only do by talking about it. Why is he a diligent saver, reluctant to put that new couch on credit? “Once you can both articulate your positions, and understand each other’s position, the fights are less likely to devolve into insults and disrespect,” says Dr. Wetzler. That’s the point at which you can start working toward compromise; sit down and create rules you can both live with, such as a pledge to only make big purchases when you can pay all or most of the bill in a specified amount of time.

The Kids

Many times, says Freund, conflicts over raising children boil down to one parent (stereotypically the mother, but not always) being more of a softie, and the other being more strict. Serious problems arise when fights about the kids (whether or not to compel them to eat their vegetables or let them drive the car at night) lead to attacks on the other parent’s character, says Dr. Wetzler.

Getting past it: Steer clear of global statements; instead, stick to specifics. Also, try to remember that neither of you are right or wrong—your children need both nurturing and discipline. The key is to present a united front on the major stuff, so your child doesn’t learn to play the two of you off each other. Next time you want to battle it out over the children, remember what Freund says: “You’re better off putting your energy into your marriage than into your children, because kids from harmonious marriages fare better overall.”

Sex

Conflict about sex in marriage usually comes down to a mismatch in level of desire (you want more, he’s fine with less, or vice versa). Bad feelings arise because, says Freund, “the one with the higher sex drive feels he or she is being neglected, while the one with the lower drive feels pressured.”

Getting past it: Meet in the middle. Talk about what you each really need; “simply having that conversation can help the partner who’s feeling pressured to have more sex see that it’s not just about sex, but about closeness.” Figure out ways to feel closer so that you both get a little more of what you need.

Your Families

There’s natural conflict of interest here, and often no consensus. You each have loyalties, and arguing about it isn’t going to make your husband enjoy your family’s weird tradition of, for example, eating pumpkin pie for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving; nor will it make you love the fact that his family thinks weekly get-togethers are perfectly normal.

Getting past it: First, be sure you’re not guilty of putting your family of origin ahead of your married-life family; “for the long-term health of your marriage, that has to be your priority.” And work on mutual respect. You have to go to his family’s for Thanksgiving and endure the dry turkey and store-bought pies? Suck it up; it’s what you do for the one you love.

Photos by, from top to bottom: Shutterstock (couple cleaning house) and iStockphoto (all other images).

source: www.womansday.com

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source: http://www.drpam.co.uk/home.php 09/04/2010

Spring into Action! Springs arrived and it’s the perfect time to refresh and recharge. Kick-start A better life with these spring-into-action-strategies:  

Your Career

*Watch for future-dependent happiness

At work people fall into what I call The Future-Dependent Happiness Trap. They say things like, “I’ll be happy when I get a rise,” or, “I’ll be happy when my boss notices my hard work,” or, “I’ll be happy when I find a new job.” Their happiness and job satisfaction’s bound up with some future date!

Identify ‘future-dependent happiness’ thinking – and decide how to build more happiness into your job today – even in small ways. Otherwise you stay in a negative cycle where you’re never satisfied, no matter how good a day you’ve had.

*Identify that magic ingredient you’re best at

Many stumble into a job they never planned to be permanent. They’re unsatisfied but aren’t sure what to do about it. Begin at the beginning: identify what you’re best at and what’s most rewarding. If there are any of these rewarding things available in your job then build more of them into it.

Ask your manager about ways to include more of this magic ingredient.  And if there’s none of that magic in your present job, look to retrain for a job that offers it.

*Get ahead with the boss

We get so wrapped up in our work we forget what might help our boss. Of course, practically everything we do is related to our boss’s work. But it’s wise to invest some energy into helping your boss and easing their day. They’ll appreciate it so you score points and come across as a team-player because you’re not just focusing on yourself.

*Stop doubting your abilities

Many talented/capable people doubt their abilities to do more rewarding things, or to get ahead at work often because their routine becomes dull and uninspiring. Take charge of something like a report , or meeting, and get stuck into planning it. Enjoy the challenge that’ll help reaffirm your abilities.

*Become a Yes person

Say Yes when a colleague suggests a drink or a coffee rather than crying off because of your workload. Many find work more fulfilling when they develop more fulfilling relationships with colleagues.

Your Family Life

*Identify your family script

Increase family happiness by identifying your family ‘script’ and the ‘role’ you play in that. For instance, you’re the youngest and have always been identified as “the little one” or “the baby”. A host of expectations go along with that ‘role’ like family members seeing you as needing lots of attention, etc.

Your role sticks with you for life but hold us back from satisfying family relationships. Now’s the time to identify your ‘role’ in the family ‘script’ and start behaving in ways that surpasses people’s expectations of you.

*Start delegating

Women confess to me how feeling overwhelmed means family life suffers. A big culprit for this is not delegating when they get home! They grit their teeth, get on with things when exhausted and should be delegating properly.

Make a list of chores (photocopy this) to delegate to your family. Discuss who does what and post the list on the fridge. Everyone ticks off their jobs when done. Each week put up a new copy of the list.

*Make sure everyone shines

It’s easy for the quiet or well-behaved one to get overlooked in the hurly-burly of family life. This can lead to simmering sibling rivalries. Ensure everyone has a chance to shine and feel valued even in simple ways like blowing their horn when they’ve done something thoughtful or helpful.

*Instigate family mealtimes

Families lead such frenetic lives they rarely sit down for a meal. Research shows this is destructive to family well-being. Make a point of regular family dinners – at least weekly. Everyone joins in and TV, mobiles and iPods are banned, encouraging people to listen to each other.

*Identify their positives

Make it what I call a ‘happy habit’ to tell every family member why you appreciate and love them. It’ll make all the difference to the way they feel about themselves – and you!

Your Relationships

*Recognise your ‘fallback mode’ –

All of us have a ‘fallback mode’ when stressed. So when you and your partner disagree you go into ‘fallback mode’ – the way you traditionally react. This means we lack flexibility in handling relationship hurdles.

Think through your fallback mode. For instance, when your partner’s angry do you avoid conflict, leaving the room? Or do you go into bully-mode and scream them down? Because your partner has their ‘fallback mode’ too, it’s easy to get stuck in relating to each other. The next time you disagree, resist your ‘fallback mode’, showing them a new you.

*Learn to say ‘sorry’

People repeatedly tell me they ‘wish’ they’d the courage to say sorry when wrong. Plus they wish their partner could apologise when they’re wrong. It’s difficult to say sorry – even when we’re wrong – because it makes us vulnerable. People don’t want to feel this but part of real intimacy is making yourself vulnerable.

Apologise when wrong and you’ll be amazed the difference this makes to putting a row behind you two.

*Learn active listening techniques

We’re so rushed we hardly look at our partner when speaking, let alone listen properly.  Practice ‘active listening’, giving them eye contact when they’re speaking as well as reflecting back what they say. Let’s say they complain about the lack of time you have together. Simply reflect back, “I know what you mean by our lack of time,” so they know you’ve understood them.

*Set your boundaries

I repeatedly hear complaints of a partner’s ‘bad’ behaviour. The only way to solve such behaviour on their part is to set your boundaries. Make clear what behaviour you won’t tolerate. If they, say, are late again for meeting up, then go on without them. They’ll soon learn your boundaries can’t be pushed.

*Rekindle romance

A little romance makes a big difference to your relationship. Make things sparkle with the classics: candlelit dinners, love notes and flirty e-mails, fun little gifts and loads of affection.

Your General Well-being

*Discover what makes you happy

When interviewing people for my new book I asked: what’s your most recent happy memory? Literally 99.9% answered things like: my husband surprising me with a candlelit dinner or my daughter ringing me for an unexpected chat, etc. It’s never:  buying a new hand bag! Start creating more of the things that’ll give you happy memories, today!

*Free yourself from worry

Learn to identify the little devil on your shoulder saying negative things. It says you’re not good enough, you could’ve done better, and that others are better than you, etc.

Challenge this little devil: does it help you, soothe stresses away, or make you feel better? The answer’s a resounding No! Instead develop a little angel on your shoulder. Each time you think negatively, seek guidance from that little angel that’s soothing and positive.

*Forget the big diet

Research shows you’re far more successful in shedding unwanted pounds, toning up, or getting fit if you do so step-by-step. That big new ‘celebrity’ diet, or even worse, a big ‘crash’ diet, won’t give lasting results!

Fill your cupboard with healthy foods and dump the junk foods. Walk, take stairs, and be active where ever possible, and you’ll find the weight falls off slowly but surely. Definitely make getting fitter fun by taking up a dance class, swimming, or even bowling.

*Try a new look

Studies repeatedly show that a new look can give you a real lift. Something as simple as changing your hairstyle or shade, getting a new make-up look from the make-up counter at a department store, or wearing a new shade of clothing can make you feel different. Throw away your ‘colour and style habits’ and have the courage to experiment a little!

*Get an anthem

Choose a song that fills you with happiness, strength, and a “I can face the world” feeling. Make this your personal anthem and play it when you need a lift.

A similar article was published in the Express Newspaper

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