Monday, October 20, 2014

When Couple Communication  


            For some couples, there can be a full and permanent breakdown in communication and for other couples the breakdown is symptomatic of other stresses.  If you generally communicate well but lately feel you have lost those skills, there is some straightforward remediation available.  It is important that the two of you do these exercises together for them to have the full impact. 

1.      Pick a small issue that you both feel could be easily resolved or has already been resolved. 
Example Topic: Division of household chores.
2.      Spouse 1 describe the problem.
Poor Communication- “You sit around all day and do nothing to help me clean up!”
Healthy Communication- “I feel like I’m left to do more than my fair share of housework.”
3.      Spouse 2 repeat back what you think you heard.
Poor Communication- “So, you think I sit here and do nothing?”
Healthy Communication- “So, you feel like I’m not doing my part to keep up the house?”
4.      Spouse 1 validate partner or gently correct until you both agree on Spouse 1’s description.
Poor Communication- “Yeah, I think you are lazy and inconsiderate!”
Healthy Communication- “Yes, I would like it if you did more around the house to make things less difficult for me.”
5.      Spouse 2 describe the problem.
Poor Communication- “Don’t you realize that I work all day and have no time for myself, let alone to help you clean?”
Healthy Communication- “I understand that you would like more help but, I’m very tired after working all day.”
6.      Spouse 1 repeat back what you think you heard.
Poor Communication- “So, you don’t care and I have to do it all on my own?”
Healthy Communication- “I understand that you are tired at the end of the day but, I wonder if we can find a solution.”
7.      Spouse 2 validate partner or gently correct until you both agree on Spouse 2’s description.
Poor Communication- “You clearly don’t care about how I’m feeling.”
Healthy Communication- “Yes, I’m tired but, I am sure that we can find a solution.”

8.      Both Spouse’s independently write down a list of possible solutions.
Example Solutions:
·         Spouse 2 picks specific daily and/or weekly responsibilities of their choosing that they feel would help alleviate stress for Spouse 1 . However, Spouse 2 has an hour of rest and relaxation when first arriving home from work before opting to help around the house.
·         Spouse 1 selects the specific chores that Spouse 2 will be daily/weekly responsible for. However, Spouse 1 gives a timeline for completion. Spouse 2 may rest as long as they feel is needed as long as their responsibilities are completed within the requested time frame.
9.      Share the two lists and see if there is any overlap or agreed upon solutions.
10.  If there is an agreed upon solution, start with that.
11.  If there is no agreed upon solution, look at the pros and cons of each suggestion and begin to eliminate suggestions that are not feasible. 
12.  If you can narrow down your choice and still can’t agree, toss a coin.  Tossing a coin is unbiased and fair. 

     If you need to communicate some thoughts and feelings and don’t really need to problem solve, you might want to use a written journal and write back and forth to each other.  When we put things in writing, we tend to be more careful in how we communicate and it also gives the other person time to think about how they want to respond.
     If you are interested in this type of approach, check out our Booklet entitled:  Marital Communication Made Easy.  You can find it on our web site in the book store.

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*Examples provided by Brittany Redding, office manager.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


     My apologies for not having written in a long time.  In the past several weeks I have been asked by many patients and friends about suicide, stemming, of course, by the shock and sadness so many feel regarding the recent suicide of Robin Williams.  There are, of course, many books written about suicide and there are just as many theories.  Bottom line, people commit suicide for many different reasons, and typically when they reach a point where the emotional pain is unbearable and suicide seems like the only answer.  Most suicides are not about anyone but the person feeling the pain.  It is not about being selfish or punishing.  I have met some wonderful people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts and desires for many years and have fought against those desires, only to succumb later in life.  Some people make several attempts before they are successful, and this is just not a good prognostic sign.
  For many of these hurting people, it is only a matter of time.  Other people make only one attempt and it is successful.  If you love someone who has committed suicide, it is not your fault.  Don’t let the survival guilt ruin the rest of your life.  I have learned over the past 30 years that is someone is determined to kill themselves, there is not anything you can really do to stop them.  That being said, there are some people who do use the threat of suicide to both punish and control in a relationship.  Most of us have probably heard a story of a boyfriend or girlfriend or even a spouse who threatens to kill themselves if their partner leaves.  This is the ultimate manipulation and not a reason to stay in a toxic relationship.  Those few people who kill themselves in order to hurt someone else are experiencing extremely dysfunctional thinking, and no one is responsible for what another person does or does not do. If someone you know or love threatens suicide, call 911 and report it no matter what they threaten.  If it is a manipulative bluff, call the bluff and after a few days in the psychiatric hospital, they will be much less likely to bluff with suicide threats again.  If they do mean to make a gesture, gestures can go wrong and they need to be in a safe place, cared for by professional.  So once again, call 911.  And if they are truly suicidal, do not hesitate to call 911 and get them some professional help.  For many truly suicidal individuals, it is the loss and lack of hope that finally pushes them over the emotional cliff.  This may surprise some of you, but there are also a lot of people who engage in suicidal ideation but will not kill themselves as they have enough strength left to know they will hurt someone they love and they just do not want to do that.  Sometimes a loved pet is enough to help someone hold on.  But even with deterrents, if the pain becomes too overwhelming, the person you love may feel it is their only way out of that pain.  You can’t stop them, but you can forgive them for hurting you and forgive yourself for not saving them.

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