I’m sure you all know by now that I’m getting married. I’m officially getting married 6 months from now. My engagement is really flying by and I couldn’t be happier. Richard and I thought it was a good idea to go through some premarital therapy before we get hitched! Who can resist a FREE marriage license, right? While that’s one reason why we went, if I’m honest, we also went because it’s a great thing to do. You want to make sure that you are both ready for marriage. Premarital therapy also helps you to understand why you are getting married and what you hope to gain from the marriage.
When our therapy was done, Richard and I left therapy confirming the love that we’ve had for 3 years and 8 months. Our eyes were opened to so many things and we are even closer. Of course, this post is about techniques that I learned in premarital therapy, but I think they could help with all relationships, friendships and family.
I want to share 2 simple techniques that I feel will make all of your relationships better than ever:
1 .Starting Out Your Conversation
When you have an issue with someone, you can’t start off your conversation the wrong way or else your conversation will turn into a fight and it will go down hill very quickly. This stem sentence has been crafted to make sure the person with the issue thoroughly expresses their issue that they have to the other person:
When…I felt…I’d like it if you…
An example: When you talked over me, I felt like you were trying to dismiss what I was saying like it wasn’t important. I’d like it if next time you let me finish what I’m saying before you talk so that I can actively listen to you as well.
Using this stem (in a respectful way) tells the person you’re having the conversation with, exactly what you’re upset about and how you felt. It also gives a solution to try for the next time you may have to have a tough conversation. This stem is for both people involved, so don’t get mad if they use it on you as well. Each person needs to be listened to and what they have to say needs to be valued and respected. This also helps you and the other person take responsibility for each of the roles you played.
2. Don’t Criticize, Simply Make a Complaint
There is a big difference in sharing a complaint you have with a person and criticizing them. When you criticize someone it makes them defensive. This will only frustrate you. Your feelings wont feel validated because this person isn’t owning up to what they did. Once in a defensive mood, they no longer care about what you have to say because you were attacking their character and/or their morality. They will only care about “clearing their name” and them placing the blame on you. Let me show you some examples from this amazing book called, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman.
Complaint: There’s no gas in the car. I’m upset that you didn’t fill it up like you said you would.
Could you please deal with it tomorrow?
Criticism: Why can’t you ever remember anything? I told you a thousand times to fill up
the tank, and you didn’t. You’re always so careless.
Complaint: I need you to check with me before inviting anyone over for dinner.
I wanted to spend time alone with you tonight. I want us to schedule
a romantic evening this week.
Criticism: Why do you keep putting your friends ahead of me? I always come last
on your list. Are you avoiding spending time alone with me?
I’m sure you can absolutely see the difference between a complaint and criticism. We’ve all criticized before, not knowing that we were setting ourselves up for a fight with our friend that could have ended up very differently.
I really think that following these basic steps will help any relationship, especially your romantic ones. When people ask me, how should I talk to my dad about him trying to control my life or what should I do if my boyfriend and I have terrible fights, I would say start with these 2 techniques. I’m 100% sure both parties will benefit from using these techniques. I’ve already seen it work in my relationship.
Why would you not want to create the best relationships? I say create because they don’t just happen, you have to work on them and mold them to be what you want. You can create the life you want by just changing your words. Remember that words hold power and so does the desire to create long lasting relationships. I hope this was helpful!