Monday, April 28, 2008

My marriage is enriched

So last fall Josh and I had the INCREDIBLE opportunity to attend a Marriage Enrichment weekend. I highly recommend this experience, whether you love your spouse and think "if our marriage were any more enriched, we'd get twinkled right now, and I just don't want to leave this earth just yet…" or if you look at your spouse and think "how did that happen? When/why/how did I fall in love with this person, and how do I get out of it as quickly and painlessly as possible?" or if you sometimes forget you're married because it's not significantly painful or excessively thrilling, it's just one of those things that is. Or anywhere else in between. Our weekend was fantastic, we loved it and really did feel strengthened.

One of the cool things is that they continue to do is put on a fireside of sorts. There are about 3 a year, and you can go even if you don't want to do a weekend (it's free and a cool feel-good date). We went with Josh's parents out to dinner first, then to the meeting. The guest speaker was Ron McMillan who was a fantastic speaker.

He talked about a lot of things, and lead into the most important concept in a really cool way. But, the coolest part for me was when he talked about Silence and Violence. He said that any time a human feels strong emotion (anger, hurt, fear, etc.) they always have 1 of 2 responses. Silence or Violence. He talked about how it's the same as the famous "fight or flight" concept. It's really helpful when you're facing a tiger in the woods and you can either get ready to kill him with your bare hands or run faster than a speeding bullet. BUT when it comes to discussing your innermost feelings in a complex and critical social relationship like a marriage, this instinct is not the greatest thing.

Somebody in the back of the class said something about how silence isn't really bad. "If I know that discussing a specific topic is going to cause pain, argument, and an explosion, isn't it true that it would be better to intentionally choose silence over violence?" What I loved was Brother McMillan's response. He said that it is a subject he feels very strongly about and it is his opinion that there is an appropriate way to handle a situation like that and it absolutely is not to say nothing to your spouse during a discussion of that or any other type. Then he talked about some studies, and how they've found that when a child is responded to with silence (or rather not responded to at all) the child feels inadequate, not worth spending the time to answer, guilty, unloved, and a whole slew of other negative emotions. So, instead of responding with silence which conveys a million negative messages, the correct response involves 3 important parts. You say: 1) "This is something that's important to me" which means I love you and because it's important to you, it's important to me. 2) "I'd like to take some time to think about this" which means I do want to talk to you because I love you. and 3) "Can we talk about this at ______ time after I've had a chance to give it some thought?" which means I'm not going to blow you off, and you can tell because I'm planning a specific time to bring this up again. I seriously wanted to cry when he talked about the child's response to silence because those are all of the things I feel when I get zero response from Josh or anyone else. So, it was good to be validated in those icky feelings.

The main point of the whole thing was this really cool concept. It was the chain of action and here is how it goes.
1. You see or hear something - data import. i.e. You've just walked out of the movie theater late on a Friday night. You're walking toward your car which is parked back behind the building when you see a large man in a coat leaning against the side of the building. 1. See/hear something.
2. You tell a story - data analysis. i.e. "I'll bet the theater has thought ahead and decided to provide a security guard to walk me to my car tonight so I make it there safely. How thoughtful of them." You tell yourself a story.
3. Feeling - based on the story you tell yourself you feel something. i.e. safe, comfortable, cared about, maybe relief.
4. Action - Based on your feeling, you act a certain way. i.e. Keep walking toward your car, look the guy straight in the eye, wave, and say "hi-ya".
Now, if you rewind let's take another scenario.
1. See/hear something - i.e. You've just walked out of the movies late on a Friday night. You're walking toward your car which is parked back behind the building when you see a large man in a coat leaning against the side of the building.
2. You tell a story - i.e. "That man means me harm. he's been waiting for me and now that I'm here...."
3. Feeling - i.e. fear, anxiety, stress, hatred.
4. Action - Silence (run away, flight) or Violence (hit him, call the cops, fight).

Now, since we all know those are 2 VERY different actions, with VERY different results we care the most about what makes the difference. Every single time it's the story you tell your self that changes the action. Most often these stories are based on what we are taught or what we've experienced in our lives. So, if you want to change your actions, you have to change your feelings, in order to change your feelings, you have to change your story. There's also this thing called the fundamental attribution error which means that most people (fundamental) assume (or attribute) things (that are generally incorrect or an error). Which means that we usually assume the worst (granted this is a general rule, and of course there are exceptions, but it is a general rule, so it works a lot of the time). For example, I'm walking down the hall and say "hi" to someone else walking the other way. They don't respond. I assume "oh my gosh, they hate me!" "I must looks scary" "I wonder if people are intimidated by me" "did my 'hi' sound sarcastic?". When in reality it could be any of those or 10 zillion other things. Most of which probably aren't that bad.

SO instead of telling ourselves a story, which means we're picking 1 of 10 zillion and 4 things and assuming it's correct (lets face it, odds are not in our favor when we do that) we ask a question. "Why would a reasonable, rational, descent human being do that?" Then we come up with a whole bunch of other things, and the bottom line is that we don't know. That means that our story is replaced with a big fat question mark. And what feelings does a question mark cause? Curiosity. Concern. Desire to know. And what actions do you take when you feel those things? You dialogue. Dialoguing is when 2 people join together and communicate with each other openly and honestly with the desire to understand each other.

So, the next time Josh is late picking me up from work, and I've been waiting for 20 minutes, and I know he knows that I HATE having plans changed on me without notice, and he hasn't even bothered to call, and I'm convinced that he doesn't love me or care about me. Instead, of assuming all of those things (which is 1 possibility out of 10 zillion and 4) I can ask "Why would a reasonable, rational, descent human being do that?" And I come up with a big fat question mark. Then we he FINALLY arrives, instead of being hurt and angry and frustrated, I'm curious and concerned and I say "what happened that made you late honey?" instead of "where the heck have you been? Don't you know I've been waiting for you all day long and it freaks me out when you're late? Don't you care about me at all?!?!?!" Obviously one of those conversations will lead to a happier drive home than the other. And honestly, I prefer being happy.

Anyway the whole point is that the night was fantastic, and we had a great time, and every single time we go to stuff like that we come away loving each other more and having a greater desire to make our relationship stronger. I think we both love this weird relationship touchy feely stuff and that makes me happy. We could easily go to lectures like this every weekend and never get sick of it. I love it, and I love that Josh loves it with me. *Sigh* I'm whooped.

1 comment:

  1. Amy, I am SO glad you shared that. Seriously, everyone needs to read this. Don't we all do that?! Thanks!


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