Thursday, 21 April 2016

Relationship tools

Recent things in my life have made me think about what I would like to teach my children about communicating and having lasting relationships (if that is what they want.) I have been married to my dh for nearly 21 years and most of the time we are happy but there have been times when things were not great. We argue, disagree and most of these things are due to the fact that we think and act very, very differently.

One of the best things I think that explains some of the issues we have encountered in our relationship I learnt about when I attended the Hoffman Process back in 2009. It is that in most relationships there tends to be one “minimiser” and one “maximiser.” This is taken from the Imago Relationship Therapy developed by Harville Hendrix. 

There are some great explanations out there at the Imago UK page; the Australian Imago page or at these webpages -  Joan Emerson's pageThe Passion Doctor or Lessons from Marriage Counselling

My experience is described in the table below:   
Need all disagreements sorted out now
Need space and time to think but then don’t want to talk about it ever
Needs emotions acknowledged
Tend to withhold feelings
Passive aggressive
Outwardly express feelings
Tend to keep feelings to themselves
Look outward for approval
Look inward for approval
Tend to be quick thinkers
Needs time to think things through
Tend to be energised by being with my friends
Tend to be tired out by being with friends

My Hoffman teacher Matthew Pruen explained it well as “minimisers are like a tortoise and maximisers are like a monkey banging the tortoise on the shell shouting “come out, I love  you” louder and louder. The more they bank the more the tortoise clams up.” He sums it up that minimisers need to learn to speak up and maximisers need to learn to listen.
From my own experience as a maximiser, minimisers need to remember that when they have been given space to think things through, the maximiser is then like a hungry tortoise looking at some lettuce very far away: every step is like torture to get the answer they need.

With my dh his biggest issue as a minimiser is when he hears me talk he hears “never..”; “always..” e.g. “you always forget…” or “you never remember...”. In return when dh doesn’t talk I, as a maximiser, think/feel that my feelings are always ignored, not loved, not respected, etc. You can see with this example what a wonderful vicious cycle it is. So I need to try and soften my language and dh needs to aware of my feelings of frustration.

This is where the 5 Languages of Love can really help to make a relationship more robust. So this is another thing that I have done with my children as part of their home education as although it is called languages of love it could easily be called the language of relationship. 

Go to the website and take the test to find out what your primary (and secondary) love language. The higher the score the more important that language is to you and lower scores indicate that those are languages you seldom use to communicate love. 

Be aware that your love languages may be different to those of your partner and children and that you need to express love to those people in the mode that they want it NOT in the way that you want it. Again I love the simplicity of this idea and although there are things that it doesn’t show (one such thing mentioned below), it is a great start.

5 Languages of Love
Acts of Service
Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an "Acts of Service" person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: "Let me do that for you." Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don't matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

Quality Time
Nothing says, "I love you," like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby – makes your significant other feels truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Quality Time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.

Physical Touch
This language isn't all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship.

Words of Affirmation
Actions don't always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, "I love you," are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.

Receiving Gifts
Don't mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.

The website states that the benefit of knowing, and therefore speaking, someone else’s love language is a greater sense of connection via better communication and increased understanding.
As you can see below in my family our languages are quite different although dh, ds and I all match on the primary language. It is really useful to know these facts and I am going to pin these results up somewhere where everyone can see them to remind us all how we want to be appreciated/loved by others.

Acts of Service
11 (1)
9 (1)
7 (1)
Quality Time
8 (2)
7 (1)
6 (1)
Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
8 (2)
Receiving Gifts
6 (2)
5 (2)

The children are really interested in how these languages may change over time so we are going to redo the test every few months and see if they change as an experiment. I, for one, am aware that at present Acts of Service are really important to me because I am not 100% well and haven’t been for over 3 months. Once my health is better it may be that Quality Time may become more important and Acts of Service less important – who knows. 

Also an interesting discussion with dh revealed that Words of Affirmation are important to him but more in the guise of “less words of defamation” as in those sorts of things mentioned above. My dh doesn’t like me saying things like “You never answer your phone” or “You always forget when I have asked you to do something” so although he doesn’t need to be affirmed, he hates being shamed like this, especially in front of the kids. This is great for me to know as I can try and keep these frustrations of mine more private for his sake. I am also going to endeavour to stop using the dreaded “always”/”never” words which –let’s be honest – I should “never” use LOL.

So these are the two things I would add to any relationship curriculum if it were up to me, which seeing as I home-educate it is. Hope you find it helpful!!!

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