We had an amazing podcast with Tamara Fackrell in episode 111 of the Ultimate Intimacy Podcast. This blog post are from portions of the podcast.
Treat your relationship like a business.
If you wouldn’t do it at the workplace, don’t do it in your marriage. If you wouldn’t say it to your boss, don’t say it to your spouse!
I am a divorce attorney. I have these big executives that are divorcing and I have videos of them running around their house screaming at their children and their wife. My first thought was after watching the videos, was that if these men did this at their business space, they would be fired.
If you act with high anger in your marriage space and don’t act in a professional manner, you’ll be fired too.
My husband’s the CEO of a business, he had a person that had an anger management issue, and had an outburst during work. He told him if it happens again, you’re going to be fired. About three weeks later, it happened again. Guess what? He got fired.
We absolutely do not tolerate it in the business space, and we should have a no tolerance policy in our marriage as well. We just need to be very professional in the way that we solve conflicts. Bottom line is, think, “how would I act as an employee at a business, and how would I act out in public at the grocery store?” If you wouldn’t do it there, don’t do it at home!
All good businesses have rules, procedures and expectations, and so should your marriage.
So the first thing that I would want a couple to do is just sit down and decide what their engagement rules are. We’re not going to swear when we fight. We’re not going to name call, and if I need a break, you’re going to give it to me. We’re going to return within one hour’s time and re-engage whatever you need specifically for your marriage. We’re going to be respectful to one another.
Develop those rules and they should be pretty simple things.
I believe that if you truly want to problem solve in marriage, always have a pencil in hand and write down the things that you are solving. Take notes.
Use the ABCDE Rule.
- A = Ask
- B = Brainstorm
- C = Choose
- D = Do
- E = Examine
That is the mediation negotiation model that I’ve taught for over 20 years. It will work in your marriage.
Tell me your perspective. Let me tell you my perspective. You speak one at a time. You don’t interrupt in problem solving. That’s a big no-no. Unless you guys love the interrupting and engaging, then of course you can make your own rules because it’s individualizing the people. But then you’re writing it down.
Okay, this is what’s going on… I’m understanding this, you’re understanding this. Then you would ask your spouse to summarize and vice versa what your spouse is trying to say and make sure that you understand.
Brainstorm some solutions that might work for the problem. Right them down. After you brainstorm, choose which one you’re going to do.
Choose which solution you are going to try together.
Do the plan and then exam. And that’s the most important thing.
This is a great marriage. This makes your marriage from good to great. And that is when you EXAMINE, “hey, how did that go? What would we need to change similar system in the future? Is that going to happen again in the future? Has it happened in the past? How can we tweak it? How can we make that better? What are our expectations?”
That “E” is what takes your marriage from good to great.
Have a weekly meeting
Have a weekly planning meeting or couples council or whatever you want to call it. Sit down on Sunday night and go through your plans for the week. Talk about what’s the schedule going to be for the week? Is there anything unusual? Is there anything you’re counting on your partner for? Get the schedule out and know the plan. If there’s a change in schedule, let your partner know as soon as possible.
This will save you a lot of conflict. Be on time to your marital commitments like you would for your boss. How many times are you going to be late to meet your boss at work? Not very often. Your boss wouldn’t put up with it. And of course, there’s going to be some exceptions to the rule, but I find a lot of people put their marriage on the back burner.
Make it a priority. Show it’s your priority. Show up on time for things.
Conflict is caused by expectations that are not communicated, miscommunicated or changed without notice.
And then inside that weekly meeting as well, have an exchange. Talk about what you did last week that your spouse loved. Give feedback to your spouse about what is working well in the marriage. This is what I call developing bullseyes.
On a scale from 0 to 1000, how much is scratching your back worth? Well, to my husband, it’s worth 1000 points. So it’s going to be something that I’m going to utilize a lot inside my marriage because it’s something you can do very simply, but you want to be giving feedback in a structured way.
Don Gottman says that our ratios need to be five positives to everyone negative.
Your conflict is bigger than the conflict itself. It’s way bigger. It has to do with how many drops of positivity you’re putting in your cup.
People fight over nothing. I watched the video. They fight over the socks on the floor. They fight over them being irritated and hungry. They fight over being task oriented. They fight over things that aren’t important.
In your couple’s weekly meeting, I would ask couples to just take one item, one that you want to solve in a proactive space and use that ABCDE method. Don’t flood and just talk about the item at hand. Don’t flood your marriage with all these negatives and complaints all the time. You do not need to solve every little negative.
In that weekly meeting, also plan your date night!
It is so important in a happy and healthy marriage to prioritize date night! Make it top priority each week even if its an at home date, or only an hour.
The 0 – 10 Scale
The big one that I wanted to talk about is the 0 to 10 scale. My son recently got married, and I asked my daughter in law him what’s the most helpful thing for them? They said, I think it’s the 0 to 10 scale for the most part. On a scale from zero to ten, how important is this problem to you?
Well, if it’s a two or one to the one spouse and an 8 to the other spouse, perhaps you should go with the eight. That spouse needs to get this problem resolved.
If you don’t have a way to measure the problem, it’s hard to know how much effort you should put into it. When you neglect the 2s and 3s and 4s, it becomes 8s to 10s. The little issues start to build up and you get resentment.
Having this test scale is a way for your partner to gauge how much effort they need to put into solution. It is very important.
Knowing how much space, or closeness you need.
When you’re really upset, would you rather have time away from your spouse and give yourself time to think? Or would you rather have closeness with your spouse like snuggling and hugs? Ask your spouse what their preference is.
You need to have a way to communicate it with one another. Say to your spouse, “right now I need my space.” And your spouse would say, “do you know how much space you need? What’s the time amount that you need to be able to recharge and be ready back to problem solve?”
The studies show that a minimum would be 20 minutes, because that’s when basically it’s brain functioning, but your prefrontal cortex can turn back on within a 20 minutes when you’re down in your lower limbic brain. And so I recommend couples take 20 minutes of space. But the most important part and where people miss a lot of this is you have to reengage. Reconnect with each other.
Great marriages aren’t that much different than bad marriages. The fact is that they forgive each other quickly and they get on with enjoying each other. They don’t hold that resentment. They forgive quickly.
Forgiving quickly is a really important part of healthy marriages. And if it’s something that needs to be talked through.
The Talking Square
THE FIRST SQUARE: So the first square is yourself. It’s called transcendence and it means you don’t necessarily need to necessarily involve your spouse in it. Like you just need to get over it. You need to work with yourself to solve the problem. You’re 100% in charge of yourself.
THE SECOND SQUARE: Talk it out with your spouse. You’d use that ABCDE model that I’ve already taught to work it out with them and remember, examine and get it worked out. Sometimes realistically you’re in a rut and those two things don’t work. Then you go to the bottom of the talking square and there’s two more options.
THE THIRD SQUARE: To involve a trusted friend or family member. What I encourage couples to do is define three couples or three people as individuals that you trust as a couple. Both of you trust. It’s not something you’re doing in secret. My cousin, for example, we go out once a quarter, sometimes it’s twice a year, but because we both have really great marriages and so we want to be learning and modeling from one another.
These are people that have the fantastic marriages. You don’t necessarily want to be taking advice from people who don’t have good marriages or have big histories of divorce. You want to take advice from people that have a marriage that you want to be replicating.
Who are my trusted sources that I’m going to use when we’re stuck in a conflict and it’s known? There’s one thing that is super important inside this square, and that is that if you do involve a third party about a marital issue, you are then obligated to give the end of the story and tell them the resolution and then follow up with them about some positive things of your marriage.
You don’t want them hanging in all the negative you’ve structured, so you need to make sure to cure the conversation if you are going to lean on third party people.
FOURTH SQUARE: Trusted professional. That could be a marriage coach, that could be a marriage therapist, that could be an ecclesiastical leader, a third party that’s holding you accountable. And so basically, those are the four healthy ways to resolve conflict in marriage, and there aren’t any other healthy ways to do it.
People that don’t have enough positive intake can’t cure, and they can’t get over things quickly. They can’t forget quickly because there’s too much negative there to process. So you need to be really careful about how you process the negative.
The 24 Hour Rule
So on your scale from zero to ten, if the issue is a six or above, you want to try to resolve that within 24 hours. And so instead of waiting and festering. For smaller things that are five and below, go ahead and have it be one item on your couple’s weekly meeting. But if it’s six and above that should be made a priority and importance to both spouses.
Develop a system for big reoccurring issues
John Gottman says, 67% of problems are perpetual problems because it has to do with our personality differences, how we were raised, our beliefs, our core.
I was raised by Mary Poppins and my husband was raised by Mr. Drill Sergeant.
Imagine trying to combine that as well… it didn’t work well. And so it’s just an example that my husband and I had to sit down and say, okay, let’s build a system for this. Is it a cooperative system? We’re coming to one solution together. Is it I’m going to give him his way or he’s going to give me my way? So if I’m the one that is disciplining a child, I do it my way. If he’s the one that’s disciplining, he does it his way. The other would not intervene.
Bottom line, if I decide to pass the stick to him, he’s going to parent his way. But they (the kids) knew that they couldn’t ask both of us, because if they did and we found out, then the answer was going to be NO all the time.
If you have different ways of parenting, it’s going to be hard to come to the same page. You parent your way, and I will respect that, and I parent my way when it comes to something like that. But you support each other.
Having that system of our coparenting and how we were working together changed our marriage. It transformed. We sat down and took the time to figure out what are our perpetual problems were and how can could come to a solution? We did a lot of fine tuning. Our first system we developed didn’t quite work. And so we examined ABCDE, examined, examined, examined. Why do we need to make this better? And so I think that it just ends up being so important for the big recurring system to have a system.
Implement these things in your marriage and you will see your marriage thrive and your conflict dive!
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