One of the skills you learn or build on when you get married is how to solve problems together. You are a team member now who’s taken on the challenge to negotiate with each other the kinds of things you enjoy as a couple. Then there’s all those things you did because you didn’t have to check in with or take action with anyone but yourself.
As a team, you’ll need to build an emotional bank account with each other. Cooperation, support, encouragement – these make deposits in the bank. Criticism, shame, digging your heels in without merit make withdrawals.
Calling card of marriage
This emotional bank account building is a calling card of marriage. If one person does all the giving in, eventually all the sacrifices one of you does will pile up, and as Stephen Covey said in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, the emotional bank account will be empty, and there’s nothing more to give.
Personally, I always thought nasty divorces were because one person always gave in, the emotional bank account was drained and in the divorce, now was the time to cash in on what was “owed”.
Seeing things from each other’s perspective isn’t always easy, but it is a deposit that both of you can make.
Seeing things from each other’s perspective
Here’s an exercise that may help you see a problem and find ways to help each other work out a compromise that builds the collateral of love, mutual regard and respect.
State your problem
It might be whether you should ask one of your parents for a loan, whether to let your friend move in with you while they get back on their feet, maybe even getting a dog or cat, or changing a career that’s brought in a lot of financial stability.
Now it’s time to step back from any predictable state of mind.
… You know what state of mind I’ll be talking about.
Notice things around you
Take a look around you and just notice things. The chair. The cat watching you to see if a treat is on the way. Your shirt piled on the floor. There’s that pillow against the couch. Grey carpet. Get the idea?
What it’s not
Now check out the carpet and say what it’s not. It’s not a pig. Yon pillow? Hey, it’s not a milk carton. Go to extremes in looking at anything around you. Another view of your car means it’s not a cloud.
What this “what it’s not” does is help get your brain out of operating on automatic. When you’re on automatic, letting in different perspectives so you can solve problems and reach compromise is much more difficult.
Shaking loose of old ideas can really help find a place of balance. Once we can shift out of automatic, you have more room emotionally to think differently and let in some new ideas.
Your marriage toolbox
Give this technique a try. Add it to your marriage toolbox to help you work through the problems that come up in any relationship, especially your marriage.
And if you need help opening up to new ideas, remember I’m available for relationship coaching where we’ll examine the benefits of a healthy emotional bank account. Together we can lead your relationship so it’s even healthier. Or we’ll work together to repair damage done during those times our differences seem too hard to understand.