Saturday, September 25, 2010

Marriage Reflections – Part 4

This is the last of the four talks I did with Paul when we spoke on marriage the first two Sunday nights at Emmanuel in Enid.

I started with some thoughts on respect. I remember when I began to realize I hadn't a clue about the real meaning of this word. We were traveling some place with our two grown daughters and one asked the question, "How can I teach my kids to respect me?" As the discussion progressed, I came to realize that respect is one of those character traits that is more caught than taught. And that began my search to understand respect and to learn what it really was and what it means in relationships.

Respect is communicating value or worth.

I found this definition and it spoke to me. Further elaborating: respect is recognizing and communicating value and/or unconditional worth to another.

I also came to realize that perhaps the opposite of respect in relationships is shame or shaming someone. Maybe the opposite of the definition of respect could be applied to the definition of shame, communicating no value and or no personal worth or disrespecting a person. Shaming was my modus operandi, it was my way of relating, quite unknown to me. This could be a whole course of study in itself.

The main subject of my talk was triangling in relationships, and I used these thoughts on respect to segue into saying that triangling is a form of disrespect or shaming.

A triangle in a relationship involves three people. An example is shown with this diagram. There's me, you, and another person involved in a triangle. The black arrows show how relationships should be one on one, between two people. The red arrows show an unhealthy triangled relationship. One person (Me) relating to Other and trying to get Other and You to have a good relationship. That's triangling.
Triangles in relationships develop as a self-protective reflex of the emotional system itself.

Let me attempt to explain. Let's take a couple with their son and say that the Dad and the son do not get along. Mom tries to get the two to understand and relate to each other and she explains one to the other and she ends up being the intermediary and the relationship is in a triangular system.

Triangling is a natural effort to preserve the emotional system as it is, to keep it from disintegrating. The triangler (person) is well meaning, but what happens is that triangles in relationships prevent things from getting better and improving, as well as from getting worse.

A good illustration of this is a three-legged stool, which is an unhealthy picture of a relationship. All relationships should be two-way, relating from one person to another based on the two only and not on a third person. The principle: make your relationships two-party, not three-party.

Emotional triangles are common in families, among mothers, fathers, and children. Usually two close people are closely involved and the third person is the outsider.

The underlying cause of triangle relationships developing is when anxiety arises. Often, a person can't face the problems they have with another and to relieve that anxiety, draws in a third person. That way the problems can be talked about and fretted over with another, but not with the person involved. That relieves the anxiety, but does not lead to resolution or healthy relationships. The result is two unhealthy relationships. The solution is to make sure that all your relationships are between you and the other person only and not based on negatives about a third person.

This was a major lesson for me to learn. When I quit triangling in relationships, I found that I had to own each of my relationships and tackle my problems with each person I was in relationship with. I also found I was drawing strength and emotional satisfaction by this two-against-one situation. How bad is that!

Practicing this has revealed me to me. Interesting, huh? I now concentrate on my relationships, one-on-one and leave all other relationships to the two people involved. What a novel idea! And in the process I'm learning to respect myself, respect others, and not to shame or disrepect other people. Healthy, healthy! Getting there...

Oddly, it occurs to me that this is a long way around to coming to the Golden Rule. Who knew!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Marriage Reflections – Part 3

Continuing with the marriage principles that we spoke on at a recent marriage seminar we led...

The third topic I spoke about was on listening.

Years ago I traveled to Ohio and attended an Apples of Gold conference entitled Listening for Heaven's Sake. Prior to attending I had always thought I was an excellent listener and a good counselor. I learned differently.

A very few of the many listening principles I picked up and ones that have changed my entire mode of listening to others are the ones that I am addressing here.

Before I travel down that road, I want to restate a principle of life that has literally changed most of how I try to relate to friends and family. I'm a math person and I love how this principle communicates as an equation.
Exposure + Acceptance = Encouragement

As I practice this principle in life, it's amazing how changing it has been for me and for my relationships. I'm naturally a judging person, it's built into my DNA. So this principle has required major changes in the way I think and the way I relate. Anyway, that's a backdrop for these listening principles.

Two listening principles that I remember and therefore attribute them as the most important are spotlight listening and advice listening.

Whenever I would be talking with someone and had heard their problem or their story, I would sooner or later tell them a similar experience that I had had. I always thought that I was sharing something to show them that I understood, I was relating to and with them. Often I would preface that with "I know how you feel. I remember when..."

At the Listening Conference I learned that style is stealing the spotlight. I in essence was putting the spotlight or the importance on me and taking it from the one I was talking with. I was shocked. That shot down one of my best listening skills. Hmmm... Time to think about this.

After learning this, I began to practice this with family first and then with others. I was amazed at how off I had been previously, even often interrupting to share my experience. That stealing the spotlight principle is so right. Keeping the spotlight on the one who initially shares is important for respect, for acceptance, and for encouragement. I'm still learning, but I so love this. I'm not 100% yet, but I'm certainly better at listening than I used to be.

The second listening principle I had to unlearn and relearn correctly was advice listening. At this week long listening conference, I was really beaten up skill-wise as far as listening was concerned. I also began to learn that I was listening so I could give my all important advice to the one who had come to me. Yikes!

At the seminar I was given a picture of what it is to have someone come to you with a problem or to share a hurting experience. It's like this person is driving along in the car of his/her life and they see you walking along and they pull over and ask you to ride with them for a short distance.

The picture shows you that they are the driver and they are the ones who will continue on in their vehicle of life long after you are gone. You are there to share a short ride with them. They decide where they are going and they really decide how they are going to get there.

A way of listening and of sharing is to realize you are the passenger in their car of life and they will have to make their own decisions and pay their own consequences. Therefore a good listening and sharing strategy is to help them be aware of what choices they do have and what possible consequences might occur along with listening to their story with respect and encouragement. Wow! Was I turned upside down.

Prior to this I had the arrogant attitude that all problems, hurts, and struggles are handled one of two ways. Stop doing the sinful actions that are causing the problem or realize that God is in charge and He will take care of it. Hey, no wonder no one came to me the second time. I think I thought I was great because I helped them see their problem and get fixed. Great counselor!

I learned quite differently, and painful as it was, it was well worth it.

Applying these things to our marriage has helped our relationship and it has helped me personally more than could be possibly measured or expressed. Again, I'm still quite the student and not even in graduate school on this yet, but I am learning and growing and learning new and different ways to apply these skills.

I'm definitely a better person for having learned and trying to practice this. I definitely have a better marriage (at least in my opinion). And life has been so much more enjoyable. Life is an adventure, and a quite enjoyable one.

It has also helped me listen to someone's exposure of hurt, pain, guilt, or sin, and accept their person as I listen and hopefully they are encouraged.