Posts Tagged ‘Divorce’

Life is made of one-third what I choose to do with my thoughts, behaviors, and attitude. Another one-third is the choices people around me make, in which I have no control. Hopefully, my wife will continue to choose to be with me. I cannot control her choice. I can decide how I will behave in hopes that she will find me pleasant and interesting, but in the end, the choice is hers. The final third, which again I cannot control, is what the universe, biology, nature, or what some believe God determines. I have no control over a hurricane hitting Tampa, my cat having heart disease, or a friend getting cancer. This is biology. I do have a choice in how I interpret and relate to those specific events (again my one-third).

If we live long enough, we will encounter events that force us to face our vulnerability as human beings. This can be interpreted as an injustice because “I have been doing everything right (if there is such a way) therefore nothing bad should ever happen to me.” This “injustice” may be because of someone else’s choice or biology. When it occurs, I will experience vulnerability and know that I am not totally independent. Some may guard against these feelings of vulnerability and say his wife’s cancer is the work of the devil. These life events will test our emotional self-reliance (self-responsibility) and push us to need others.

When we confront and experience our vulnerability we receive a dose of humility, which connects us to others. From these incidents, we will learn there is only one genuine need we all have and that is other people.

Since the beginning of time, human beings have misbehaved and made poor choices. Take for example the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. His brothers sold Joseph, the youngest and special son, into slavery. This was the beginning of Joseph’s trouble. He was falsely accused of having sex with his owner’s wife and thrown into prison. Yet he survived. Before he reached age 30 he was appointed as a top official by the ruler of Egypt. He predicted a famine and was put in charge of a food storage that saved the region. His brothers were forced to journey into the city seeking food, starving, and begging. Who did they appear before? Joseph! His chance to get even.

So it would seem that justice will prevail and what goes around comes around. His brothers did not recognize him and Joseph’s natural inclination was revenge. However, Joseph recognized that revenge was an easy way out. The courageous choice — and the only way to be happy — was forgiveness. One difference between happy and unhappy individuals is the ability to forgive.

Tragedy, error, inhumanity, and struggle will not go away. However, the realization that you have a choice in how you respond is powerful and influences your happiness and well-being, in spite of the other two-thirds. Forgiveness is done through the use of good psychology. It requires courage, emotional self-reliance, and a desire to be free.

Anyone who has done you harm will continue to have a stranglehold on your life, until you are willing to forgive them and free yourself from the resentment, anger, hurt, injustice, and sometime hatred.

Joseph took an active approach to the injustice and pain inflicted upon him. He used the situation to become socially interested instead of self-interested.

Forgiveness is an active process that requires these steps:
• I will not bring up the incident again and use it against you.
• I will not talk to others about this incident.
• I will not let this incident stand between our personal relationships.
• To do this I will not dwell or ruminate over the problem or punish you by withdrawing and keeping emotional distance.
• I will free the relationship to develop, unhindered of the past wrongs.

The worst preparation for marriage is when an individual is always looking for his or her own interest. They are alert to how they are being treated or mistreated. If partners have been trained in this way, they will be thinking all the while what pleasure or excitement they can get out of life. They will always demanding freedom and relief, to have their own way, never considering how they can ease and enrich the life of their partner.

Gottman has found there are four major warning signs to a failed marriage. He calls these “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. These behaviors lead to marital meltdown and divorce. The first of which is criticism. Criticism involves attacking someone’s personality or character—rather than a specific behavior—usually with blame. This can be expressed in a number of ways—“you don’t care” “you only think of your self or you are a selfish person” or “you should know better than to drink too much”. The added word “should” sends a powerful message of being scolded. Unlike complaints, criticism tends to generalize. It uses global phrases, “you never” or “you always”. When criticism starts punctuating your interactions your marriage is in trouble (Gottman, 1994, Why Marriages Succeed and Fail).

Criticism is considered a deadly habit, a form of external control, and perhaps the worst of all the deadly habits. It will disconnect you from the significant people in your life. If you have a ratio of 6 to 1, meaning for every six interactions, five or negative, your relationship is bleeding.

Most people make accurate observations. However, when they share those observations in the form of criticism, they do harm to the people they love. Accurate observations can make it difficult not to criticize. In order to stay connected you have to value the relationship and staying connected more than being “right” or expressing your “honest” opinion.

The rule of thumb is the more intimate the relationship the more damaging the criticism. Furthermore, the more accurate the criticism, the more damage it is to the relationship. Is being right and sharing your observations more important than your relationship? There is no such thing as constructive criticism. No one likes to be criticizing and the people you love are not going to change just because you are being “honest”. Criticizing is not problem solving, it’s a form of external control.

If you want to improve your interaction check out, Stop All Grousing! Its in our library.

How do you know your marriage is in trouble even over? On the surface it may seem like nothing is wrong. Too often we hear couples say, “everyone thought we were the happiest couple,” only to find they are divorcing. The couple does not argue, act contemptuous, or stonewall. They are calm, cool, and reasonable about their conflicts. What you are observing is one or both of them has emotionally detached. If one of them has moved the other out of their quality world the relationship is over.

Couples leave a marriage differently. Some divorce, others stay together for the benefits of marriage but without a relationship. They live parallel lives. There is no emotional, sexual, are social activities alone as a couple. They come together around kids, money, hanging out with their friends. Gottman in his research has found there are four final stages that signal the death of a relationship.

1. You see your marital problems as severe.

2. Talking things over seems useless. You try to solve problems on your own.

3. You start leading parallel lives

4. Loneliness sets in.

Gottman’s research indicates that when a couple gets to the last stage, one or both partners may often have an affair. The affair is usually a symptom of a dying marriage not the cause. This could also include heavy drinking, gambling, preoccupation with television, etc. All of these activities keep the dying relationship afloat. The end of the marriage can often be predicted long before these symptoms appeared.

These symptoms include 1) Harsh startups, 2) Failed repair attempts, 3) Emotional flooding, and 4) Pervasive negative thoughts about the marriage (Core Negative Image) are indicators your moving towards divorce.

Taken from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, J. Gottman, 1999, p. 45.