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Thoughts from Dennis: Marriage Advice

Dennis Paget is a Registered Professional Counsellor, who provides marriage advice to clients teaching them the Dr. John Gottman method on relationships (Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. There are a number of concepts Dr. Gottman offers to couples to make their marriage strong.

Following is some advice for making your marriage work:

Seek marriage advice early

A large percentage of couples that seek counselling have conflicts in their relationship that is entrenched. Of that percentage, many women are at the point of leaving the relationship; they are both confused. Dr. Gottman says that couples wait on average six years before seeking marriage advice with marital hurdles of dissatisfaction. Couples at this stage of their marriage feel alone, lonely, angry, confused and very sad. As well they feel at a loss to understand what happened to the good times they once enjoyed. The sooner a couple addresses conflict and seeks advice the better it is for the marriage in the long run.

Edit yourself

Happy couples edit their communication. Bringing up every critical thought just deflects away from the core issue that needs to be understood and brought to closure. Sensitive subjects do not need the addition of criticism as a deflection away from what truly matters.

Soften your ‘start up’

Every argument has a beginning and how that start up engages determines the outcome of the discussion. Look at how you voice your complaint or inquiry. Is your face marked with contempt or disgust? Are you finger pointing? What does your body say? What does your posture look like? Are you stressing your complaint with a voice above a rating of 4 out of 10 and then escalating? Can you see that your partner has disengaged listening? How does your physiology feel — anxious? If the approach is negative give it a try with a softer approach and agree that if the conversation goes sideways that you take a time out to collect thoughts and cool down.

Accept Influence

Men, we need to accept the influence from our wives or female partners. This is critical to a successful marriage! Research shows that women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men, so to have a great partnership the husband or male partner needs to accept influence as well. So, hear what she is saying and have a conversation around the subject. See her side of things and work for common ground.

Have high standards

Hurting each other in a relationship with critical remarks, abuse of any kind, sarcasm, using our partners in negative ways to get a laugh isn’t living at high standards. Good marriages have boundaries around these conducts. Good marriages have respect for each other at the highest level. Low levels of tolerance for bad behaviour from the beginning of a relationship nets out to favourable, happier relationships.

Learn to repair and exit an argument

Continuing to argue about something that is going nowhere is a colossal waste of time. Doing so inflicts pain and emotional damage on each other; provides no resolution and only keeps couples in a heightened state of arousal. When our heart rates go above 95 beat per minute, on average, we get into the evolutionary state of fight or flight response; we stop listening. When no one is listening it’s best to take a time out for at least 20 minutes to collect thoughts and cool down. When you re-engage in the discussion don’t enter where you left off but with a softened start up approach taking care to listen, understand, validate and seek information through inquiry. Successful repair attempts can be: using humour, change the subject, getting a cup of coffee (Hey honey, let’s stop this and get a cup of coffee. I’ll make it. OK?), providing a caring remark to soothe your partner, validating feelings and shows signs of appreciation with their remarks (“yes, I can see that or I’ve never thought about it that way, thanks for saying that”).

Focus on the bright side

Good marriages have a positive richness that sets the theme for engagement and success. They focus on positive thoughts through interactive statements of confirmation. Through his research Dr. Gottman says the ratio to positive inputs to negative inputs is 5 to 1.

Seeking marriage advice? Contact Dennis Paget today to help get your marriage back on track.

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