I run a biweekly men’s group called the Good Men. Our mandate is simple. We want to help each other be better men: better fathers, better partners, and better people. No sacred circles, hand holding or kumbaya, just talking. We all love it… it is a chance for men to talk, to laugh, to share, to give different perspectives, and occasionally we save marriages.
Late last year, one of our men was in a deep, dark relationship rut and in his words, on the brink of divorce. They had already talked about dividing up their stuff and their kids were asking who they might live with. Nothing was working. No connection with his wife, no love, no sex, and no friendship. Nothing but door slamming, yelling, constant fighting, frustration, and lots of space growing between them.
Luckily, we managed to pull him back off the ledge, to help him pause and reflect. He credits our group and one idea with changing “everything”.
Let’s back up. Once the fireworks and excitement of a new relationship start to ‘simmer down’, relationship life really begins and a couple enters a new phase. Come on, did you honestly think you could stay in that stage forever? Who would get any work done?
Plus, it isn’t physiologically possible! The chemicals responsible for that passionate loving feeling (adrenaline, dopamine, noradrenaline, phenylethylamine, etc.) all start to dwindle and level off. Suddenly your perfect lover has faults.
Why did he or she change? Actually, your partner probably hasn’t changed at all, it’s just that we are now able to see him or her more rationally, rather than through the blinding hormones of passionate love, sex, and blissful infatuation. When a couple hits the “simmer down” phase, the relationship is either strong enough to endure, or the relationship ends.
So our helpless friend on the brink felt there was no hope. He had a very negative perspective on his wife, their marriage, and his ceiling of happiness. Everything was bad.
The idea that I gave wasn’t my own. I would love the credit, but I borrowed it from my Gottman Couples training: Maintaining a Positive Perspective.
When you are in a negative perspective, at least 5 things happen.
1. You are hyper vigilant! You are constantly judging, looking, watching to catch your partner doing things wrong to support your negative opinion of them!
2. You are hyper sensitive! There is a massive magnification of feelings around a negative event – little things are constantly blown out of proportion.
3. Nothing “rolls off your shoulders”! – you become score keepers and everything is tit for tat.
4. No one gets the benefit of the doubt! No one gets the most respectful interpretation of their behaviour anymore, only the worst interpretation that continues to feed the demon core negative image you carry of your partner!
5. We don’t bite our tongues (and take the high road) – we give into the contempt and hostile comments. We take cheap shots at each other and each other’s character (and maybe family members too).
Stop lamenting your courtship days; you are different people now. Different, but still great!
So are you in a negative perspective of your relationship? If so, here, put on a different pair of glasses. You are missing all the good stuff that might be happening because all you see is the darkness!
Looking at his wife through a positive perspective worked for our man on the brink, and it just might help your relationship too! What do you have to lose? Look for the person you fell in love with…
Until next time…