They recommended this book: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. I liked it because it follows my normal pattern of wondering about professional help, but using facebook groups instead, which leads me to books which is like the free version of therapy a little bit right? Skip the professional and just read what they read to learn their field?
I was a little skeptical because I love books and marc does not so he wasn't going to do this with me, but through the book I am seeing patterns, patterns, patterns. So I bought it to have around and read some chapters deeper, but just from the libby app scan of it I have enough ideas to write this entry.
It starts by talking about the Four Horseman that doom a marriage, the communication styles seen in couples heading for divorce:
Then goes on to explain the trends they see in marriages that work:
1. Enhancing love maps
2. Nurturing fondness and admiration
3. Turning toward each other
4. Accepting influence
5. Solving solvable problems
6. Overcoming gridlock
7. Creating shared meaning
I will say that in reading the first few items, they seemed really obvious. Basically you have to like each other. Know each other really well, and then add on to each other. It reminded me a lot of the "Yes And..." book I read on improv comedy. If your spouse starts something, you pick it up. If he shows you a funny meme on the internet you laugh at it, if he makes some observation about a new building under construction you wonder along what it might be. It's the healthy interplay.
In reading this, I realized all the valuable things marc and I do together and started giving them some credit. I also set aside some of the gridlock, angry things that take away, that aren't productive, that do not bring us closer, and thought about how to re-arrange them.
I told marc I was reading the book but mostly in our joking way that he could appreciate. Like, "HEY, IT SAYS WE'RE SUPPOSED TO MAKE A LOVE MAP." and he said, "here? in front of the kids?" or "NEXT TIME WE FIGHT THERE'S A WORKSHEET SO YOU CAN TELL ME HOW YOU FEEL. ISOLATED, HURT, OR A SENSE OF RIGHTIOUS INDIGNTATION?" and he said, "I like 'righteous indication'! that sounds badass I'm circling that for every one!"
I was mad about laundry. he's at home all day, he's agreed to do laundry... but he always neglects it. a few weeks ago I started a conversation with "look, I know you hate laundry, but I don't know what to do. I hate nagging you, I hate running out of clothes, and when I just do it in the few hours I am home I resent the hell out of you." he said he does not hate laundry, just doesn't think about it. he wears the same loungey things every day, I have an office wardrobe. he might need some reminders, and he agreed with me that reminders are emotional labor for me but what else is there? I left feeling like we hadn't solved the problem. but after reading the book, I see value in the fact that we both agreed it's a problem, he doesn't hate laundry, I shouldn't have assumed bad faith there. I also kind of realized that this is not such a huge deal. The fight, the process, the laundry, none of those are bringing us closer together. If I do start a load I can usually get him to finish it. sorting is my job and he's happy to help me sort, and then we're doing it together.
I worried about working in our back yard, we've got this big project going. a lot of it is landscaping/arranging and that usually falls to me but I don't want to get left with all of it. he ripped out an entire deck by himself. we'd already clashed about how it was going to go because the scope feels huge and we've both got priorities. so I started breaking it down. rather than debate the big plan in his head, I just asked what's the next step, then started working in the morning, then got him out to work alongside me, and we were together happily, and the more time we were together the happier we were in the evening talking to each other about it. moving rocks, moving dirt, going to stores, being outside, getting fresh air and sunshine. he even admitted he's in a good mood about it.
maybe that's how it would go anyway. maybe we do the good marriage stuff automatically, that's why we've been married 13 years. but the book gave me things to think about and I appreciate that. if we can work on something close together, it's become a priority for me. if we're both admitting there's a problem, it's a good sign. if i'm trenched in and angry about it, it's usually about some little thing and I can redirect my energy to bigger ticket priorities.
closeness. turning toward each other. yes and. all things we do as humans to get our brains into the collaboration and attraction mindset, and then the magic happens.