A few months ago, I signed us up for a non-denominational, Yelp-approved marriage prep course. We learned about compatibility, expectations, communication, conflict resolution, intimacy, and commitment. That was back when every night was date night, we laughed constantly, and texted romantic messages to each other. We finished the weekend course and went on our merry way.
Now that we’re having problems, I insisted that we return to the materials from the class and start again. We both had to dig around our offices and the apartment to find our handbooks. They had to be dusted off; we hadn’t touched them in months. We set aside time after work, sat on the couch, and read from the beginning.
Dean suggested, “Why don’t we start with a make-believe problem and work on resolving it? Let’s say you want us to go to the summer Olympics and I want the winter Olympics.” We took turns debating our positions, then coming to a compromise which wasn’t hard. But we continued on the path of working through our communication issues.
Next up: decorating our apartment. I pouted, “I feel like this place is yours. None of it is mine. So it really frustrates me when you don’t like the decorating ideas I have. How about we start with one or two pieces of my choosing that make me feel like this is my home, too.”
After learning how to listen to each other, starting with baby steps, we ventured into more challenging terrain: Sunday football, finances, fights and time-outs. When things get heated, we tend to walk out. We decided on rules. It’s ok if one of us needs time to cool off, but we have to state explicitly that we’re walking away temporarily and that we’ll be back within one hour.
One of the modules in the class focused on listening and fighting fair. One technique is to have only one speaker at a time. We actually have a speaker flag. The person with the flag has the floor. When one speaker finishes, the other has to repeat what was said before moving on. It seemed silly when we watched the technique being demonstrated in class, but it really helped us when we talked through our issues the other night.
Lastly, we realized that we need to spend time working on our relationship. We haven’t done that. We’ve just been living our lives, not really attuned to the relationship. Issues slowly built up and we exploded emotionally. Starting now, we decided to carve out time every weekend to serve as our forum to talk about our relationship and how we can make it better. We’re feeling so much better now.