Many couples today enlist to start couples therapy, to strengthen their relationship and to fix premature or potential problems. But is there another – and cheaper – way to repair emotional damage and to develop stronger feelings for one another? According to Kelley Kitley,
“While it doesn’t necessarily replace couples therapy, psychologists agree that working out with your significant other acts as a great supplement. “Exercising together is a good place to start to rebuild a connection and have fun together, which is often times why I suggest it in my work with couples who are having conflict,” – Psychotherapist Kelley Kitley
Matt talks with Kelley Kitley, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice and has treated patients in Santa Monica and Chicago for the past fifteen years. She’s a columnist for Fitness Magazine and is launching a new autobiography on survival in December called, “My Self.” When you think of strengthening your relationship and your significant other’s perception of you, the last thing you think of is probably having them see you dirty and sweaty, but maybe that is just what it takes. Kelley Kitley teaches us how working out with our significant other might be as good as couples therapy.
The One Thing That Makes You One
Research shows that human beings really can only meaningfully focus on one thing at time. But instead we tend to get lost focusing on two or three things in our marriages and about 15 things in our lives. So many times my clients feel so alone in their marriages and so deeply want to feel like they belong. If our goal is to create “Oneness”, then we might want to know what it looks like. I see oneness as a variety of words mixed all into one — words like single minded, whole, harmony, the state or condition of being one, the combining or joining of separate things or entities to form one, agreement, togetherness, a union. So it’s time to create a sense of “Oneness” by learning to focus on the “One” thing you need most right now. Let’s begin our discovery of “oneness” by starting a conversation about . . .
What Does “Oneness” Look Like?
What are some examples where both partners felt “Oneness”?
Find examples of Oneness from the Past, Present and Future
Examples of not fighting.
EXAMPLES- Before money stressors, when you were having regular sex, before kids, when we’re on vacations, when we had more time together . .
What Does “Oneness” Feel Like?
Now take the discussion beyond the actions that show that you’re at one, and see what it feels like.
Together discuss what felt different about the relationship back then (before kids, one vacation, when you had more money).
You might have answers like: we felt more united, less stressed, happy to see each other, more important, more wanted,
More Safe, Trusted, Appreciated, Respected, Valued, Encouraged, Dedication (STARVED Stuff).
What Is The “One” Feeling That Matters Most Now?
What is the Most Important Feeling We Need To Create “Oneness” In Our Marriage?
Go through what you discussed earlier and discover together the “One” feeling that would be most valuable to recreate in the marriage.
Can you see the one thing that if you could create significantly more of would take your marriage to the next level?
If we could make each other feel more safe, would it have a huge impact?
What Can We Do Today To Focus On Our “One” Thing?
Every day ask the question, “What is the most important thing we can do today to strengthen our one thing?”
Brainstorm with your partner about activities, classes, exercises, books and what you need to do every day to strengthen this one thing.
Commit to spending the next year working on that one thing.
Identify how you’ll measure the one thing.
Why Some Arguments Are “Normal” In Marriage
Disagreements in our relationships are very common, and yet there are some arguments it seems like almost all couples are having. Here are 4 fights that you and your spouse may have and some of the research behind why we might be so offended when they happen.
“I Just Want It All To be “Fair”
Ever had your children complaining that the older kids are treated better than they are? Ever felt angry that your spouse doesn’t do their “fair” share of cleaning around the house? Or have you ever felt like it’s not “fair” that you are the only one initiating intimacy in the marriage?
Fairness is a deeply wired and charged emotional need in humans.
CRAZY STUDY- Researchers found that simply walking through first class on a plane can make economy passengers really, really angry. Susan Fisk- Princeton Prof., cited the study from May 2016 — Researchers found that fliers who were reminded of social inequality were more likely to get angry and start “air-rage” incidents, becoming abusive or unruly toward crewmembers and other passengers. Air-rage incidents in the economy class were nearly four times more common in planes with a first-class cabin. And those incidents were more than twice as common in planes that required passengers to board from the front, meaning everyone had to walk through the first-class cabin.
TAKEAWAY- No one likes being reminded that another is getting better treatment than they are. So instead of spending hours about what is fair or not, open up the discussion, and know that the need for fairness is normal and frustrating. Use your talks to find a way to truly equalize outcomes.
“I Was Only Mean Because You Were Mean First”
Have you ever tried to blame your spouse for why you said something that was rude to them, because they were rude to you first? Or justified your “Yelling at the kids because your spouse was yelling at the kids first?” Well we may have a reason why your blaming of your spouse for your immoral behaviors might be right on.
Blaming others for our own failures, character flaws and lack of follow through may be more than just a form of scapegoating, and instead may be based in the research in getting better results.
CRAZY RESEARCH – Nicholas Epley, a professor at the Chicago University business professor, wanted to know what makes someone act more unethically when someone else is involved. In a 2015 study, participants worked in pairs: Player A would roll a die and report the number and then player B would do the same. If the players rolled the same number, they would each get that number of Euros as a reward. Each pair rolled the dice 20 times, meaning they should have rolled the same number about three times. Instead, the average pair said they rolled the same number a whopping 16 times. Even more interesting was that people seemed to egg each other on. Player B was more likely to lie when player A lied, meaning when player A kept saying they’d rolled a high number.
TAKEAWAY- When your partner says or does something that is against their value system, it seemingly allows you to do the same. The problem is, that will only create problems for you and will give your partner reasons to keep treating you inappropriately. So truly, immorality is contagious. So instead of using that old argument to justify why you’re both immoral, it might be best to decide if you want to quit justifying your immorality and instead just change it.
“You Always Exaggerate What I’m Saying”
Have you ever felt like your partner opts for really extreme examples or arguments when you have a disagreement? Perhaps you said, “Well everyone once in a while it really works when I raise my voice at the kids. They seem to finally hear what I’m saying.” Then your spouse comes back with some argument like, “So I guess it’s ok to yell at our kids 24/7, every day of the year?” Perhaps there is something really at play in such extreme arguing that none of us really knew was going on.
CRAZY RESEARCH – Dr. Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University, mentioned research that found Israeli rightists were inclined to change their political views when they saw the extreme version of their political opinions. The study, published in 2014, discussed how researchers showed a pro-Israeli group a tourism video clip that was designed to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a positive experience that underlied Israeli Jewish identity. The second video ended with the message, “We need the conflict in order to have the strongest army in the world.” Participants watched these videos multiple times over the course of the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections. Results showed that participants who’d seen the political videos were more likely to vote for a moderate party. Even one year after the study ended, the participants who’d seen the political videos showed a shift in their attitudes.
TAKEAWAY- Researchers found that when people are given an extreme example of the behavior that they are trying to change, or an “absurd” example, then the participant is less like to activate the other persons defense mechanisms. Which means there will be less of a fight and over time, more likelihood to change. So instead of arguing that the “absurd” examples are stupid, just recognize that in time they may actually create more change than serious examples.
“If You Don’t Want My Opinion, Then Don’t Ask For It!”
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you ask your spouse for their opinion, only to end up fighting or being hurt by what they said or how they said it? Interestingly, it might be just as easy to ask for someone’s advice, and advice is given in a different way than an opinion is given.
CRAZY RESEARCH – Asking for someone’s opinion isn’t always the best way to get help according to Robert Cialdini, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University, and CEO and president of Influence at Work. While we typically ask for our boss’ input or feedback on a project, studies suggest that’s a mistake. Instead, we should ask for their advice. When you ask for someone’s opinion, they take a step or disconnect from you and your ideas in an effort to be objective. But when you ask for their advice, they stay connected to you and feel like they’re helping and collaborating more with you and they can be more subjective.
TAKEWAY- Asking for you partner’s ADVICE is a much better option than just hearing their OPINION on what you’re doing. By asking for their advice, you put them on a pedestal, elevating their point of view and you keep them closer to you and make them feel more like your partner. Go for advice, more than opinions.
Fixing Your Toughest Relationship Problems
Relationships are hard but they don’t have to be as hard as most of us make them. In marriage there really are two kinds of problems: those we can’t fix (like the histories we brought to the relationship, our gene pool or chronic health conditions we suffer with), and those we can fix (like everything else). So whether it’s finding a way of making time to spend together, or learning to talk through our toughest challenges, our toughest relationship issues all have solutions whether we can see them or not. Here are 5 rules that will increase your odds of building love instead of walls.
Motivate With Honey, Not Vinegar
I’ve never seen a marriage improve by knowing that they have problems. Marriages improve when we begin to act differently on the problems we have.
Every problem has solutions so would it make more sense talking about what would make the situation better (solutions) rather than what makes it worse (problems).
In the end, whatever you focus on will grow.
A study of college students trying solve a problem showed that when they focused on all possible solutions, they were 17 times more likely to solve the problem than if they only focused on solving the problem.
This isn’t about positivity, it’s about productivity. In order for a problem to be solved, it has to be solved. So the sooner you move to solutions, the better. And the more solutions you have, the better. Solutions prime our optimism and positivity, while problems prime our hopelessness and negativity.
David Niven, author of the book “It’s Not about the Shark: How to Solve Unsolvable Problems.”
Story about Director Stephen Spielberg focusing on the shark in the movie of Jaws. But when the shark could no longer work and looked bloated, he focused on how to make an incredible movie without the shark. (Music, acting, special effects, shark half in and out of water, shots at night, screaming kids, etc).
Lose the “My Way Or The Highway” Mentality
Don’t give ultimatum because they just make this all harder to overcome.
People are inherently negative and self-protective so don’t try to amp your partner by threatening that if these things can’t be fixed now, you’re moving on.
Assume that you and your thinking, feeling and behaving is easily half of the reason this problem has been so difficult to solve.
Make sure that you are both part of the conversation or you both won’t end up being part of the implementation of the solution.
Either/ors only limit our thinking. Keep the discussion open by thinking “and”.
Dig Through The Pile of What Used To Work
Instead of telling your spouse, “We never do anything fun anymore…”, think back and make a list of everything you used to do together.
Notice the what, when, where and how of what you used to do together.
Look for where it used to be different, where the problem didn’t exist.
Think about what has changed and figure out why you couldn’t go back and do many of the things you used to do.
Remember that it used to work back then so why couldn’t it work again now.
Look for as many solutions as you possibly can and now try to find ways to take those “old” ideas and refurbish them into new solutions for today.
Open Your Eyes For What’s Working
There are always good things going on around us and most of us don’t pay much attention to them because we’re more worried about the problems.
Humans are hardwired to look for negative things (problems), so we aren’t surprised.
Don’t do what you’ve always done because it makes you miss everything else you could be doing. Every day there are things that are going positively in every relationship. By seeing the good in your partner, you will open up your mind to finding other good solutions that will work on the problem you’re trying to solve.
Stay humble and open to new ideas. Check your confidence about what will work and what won’t. Openness is more valuable than confidence in solving problems.
Talk to others about how they handle the same problem.
Find new ideas online.
Get in a chatroom and discuss options with others.
Seek professional help.
Imagine What It Would Look Like If The Problem Were Solved
Nothing is more powerful than our imagination, and sadly, when it comes to problems, yours might tend to shut down. The future is filled with endless solutions to all of the problems that plague us, and finding those solutions would demand more of our imagination.
ACTIVITY- Engage your imagination and imagine a fairy came into your bedroom at night and actually fixed the very problem that plagues you and your spouse the most. The problem was solved! Now on a piece of paper make a list of 30 things that would be different in your marriage regarding the issue you were trying to solve. So if the issue was trying to make more time to be together.
IF YOU ACTUALLY DID MAKE TIME TO BE TOGETHER WHAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT?
Go on walks together.
Go on dates.
Text each other.
We would go to bed together.
Dealing with Rejection within Marriage
How do you heal when rejection happens within marriage?
Studio 5 Contributor Dr. Matt Townsend shares how to reverse the emotion.