Needing to be Right- A Sure-Fire  Losing Strategy for Partner Communication

Needing to be Right- A Sure-Fire Losing Strategy for Partner Communication

For good marital communication, partners should step back, take a look at themselves, and ask if they are going about it the right way to have a loving and devoted partner, to feel deeply connected to their spouse, to reduce conflict, or to have a peaceful home with happy successful children. Having strategies to achieve marital harmony often separates successful couples from others. Successful couples regularly employ what we call "Winning Strategies," while other couples unfortunately use "Losing strategies", (which they often learned as children) yet expect good results. "Needing To be Right" is the first losing strategy we discuss. Does this describe you or your partner?

When I was a young psychologist, I recall a young woman in my practice who was very upset because men simply didn’t see her as very feminine and treated her like “one of the guys,” instead of like a “girl” as she deeply desired. I asked for an example of what she meant.”The other night we were having drinks in a bar and one of the guys said that I wasn’t very feminine,” she said.

“How did you react?“I asked her.

With a serious face she said, “I stood up, took a swing and knocked them all to the floor.”

Psychologists call this self-defeating behavior. In over 15 years of conducting anger management classes in southern California, and hearing hundreds of stories of relationship conflict, I have seen this pattern repeated over and over again. Partners need, want and deserve different things in a relationship, but go about getting it in the wrong way due to poor marital communication.

It’s like looking for a herd of buffaloes  in New York City, or convincing people who live in Antarctica to purchase air conditioners. It ain’t going to work.

Think in terms of Losing vs Winning Strategies
Married people often don’t step back, take a look at themselves, and ask if they are going about it the right way to have a loving and devoted partner, to feel deeply connected to their spouse, to reduce conflict, or to have a peaceful home with happy successful children. But, for good marital communication, having strategies to achieve marital harmony often separates successful couples from others. Successful couples regularly employ what we call “Winning Strategies,” while other couples unfortunately use “Losing strategies”, (which they often learned as children) yet expect good results.

To improve  marital communication, we begin a series of blogs on losing strategies regularly employed by couples in trouble, in the hope that you can improve your marriage by not using them in the future. Then, of course, a series of blogs will follow of winning strategies- those ways of communicating that are used by black-belts of relationship success. Full disclosure- This material is based  on the writings of famed therapist Terry Real in his book “The New Rules of Marriage”. I would highly encourage you to download his book and read it as soon as you can.

Losing Strategy 1- Needing to always be  Right.

I was raised by the philosophy that there is a right way to do things, and a wrong way. This way of looking at the world certainly ensured a shared vision of things (it encouraged all family member to see things the same way) but it also stifled creativity and individuality. Instead of teaching us to consider “options” in how to deal with a problem or issue, we were taught that if “A” happens, then you handle it by doing “B.” If somebody tried a “C’, they were told they were wrong because, again, there is only one “right” to a problem or situation.

Of course, sometimes this IS true. The ‘right” solution to prevent tooth decay is to brush daily; the “right” way to have money in the future is to save it or invest it. The “right” way to stay healthy is to eat your fruits and vegetables, exercise, and don’t smoke.

But, other times it decidedly is NOT true. Or, in many cases there can be multiple truths – not “the” truth. People can have long lives eating meat or not. Heavy drinkers are not necessarily alcoholics. People who don’t go to college can still become  millionaires. Dishes can get clean in the dishwasher without pre-washing them. There are multiple ways to get to a destination in your car. Different people feel loved differently. Some people can change bad habits easier than others. Some children respond to tight discipline and tight structure much more than other children.

Children who are raised to believe in the right or wrong philosophy eventually marry other children who also believe this. So, why is this a problem?  They clash because they were taught different “rights’ and “wrongs” – and they were not taught to be tolerant of those differences – and they often certainly were not taught to embrace individual differences, nuances, and variety in our world.

Some partners go so far as to feel “disrespected” if their spouse does things their own way. For example, what sane person puts the glasses in the cupboard upside down to prevent dust from accumulating in them? Everybody know glasses go right side up but CUPS go upside down, Right? Or did I get that wrong?

Learn to disagree without being disagreeable
Successful relationships depend on developing successful strategies to deal with disagreements and conflicts without destroying each other in the process. You can disagree without being disagreeable.

The trick is to focus not only on the argument but on HOW you argue and communicate- in other words, focus on the process as well as the issue. Very hard to do in the heat of battle but this skill separates beginners from black belts in marital communication. It helps to remember that (1) subjective reality cam be different from objective reality, that (2) Words spoken can have different meanings for each partner, and that (3) Body Language conveys tons of information, regardless of the words you use.

Subjective vs. Objective Reality
What is the difference? Let me explain it this way: You and your partner are sitting in the therapist office and your partner says “It is cold in here.” You say,  “there you go–always complaining. Actually it is NOT cold in here- the temperature is 72 degrees.” Who is “right”?
Objective cold is not the same as subjectively “felt” temperature.If your partner feels cold, the reality for him or her is that it is cold in the office , regardless of the actual (objective) temperature. Would you argue like Perry Mason to prove your case that your partner is crazy and that it is NOT cold in the office? I grew up in a home where that is exactly what happened – which typically then caused a major argument.

The truth is, most of the time nobody cares if you are factually (objectivity) right or not!

I recall the case of  Mike and Ann who fought about everything. Mike was incapable of understanding this idea that partners can perceive things quite differently. To test him, we did the following dialogue:

Therapist: “Mike, what is the color of that lampshade over there?”

Mike: It is beige.

Therapist: “Ann, what color do you think it is?”

Ann: “It is Brown.”

Therapist to Mike: “Mike, why do you think Ann sees it as Brown and you see it as Beige?”

Mike: “Because she is lying.”

What are you going to do with a person who thinks that way?

Often words spoken can have different meanings to each partner:
A second reason that partners argue over things is because spoken words can have different meanings to each partner even though the same word is used to describe something. To remedy this,try to remember the famous words of Robert McCloskey:

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

― Robert McCloskey

The remedy here is to be sure to clarify what you mean by the words you use.
Example:

45 year old Sam to Therapist: “We only have sex  once a month. Last time was 4 weeks ago- on a Saturday night.”

Sam’s Wife to therapist: “That is simply not true. We had sex just 3 days ago. Tell the therapist the truth.”

Sam to wife and therapist: ” That wasn’t REAL sex – that was only Clinton sex.”

Finally, remember that your body language conveys more meaning than do your words: What does your voice tone communicate? Your voice volume? Your facial features? Your general tension level? All these forms of communication are being “picked up” by your partner regardless of what your words say. Monitor yourself when you are talking to your partner for an appreciation of what you may be communicating to them with your body language.

 

Much marital conflict around an issue is really about learning to communicate about that issue as much as about the issue itself. There are winning strategies for effective communication as well as losing strategies. In today's blog, we encourage you to NOT to use the losing strategy of always needing to be right during an argument. For more help with relationship communication and conflict resolution, contact Dr Tony Fiore at 714-745-1393 or email him at drtonyfiore@gmail.com.

Five tips for preventing resentment from ruining your marriage

We welcome again a guest article by marriage therapist Michele Weiner-Davis who gives us 5 practical tips on how to prevent resentment from ruining your marriage.

When you and your spouse hit rough times, it seems that no matter what you do, things get worse.

You blame your spouse; your spouse blames you and nothing changes.

Out of desperation, you eventually step back from your situation and try to think more clearly. And thankfully, when you aren’t mired in the muck, you actually figure out more productive ways to handle your differences. You are determined to do better the next time a challenging situation rears its ugly head.

And then it happens. It feels like a déjà vu. The same old argument starts unfolding.

You and your spouse have been there so many times before.

And although you promised yourself that you would take the high road this time- to remain calm and loving in the face of controversy-your anger and resentment have another plan for you.

You are going to do the same old thing because you’re mad and resentful as hell and your spouse doesn’t deserve better treatment. All the brilliant planning for a better outcome goes right out the window.

Resentment wins. You lose. Sound familiar?

If you want to improve your relationship, you have to find ways to triumph over resentment so you can live up to the promises you make yourself to approach your spouse in more productive ways.

But the sixty-four thousand dollar question is, “How?” The following are five tips for rising above resentment.

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If you need help giving up resentment, call Dr Tony Fiore at 714-745-1393 to schedule a consolation. To discover to what extent you hold anger expressed as resentment, join our mailing list and take our free Anger Quiz

Dr Fiore New Anger Skills Pilot Program for Couples

To start the New Year off right, We are looking for 10 people to participate in the development of a new pilot anger skills building program for couples. One partner or both can participate in this unique distance learning program based on application of eight tools of anger management used by Dr Fiore in his local classes for 14 years.

Happy new Year to All!

To start the New Year off right, We are looking for 10 people to participate in the development of a new pilot anger skills building program for couples.

For Whom is the Program Designed?

One partner or both can participate in this unique distance learning program based on application of eight tools of anger management used by Dr Fiore in his local classes for 14 years.

This program is a perfect self-help tool for angry couples who need a supplement to therapy to learn specific anger management skills between sessions or between anger management classes.

It also is perfect for very busy couples who are unable to attend therapy sessions for one reason or another. The skills can be learned while commuting to work, doing the laundry at home, or flying to a business meeting across the country.

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How to Reduce Resentment Toward Your Partner – Even if Your Partner Won’t Change!

Continuing our last blog in which we gave you “love-hacks” as a short-term fix for marriage conflict, today we ask you to look at deeper and longer-term issues that you should look at. Resentment often is at the top of the list. You may have resentments toward your partner because essential needs are not being met through your marriage. Based on the work of Dr. Eli Finkel, in “The All-or-Nothing Marriage,” there may be alternatives for you short of divorce which you should consider.

Do You Have Resentment In Your Marriage?

Mary, age 40, came to see me recently for a consultation on how she could improve her marriage and deal with an angry husband who refused to see a marriage therapist. She was extremely resentful, unhappy and depressed. She had tried “everything” to get her husband to change- all to no avail.

The resentment Mary was feeling was normal when a partner has grievances toward their partner which are unexpressed – or- when your partner does not respond even when they are indeed expressed. Take our free Anger Quiz to assess the degree of resentment in your marriage. Many times grievances are formed in a marriage because some essential needs are not being fulfilled – needs which you want satisfied through the marriage. After all, satisfaction of some of those needs are the reason you married in the first place.
Mind you, just because you have normal needs doesn’t necessarily mean you are “needy.” We all have needs, as a famous psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote about way back in the 1940s. Here is a simplified version of his needs diagram. In Maslow’s theory, lower needs (such as having enough to eat) need to be satisfied before higher needs such as “esteem” seem important.

The question is: to what extent should we look toward marriage to satisfy some of these needs?

Continue reading “How to Reduce Resentment Toward Your Partner – Even if Your Partner Won’t Change!”

Lovehacking: Quick Fixes To Improve Your Marriage or Relationship

“Lovehacks” provide an efficient method for keeping our marriages afloat during challenging or busy times. There are times when we simply lack the ability or the motivation to make hefty additional investment, and there’s no shame, says psychologist Dr Finkel, in doing little things to make the relationship a bit stronger than it would be otherwise.

How Love-Hacks can give your marriage a tune-up

To fix a truly troubled marriage takes much effort and commitment. But, many marriages or relationships just need a tune-up. One psychologist, Dr. Eli Finkel, calls these “Lovehacks” in his new and very well-researched and well-thought-out book “The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work.”

Lovehacks provide an efficient method for keeping our marriages afloat during challenging or busy times. There are times when we simply lack the ability or the motivation to make hefty additional investment, and there’s no shame, says Dr Finkel, in doing little things to make the relationship a bit stronger than it would be otherwise.

Lovehacks, according to Dr Finkel, have three defining features. First, they don’t take much time – which is crucial for today’s very busy and stressed couples. Second, they don’t require any coordination with, or cooperation from, our spouse. This is very important in those marriages wherein one partner is working harder or is more motivated than the other to resuscitate things. Third, they don’t require a major change or shift in expectations as many other marital therapy interventions do.

Love-Hacks fall into two major categories: those focused on countering weaknesses in your marriage and those focused on savoring strengths.
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Angry at narcissistic husband? How to cope short of divorce!

Dealing with a narcissistic partner can be daunting and bring out incredible anger in you, especially If you don’t know what you are dealing with. We briefly describe narcissism, and how narcissists can greatly affect you, as their partner, and push all your buttons. You may decide to throw in the towel, but many such relationships a worth saving- If you learn how to disarm the narcissist while surviving (and even thriving) yourself.

Anger and partner narcissism: Betty and Jason

Betty and Jason had been married for 5 years and were now being seen in couples therapy because of almost constant conflict. Jason saw the problem as “Betty’s anger” which he couldn’t cope with and caused him to completely emotionally shut down. He constantly threatened divorce lamenting that he wished he had married a “sweet” girl. Betty said her anger was only because of him; she had many friends and no history of anger problems in any other relationship or areas of her life. But, she indeed was enraged with her husband who constantly berated and criticized her, tried to lower her self-esteem, could not satisfy her most basic needs as a woman, and constantly manipulated her by giving her hope for change and then completely reversing himself the next day. She called it “crazy-making.”

What is a narcissist?

Simply put, a narcissist Continue reading “Angry at narcissistic husband? How to cope short of divorce!”

Orange County Marriage Counselor Asks: Is Your Marriage Worth Saving?

The conflict between trying to save a bad marriage or deciding to try and work it out is a decision faced by thousands of couples of all ages across the country. About 50% do end their marriage, but many later regret it and find that divorce didn’t improve their lives as much as they had hoped. Others in high-conflict marriages who divorce feel they made the right decision both for themselves and their children. Dr Fiore discusses five things to consider before making your decision.

The Story of Mary and Bill

Mary and Bill were a nice couple empty nesters. Married 20 years, hey had built a nice life together. Their mortgage was low, their children were in college and doing well, most of the time they got along with each other fairly well. But one day Mary told Bill she thought maybe they should get a divorce. This rocked Bill’s world as he had no idea that she had still been planning this. Sure, she mentioned it several years ago, but then things had actually improved, so Bill figured the storm had passed.

For Bill, the marriage wasn’t perfect, but then he had lower expectations. Most of his unhappiness was in reaction to her unhappiness. He was happy to keep things as they were even though they had little in common anymore. Mary complained that she was emotionally lonely in the marriage, that Bill didn’t communicate with her, that he drank too much, and that he rarely paid attention to her anymore. She suspected he was having at least an emotional affair with a co-worker, though Bill denied this, pleading that they were just close friends.
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Anger and Couple Finances: How to Avoid Financial Infidelity

We welcome this guest article by Dr Tina Tessina describing how conflict, resentment and anger around money issues can jeopardize a marriage or relationship. She also instructs couples on how to have discussions around money and provides resources on how to better budget to reduce financial stress and anger.

The most valuable thing in a long-term stable relationship is having a partnership, and most new couples don’t realize that money is a major factor in marital happiness. Money is one of the biggest generators of problems, arguments, and resentment in long-term relationships. Couples argue about spending, saving budgeting, and disparity in earnings. When couples have difficulty with money, it can lead to financial infidelity: out-of-control spending, lying and hiding finances; which can destroy the relationship. Overcoming money problems together and working as a team will strengthen the bond between you, and help you create a healthy, lasting partnership.

Money doesn’t have to be a wedge between you and your partner. It can be a great tool for learning more about one another and using money matters as a discussion point can help your relationship grow and thrive. Money can create misery or happiness, depending on how you manage it. Making long-term plans, helping reach goals and improving your quality of life are just some of the things you will be able to accomplish if you work together.
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Can I Fall Back in Love After The Thrill Is Gone?

I am pleased to offer this guest article by colleague Dr. Steve Rockman for couples who need to re-ignite that love feeling for each other. The advice given in this article is common sense in many ways and profoundly true! Establish a “Love Bank” and start making deposits. If you want more, start giving more! Be nicer to each other and be less critical.

Having been a therapist for over thirty years, I am always pleased to find new ways of helping couples. A few years ago, I discovered a treatment approach by Willard Harley that’s short term and practical. Combined with other techniques that I use, this approach has proven effective. Furthermore, it offers hope to relationships that seem hopeless. I’ve had several successful cases where one member had fallen out of love, ready to leave the relationship. If you’re interested, read on.
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Successful Marriage: Love ain’t enough says Dr Tony Fiore

Outside Stressors, called “thirds” can destroy your marriage no matter how much you love each other. Successful couples of course should love each other, but they also must have skills to deal with common stressors of married life. Moreover, they need additional skills to deal with each other around these stressors, says Dr. Tony Fiore, who has seen hundreds of individuals and couples in relationship trouble.

What are these “thirds” that are destructive to a relationship?
A destructive third can be anything that prevents a couple from having a close bond, having each other’s back and prioritizing their relationship. Thirds can create havoc in a marriage, yet the problem is not strictly a marriage problem per se. The real problem is inability of a couple to successfully deal with an outside stress threatening the marriage.

Common thirds that I see in Couples Counseling in Orange County are:

  • Anger or poor impulse control

  • Parenting or Children Stress

  • Substance Abuse (including excessive drinking) by one partner

Continue reading “Successful Marriage: Love ain’t enough says Dr Tony Fiore”