I just returned from an amazing workshop entitled, “Fair Fight” facilitated by the University of Central Florida Marriage and Family Research Institute. The focus of the workshop was on teaching tools to improve communication in relationships which will lead to more satisfying relationships, less stress, and better health outcomes.
As a newlywed, I believe that it is crucial that Chuck and I learn tips/tricks early on that will increase the likelihood that our relationship lasts. I know that we both want to be married forever, but unfortunately, simply wanting to is usually not enough. Relationships take work.
Time for the disclaimer…I am not a counselor, and I have no authority to talk about these concepts. I am simply sharing what I learned at this workshop. (My sister is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, but I am pretty sure that her qualifications don’t cover me, too.)
The tool that I found to be the most useful that I plan to implement immediately is the PAIRS Daily Temperature Reading. The facilitator of the workshop, Dr. Andrew Daire, told us that confiding is the lifeblood of intimacy, and the PAIRS Daily Temperature Reading is a sequence of five steps that helps nurture and protect relationships through confiding in the other person. He believes that the Daily Temperature Reading is the single most important tool for deepening and sustaining intimacy. It is important to be fully present, away from distractions, sitting face-to-face, and holding hands with one another throughout the process. Each person goes through the five steps completely while the other listens.
The goal of the first part of the exercise is to provide specific and sincere examples of why you appreciate the other person. Dr. Daire said to be as specific as possible. For example, I wouldn’t say, “Chuck, I appreaciate that you take care of the dogs so well.” Instead I would say, “I really appreciated that you took the dogs out last night so that I could get some extra sleep.” It shouldn’t be requests for the future like, “I would appreciate it if you make me dinner tomorrow” but gratitude for what has already occurred. “I appreciate that you took time out of your day to text me. I like knowing that you think about me throughout the day.” According to the PAIRS website, even (perhaps especially) during periods of stress, crisis, change, or uncertainty — we can always find something to genuinely appreciate in another person. Include as many as you can think of. (I plan to jot appreciations down throughout the day as I think of them so that I don’t forget any once the time comes to share them with Chuck.) Sharing appreciations results in higher self-esteem, higher self-worth, and more trust.
Intimacy thrives best when both partners know the ins and outs of each other’s lives. Focus on providing new information that your partner should know. Include information about work, family, gossip, fears, interests, schedules, and anything else that you want! It can be trivial or extremely important. The key is to make sure that your partner is up-to-date on what is going on in your life. Examples – “I have a doctor’s appointment on Friday. It’s just a check-up. Nothing is wrong with me, but I wanted you to know anyway.” “James got fired today! I’m not sure why, but I sure want to find out what happened!”
This is your opportunity to ask questions about anything that is unclear. It doesn’t mean you’ll get answers, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll like the answers, but it’s an important step to make sure you’re not making and acting upon inaccurate assumptions. An example of this may be, “I noticed that you were looking at job postings on the internet. Are you looking for a new job?” After a puzzle is shared, the other person can either respond immediately, give it some thought and respond later, or not respond at all. The other person does not have to respond but must be given the opportunity. If the answer to the puzzle will take more than a few minutes, Dr. Daire suggested that time be set aside outside of the Daily Temperature Reading to discuss it further.
Concerns with Recommendations
When you state a concern, be clear about what bothers you, and provide a specific solution that will please you. Make sure not to attack, judge, blame, or criticize. An example of this is, “I feel overwhelmed when you start talking to me to second I get home from work. I want to hear what you have to say, but not right away. I would appreciate it if you give me fifteen minutes to unwind before you start telling me about your day.” If the request will require a lengthy discussion to come to an understanding, set aside time to discuss it in more detail later. (The facilitator, Dr. Daire, said that this part is sometimes difficult to do without additional communication tools. He warned us to be careful during this step.)
Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams
Our wishes, hopes, and dreams are integral parts of who we are. If we don’t share them with our partner, we are depriving him/her of an important part of ourselves. Dreams should be achieved by sharing them with loved ones and actively pursuing them together. If your significant other doesn’t know that you dream of traveling the world, it’s unlikely that he will help you make it happen. Wishes, hopes, and dreams can be small – like wanting to eat dinner at a special restaurant, or big – like dreaming of quitting your job to be a stay at home mom when your baby is born. If Chuck knows the desires of my heart, he can help make them come true and vice versa. We’re a team, and we’re in this together.
So, that’s it. Five steps to a more satisfying relationship. Dr. Daire said that the whole exercise usually takes between 15-20 minutes, and once you do it a few times, you develop your own method and flow. Now…to convince my husband that this is a good idea!
So, what do you think? Do you like the idea of doing this regularly with your significant other?