By Guest Blogger Michele Lowrance
Are you married? Are you divorced? Chances are, if you are no longer married, you didn’t go into that union expecting to end up divorced. Unfortunately, marriage statistics today are not that sunny– we’ve all heard, practically one in two marriages end in divorce. So, if you want to withstand the divorce epidemic, you must self-vaccinate by learning the right upgraded conflict skills. The skills that I am going to give you may make the difference in determining if your marriage will last.
A recent study at the University of California reports that divorce tends to spread through groups, and that the emotions can be transferred like a virus. Marriage has been blasted to its core. The assumption that marriage means a lifelong commitment where couples remain together despite discomfort or unhappiness is no longer prevalent. On top of that, new studies tell us that divorce is a contagious epidemic. Yes, really. A split between immediate friends increases one’s own chance of getting divorced by 75% and a divorced coworker’s split can increase the likelihood by 55%. Those numbers are staggering.
But the truth is, you don’t have to be affected by group mentality and can avoid falling into the above percentage if you really reflect on your relationship and what you can do to make it stronger.
When I wrote my book, The Good Karma Divorce, it was an intensely personal journey. I experienced divorce as a child, raised by my grandparents after both parents left. Many years later, I reopened the heartbreak during my own divorce as I saw my son suffer. The book was conceived out of personal experience but midwifed by the collective suffering of the many families who have passed through my courtroom.
I believe strongly in the principles that have emerged, both for myself and for the families I serve. I have lived this through my own divorce and on many days, I was tempted to lose myself in that hostile landscape. I can only ask others to trust this approach to divorce because I experienced its power myself, and because I have seen it work repeatedly in my courtroom.
If you are currently having problems with your mate, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you speak or just let resentment fester?
- Do you keep your grievances in a separate emotional back account?
- Do you ask for what you need, specifically?
- If you don’t ask, why have you shut down to the real information that asking would give you?
- Do you turn to outside sources like social media as a way of being heard or venting anger instead?
If you answered yes to any of these, chances are you don’t trust your own conflict negotiating skills.
So, here are 10 suggestions for enhancing your relationship during conflict that will make all the difference in its sustainability:
- Listen until your mate is finished communicating. Wait until they are done. Don’t try to calm them down; if they’re at the peak of their anger, they won’t calm down until they are finished venting or become exhausted.
- Realize limited capacities: Make a list of your spouse’s limitations. For example, “In his or her family they don’t communicate about feelings, so he or she never learned how.” (Notice that it would have been difficult for your spouse to act any way other than how he or she did. The behavior may not have been as intentional as you suppose).
- Realize that anger fades. Make a list of five things in your life that you were very angry about, that no longer mean as much to you.
- Don’t assume each other’s motivations. No matter how well you might know someone, you can never be sure what another thinks.
- Agree to swiftly acknowledge errors and mistakes you have made. An apology doesn’t always help but you can change your life without one.
- Tell your spouse when something is really bothering you, and resist letting it fester until the point of resentment. If you don’t tell each other when you have an issue, then you aren’t giving the other person the opportunity to correct their behavior. This is important.
- Agree that if you have an argument, you will not rehash the subject for a day unless you have a suggestion to resolve the issue. Give yourself a chance to gain some insight so you can return and create a different approach.
- Communicate with each other only until you reach that “no turning back” level of frustration. Terminate such a session when one person is frustrated and the other wants to continue. Agree to resume the discussion at a specific date and time. Agree that either of you can call for a “redo” of a conversation, if you have an idea about how to do it better.
- If you agree to put solutions ?rst, the “blame discussion” will become less interesting. Reduce your requests for admissions of fault and give up the chicken and egg debate. Try to give up the need for a steady diet of your spouse’s acknowledgment of the suffering he or she has caused you.
- Remind yourself of all the ways you have benefited during your time together to reduce your anger when you feel wronged. Give each other a new compliment, often. Reminisce once a week or more.
Each time you resolve a conflict in a positive way, your relationship becomes more resilient. Keep your eye on the big picture and remember the old saying; “It is the set of the sails that matters — not the direction of the wind.”
Wishing you a long and happy marriage.
Tell us, what are your tips to a good marriage and surviving the divorce epidemic? Share with our readers!
Author of The Good Karma Divorce, Michele Lowrance has spent over 20 years as a domestic relations judge in the circuit court of Cook County, Illinois. A guest lecturer with the Chicago Bar Association, DePaul Law School, Kent Lawschool, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, Judge Michele is also a regular blogger with The Huffington Post and has made numerous radio and TV appearances including: Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, CNN, ABC, WTTW, WGN, The Joy Behar Show, Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell, NPR and American Justice with Bill Kurtis.
She has received special honors by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and was the keynote speaker at the American Bar Association Family Law Section Annual Conference in 2010. She was invited to present The Good Karma Divorce at The Hague and the American consulate in Holland by special invitation of the Ambassador to Holland.
For more information on Michele, please visit: www.GoodKarmaRelationships.com