After reviewing Part I of the book “How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about it” by Pat Love and Steve Stosney, I waited a while before diving into Part II. I wanted to give myself time to digest and apply the things I learned in Part I. If you haven’t read How to Improve Your Communication Part I, please do so before reading this review.
I am only eight pages into Part II “Using Your Fear and Shame to Create Love Beyond Words.” I must admit, I am mildly shocked by what I have read so far. As I concluded my review of Part I, I was expecting for the authors to “explain how I can have better respect for our differences and approach my husband in a non-confrontational, non-threatening way so that both of us are compelled to listen.” And though that is exactly what they have done in the first chapter, I am shocked, because:
1. The manner in which they are suggesting I have better respect for our differences is not what I expected to read and
2. I already figured this out on my own.
Not to toot my own horn too much, but only about six weeks ago, I was discussing my marriage with my Bestie, and I came to the same conclusion that the authors are presenting.
It goes something like this:
I cannot change my husband. I can only control my actions and responses. If Chris chooses to be a less than spectacular husband, he will have to live with that. When he is 80 years old, he will bear the burden of regret for the opportunities he chose to ignore - not me. I can control my choices. I can choose to be an amazing wife every single day. I can joyfully take care of his home, his son, and his finances. If he chooses to be a schmuck, that is his loss. He loses out on the opportunity to be an amazing husband, but that does not change my opportunity to be an amazing wife.
I kid you not, that is exactly what this book is telling me so far. After asking me a few questions about my core values or what qualities make me me, the book goes on to say this:
Staying true to your values and honoring those of your partner are essential to improving your relationship. “The capacity to stay true to your deepest values – and thereby transform your fear and shame – lies entirely within you. If you remain true to your answers to the ‘most important’ questions, you will most likely have a strong connection with your partner. And in the end, you will judge yourself by your own efforts and behavior, not by your partner’s.”
Here’s how it looks in a practical application:
“When you are upset, angry or resentful, try to focus less on what your partner is doing and ask yourself these questions:
Am I acting like the person I most want to be? If not, what can I do to act like that person? Answer: Improve, Appreciate, Connect or Protect.
Am I being the partner I want to be? If not, what can I do? Answer: Improve, Appreciate, Connect or Protect.”
I suppose I got a little ahead of myself in my excitement. According to the authors, women’s fear and man’s shame are aroused by guilt. Guilt is the direct result of doing/saying something that is out of line with what is most important to you, or your core values. For example, my answer to the question “What is the most important thing about you as a partner” was “The unwavering love and support I show my spouse.” So whenever I step away from that core value, whenever my words and actions do not show unwavering support to my husband, I subconsciously feel guilty and then instantly need to talk to him to restore my feelings of connectedness.
To get you back in step with your core values (without talking about your relationship), the book offers these four “core value inspirations:”
Improve. “If you are feeling bad and you think about what you can do to make it a little better – you do not even have to do it, just think of it – you will start feeling better…Even if improvement is only in your head, it will change your emotional demeanor and that will make negotiations with your partner go much better.
Appreciate. Value your partner. Subsequently, you will value your own life.
Connect. “Genuinely care about your partner’s emotional state.”
Protect. “Help him relieve his dread of failure as a provider, protector, lover and father. Help her to relieve her fear of isolation, deprivation and harm.”
I still have another 100 pages of Part II to read, but I decided to go step-by-step in my review in order to make sure I fully understand each suggestion. I think the first chapter is telling me to start improving my marriage by focusing less on my partner’s mistakes and more on my responses to those mistakes. To steal from Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in your relationship.” If you are not being true to yourself in your words and actions, choose to improve. Start by appreciating, connecting or protecting – whatever comes first in your circumstance, whatever comes naturally to you.
Once I am finished with this book, I plan to read The Female Brain