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Newsletter Dated: 1/31/2009 1:47:27 PM
Subject: Happiness Tips from Tina: Couples Cooperate for Success
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Happiness Tip: Couples Cooperate for Success
Most of you have probably entered relationships madly in love, convinced that your feelings for each other were so strong your dream would carry you through the tough times, but wound up feeling more like you were living in a nightmare than a dream, struggling with conflicting wants and needs. If you donít know how to work together effectively to solve the conflict, the resulting frustration, anger and battles make the relationship more and more unpleasant and difficult to sustain. As a therapist, I know that couples need to know how to solve problems together successfully, and to work together as a team rather than struggle. A major part of my life work is helping couples learn to work together to develop a partnership that supports love and intimacy. To reach people beyond my immediate area, I wrote two books on this subject: How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free (with coauthor Riley K. Smith) is a step-by-step guide to help you learn the skills of problem solving and cooperation. Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Squabbling About the Three Things That Can Destroy Your Marriage teaches couples how to solve specific problems using the skills of cooperation.
Couples without teamwork skills fight about money, sex, affection, time, infidelity, in-laws, raising children, housekeeping, or other problems, often repeating the same old arguments, without any resolution, or locked in habitual ways of relating that they think they "should" do, but that create dissatisfaction and struggle between them. Struggles like this are not inevitable.
Learning good relationship skills (communication, cooperation, knowing and saying what you want, overcoming destructive habits, breaking out of rigid patterns that don't work, counteracting unrealistic expectations, and creating new ideas) enables you to:
* Make room in the relationship for individual differences, preferences and tastes.
* Recognize and solve problems to your mutual satisfaction.
* Keep your individual emotional issues from creating partnership problems.
* Solve both individual and relationship problems.
*Identify old relationship patterns that were dysfunctional, addictive or abusive, and to develop healthy alternatives.
* Discuss changes and conflicts and find ways to accommodate them.
* Identify and examine the "traditional relationship" models to see what aspects of them are relevant to your partnership, and what you need to change to develop a new model of partnership that works for you.
With good communication and negotiation skills, any couple can create satisfying, loving intimacy. When you and your partner know how to cooperate, you can build a partnership in which you:
* Give and take equally.
* Are committed to mutual satisfaction.
* Face problems rather than avoiding them.
* Work together toward mutual satisfaction.
* Feel like a team.
* Treat each other's feelings, wants and needs as important.
* Share thoughts and feelings freely.
* Encourage each other and create excitement as well as comfort and security.
* Feel comfortable, satisfied, stimulated, and thus secure in the relationship.
* Have confidence that your relationship will last.
There is a pervasive myth that somehow happy couples just agree on everything automatically all the time. Believing this myth, we enter relationships convinced that whatever problems or differences we have with our partners will be easy to solve. But, in reality, the individuals who make up a partnership will disagree frequently, and often struggle over even minor issues.
In the course of building and sustaining a lifetime relationship, every couple encounters many problems. Different backgrounds and experience, discordant perception of each other and events, unequal rates of education and growth, conflicting needs for self-expression and contact, and differing values and beliefs about relationships complicate and often block attempts at creating partnership together.
Relationship models based on the idea that one person must lead and the other follow, or one "win" and the other "lose" can easily become power struggles, where the partners fight bitterly. Each partner struggles to be in control, or they avoid disagreements altogether because it isn't worth the struggle. Hence they spend a lot of their time either fighting for what they want or feeling deprived.
The belief that someone has to be in charge of the relationship causes couples to compete for power rather than cooperate. Otherwise loving partners can struggle because they believe itís the way to get their needs met. Between partners in intimate relationships competition becomes stressful, counter-productive and toxic, poisoning the relationship by turning us into adversaries, and undermining the mutual support and encouragement vital to satisfactory relationships.
Differences can be frightening, and make resolving problems and conflicts with our intimate partners tense and difficult. In a relationship intimate enough that we feel a deep bonding or sense of commingled identity, itís easy to experience disagreements as threatening. Disagreeing seems to indicate we are separate individuals who perceive everything differently, and have different needs and wants, and we fear that we'll be rejected or disapproved of if we are different.
Sometimes relationship problems are only indirectly connected to your partnership: your car breaks down, your kids need to get to school, your boss is difficult to get along with. These issues become partnership problems because you bring their effects, big and small, home (into the relationship) with you. Anger at your unreasonable boss can quickly become a difficult evening with your partner if you bring your frustration home, are irritable, and the two of you wind up arguing unnecessarily.
While this feels unfair and inappropriate, in real life it happens frequently. Unskilled couples easily become tangled in a web of blaming, hurt and anger and, after years of similar unresolved conflicts, can build a backlog of bitterness that can't be healed.
Some problems are directly related to your relationship: you fight about housework, time, money, child care or sex. One or both of you becomes hurt or angry. For couples who donít know how to cooperate, such issues can escalate into a big problem or accumulate over time. When problems cause friction and never get resolved, they undermine an otherwise loving and viable partnership.
Only recently have psychologists and sociologists begun to discuss the elements of effective decision making. Among other discoveries, they found that decision making (even in business) is more effective when everyone contributes their views of priorities, needs, wants, goals, and their thoughts about possible solutions. This cooperative approach means that both contribute their understanding to the problem (which often makes it clearer) and both feel involved in the process and committed to the success of the solution they agree upon.
In cooperative negotiation, both parties attempting to resolve a conflict or make a decision involving them can negotiate so that both get what they want . By working together, you can learn to solve the problems of the past (I'm afraid we'll fight about money like my first wife and I did); the present (I don't think I'm getting a fair share of the housework) and the future (what will we do if I lose my job?). Instead of being a struggle or something to avoid, solving such problems becomes an opportunity to re-affirm your mutual love and caring, and to strengthen your partnership and teamwork.© 2009 Tina B. Tessina
adapted from: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Squabbling About the Three Things That Can Destroy Your Marriage (Adams Media) ISBN# 978-1-59869-325-6 and "How To Be a Couple and Still Be Free" (New Page)"ISBN #1_56414_549_2
If you want more, here are some related articles you can download from my website at http://tinatessina.com/monthly_column.html
Apology and Forgiveness
Asking for What you Want
Dating Guidelines for Single Parents
Fair Fight Guidelines
Family Violence Q&A
Friends in Need: Interventions for Domestic Violence
Guidelines for Being Understood by Your Partner
Guidelines for Successful Dating
How Not to Fight
How to be Irresistible to Your Mate
How to Keep Yourself Out of a Violent Relationship
Itís a Dirty Job
Relating With Love
Stop Reacting and Start Relating
What Is A Dysfunctional Relationship?
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Please look for my newest book: The Commuter Marriage: Keep Your Relationship Close While You're Far Apart (Adams Media, June 2008) ISBN # 1_59869_432_4
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Wishing you joy,
Tina B. Tessina, PhD
Re: Four Steps to Success
Dear Tina, Wishing you and your husband a peaceful, joyful and fulfilling 2009. Implicit in that, of course, is lots and lots of fun:-) I hope you are taking your own advice and making time to congratulate yourself on all your achievements, and goddess knows, there's a ton of them. Your body of work is amazing and truthfully, despite understanding the process of time management etc I can hardly comprehend how you pack so much into your days. Bless you! Many thanks for your generosity in making so much of your work so freely available, and for your compassion. Blessings in
Thank you, Mel. That starts my new year off on the right foot!
Thank you Tina for your newsletter. They always arrive when I need them the most....I appreciate your insight and guidance in a world full of choices! I love your thoughts on goals. Your advice to make the steps to achieving the goal small and do-able is great advice. Thanks for your thoughts and keep up the good work. Happy New year! Teri
Thank you, Teri. Iím glad you were able to meet your goals by using smaller steps. Hereís to a great new year! Dear tina happy new year wishing u success in this year, my name ia waheed, i will appreciate if u write my name in starting letter waheed
Thank you, waheed.
Hi Tina, And Happy New Year! Thank you for the reminders not to bite off more than we can chew. Iíím a good one for that...taking on too much, too fast, then letting it go and thinking it a ĎĎfailureíí. New mantra going forward, ""baby steps"" ... like the tortoise in the fable: Slow and steady wins the race, eh? Brenda
Good idea, Brenda Ė that will make 2009 a great year for you! dear Tina, first let me say Happy Holidays...........I appreciate your happiness tips........ sincerely, Wendy..................Thanx
Thanks, Wendy. Nice to hear from you.
Hello Tina, I'm trying the four steps and my goal is to improve my health and lose weight. I really feel that it will work for me. I'm sending you some snow from P A. Thanks, Madelyn
Good luck with it, Madelyn. And good health in 2009!
hiya Tina, I've really been benefitting from ur words of encouragement if i may call it. at least a little gratitude shoud be enough just to let u know that u re highly appreciated for all what u re doing. so this message i'm sending to u is just to tell u a big thank u and also it's my prayer that God should always give u the strength to always continue helping people like me with ur advises. thank u very much and take care of urself. stay blessed and byeeeeeeee Smiley
Thanks, Smiley -- I appreciate your encouragement, and I'm glad you find the newsletter helpful.