Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fair Rules Of Engagement

Fair Rules Of Engagement

The art of couples' conflict resolution

By Mark Allison MFT


A misconception couples often make when they come to therapy is that they are there to resolve differences.  They may feel having a third person i.e. a therapist come in between them to act as an 'emotional referee' may be helpful.  The reality is that any time two people choose to live and share their lives together there will be times that they will upset each other and ultimately have arguments about it. 

So the goal is not necessarily to prevent arguments but rather to learn how to argue or disagree in a away that is safe, productive and healthy.  There are different terms for this skill set, it is often referred to as conflict-resolution or how to fight fairly

Listed below are the 12 'Rules of Engagement' I often give couples to work on when they struggle with how to fight fairly.

  1. Don't bring up something that bothered you from days or weeks ago now.   The contextual meaning will be lost. After 48 hours you need to move on to something newer.

  2. If something bothers you and your partner does not want to discuss it, schedule an time within a 24 hours to discuss it.  You don't have to stay up all night debating an issue when the both of you need sleep.

  3. Keep to the issue at hand, fighting fairly means that the both of you will stay within the topic being discussed

  4. Keep the argument between the two of you.  Don't bring 3rd parties in like sister-in-laws, ex-boyfriends etc.

  5. Fighting fair means you don't bring up past history,

  6. Avoid name calling.  Good or bad.  Be respectful to each other.

  7. Avoid humor or sarcasm.

  8. Listen instead of waiting to talk

  9. Try to use “I” statements instead of “You”

  10. Don’t interrupt

  11. Avoid using “Never” and “Always” in your statements to each other

  12. Be aware of your voice tone and refrain from raising your voice or screaming.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Last Saturday my sister's dog Sage passed away.  She was 11 years old.    Not only was Sage close to my sister but she touched all of our hearts over the years.   Her gentle spirit made us calm and we always felt safe when she was around.  And she always was.  She is missed. 

Night Into Day
When we lose our friend,
the loss we feel is indescribable. 
It’s hard to imagine someone 
who is always there for us.
Who is always happy to see us 
no matter what kind of day or 
mood we might be in. 

Who year after year grows more attuned to us. 
Who senses our thoughts and feelings, 
Our friend teaches us to give and to love. And to be loved. 

Sage 02/21/15
They remind us to live in the moment
To accept things as they are.
And they teach us, to let go.
That our mortality is very real.
That one day, we too, will leave this earth.
And that,  it’s okay.
We don’t have to 
live in fear of it.

Is it a tragedy
anymore then the sun rises
And sets each day? 
As if each day dies into night 
only to be reborn into
Another day. 

And when we chose 
to have this Knowledge
We became the observers of this…
Because we know.
We have found compassion.
And with our Heart, 
comes Love. 

And with Love comes Loss.
Which is a privileged gift 
For those willing to receive it.

And this is a beautiful thing.
It truly is!

For Sage from her family.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Therapy Nook - Mark Allison: Fair Rules Of Engagement

Therapy Nook - Mark Allison: Fair Rules Of Engagement: Fair Rules Of Engagement The art of couples' conflict resolution By Mark Allison MFT ...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Therapy Nook - Mark Allison: Martin Luther King Jr: Finding Hope Inside of Eac...

Therapy Nook - Mark Allison: Martin Luther King Jr: Finding Hope Inside of Eac...: By Mark Allison, MFT.,  Beverly Hills Therapy   An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines ...

Martin Luther King Jr: Finding Hope Inside of Each of Us

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Jamal Rutledge (center) was honoredfor
 helping to save the life of his arresting officer, Franklin Foulks (second from left)

Look closely at the photo on the left.  That gentleman in the center, Jamal Rutledge who earlier saved the life of the man to his left, is an alleged criminal.   Actually the man he helped save the life of,  is his arresting officer.  

Officer Franklin Foulks was in the middle of booking Jamal for an undisclosed crime when the officer collapsed to the ground holding his chest in pain.  Jamal, who was handcuffed at the
time began kicking the security fence to attract the other officers of Foulks condition. Fortunately, thanks to Jamal’s quick thinking, the two other officers were able to start CPR and call for additional medical help.  

Martin Luther King Jr. once said during a speech at a university, that morality was not a fixed state but rather a muscle that has to be exercised every day in order to strengthen it.  There was something about this photograph that caught my attention.  When I look at it nothing about Jamal looks criminal, quite to the contrary.  I see a strong gentle soul.  In my mind's eye I imagine that Jamal has always wanted to do the right thing but never thought he would be given the chance.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." In this moment,  I imagine that he has transcended his individualistic concerns,  that he was waiting for this moment in time to show that he was significant, that he has moral character, that he had something to say.  Jamal has spoken.  I only hope we can all hear him.   I will leave it at that.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

13 Secrets Of Happily Married Couples

It's often said that marriage is a lot of work -- so it's refreshing to hear from couples who not only figured out how to make their love last, but are having an awesome time doing it.
On Sunday, a Redditor posed the question, "Why are you still married?" The replies, from real-life couples who are just as in love now as when they said "I do," give a glimpse into the makings of a lasting marriage.
Below, 13 secrets of happily married couples:
1. They trust each other.
"We don't judge each other. We trust each other. We don't have one of those wild tempestuous marriages. No one will ever write a book about us and there will never be a Lifetime movie based on our relationship. But I am in exactly the kind of relationship I have always wanted."
couple tree
2. They take the good with the bad and become stronger for it.
"We are coming up on 19 years next week. I am still married because I totally respect him for how he has held my hand through the bad times. The good times were good, but the bad times were 10x worse. His friendship and commitment never wavered."
3. They respect each other.
"Married for 39 years. Why? I still get that funny warm feeling in my stomach when I hear his car drive into the driveway. He treats me with respect and he's a hell of a lot of fun on a road trip."
4. They're honest with each other.
"11 years together, two years married ... he provides me support when I need it andtells me when to 'suck it up, princess'. He deals with all of my family bullshit and brings me ice cream ... he gives the best hugs and is amazing in bed."
5. They find joy in the little things.
"He's the person I most want to hang out with whether it's going out eat, acting like an idiot at a concert, or just sitting together watching TV. And he feels the same way about me. It's great. No matter what life throws us (and it's thrown a lot so far!), we always know we will be there for each other."
man and woman in love
6. They embrace each other's differences.
"I love being married. My wife and I are opposites. I am impulsive, she is detailed. I am aggressive she is reserved. Together we are like a fucking superhero, winning and conquering all!"
7. Sure, they argue, but they always fight fair.
"[My husband] never has unkind words for me, even when he's upset. It means the world to me that we can 'argue' and still say 'I love you.'"
8. They have fun, even when doing absolutely nothing at all.
"The most important thing starting out was that we loved being with each other. We made each other laugh. We could do something or nothing and have a great time because we were together. We just fit."
9. They cheer each other on.
"Married for 25 years. She is a force of nature, all 104 pounds of her. This woman does everything, sings like an angel, dances, cooks, mixes cement, lays tiles, does woodworking, quilts, builds mosaics, gardens, runs her own restaurant and bed and breakfast. She is so alive. She lights up the room every time she walks in with her joy."
10. They love each other -- flaws and all.
"[My wife] made a man out of a mess. She allowed me to make mistakes without hating me for it ... she loves me when no one else does ... she made me whole."
11. They feel lucky that they found each other.
"We've been together for 10, married for three. He is literally the best person I have ever known. I would do anything for him. We make each other ridiculously happy, it's kind of gross ... We play video games together, go climbing together, cook together, you name it. Sometimes I cannot believe how lucky I am because this relationship is so damn easy."
man and woman playing videogames
12. They support each other.
"[My husband] is so supportive in everything I do. He lifts me up when I'm down, always encourages me when I feel discouraged and when I need to talk about my feelings, he's always there to listen. I mean it when I say I married my best friend."
13. They understand that "in sickness and in health" is more than a phrase -- it's a promise.
"We've been married nine years, together for 13. Eight years ago I became significantly disabled. We were a two income house and I took care of pretty much everything at home. And then I couldn't work anymore. I couldn't cook or clean. I couldn't do our grocery shop or pay our bills. I know he didn't think he could do it, but he does it all. He finished his PhD while still working and having to do all the housework and even down to having to bathe me when I couldn't ... He's a remarkable man and I adore him."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Resentful Compliance vs Commitment

By Jim Hutt, Ph.D., Family Problems Topic Expert Contributor
The focus of this post is to elaborate on two related themes. One, the differences between resentful compliance and commitment. Two, how understanding those differences can alter the course of a relationship.
Resentful Compliance
Resentful compliance is an agreement that is not an agreement, but sounds like one. Right away you can see the potential problems resentful compliance might spawn. Resentful compliance, or going along to get along, as it it sometimes called, means doing something somebody else wants you to do, but, for whatever reason you do not want to do it. Problem is, you do not, or cannot, say “no,” when you want to, and instead you agree to do something just to get the other one off your back.
Here’s the twist–there are the resentfully compliant who do what  their partner wants, but are resentful about doing it. There are also those who don’t do what their partner asks or demands; they say ‘yes,” but passively fail to follow through. They, too, resent their partner for a variety of reasons. They actively agree to do what their partner wants to get them off their back, then passively refuse to follow through.
When complying with a request or demand is accompanied by resentment, and it develops in to a pattern, the resentment toward your partner is palpable, and the disdain for repeatedly selling yourself out is significant. This type of conflict pattern is difficult to break without counseling and drives a huge wedge between the two of you. The resentfully compliant one feels bossed around on the surface, and underneath it feels weak, powerless and scared to express him/herself. The resentfully compliant one usually feels unheard, misunderstood, unloved and without a voice. This person is often conflict averse.
The partner of the resentfully compliant one, on the other hand, resents the passive aggressive behavior, and often meets with denial when confronting it. If confronting the resentfully compliant is done with intense emotional reactivity, the price of honesty is deemed too high, and the conversation shuts down as quickly as it began. Rinse, wash and repeat, the gap between two of you widening. This is a recipe for one of two typical outcomes: either constant bickering and fighting, or, painful distance and silence, like two ships passing in the night. By the way, neither of those lead to a good sex life.
It’s up to the resentfully compliant one to begin to voice their discontent with what’s going on. Your partner is angry and resentful that “you never live up to your commitments,” or, “…you never do what you say!” Likewise, the one making the request must keep their reactivity low when they hear “no” if they want commitment in place of resentful compliance.
What neither understand is that there is never commitment when there is resentful compliance. Resentful compliance negates responsibility, undercuts integrity, and only gives the appearance of a commitment. That is why resentful compliance is often mistaken for a commitment
Commitment follows a decision to accept responsibility for doing something based on mutual acceptance and/or agreement. A request is considered, discussed with your partner, perhaps with some negotiation, and then acted upon. When following through with a particular commitment, integrity remains intact, and the trust between the two of you is reinforced. Commitments  are made consciously, and typically are made together.
When you follow through with a commitment, you do so because you understand that following through, in general, keeps trust alive. There may, indeed, be the occasional decision to be a good sport and “go along to get along,”  but it is not done as part of a pattern that has a core of resentment running through it.
The Partners of The Resentfully Compliant
Are you the partner of someone who is resentfully compliant?  If you think you are, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Does my partner avoid conflict?
  • If so, what role, if any, do I play in that?
  • Do I make it difficult for my partner to say “no?”
  • Am I aware that my partner cannot say “no,” and do I take advantage of that to get what I want at my partner’s expense?
These questions begin to address the core of the patterns that resentfully compliant people and their partners engage in.
The Resentfully Compliant Partner
If you are the resentfully compliant one, ask yourself:
  • Do I avoid conflict regardless of how my partner responds to me?
  • Am I afraid to say “no” because of thoughts, beliefs, feelings and patterns I developed in my family of origin?
  • Do I refuse to accept responsibility for my role in this pattern, and instead blame my partner?
Answers to those questions begin to break the patterns resentfully compliant people and their partners repeat. Discuss them with each other. If necessary, explore them with a counselor who can facilitate a healthy process.
These patterns can be changed, but requires persistence, effort and commitment.  Resentful compliance will not work.
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©Copyright 2011 by Jim Hutt, Ph.D., therapist in Menlo Park, CA. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to The following article was solely written and edited by the author named above. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the following article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment to this blog entry. Click here to contact the Topic Expert and/or see Jim's Profile