Tuesday, December 17, 2013

HEART AND SOUL OF MARRIAGE.L7 - Relating Face-to-Face


Go over Assignment from last class:  Any feedback on your experience in going through the questions together? Did anyone have an opportunity to practice The Comfort Circle/Cycle tool?


Conflict and problems are inevitable in any relationship. There are people coming together with different backgrounds, understandings about things and life, expectations, habits and needs – working through all of that to create a mutual relationship. On top of this we have:
-        People affected by sin
-        People who do not love perfectly
-        People who can be very selfish and self-protective

Let’s first look at some areas of potential conflict specifically – what could they be?
Brainstorm…..  finances, parenting, misunderstandings with poor communication, unresolved hurts in the relationship or from the past that they brought into the relationship, habits, deeper emotional needs (aware & unaware), blended family issues, step children, ex spouses…. Etc…

How do you deal with conflict?
When conflict cannot be resolved, it leads to hurt, frustrations, disappointment, withdrawal, disrespect, and anger.

The comfort circle/ cycle is a helpful tool for conflict as well as the other issues that crop up in a relationship that you were introduced to in this class.
However, in order to get to the resolution we long for, we need to first recognize a few things about us personally and how we typically handle conflict.

How we deal with conflict can result in one of two things:
The hurt gets worse, the pain goes deeper, and the frustrations and disappointments become greater 
There is healing… and a movement toward oneness.

John Gottman says “One verbal negative can wipe out the effects of five or even twenty positives.”

By the way… most couples don’t deal with conflicts, they:
-        never discuss problems
-        avoid the conflict and pretend it doesn’t exist or…
-        thrive on conflict and communicate through yelling and screaming as a ‘normal’ part of their relationship
-        forgive prematurely or..… forgive one another on the surface without really dealing with the issue (discuss forgiveness is a process – handouts)

There seems to be 4 patterns that destroy oneness when it comes to conflict:

1.    Escalation – upping the ante so the conversation gets more and more hostile. Partners try to hurt each other of hurling verbal weapons and sometimes even getting physical – hurtful remarks usually focus on the immediate goal of piercing the other as a way to protect oneself.  SOLUTION: 1 person backs off – say something to de-escalate – break the negative cycle
2.    Invalidations – Put Downs – one person subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings or character of the other. Attack on character.  
Matthew 5:22 says “ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[a][b] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[c] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.       Raca is Aramaic – a term of contempt; like calling someone worthless or ‘good for nothing’.     Or…. This could also be subtly putting down the way your partner feels – i.e, “It’s not that bad”, “Trust the Lord”, telling them that feeling whatever they are experiencing is inappropriate.   This is described by Solomon in Prv 25:20 “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
    or like vinegar poured on a wound,
    is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.                  SOLUTION:  What we all want to hear are words of encouragement. So…. Validate feelings and respect each other’s character and feelings
3.    Negative Interpretations – one person may consistently believe that the motives of the other are more negative than is really the case (Mike and I gave an example of this last week in our relationship). Negative interpretations occur when we try to mind read and not only that but we determine what they are feeling as well.  SOLUTION: Luke 6:41-42 ““Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.                       
We are warned to guard against the tendency to view or judge others harshly. Se can be wrong in our assumptions – realize this and admit it. **We often tend to see what we EXPECT to see.
4.    Withdrawal and Avoidance – unwilling to get into, or stay with, important discussions. Leaving the room, shutting down, turning off the mind. Avoid certain topics all together – if it starts to go there… they distract, change the subject. NOTE: Most people withdraw or avoid because they do not feel safe to stay in the argument. They are not emotionally safe. SOLUTION: Don’t allow avoidance to grow in the relationship. If you don’t speak openly and truthfully, anger will grow – so… speak up. If you don’t, the anger grows and the enemy gains a foothold in your marriage – see Eph 4:25-27

Dealing with Conflict God’s Way
-        Attack the problem, not the person (we discussed this early in our class times together)
-        Share feelings
-        Guard against misperceptions – this is one of the biggest for miscommunication and conflict. Helpful hint – always ask for clarity. What I hear you saying is…. Then.. you need to believe that what they tell you is true. Perhaps you were totally wrong and off base. Accept it and believe it.
-        Deal with negative emotions
-        Listen without getting DEFENSIVE!

1Peter 3:8-9  Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Conflict + Resolution = Intimacy
-        Stop causing each other pain: realize that that is exactly what is happening. Is that what you want? To cause your partner pain?
-        Stop rehearsing the past – at some point you really have to let it go unless it is part of the needed discussion about discovering patterns. Let go.. and trust God!
-        Own up to your responsibility (your part, your %)
-        Identify recurring areas of conflict and issues - patterns
-        Build some positive experiences – in some of your heart discussions, remember/ recall times when you had positive experiences and resolution as well as just some fond memories
-        Take a time out (talked about this last week)
-        Give each other permission to share (be patient – listen for the heart and from the heart)

How to minimize conflict

1.    Pray together.
2.    Examine your heart regularly.
    Sometimes we need to come to God and confess that our heart isn’t pure and ask Him to help with our attitude toward the other person
3.    Spend time together in the Word and pray together
4.    Talk to each other – don’t allow yourselves to get too busy
5.    Make the Lord the third partner in your relationship – He is the glue – the closer a couple draws to God as individuals, and together, they will be drawn to each other
6.    Set aside time to play/ enjoy each other
7.    Ask for help.  Prv 19:20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Prv 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
    but with many advisers they succeed.
8.    When the issue cannot be resolved (there are times when it cannot), trust God to work it out with your spouse – agree to disagree as long as it is not a big sin issue and there is no happy medium or compromise possible.

Assignment – handout
Next week – Review/ Summary from classes and wrap up

HEART AND SOUL OF MARRIAGE.L6 -Investing in Your Spouse


Go over Assignment from last class:
1.    honestly talk through the list you are being given that can help break core patterns
2.    create a role play for Mike and Lillian to walk/ talk through next week as an example

The Comfort Circle/Cycle is our tool (on whiteboard)

Seek awareness (of feelings and underlying needs) to engage (with feelings and acknowledge needs openly) to explore (the speaker’s thoughts and feelings – listening, validating, and concluding with, ‘what do you need?’ to resolve (needs verbally and with touch, seeking how and when needs may be met in the future)

Tonight - INVESTING IN OUR SPOUSE – Understanding and implementing more of the comfort circle/ cycle:

In order for us to properly invest in our spouse, we have to properly evaluate ourselves and our partner… We need to study our partner well.  As well as continuing to evaluate ourselves. 

Part of our evaluation: How do we deal with the hurtful behaviors and attitudes of our partner?  In every relationship there are things that our partner does that we do not like. Some things are not so serious, but we find them very annoying. Then there are times when their actions are very hurtful and even sinful. Their behavior is very damaging to the oneness of the marriage and can cause the other partner to feel unsafe to really pursue intimacy.

Example:  Mike & Lillian

So… How are we to respond to our partner’s hurtful actions? Perhaps after tolerating their hurtful behavior for a period of time, we come to the place where we say that we cannot take it any longer. Some spouses feel that the only option they have is to leave the relationship and that things will never change. If you don’t physically leave.. it may be that you emotionally leave – withdraw, put walls up, etc. Others find ways to attempt to change their partner – nagging, controlling, preaching, shaming… all in the hope that it will result in a change in the person’s behavior.

If we are currently married, we are one flesh. We have a responsibility to respond to our partner in a way that will deal with the deeper needs that will bring healing and further the oneness that God desires in our relationship.

Let’s take some time right now to evaluate the actions and attitudes or our partner that are hurtful to the relationship – things that must be attended to or the relationship will not be all that God desires. Secondly, this exercise will allow for us to examine how we respond to our partner’s hurtful behavior and whether or not that is helping or damaging the relationship even further.

Exercise/ Evaluation

Now.. let’s talk about how we respond to hurts. Is our response addressing the real underlying reasons for the behavior? We are not responsible for their behavior or responsible to fix them; however we are responsible and accountable to God for how we respond and how we love them.

Some questions to ask when we are dealing with a conflict:
1.    What do you think is behind their actions and attitudes?
2.    Are there wounds from their past that might be causing pain or emptiness?
3.    Are there any unmet needs that they are reacting to or trying to get met?
4.    What is our responsibility for loving them well when they are acting in such hurtful ways?  (speak the truth in love)

Scripture instructs us to build each other up according to their needs, that it may benefit them. In humility we should look to the interest of our spouse.

Ephesians 4:29-32 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Phil 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

We have a responsibility to love in a way that offers healing and help them to be better – the way God designed them to be. We are to help, not harm. We don’t have the option of being selfish or make it all about ‘us’. We should help our partner with their needs and struggles. And, we need to do it in such a way that it brings healing.

It is important that this is not left to be a big guessing game. Your spouse must be willing to also take the time to reflect and figure out what is going on inside of them and verbalize it when they are ready.

If we want our partner to minister to our needs, it is necessary for us to honestly share our wounds, struggles and who we are with our partner. Our goal should be to be vulnerable - reveal ourselves, deeply desiring our partner to lovingly respond, without demanding that they respond. We should each help create a safe, non-critical acceptance that will encourage both of us to be vulnerable with each other so that we can minister to each other.

What if our spouse won’t open up?  Things to remember…
1.    We must realize that because they are made in God’s image, deep needs do exist even if they can’t verbalize them or they seem to be well hidden.
2.    We must examine ourselves to see if we are making our partner feel unsafe to open up.
3.    We must always pray for wisdom from God to understand our partner and their needs.
4.    If our spouse is unwilling to be open and share, we need to give them time to heal and respond

Treasures you can always invest:

1.    Invest time in praying for them
2.    Invest words to encourage them
3.    Invest thoughts on how they have benefited your life
4.    Invest the effort to meet a need they have
5.    Invest trust by correcting false reports about them from others – always think the best and defend your partner
6.    Invest acceptance by showing interest and concern in their personal welfare
7.    Other Ideas… ?  __________________  How can you invest in your partner?

Group Work & Discussion:  Examining the Hurts of our Partner

1 Corinthians 13 – how are we doing?
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Assignment – handout
Next week – Attachment – Relating Face to Face



www.howwelove.com – TEST: What’s your style?

What determines how we love? Why every marriage gets stuck.

If we naturally knew how to love, this class and topic would be unnecessary. Maybe you’ve tried to change your marriage and nothing has worked.. so far… Maybe you find yourself locked in the same tiring dance week after week, month after month, year after year. Learning ‘how we love’ gets us to the deeper issues that need to be changed so we can stop ‘trying’ and start ‘living and loving’ the way Christ calls us to – a healthy way of relating.

Have you ever heard the following in your relationship or heard this from family or friends who come to you for support?
-        I try hard to make you happy, but you are never satisfied.
-        I feel like I’m walking on eggshells with you.
-        I’ve told you over and over what I need, and you just won’t do it.
-        You say you’re sorry, but nothing changes.
-        Why can’t you be more spontaneous and passionate?
-        I’m happy with the way things are. What’s the problem?

These statements and others are steps in the same old ‘dance’. Milan and Kay Yerkovich have discovered a revolutionary truth that will help all of us stop the dance and discover ‘how we love’ which is an imprint that has formed our beliefs and expectations about love from our history. Because of their work and discovery, we can learn a new dance! But first… we have to discover why we love the way we do – discover the source of our relational challenges which is what we have been working on from the beginning of this class. Here is another tool they use.. and it is a question… certainly one that sounds simple enough but a question that reveals more about your relationship and where it is and where it is headed than any other according to the Yerkovichs.  So.. what’s the question?
-        Can you recall being comforted as a child after a time of emotional distress? What was that like?

We are looking for a significant upset not just a minimal fall/ bruise, etc…  ex – best friend moved away, a death in the family, a major disappointment, etc.

3 Critical ingredients of comfort (did you receive them?):
1. Touch
2. Listening
3. Relief (feel seen and valued?) emotional connection was made. Felt understood

Can you see why the above would be invaluable in marriage/ relationships? 

What if you don’t have a memory of comfort? According to the Yarkovichs, 75% of the adults they surveyed do not have a single memory of receiving comfort from a primary caregiver when they were children. What!?  No wonder we have issues with communication and intimacy in our marriages!  We don’t know how to ‘be’ there for one another!

The imprints of intimacy from our first lessons of love.

In order for us to develop the kind of love and intimacy that is available to us… it will take sharing our history with each other. When we do this.. greater compassion is developed as well as deeper understanding. We come to realize our beliefs and the behaviors that need to change in order for us to relate in a healthy way and bring comfort to one another (using the 3 critical ingredients) -  Sounds like a good assignment for this week  J

So what does a secure love style look like? Anything different from this will indicate our need for healing and change – which you may have already discovered through taking the test on the web site that you brought with you.

Cycle in a circle on whiteboard – Child’s feelings to child’s needs (recognized, welcomed, and seen) to child’s expression (full emotional spectrum. Child learns to feel and deal with his/ her emotions) to parental response (able to contain child’s needs, give appropriately, offer comfort when child is distressed) to reaction (child feels loved, seen, important, safe, whole! Brings relief, trust and respect. To secure.. back to the top of circle…

If we did not have this experience regularly growing up, our love style/ imprint becomes:
Pleaser, Avoider, Vacillator, Controller or Victim  (read descriptions of each) – put a couple of words on the board for each

When 2 people with different love styles get married/ get into relationship, predictable patterns occur (the dance that can change). Let’s look at a few:

1.    Vacillator with the Avoider – (read descriptions – put key words on board)
2.    Pleaser with Vacillator
3.    Controller with the Victim
4.    Avoider with the Pleaser
5.    Avoider with Avoider
6.    Vacillator with V, Controller with Vacillator, or Controller with Controller

How to change?  While we can’t change the past, we can control how we choose to live the rest of our lives. The key to having a healthier relationship and happier life is breaking these negative imprints of intimacy. Thankfully, God’s life-transforming power is available to us. He is in the business of making new creations and forming new relational imprints in us!

What is that new imprint?
The Comfort Circle is our tool (on whiteboard)

Seek awareness (of feelings and underlying needs) to engage (with feelings and acknowledge needs openly) to explore (the speaker’s thoughts and feelings – listening, validating, and concluding with, ‘what do you need?’ to resolve (needs verbally and with touch, seeking how and when needs may be met in the future) – back to the top of circle

If there is time… in small groups, discuss your ‘dance’ and imprints. How will you implement the comfort circle this week?  – share a small step the group can pray about and hold you accountable to this week.

Read 1 Corinthians 13 – how are we doing?
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1.    honestly talk through the list you are being given that can help break core patterns
2.    create a role play for Mike and Lillian to walk/ talk through next week as an example