My Wife is Wonderful
Okay, you probably don’t want to read a post from me gushing about my beautiful wife of ten years, and you might be thinking: ‘How is this going to help me in life and ministry?’ Well read on.
Yesterday Karen was cleaning up the kitchen at around 11.30pm (and understandably exhausted) and discovered that I had left my coffee machine area grotty and messy again. Now instead of saying to me: ‘Pete, you always leave this area messy. Why can’t you just clean up after yourself!’, she very naturally approached it in a way that marriage experts Gottman and Silver in their book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work recommend.
She said: ‘Hey Pete, I really appreciate it when you clean up the coffee area after you make coffee.’
Wow, huh? This is what Gottman and Silver call ‘Softening Your Start-Up’.
Immediately, I understood what she meant and didn’t feel defensive or accused or unloved or nagged or disrespected or any of those things that we can often feel after a harsh start-up. So I very quickly and willingly apologised and said, ‘I know I’m supposed to. Sorry! I’ll do better next time (though I’ve said that at least a dozen times).’
Now at this point Karen could have said, ‘Yeah, you’ve said that a dozen times!’, or worse yet use sarcasm: ‘Yeah right!’ Now as you can imagine, that would have unnecessarily escalated the conflict and made me feel cornered and accused.
But instead the lovely and wonderful Karen said with a laugh: ‘There’s probably just as many things that I always do that annoy you too!’
Again, wow! That’s what Gottman and Silver call a ‘Repair Attempt’. Once again, it communicated what she meant without allowing the tension to rise. I knew with that ‘repair attempt’ that she was annoyed with my constant forgetfulness in cleaning the coffee area but yet at the same time I didn’t feel accused or belittled at all.
So what do you think? Is some of this helpful for your relationship?
BTW if you want to hear more about Gottman and Silver and other great marriage advice, you have to come to Regenerate Marriage in early 2011! Stay tuned!