For many, dinner is the only time to sit down with your significant other.
It is not the time to discuss upsetting situations, recriminations or history. It is a time to promote better communication, trust, and understanding between both of you. This will be difficult at first but will lead to achieving your goal of a better/happier marriage.
Pick what you think might be the best time during the meal to do this. Dessert? After dessert? Choose who starts first and alternate each day. Set a specific start and stop time. (20 minutes? – begin with a short time period)
Don’t try to discuss things in the heat of the situation. The other person’s hearing is not very good and their cooperation is even worse. Your objectivity “ain’t” so hot then either.
Read these “rules” aloud before you begin, even if you have them memorized:
–make sure phones are off and other distractions are eliminated or ignored
-keep everything positive. Listen more than speak.
-be aware of your body language and voice. Nonverbal communication is often more important than verbal.
-respect that the other person feels strongly about their position. Show that you can compromise. Show empathy (where legitimate)
-avoid the words “always,” “never,” “your fault,” ”bad” etc.
-avoid blame and accusations!
-repeat back what you heard so you are both on the same track and there is no room for misinterpretation. Do not let your “baggage” interpret what the other person has said.
-share your feelings in a positive and non-accusatory manner; this is not a time for venting but a time for healing. This is a time where you will both feel vulnerable
-when you are wrong quickly admit and without a rationalization or an excuse
-interrupt the other. (If you are afraid you will forget what you want to say write it down.)
-bring up history.
-let your body language/voice and pitch say one thing and your words say another.
-blame the other; talk about how their action made you feel – not what they did. (“I feel ignored and belittled when I am told I am worthless and I then shut down completely.” Not: “You always say I am worthless.” Comment on the action and not the person. Avoid “always”, “never”, etc.
-get sidetracked; keep to the specific subject – do not bring in or bring up anything that is not exactly on task. (“You snore, so that is why I am grumpy in the morning” This might be true but has nothing to do with what you are discussing and is just a destructive attempt for one-upmanship.)
-say, “You do it also…” or “Your brother also says you are…” or ”You do the same thing to me.”
-be defensive, argumentative or criticize.
-say counterproductive things such as “you always promise that and you never do it.”
-tell the other what they should do, but offer suggestions/alternatives
-consider this “exercise” a competition to see who is “right”
-curse, insult or be condescending
Now you are ready to begin
Spend two minutes (use a timer) with your eyes closed and concentrate on how you can make the discussion work and how you can prevent yourself from sabotaging it. What do you do that sets the other person off during a discussion?
Now say aloud the reason the two of you are doing this. for example, “We are doing this to strengthen/renew our relationship and to restore intimacy that has been.”
Then use one of these as a starter:
– Name one thing that first attracted you to the other.
– Choose to speak about one positive attribute you see in the other.
– Say something positive/encouraging about what they are working on to help improve the relationship.
-Come up with your own relatively “safe” (for the time being) topic.
(There must be no negative comment such as “You always say you will do this and you never do, etc.)
Remember that the first few times there will be glitches. Put up with the frustration. It will be difficult, and it might feel forced (this is OK) You might not see immediate change. Hang in there. Do not give up even if the start is full of bumps and roadblocks.
This is a “living document” so make (written) changes that suit you. This is a long, tedious process, but well worth it.
Now pick a single, non-confrontational topic (e.g. What steps do we need to take to make sure we can have dinner alone once a week.) and try this out.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about knowing how to dance in the rain. Anger cannot be overcome by anger. If someone is angry with you, and you show anger in return, the result is a disaster. On the other hand, if you control your anger and show its opposite – love, compassion, tolerance, and patience – not only will you remain peaceful, but the other person’s anger will also diminish.”