This blog will be for current and/or former LIFE in the middle participants, as well as anyone else that is looking for practical ways to improve his or her attitude, relationships, perspective, knowledge base, or life in general. It will be the medium through which people can access LIFE in the middle's correlated materials, such as video clips, instructor reflections, books related to class topics, interaction/relational models, links to other websites, etc. Look for new information to be posted frequently, particularly following class sessions. Understand, however, that I am solely responsible for the site's content and that any statements, artwork, videos, and/or other materials found herein do not represent the views of any other person or organization, including any of my employers. Having said that, I hope you find the information that is and will soon be available here helpful as you strive to create a real LIFE that is happy, healthy, and productive. Best wishes.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

#13: Art reflects LIFE - Parenting

About a week and a half ago, we talked about creating art and some of the life lessons we can learn in the process. In addition to these (finding appropriate models, participating in the creative process and receiving assistance, measuring up to standards, finding opportunity in adversity, etc.), we ended by discussing the concept of personalizing proven principles. I showed you some drawings that I had done in the recent past and explained to you the principles that they represented. I will include some that we viewed and discussed both below and in future posts. This post will focus on drawings related to parenting.



These drawings depict a mom and a dad dressed in Bat costumes. The principle is illustrated in answering the following questionwhat is Batman's super power? The answer: He doesn't have one. He does, however, have some important characteristics that help him to have success as a crime fighter. For us as parents trying to help our children fight destructive influences in their lives, it is especially important to remember a particular pair of these. First, Batman has a lot of tools/resources, many of which are found on his utility belt. Second, he uses them wisely, choosing different tools at different times as he responds to various situations.

Some parents resort all too often to such things as "taking their belts off" to discipline children. Rather than taking our belts off, let us first create "parenting utility belts" full of tools and resources to use in helping our children learn life's most important lessons. Then let us leave these belts on at all times and be ready to help our children with the tools/skills/etc. we have at our disposal. Likewise, let us seek to acquire as many tools, skills, and resources as we can so that we can become increasingly more prepared. With these parenting utility belts (unlike with normal belts) the bigger the better; the more utilities we have, the more useful we can be to our children in times of need.

On Our Shoulders

In a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676, Sir Isaac Newton noted the reason for his success in such grand endeavors as the invention of calculus and defining the laws of motion. Said he, "I stood on the shoulders of giants." In other words, Newton recognized that his success would not have been possible without those that paved the way for him. With that in mind, consider the following illustration:

Hopefully we can all recognize our shortcomings as parents while simultaneously realizing that to our children, we are giantsthe people that they look up to the most. In order to give them the best chance for success, it is important for us to be able to combine the elements of (1) showing love for our children and (2) setting limits and having guidelines/expectations for them to follow. The dad and son depicted here help us to visualize how this can occur. The dad is showing love for his son by spending time with him, helping him to see things he would otherwise be unable to see, etc. Notice, though, that his hands are placed securely on his son's legs. He does this in order to keep his son safe, to prevent him from falling and sustaining unnecessary injuries. This is the purpose of limits and structure in parenting.

Notice also where the boy is in relation to his dad: the son is above his father. It is my hope that my children will grow up to be better than me in every aspect of life. I could think of no greater honor or success as a parent. This picture reminds us that as we successfully combine love and limits in our parenting, we give our kids the best chance to succeed, to be better than we ever were. May we all strive to lift our children above ourselves, that they in turn may do the same.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

#12: Talkin' about Practice

OK, I admit it: Part of my reason for doing this post is to have an excuse to use one of my favorite sports sound bytes ever (I'll link the video later). We have talked in the recent past about the process of receiving truth, using receivers in football as a metaphor to illustrate what we must do. We talked about getting open (removing unnecessary activities from our lives), actively receiving by going back to the ball and putting our hands out (seeking truth and gravitating toward it), snatching the ball out of the air and securing it (laying hold on the truth and understanding it), protecting the ball (writing things down, owning good books, etc.), and running with the ball once it it secure and protected (applying truth in our lives). All of these things that good receivers do apply to us as we strive to be receivers of truth.

We neglected, however, to mention one final point that is key to becoming a great receiver-- Practice. Picture the following: A young man shows up at a high school football tryout. The coach asks him what position he wants to try out for, to which he responds, "I'm a receiver." The coach tells him to line up with the others that are trying out for receiver. When his turn comes, he does all the things listed above, after which he takes off his helmet and begins to walk off the field. When the coach asks where he is going, he says, "I did everything I was supposed to do. I'm a receiver. Now I'm done. I never have to do it again."

Of course, such a young man is not a receiver; he is merely a young man who happened to catch a pass once. So it is with us; if we want to be true receivers of truth, we must repeat the process over and over and over again. Like most receivers, we probably won't be great at first. We will fail often, but we mustn't get discouraged. Over time, and with a lot of practice, we will be able to hone our skills and become excellent receivers--the kinds of receivers that a quarterback (in our metaphor, the Source of truth) can depend on.

Now here is a link to the video clip. Just remember that the attitude displayed by Allen Iverson is the exact opposite of what our attitude about practice should be. I only hope that by hearing him repeat the word practice many times over you will remember the ideas expressed above when you thing about the concepts of practice and receiving truth. Best wishes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

#11: Clobberin' Time

The last two Fridays we talked about time, prioritizing, and aligning the lists of the things we spend the most time on and the things we say are most important to us. The truth is that we live in a society that is just busy. We often become so busy with things that, while not inherently negative, force us to take time away from the things we say we value most. To borrow a phrase from The Thing (of the comic book quartet The Fantastic 4), these unnecessary activities are all too often "clobberin' time" in our daily livesthey are destroying our time and our supposed priorities using the mechanism of what I call "activity gluttony." To help illustrate this point, here are some interesting quotes and statistics on the topics of time and priorities.

First of all, think about the amount of time you spend each day in real, positive interaction with your children (particularly teenagers). Now consider this quote from adolescent development expert Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University and former President of the Society for Research on Adolescence:
"The average adolescent spends more than seven hours each day using one or more media, and this includes time spent using different media simultaneously ([i.e.,] one hour watching TV while surfing the Internet would be recorded as only one hour of media use) ... Half of all adolescents live in what might be called a 'constant television environment,' in which the television remains on throughout the day, regardless of whether anyone is watching it" (Steinberg, Adolescence, p. 253).
If, for example, you are allowing your kids to spend 7 hours a day with the media and X amount of time interacting with you (probably much less than 7 hours), what are you teaching them about your priorities when it comes to them?

Now consider the following case example given by Laura Berk, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Illinois State University:
"THE 'TIME BIND.' Like many parents, Angela ... complains of being 'torn in too many directions.' Often she leaves work in a hurry in the late afternoon to pick up [her children] Victor and Janine from child care, dashes to Victor's tumbling class and Janine's piano lesson, then stops at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner. When Angela and her husband, Tom, walk through their front door, they typically head to the phone or fax machine to take care of some unfinished work while trying to quell Victor and Janine's hunger and irritability with a frozen dinner popped into the microwave and unlimited access to the TV set. Caught in a ceaseless sprint to reconcile job, marriage, and parenting, Angela and Tom feel drained at the end of the daytoo tired to grant their children more than 10 to 15 minutes of focused time" (Berk, Awakening Children's Minds, p. 6).
Does this sound something like your life, or can you at least see some similarities between this family and your own? Linda and Richard Eyre, New York Times bestselling authors of numerous books on parenting, have written the following:
"Most of us think we have our priorities straight and that our hearts are in the right place ... [N]early 90 percent of us say that commitments to family are 'very important,' and 82 percent say they admire someone who puts family ahead of work (while only 16 percent admire someone who will do whatever it takes to get a promotion at work). On the open-ended question 'What matters most?,' 63 percent of Americans say family--far ahead of health or finances, which come in second and third with 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively. And by a 63 percent to 29 percent margin, Americans believe that life with children is richer than life without them.

But compare the claims we make with how we actually live. Parents spend less time with children and more time with work than ever before ... Why is this? Could one credible explanation be as simple as the principle of dilution? When we try to do too muchto spread ourselves over so many activities, ambitions, interests, and demandswe dilute and divide ourselves, leaving lower concentrations of ourselves for each thing, including the most important thing, our families ... [T]he twenty-four hours in a day have not increased, while the number of things we try to stuff into them hasdramatically" (Eyre & Eyre, The Happy Family, p. 37).
In light of these statements, let us all do a better job of putting first things first. My hope is that we will not allow ourselves to get so caught up in activity gluttony (even if the activities we are involved in may not be evil in and of themselves) that we have no time left for the activities we really need to do. May we all spend more time not just on good things, but on the things we know in our hearts are the most important.

Friday, February 6, 2009

#10: Speaking Others' Language

Tonight in class we discussed the idea of learning to speak others' language in order to become more effective listeners. In order to illustrate the principle, I read a quote to you in Spanish that none of you understood. The only problem was that I forgot to read it to you in English. While this was not vital to making my point, I did want you to actually understand what I had said. As such, here is the quote from F. Burton Howard:
"If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don't expose it to the elements. You don't make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It has become special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by. It should be that way... [with] our marriages" (as cited by Katharine Jenkins in Meridian Magazine, 2006).
Anyway, I hope you benefit from the quote itself, but also from the lesson that it was used to teach. If you really want to communicate effectively with others, you have to learn to speak their languagenot in the traditionally broad way we think about language (English, Spanish, Russian, etc.), but in a very personal way. You need to learn how that individual communicates. We talked about some ways to do this, including creating common ground for communication through shared experiences, asking questions, or doing a little research on your own into some of that person's interests. As an example of this, I noted how I had to learn to "speak Nerd" to effectively communicate with my wife and had become a converted nerd in the process.

There is one other point regarding speaking others' language that I would like to expound upon. Speaking someone else's personal language goes far beyond knowing about that person and his/her interests, thoughts, etc. This is good, but it only scratches the surface. To truly speak another's language you must care enough to really want to know that person. Let me reiterate: To truly speak another's language you must care enough to really want to know that person. If this is the case, I promise that your communication will be productive and you will indeed come to know the one with whom you share this experience. Over time, you may come to know one another so well that in some cases words will not even be necessary. You will be able to speak each other's language with nothing more than a simple glance, a smile, or a gesture performed in just the right way. You will have arrived at the place where you can say everything beautiful without saying anythingand that, my friends, is luxurious place indeed. The cost of getting there is extremely high, but I assure you that the value of living there more than compensates for travel expenses.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

#9: The Truth about Truth

We ended our class on Friday with a discussion of what truth is, what it is not, and how we can find it. We defined truth as "a knowledge of things as they really are." We concurred that it is constant, not variable. Truth is not a product of individual or societal subjectivity; rather, it transcends time and circumstance. We also agreed that truth can be found in a wide array of disciplines and places and that it is never out of harmony with itselfvarious elements of truth that we may encounter will always fit together. If this seems in any particular instance to be untrue (that is, if two ideas seem to be both true and in competition with one another), it is for one of two reasons: either one of the ideas is not really true, or our understanding of one or both of these ideas is incomplete.

We also discussed that an individual cannot possess both the spirit of fear and the spirit of truth at the same time; that is, we cannot find the truth if we are afraid of it. Author Jack Christianson has written:
"The truth about any subject ... is not an easy taskmaster. It requires us to look at the issues as they 'really are and as they really will be,' not just as they may appear on the surface. Truth, if we do not fear it, may cause us to change our opinions, admit that we may have been wrong in the past, or accept something that previously rubbed us the wrong way .... Truth about [anything] in life is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It can be found. It is available to all who do not fear it" (The Power of Music, pp. 14-15, 32).

One early 20th-century writer has offered this timeless insight about the search for truth and the aforementioned fallacy of the subjectivity of truth:
"The search for truth means that the individual must not merely follow truth as he sees it, but he must ... search to see that he is right" (William George Jordan, The Power of Truth, p. 17).
Thus, it is not enough to be true to what we believe. We must seek to learn the actual truth, and then to harmonize our livesour thoughts, words, and actionswith that which we know to be true. This is the key to finding real LIFE in the middle of a world of confusion and competition. We must be true to the truth. William Jordan has suggested a motto for life, which I submit to you as my personal goal: "Truth above all things" (The Power of Truth, p. 13). I challenge you to make this your goal as well, and I promise you that your happiness will increase in proportion with your efforts to learn and live the truth.

Friday, January 23, 2009

#8: Barreling Over the Falls (Part 6 - How to Save YOUR Life: Putting On Your Own Mask First)

"Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend ..."

-The Fray, "How to Save a Life"

In the last post, we examined the concept of offering our partners a lifeline when we see that they are headed down the cascade. Additionally, it is necessary to remember another important principle if we are going to save our relationship lives. If you have ever been on a plane (and even if you haven't) you are probably familiar with the following phrase that is repeated during the preflight safety demonstration: "Please secure your own mask first, before helping others." If we really want to be of help to our partners, we cannot expect them to do things that we are unwilling to do. Thus, we must first ensure that we are not in danger of going over the cascade ourselves. As before, a quote from The Fray (cited above) can help us to gain proper perspective. We must ask ourselves, "Where did I go wrong, or where am I in danger of going wrong?" We must be sure we as individuals are on solid ground. Then, and only then, can we offer our partners a lifeline. If we are unwilling to look inward, it is likely that we will lose a friend, or a spouse, etc.we will alienate ourselves from others. It is also important to recognize that at various times in our relationships, we will be on both the giving and the receiving ends of such lifelines and that they are good no matter which end we are on. Having said that, the following is a list of some practical things we can do to make sure that we as individuals are doing our best to maintain relationship stability as we interact with others.

1. Complain, but don't blame. We already went over this in the last post; as such, we will let that suffice.

2. Remember who you're talking to. This is your wife, your friend, your brother ... You care about this person! Gottman says the following about the marital relationship, but I believe that the principle can be applied to any relationship: "People who are happily married like each other. If they didn't they wouldn't be happily married ... By simply reminding yourself of your spouse's positive qualitieseven as you grapple with each other's flawsyou can prevent a happy marriage from deteriorating" (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, p. 65).

3. Be clear and direct. If you have a want or a need, make sure that your partner understands that want or need. Don't make him or her guess; just be specific. Ladies, this is especially true for us guys. As a group, we don't get subtlety very well. Look us in the face, and tell us what you want. If you want your partner to take out the trash, for example, don't say something like, "The trash sure is getting full." Simply ask, "Would you please take out the trash?" Which brings us to our next point ...

4. Be polite. As we will discuss at length in the future, we stupid humans do a lot of things backward. Why are we so polite to the guy that hands us our food at the McDonald's drive-thru and so rude to our families as soon as we roll up the window, bag of food in hand? Does anyone else think this is a ridiculous phenomenon? Ideally, we should be kind to everyone. I, however, know that I'm not an "ideal" person and that I'm probably going to do something stupid very soon. But in all seriousness, can we all do ourselves a favor and try not to do that something stupid to the people we supposedly care about the most? If you're going to be mean, be mean to strangers. They'll get over it. Your kids, your husband, your motherit'll leave deeper scars on them, I promise. Be nice to everyone, but be especially nice to your family.

5. Don't store things up. For a hilarious example of what not to do, click here. (Pay special attention to the "Airing of Grievances.") So what's wrong with Frank's idea? Certainly not the pole, with its metallic luster and high strength-to-weight ratio. So let's look elsewhere, specifically at the "Airing of Grievances." First of all, you should have more than one time per year that is designated for discussing issues in your relationships. For married couples, I recommend setting aside time once a week. Talk to each other about both successes and failures, as well as goals, plans, etc. It is also a great idea to simply deal with problems as they arise. However, if they remain unresolved at the time of your weekly planning/discussion session, this is a good time to make sure that you come to a mutually agreeable solution.

On the worksheet that I passed out in class on Friday, there were 10 spaces. I have only given you 5 items. I challenge you to come up with some things on your own and post them here on the site. To get you started, here is a link to the music video of The Fray's "How to Save a Life." As you watch the video, think about things that you could do to avoid hurting others, to reconcile with those you may have wrongedthink about how to save the lives of your most important relationships. I look forward to your responses, and I'll see you in class.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

#7: Barreling Over the Falls (Part 5 - How to Save A Life)

"As he begins to raise his voice, you lower yours and grant him one last choice ..."

-The Fray, "How to Save a Life"

As we begin to think about saving the life of our relationship when we see our partner start to barrel down the cascade, this quote from The Fray's "How to Save a Life" can point us in the right direction. One way to throw your partner a lifeline is to learn to listen objectively, without taking offense. If your partner introduces criticism into a conversation, ask yourself, "Is there a legitimate complaint hidden within this criticism?" You can then simply respond to your partner's complaint, to what he or she should have said instead of what was actually said. You do this not because you think criticism is acceptable, but because you want to give your partner a chance to make a better choice. Just remember that you cannot control whether or not the lifeline is accepted, only whether or not it is offered in the first place.

In order to do this, however, we need to know how to effectively differentiate between criticizing (which is obviously bad) and complaining (which, when defined as we will define it, is OK). In both Part 2 and last Friday's class, we defined criticism as attacking a person instead of an issue, adding that it includes global statements about or attacks on a person's character. Complaining, on the other hand, is simply addressing the issue at hand. Here is an example offered by Dr. Gottman that can help us understand the difference between complaining and criticizing.
"'I'm really angry that you didn't sweep the kitchen floor last night. We agreed that we'd take turns doing it' is a complaint. 'Why are you so forgetful? I hate having to always sweep up the kitchen floor when it's your turn. You just don't care' is a criticism. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, but a criticism ups the ante by throwing in blame and general character assassination. Here's a recipe: To turn any complaint into a criticism, just add my favorite line: 'What's wrong with you?'" (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, pp. 27-28)
Remember, I'm not asking anyone to become a victim and submit to endless criticism. I'm simply suggesting that we would all do well to expand our vision, recognize that others make mistakes, and allow them the opportunity to make better choices. Don't take offense and get defensive; instead, defend your relationship by offering a lifeline. Learn how to save a life.

#6: Barreling Over the Falls (Part 4 - The Cascade)

As I mentioned in Part 2, there was a reason for my presenting the four horsemen the way that I did (speaking of the visual layout of the chart). In case you forgot, let me refresh your memory.

On this chart, the horsemen resemble a staircase; we can imagine a person descending the stairs from left to right. But, if you will give me a little leeway here (and believe me, I know this chart is further from art than simply the letters "ch" and that what I am about to say is a bit of a stretch), I'd like to suggest that their configuration somewhat resembles a waterfall. [For a clip of a real waterfall, or actually multiple real waterfalls, click this link. You'll see Niagara Falls, which we talked specifically about in class.]

As we said earlier, the horsemen tend to appear in this order. In class we used the metaphor of going over a waterfall and crashing onto the rocks (stonewalling, eh? ... bah dum, ching!) at the bottom to describe their becoming pervasive in our interactions. Now, suppose you saw that your partner was about to go over the edge of this waterfall or had even started to fall already. What would you do? If there was any way that you could throw your partner a lifeline or something to hold on to, would you do it? Would you save your partner's life? If you cared at all about your partner or even had a shred of human decency, the obvious answer would be "Yes."

Luckily for us as partners, we don't have to watch in horror as our partners and our relationships plunge to almost certain destruction on the stones at the bottom of the cascade. We can help. We can pull our partners back to safety, if they choose to let us. We can save the lives of our relationships. In the next post, we'll talk about how.

#5: Barreling Over the Falls (Part 3 - Desire and Deliberate Destruction)

Now that we have a better understanding of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, there are no doubt those among us whose mental panic alarms are going crazy as times when the horsemen have trotted into recent conversations resurface in our memories. Don't worryyet. As we discussed in class, even couples that have stable, happy relationships will find that three of the four horsemen still rear their ugly heads from time to time. Although the frequency of the horsemen's appearance differs between stable and unstable relationships (for a clip of Dr. Gottman explaining this idea, click here), there is only one of these four potentially devastating types of interaction that basically doesn't happen at all among happy couples. When we discussed as a class our initial ideas of which horseman wouldn't be used by happy couples and why, class members gave various answers and provided logical explanations for their reasoning. However, none of us has done over 30 years of research on this stuff, so let's stick with what the expert has to say. As we read together in class, Gottman has written, "The amount of contempt in stable, happy marriages is essentially zero" (The Marriage Clinic, p. 47).

So that answers the question "Which?", but we are still left with the question "Why?" Why is it that contempt is absent from happy relationships? The answer is simple, and it can be summed up in a single worddesire. Happy couples want to be happy, so they are happy. I firmly believe that we get what we really want in life. Now I know some of you are thinking that I'm crazy, but I am convinced that this is true. You might say, "Well, I want to have a good relationship, but I don't have one. Therefore that can't be true." My question to you is, "Are you sure?" Take a good hard look at your behavior. Is it consistent with having a good relationship, whatever the relationship might be? What kinds of things do you do on a regular basis to make yourself and/or your partner miserable? Ultimately, each individual must ask, "Am I sabotaging my relationship?"

That is where this discussion begins and ends. If a person uses contempt (or in other words, if a person tries to hurt his/her partner), can that person honestly say that he or she wants to have a good relationship with the person that he or she is trying to hurt? At the very least, the answer at that specific moment in time has to be a resounding "No." I repeat: we get what we really want. If we want to hurt people, we can probably do it fairly easily. As the great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in his masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov, "People sometimes talk of bestial [or animal] cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.” Some among us are well trained in the art of contempt, brandishing a belittling brush to paint our partners as miserable wretches deserving of our denouncement. If we are guilty of doing this, however, we will be left with a relationship that is as dark and desolate as we have made it out to be. Simply put, happy couples don't try to hurt each other. Do they hurt each other? Certainly. We all do some pretty stupid things at times. But do they hurt each other on purpose? Noand that's what sets them apart.

Friday, January 16, 2009

#4: Barreling Over the Falls (Part 2 - The Four Horsemen)

In his book The Marriage Clinic, Dr. Gottman states that "the four horsemen generally come in a sequence, with criticism starting it all off" (p. 47). The sequence he uses in The Marriage Clinic is as follows:

That we diagrammed their order of appearance in this staggered way is no accident, as we will discuss later. For now, however, let us examine each of these four toxic techniques individually.

1. Criticism - In class we offered a simple definition of criticism, stating that in this context it means attacking a person instead of an issue. Gottman notes that criticism includes "negative words about your mate's character or personality" (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, p. 27).

Now, like I said in class, every relationship should have issues, disagreements, and differences of opinion. Let me say that again: you and your partner should have issues. If you don't, then one or the other of you is either lying or being coerced into "agreeing" with the other partner, which is really just another way of saying "lying." So don't be a liar. Admit ityou have issues. Again, it's OK. You should. The real question is, how do you deal with those issues? As Dr. Gottman asserts, "I predict marriages will falter not because they argue ... The clues to [a couple's] future breakup are in the way they argue" (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, p. 26).

2. Defensiveness - Since criticism is an attack, it follows quite naturally that the person being attacked would want to put up some kind of defense. Gottman says simply, "Defensiveness is any attempt to defend oneself from a perceived attack" (The Marriage Clinic, p. 44). He continues by saying that "defensiveness usually includes denying responsibility for the problem ... a common from of defensiveness ... [is] counter-attacking when attacked" (The Marriage Clinic, p. 45). In class, we called this phenomenon "Cross-criticizing."

3. Contempt - In class we defined contempt as attacking with the intent to injure. Gottman adds, "Contempt is any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts oneself on a higher plane than one's partner" (The Marriage Clinic, p. 45). It can include such things as mocking (especially in public), eye rolling, sarcasm, etc.

4. Stonewalling - In class we discussed stonewalling as simply another way of saying "emotional withdrawal." Gottman concludes that those who stonewall (usually men) "use brief monitoring glances, look away and down, vocalize hardly at allin effect, [they] convey the presence of an impassive stone wall" (The Marriage Clinic, p. 46). He offers this hypothetical, although very common, example:
"Think of the husband who comes home from work, gets met with a barrage of criticism from his wife, and hides behind the newspaper. The less responsive he is, the more she yells. Eventually she gets up and leaves the room. Rather than confronting his wife, he disengages. By turning away from her, he is avoiding a fight, but he is also avoiding his marriage. He has become a stonewaller" (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, p. 33).
So there you have them, the four types of communication that are most likely to ruin your relationship. At this point, you're probably thinking something along the lines of, "Oh crap. I do that stuff all the time. My relationship has no chance of survival. We are doomed." Don't worryyou're not dead yet. It's probably not as bad as you think. In the next post, we will discuss the existence of many of these behaviors even among couples that are happy and have stable marriages. In the end, it is really a two-fold question of the desires of our hearts and the relative level of our stupidity.