It’s often been said, “Your thoughts lead to your feelings, your feelings lead to your actions, and your actions lead to your results.”
If you want to get better results in life, start with your thoughts. Nowhere is that more true than in your marriage.
Your thoughts about your wife make the biggest impact in how you feel. And how you feel determines how you act towards her.
Before you can improve your communication with your wife and reduce the friction in your marriage, you have to listen to the conversation going on in your own head.
Your thoughts are just your conversation with yourself. This mental programming has been developing over your entire life.
Understanding yourself make a huge difference in your potential for growth. But for now, all you need to know is that there are patterns to your thinking and if you’re naturally prone to focus on the negative, that’s obviously going to affect your relationship with your wife.
Your wife has an incredible array of talents, gifts, abilities, and beauty, but if you’re constantly dwelling on her shortcomings, your negative thoughts towards her get only worse and worse.
The vicious road to divorce starts in your mind and continues if you don’t monitor it and choose your actions based on your gut. Unfortunately your gut usually doesn’t know what’s best for you.
The good news is we’re all creatures of habit and our thoughts are habitual. We can change our own thoughts just like we can change any other habit … like chewing fingernails. If you start to apply the Friction-Free Marriage system, over time you’ll see your thinking patterns change.
So it all starts with your thoughts. What comes next? …
How Am I Feeling?
As guys, we’re taught that we need to be strong, confident, even stoic. From an early age, we begin to equate emotions with weakness.
That’ll serve you well all the waaaay up until … the day you get married.
Then, all of a sudden, your wife expects you to open up to her. To empathize with her. She wants to share a traumatic story about a cat with you and just have you listen, understand, and NOT fix it…
Is that logical?
But the fact of the matter is, in order to have a thriving relationship with your wife – one where you truly “become one” – you have to start understanding & communicating your feelings.
Yes, you do have them. They’ve just been hidden under a rock we like to call ‘masculinity’ for the past 25 years.
So start becoming aware of what you’re feeling (and the thoughts that led you there). Like most cavemen, you’re probably familiar with the basic feelings: “Zog mad.” “Ug sad.” But there are secondary, and third…ary emotions that are usually more accurate.
Accurately naming your feelings will really help you communicate them with your wife.
Lord knows she knows how to communicate her feelings. That’s how women communicate.
So to the right is a chart that can help you specify what you’re feeling. The feelings in the center are the strongest, least specific. Let’s call these LEVEL 3 feelings. LEVEL 2 feelings are a little more specific. LEVEL 1 feelings on the outside of the circle are most specific, but tend to be less intense.
What Should I Do About It?
Thinking of robbing a bank is not a crime. Getting a few of your friends together, wearing masks of former presidents, and asking the teller to open the vault with a gun pointed at his head … is.
Thoughts and feelings are just thoughts and feelings until you act upon them. Your actions make all the difference in the world.
With negative thoughts, about 90% of the time doing nothing is the best action to take. But the FFMM will help you decide what actions to take.
Oh, and BTW, doing nothing is an action as well. Some thoughts & feelings should be acted on. Some shouldn’t. So let’s start with that …
Route 1: Keep My Mouth Shut
It should be obvious, but it needs to be said: You don’t become a great husband without learning the fine art of shutting up.
So when do you just shut up and not speak what’s on your mind? When it’s just not worth it. And that’s probably more frequent than you think.
It’s when …
Here’s an example:
Issue: Your wife is on Pinterest … again.
Thought: “I can’t stand how much time my wife spends on Pinterest”
Route: I haven’t brought it up before. It’s a level 3 feeling.
Action: Keep your mouth shut & just breeeeeeaaaathe, man!
Route 2: Use The Sandwich Method
Your marriage won’t be all sunshine & kittens all the time. Your wife will do stuff that really bothers you.
If it’s happened multiple times before and/or it really bothers you, you need to bring it up. Avoiding it will just drive you crazy and build a wall between the two of you.
However, when you bring it up by only saying what’s wrong, she’ll probably get defensive or just ignore it altogether.
If you instead put your negative feedback in the right perspective, she’ll receive it a lot better.
So when you find yourself at the point of needing to say something, use the sandwich method. Here’s how it works:
When offering your wife a critique, you begin complimenting your wife on something your wife does well. (That’s the fluffy top slice of bread.)
Then get to the meat of the matter, which, of course, is the constructive criticism you’ve been dying to blurt out.
Finally, just as her temperature is rising, lift her up again with something really positive. This finishes the sandwich off with another soft slice of affirmation bread.
I know … There’s no mayo, mustard, cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions, or anything else on this metaphorical sandwich. Relax. This is one sandwich you want to make as streamlined as possible.
You’re basically sandwiching the constructive criticism between two constructive compliments. It’s an extremely effective technique, largely due to its disarming effective. It helps softens the blow. Your wife will be much more likely to receive the criticism without being defensive.
Here’s an example –
Issue: You and your wife are out and she makes fun of your job.
Thought: “I hate when she makes fun of me in public.”
Feeling: Hurt, Insecure
Action: Sandwich Method
“Sweetheart, I love your humor. You make me laugh all the time. Tonight at dinner though, when you made fun of my job, I felt really insecure and inadequate. I know you didn’t mean anything by it, but it really hurt my feelings. The rest of the night I had a blast though and I love being out with you.”
It doesn’t always have to relate back to your feelings. Maybe it’s just a request you have. But regardless, the sandwich method will help soften the blow.
So what happens if she doesn’t take well to the sandwich method? Or what about a disagreement comes out of nowhere?
Route 3: Conflict Resolution
Disagreements are bound to happen, and they can actually be a healthy part of a relationship if you work through them properly.
Below are the five steps to healthy conflict resolution. This will NOT come naturally for either of you. So talk this over with your wife. Commit to trying this system while you’re both thinking clearly.
1. Check Your Anger
Be sure your anger is under control. Thomas Jefferson once said, “When angry count to ten before speaking. When very angry count to 100.” This is great advice. If you can’t share your thoughts or feelings in a safe and loving way, take some time to cool down!
2. Check The Time
Is this an appropriate time to deal with this conflict? Or are you in public or in front of children? If so, wait. Find a safe and appropriate time for you and your wife to work towards a solution.
3. Practice Intentional Listening and Forgiveness
Decide who will share first and who will intentionally listen first.
As the talker, share how you’re feeling using “I feel” statements. Use the feeling word chart if necessary.
As the listener, confirm you understand by repeating back what you heard. Then put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and empathize. Share of a time when you felt the same way so the listener she knows you understand. Ask for forgiveness and apologize.
Then, reverse roles of listener and sharer.
4. Brainstorm Possible Solutions
After you both understand each other, work together with an open mind to come up with as many solutions as possible for the conflict.
5. Choose A Solution
Decide which solution from the brainstorming session you each are willing to try. Do your best to agree on a win-win and be open to some compromise.
Clearly state the plan together. Write it down and revisit it in a week or so to make sure it’s resolved.
Special thanks to Dr. Roger Tirabassi his work developing and teaching conflict resolution. Roger has spent over thirty years counseling pastors, couples, & students. Download the Cool Tools For Couples iPhone app to have this conflict resolution process locked & loaded for your next conflict.
Route 4: Counseling
Yep, you read that right. Counseling.
Don’t shoot me just yet. I used to feel the same way about it that you do. “Naaaaaaaht gonna happen. Counseling is for wackos. Not me. Not us. A man can handle his own business.”
But if you’ve exhausted routes 1-3, this is definitely where you need to be.
You may have gotten here because of a big issue – such as money, sex, infidelity, in-laws or children – or just a small, nagging issue that keeps coming up and you can’t come up with a resolution.
It’s time to hit up a trusted marriage counselor.
Believe it or not, marriage counseling was not designed to send you to the psychic ward. It’s to put you and your wife in a room with a neutral mediator to help you make sense of what’s really going on.
When you’re at home and the gloves are off, it’s often hard to see your wife’s point of view. But a good marriage counselor will talk you both through the situation from neutral stance without taking sides.
You may be able to work through things in one hour-long session. It may take weeks or even months … You may even need to switch counselors until you find one you like … It may cost a lot … You may feel uncomfortable …
… But KEEP AT IT.
Marriages take work.
To find a great marriage counselor in your area, click here.