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Softly begin and softly end. When a couple has to talk about a difficult topic, the conversation frequently starts off negatively or harshly. Setting the tone calmly typically determines whether or not your spouse will be swamped. Start talks slowly. Be prepared to halt and restart if necessary. I gently mention being terrified of Erica when I was a teenager because she was (and still is) so aggressive and powerful when I start a difficult topic with her that I know would upset her. I’ll mock it right now by joking, “Erica, this is why I used to be scared of you. Could you just rephrase that? Start over.” If I don’t utilize humor and ease into the topic, I’ll flood very fast and the conversation won’t progress. Keep in mind that a soft beginning will lead to a soft ending!
The problem of negative bias also commonly comes up in my work with couples. When you already feel awful about the relationship or when you are overwhelmed, you tend to lean on the side of caution, or what I like to call the side of self-protection. This means that if the person does or says anything undesirable, your opinion of them will be negatively impacted once more. It just serves to support your impression of them. A chunk of this is due to the fundamental attribution fallacy, which is the error we make when figuring out why someone did something. This myth implies that my achievement is a result of my inborn abilities and talents. And when I make mistakes, it’s usually because of a situation or other outside factor. When my relationship is healthy, I see my partner’s behaviors as mostly reflecting who they are as a person, and when they make a mistake, I blame the situation. I, however, tend to flip that script in my brain when the relationship is experiencing problems and start to believe that when my spouse makes a mistake, it’s because of who they are because of their innate character flaws.
In the same vein, when my partner does something good, I blame it on the situation and explain it away. The truth, of course, is that everyone’s behavior is generated from both situations and internal character traits. We have to be able to honestly and reasonably interpret the intent of the other person’s behavior to be fair. Of course, in a happier relationship we are a little deluded about our partner just as we are about ourselves, thinking that our good deeds are due to internal traits while our failings are due to situations. In session, after I’ve explained this attribution error, the couple naturally provides lots of examples in the room of them making this error, and then we rehearse those scripts or create ones that are more reasonable. I’ll say, “What are other explanations for his behavior,” or, “What else could she have meant by that?” Getting them to do that helps reinterpret things with less flooding or negativity, and they hopefully see their partner again how they used to in the past when things were much brighter.
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Taking a premarital education course is vital for equipped couples to share a lifetime of marital bliss and happiness. D’Arienzo Psychology wants to help you prepare for your life together. Dr. Justin D’Arienzo is our Board-Certified Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert. Dr. D’Arienzo has serviced this course to couples since 2013. Hundreds of couples recommend our course and claim that it has helped set a solid foundation for marital success. Research suggests that couples who take a premarital preparation course gain an advantage over couples that do not take a premarital preparation course.
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