Sunday, March 30

John Gottman's Sound Relationship House

Build Love Maps-the process of really knowing your partner, their concerns, hopes and dreams. Ask them open-ended questions! (He says this is a very rare event in couples).

Share Fondness and Admiration-Masters of marriage really notice small events that are pleasing, and communicate respect, admiration, and fondness to their partner, e.g. “I really enjoyed talking to you at dinner," "thanks for doing the laundry” etc. These partners scan the environment for things to share. “Disasters” of marriage look for their partner’s mistakes, and hope that by making comments on what they’re doing wrong, they can help their partner be a better human being.  He said his wife would not respond to his criticism by saying, “You know John, you are such a wise person, thank you for telling me all the ways I’m failing as a human being.”

Turn Towards Instead of Away-this is responding to the way your partner expresses needs/their bids for attention.  For example, if your spouse comments on something--no matter how small--you should respond kindly.  Stable couples turn towards 86% of the time.  Divorcing couples about 33%.

These first three levels of the house make repair work in relationships. If this is done, more humor and positive affect will occur during arguments. Laughter puts people in “what’s this mode” in a discussion rather than “what the hell is this mode.” If you build these first three levels, you will have more positive affect during conflict.  It also leads to good sex and romance. He talked about many husbands who are not doing any of these first 3 levels of the house, and then they try to do something like give their wife a golden locket with their picture in it – "is she going to like it?" or do you think she’ll say “John, I love it! let’s have sex!” - probably not.

The Positive Perspective-this is positive sentiment override (vs. negative-an overall negative evaluation of your partner and the relationship. See them more as an adversary than an ally. They view even neutral or positive events as negative).

Manage Conflict-69% of the time, couples are fighting about the same stuff, in the same way.  Relationships work when you select someone to have a relationship with whose unsolved problems you can live with. They can be about punctuality, neatness, commitment, finances, or anything. Hidden agendas emerge as these are discussed.  A couple may be talking about money, but underneath is the problem of what money means. Masters of marriage establish a dialogue about these issues.  The goal in therapy is not to resolve these problems, but to get people to cope with them better.  Partners must constantly adapt to one another’s needs... Masters of marriage have a gentle approach to conflict – they accept influence, use humor, etc. Two things must be recognized: most conflicts are perpetual-each person’s position has an existential meaning that has to be examined, and both partners must have a gentle approach to the conflict.

Make Life Dreams Come True-know your partner's life dreams, and work together to accomplish them.

Create Shared Meaning-build a sense of culture and meaning, including parts of society, church, children, basically creating a new culture from two separate families. 

Some final thoughts:
  • He suggested couples do “the 6 second kiss upon reunion” Then he counted out 6 seconds, and smiled and said, “that’s a kiss that has possibilities” lol.
  • Many people say they want this written on their tombstone: “He lived every day like it was his last.” Gottman wants this on his tombstone: “He lived life, as if every moment he was about to eat a pastry.”
  • With the bottom level (love maps) and the top (shared meaning) so related, "maybe it shouldn’t be called 'The Sound Relationship House' but instead, 'The sound relationship bagel.'  I don’t take myself very seriously."
"And that's everything I know, so far."

Friday, March 28

Mindfulness, and Pictures from Oahu

Today I had a day-long seminar on meditation and mindfulness.  It's a lot to write about here, but here's a little bit... We can practice mindfulness just a few minutes a day. It is about being present with everything in the moment. For example, when you are eating, just eat. We can realize that little things (like eating, walking, or doing the dishes) are not little, but are life. If we focus too much on what's happening next, we will miss the present.

Mindfulness also relates to our natural system for seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. While necessary at times, it can get out of control. The means we use to avoid pain can become detrimental, and we can also become obsessed with pleasure. Mindfulness teaches that we can let go of this struggle, and just let our thoughts be. Basically, mindfulness is not about needing to be a certain way, but rather it is a curiosity of exploration, a way of approaching every moment and interaction in life.

I also put some pictures from today on Flickr.

Wednesday, March 26

Not In Portland* - Day 1

I arrived in Honolulu today for the American Counseling Association Conference. I'll be here about six days, four for the conference, and two for some sweet vacation time.  I don't think today counts as a vacation day, because it was the first time I ever thought I wanted to die.  I've been recovering from a cold, and endured probably the worst pain (from sinus pressure) I have ever felt in my life, for about 45 minutes, twice (as the plane descended). Granted, there are much more painful things in the world, but this was bad.  If I had known it was going to be this bad, I would not have come.  Some nerves in my face were being pinched as well, so not only did my head feel like it was being run over, but also like someone was drilling a hole in it above my left eye--only without the pressure relief. There is always good to be learned from suffering, as much as I detest it. I can now choose to be a little softer, a little more compassionate. I hope. I also hope it clears up before I fly home next week.

In some lighter news, Miss Idaho was sitting in the row behind me (on the first half of the trip)--going to Seattle, I think, for a pageant. She wasn't donning the headwear on the plane, but she still managed to stand out a little--probably the only passenger with a tan, wearing a dress, and speaking in complete sentences... Also, our flight number was "851," and I was headed to "the Island." Not exact, but eerily close eh? I was also able to watch some X-Files ("Scully!") and read some New Moon ("Bella!")

We took a shuttle from the airport, which was going fine until "some bloke" (according to an Aussie sitting in the row behind me) started complaining about the lack of air conditioning. Some others started chirping as well, and finally the driver decided he'd had enough, so he pulled into a parking lot, and said we could all wait for another shuttle! Boo hoo. Bus driver doesn't want to play anymore. We all coaxed him back on the bus, and he agreed to finish the route... Seriously, if you're saving money riding the airport shuttle on a tropical island, can you REALLY demand air conditioning?

I ended up getting off a the wrong hotel, and decided to walk to the right one. The receptionist at said wrong hotel said a taxi would cost $15 so I told her I was going to walk ("Shall I have Snotty beam you down Sir?" "Forget it. Forget it. No more beaming. This time I'm gonna walk!") When I asked for a map she said "Well, if you ARE going to walk, it’s at LEAST a mile and a half.” Do I look that old/out of shape/rich? It was a nice walk, and I found the right hotel. Even better, said right hotel is very close to my favorite restaraunt of all time, "Curry House," also known as CoCo Ichiban in Japan. MMmmm. I had some for dinner and it was delicious.

Back at the hotel, I tried to go to the pool, but it was closed.  In desperation I bought a Ben & Jerry's "Cookie Dough Ice Cream on a Brownie with a Thick Drizzle of Milk Chocolate Coating" ice-cream bar.  It too, was delicious.  I also bought some toothpaste.  Way more than I'll be able to use in a week.

*See Lost Episode: "Not in Portland"

Sunday, March 23

hana no iro wa


Behold my flower:
its beauty wasted away
   on idle concerns
that have kept me gazing out
   as time coursed by with the rains.

~ono no komachi, 825

Happy Easter

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Thursday, March 13

Quote of the week

On The Joseph Smith Papers. I am very excited for the historical openness that is growing in the church:

"This project is supported by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, and they want us to publish everything."

Wednesday, March 12

Some Points on Marriage

Some interesting points from a recent lecture at school, as well as from John Gottman:
  • 60% of males have sexual contact outside of marriage (45% of females). What about extensive extramarital "emotional contact"? Some researchers have suggested that it can be more damaging than sexual contact. Thoughts?
  • 85% of couples in marital therapy will get divorced within a year (what I think needs to happen is: couples need come in before their problems get too bad, and couples who come in to soften their divorce should not be counted in these stats).
  • The ratio of positive to negative interactions between couples who eventually divorce is about 1:1.  For those who are surviving, it is about 5:1.  For couples doing really well, it is about 20:1.
  • About 70% of our marital problems existed long before the marriage, and will probably last until we die.  How we talk about them is more important than solving them.  Gottman suggests a kind and gentle approach to conflict.
  • About 2/3 of wives experience a decrease in marital satisfaction after a new baby arrives.  Even less shocking, it's usually the husband's fault.  He often does not join her on the new adventure.  About 1/2 of husbands experience a decrease, but it comes later...maybe after the wife's satisfaction decreases?

Monday, March 10

Mormon Matters: What is "The Church"?

"I know the church is true."  "I love the church."  "They are disaffected with the church."  "We go to church."  "I discovered that the church was not what it said it was."  What exactly, does ‘church’ mean? Where is ‘the church”? Who does it belong to?  What does “church” mean? Is it a place, a set of beliefs? Is it an organization? A corporation?  Continue reading...

Thursday, March 6

John Gottman & Researched-Based Parenting

Recently I had the chance to see John Gottman give a speech on "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child." Gottman has long been one of my professional and personal heroes due to his extensive research on marital relationships and parenting. This is not Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil, or John Gray here folks. Gottman's stuff is based on decades of research. He also doesn't run these seminars to try to sell his books--not once did he mention them (but I will, because they have made a huge impact on how I approach my marital relationship).

He said that we need to treat our spouses and children like we treat friends and guests. He gave a couple of painfully obvious (and funny) examples of this: if a guest spilled wine on your carpet, you would not tear into him about how clumsy he was and how he needed to be more careful, you would offer him another glass. Or, if she forgot her umbrella, you wouldn't chase after her yelling about how she is so forgetful, you would say, "Hey, you forgot your umbrella." In short, we tend to overlook the flaws in our friends, but not our spouses. We need to be courteous and kind with our spouses and children, something we already know how to do with guests. It does not mean we shouldn't teach our children, just that they have a big sense of dignity and we should treat them respectfully.

The last point I really liked was that there are two types of parents--the first ("dismissing") will give the child a ton of information, wait until the child does something wrong, and then point out their mistakes. The other type ("Emotion Coaching" - what he recommends) gives the child just a little information, and then waits for the child to do something right, and points it out. Basically, he asserts that "constructive criticism" does not work. According to research (which he sited numerous times for pretty much everything he said, pointing out mistakes tends to increase them.

In short, his "Emotion Coaching" of children is summed up in these steps:
  1. Notice the child's emotion.
  2. Take on the attitude that the emotion is an opportunity for teaching and intimacy.
  3. Validate their emotion--even when there is misbehavior involved.
  4. Provide verbal labels for the emotion--it gives the child a sense of control.
  5. Help them solve their problem, while setting limits.  "All wishes and feelings are acceptable, but not all behaviors."

Monday, March 3

Is this really happening? Has Utah really gone that nuts?

According to this article, a new law (that will go into effect in 2009) will make it a misdemeanor "to conceal, harbor, transport or shelter undocumented immigrants." (And what the heck is the difference between "sheltering" and "charitable assistance"? (which will be allowed...))

Why are we not outraged by this? I REALLY REALLY REALLY do not like Nazi comparisons, but this one really just hits you over the head with it, doesn't it. Yuck. Not only that, local police will be enforcing immigration laws... Possibly the DUMBEST idea I've ever heard of... So not only will these people be living secretly in someone's attic, but if they see a crime (or are a victim to one) they won't report it. Great. Good one Utah. You really ****** up this time.

Sorry about the strong word(s). I just feel that strongly about it. Please tell me where I'm wrong. Or that I'm dreaming. Or that I'm on something... I want the immigration problem fixed as much as the next person. But I DO NOT think the above law is ANY good AT ALL.

Saturday, March 1

Group Blog: Mormon Matters

I recently joined a group blog, Mormon Matters. It is an "exploration and celebration of Mormon culture from all sides of the ideological spectrum." 'All sides' being active members, atheists, GLBT, former members etc. All of the writers, whether active members or not, love Mormonism and are respectful of others' beliefs.

My first post, on the practice of blessing the food, is up today! Feel free to join a discussion or leave a comment--it is open to anyone. : )

Some other interesting posts: