by Margaret OH
My husband and I have been listening to a marriage therapy course with the fabulous Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. We have found that meeting with a marriage therapist every few years for a “check-up” is great for heading off potential problems and for gaining skills that strengthen our relationship. At this moment in our lives we don’t have the time to physically meet with someone in an office, but Dr. Finlayson-Fife (my husband and I refer to her as JFF) has been an excellent fit for us and conveniently comes to our house via the internet while our children sleep.
One of the skills that JFF emphasizes is effective speaking and listening in conflict. I consider myself pretty good at listening but have learned a lot from the class. JFF lays out strategies for productive speaking: state the facts, give a personal interpretation, make a manageable request. The listener also has a responsibility: to listen with honest self-examination while holding the valued relationship close in his/her heart. Both roles require vulnerability and a commitment to the relationship. In my experience both roles, if done right, are difficult to perform. It takes a faith in the relationship to be that humble and exposed.
In one video of a case study of a couple acting out a conflict, JFF lays out basic grading for the listener: An F grade for denying that there’s a problem; D for acknowledging there’s a problem; C for acknowledging and apologizing; a B for acknowledging, apologizing, and committing to change. An A grade is more difficult: it requires seeing oneself through the eyes of your partner and taking ownership of the problem. It is not just saying, “You’re right, I’ll change”, it is saying, “You’re right. I see that in myself and I don’t like that about myself. I am trying to be different.”
I have often throughout my adult life felt like I was in a marriage with the Church.Read More