Mort Fertel is the Author and Founder of the Marriage Fitness System for Relationship Renewal
Posted 9/23/09 at 11:16 AM | Mort Fertel
Shared by a Marriage Counselor
A marriage counselor once shared the following with me. I thought it was powerful and that it was worth sharing with you. It's the kind of story that you would not hear in a marriage counseling office, but one that you can imagine a marriage counselor sharing. Enjoy.
"This is Love" FULL POST
Posted 9/15/09 at 2:00 PM | Mort Fertel
Recently I had a series of private phone sessions with a person who was very frustrated. Listen to how this person described their situation. I bet you'll be able to relate to it.
This person said they felt trapped in their basement trying to communicate with their spouse via Morse Code. They said they were banging on the pipes trying desperately to be heard. They would bang on the pipes and wait for a response. Bang and wait...bang and wait...bang and wait. But each time they finished banging, there was silence. No matter how hard they banged and no matter how long they waited; their spouse never heard them.
Are you trying to get heard? Do you feel ignored? Is your spouse not responding to your communication?
We live in an interesting time. With one click, you can communicate with anyone in the world. It's easy, quick, and free. You even have options. If you don't want to click, you could dial, beep, page, instant-message, or Fed Ex. It's true. Your ability to communicate with the outside world has become increasingly easy. But my guess is that your ability to communicate with your spouse has become increasingly difficult.
The reason for this is that most people confuse INFORMATION communication with PERSONAL communication. Technological advancements give us all sorts of options to communicate information. But how do you feel the pulse of someone's soul? How do you communicate the subtleties in your heart? You can't text message that. You can have the latest and greatest in communication gadgets, but it won't matter. PERSONAL communication is a whole different ball game. And it's PERSONAL communication that determines the success or failure of your marriage.
I'm reminded of a scene from a Broadway play. A man and woman happen to meet on a train and engage in polite conversation. They were both headed home to New York after a day in New Haven, CT. After further discussion, they learned that they were going to the same building on Fifth Avenue. Lo and behold they discovered that they had the same daughter and lived in the same apartment. They finally discovered that they were husband and wife.
You know what's killing marriages these days? EMAIL! More and more I'm seeing husbands and wives resort to email to communicate with each other. You want to do something tangible TODAY to improve your marriage? STOP EMAILING YOUR SPOUSE! Email is for INFORMATION. But in a marriage you've got to HEAR each other. And I don't mean hear the sounds of each other's words. You've got to be able to hear the silence between the sounds and interpret the unspoken meaning of pressed lips or teary eyes. You've got to be able to hear the shapes and sounds in each other's heart. You can NOT accomplish this via email.
Let me be clear about something; you can't do it with communication techniques either. There's no clinical communication therapy that can help you and your spouse think each other's thoughts, feel each other joy, and cringe from each other's pain. My 1-on-1 phone session schedule and the Marriage Fitness Tele Boot Camp are filled with casualties from traditional communication strategies and the usual marriage counseling approach. If you're like most people with marriage troubles, you've been down that path and you know that it does NOT work.
Today my 4-year-old son came to me with a bruise on his leg. He was crying and I could see that it was black and blue. He said, "Daddy, I need a band-aide."
I responded, "But it's not bleeding."
He said again, "Daddy, can you put a band-aide on it?"
I realized that my son's perspective was that when something hurts a band-aide makes it better...even if it's a bruise and not a cut.
So what does this have to do with communication in a marriage? Because most people think that if spouses aren't hearing each other that communication techniques will solve the problem. But that's like putting a band-aide on a bruise. It's the wrong solution.
Communication techniques can help colleagues transmit INFORMATION clearly. Communication techniques belong in seminars that teach negotiation and sales. But you're not trying to complete a transaction with your spouse; you're trying to renew a relationship. I can almost guarantee you that your problem is not clarity; it's concern. Ironically, communication techniques sometimes give people clarity that they don't care what their spouse thinks or feels. They "got it," but "it" doesn't matter to them anymore.
How do you get back to the place where you and your spouse care again?
This is one of the things that's unique about the Marriage Fitness approach to repairing a relationship versus traditional counseling. Most approaches to marriage success preach communication skills. But communicating effectively will NOT create love in your marriage. In fact, the correlation is the opposite. Creating love in your marriage paves the way for effective communication. I'll prove it to you.
Think about when you fell in love. How was your communication? Good, right? In fact, when you're in love, you communicate with the wink of an eye and you can finish each other's sentences. And yet you haven't known each other that long and you haven't learned any communication techniques.
Then, years later, after getting to know each other inside and out, employing psychologically tested and proven communication strategies, and taking into account all the differences between Mars and Venus, you can't get through to each other.
Listen carefully: Communication has very little to do with techniques or knowledge of each other. It has everything to do with the depth of connection between the communicators.
The question you should be asking is NOT, "How do I communicate effectively with my spouse." The question you should be asking is, "How do I connect with my spouse again?" Once you reconnect, you won't be sitting in silence in the basement. You'll hear the sound of the pipes from above. It'll be your spouse. You were heard.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness
Posted 9/9/09 at 9:48 PM | Mort Fertel
Posted 8/18/09 at 3:07 PM | Mort Fertel
Looking for martial counselors? Read below.
Listen to this email I received from a reader and see if you can relate.
We are in week 2 of the silent treatment! It all started over something so little and ridiculous! We are both adults, old enough to know better than this! He is a judge, I am a social worker! He won't budge! I need help!
The dreaded silent treatment. The big stand-off. You know it, don't you? Horrible, isn't it?
The most intense prayers in a household come during these silent treatments: "Oh God, I hope that's not him/her pulling into the driveway."
Or, "Oh God, when will he/she go upstairs already?"
Sometimes you feel like you could explode, right?
Most silent treatments start like Jodie's started; with something "little and ridiculous." Most couples can't remember what the impetus was. And if they could, they'd be too embarrassed to admit that something so small blew-up into something so big.
So what are these silent treatments or stand-offs REALLY about? And how can you avoid them or end them soon after they begin?
It's interesting that Jodie made a point in her email toa say that she and her husband "know better." In other words, they're intelligent, educated, and accomplished people. Jodie's husband is even a judge, an expert in distinguishing between right and wrong. They know that treating each other this way doesn't make sense. They know IT is wrong. But they also know that THEY are right.
And that's exactly the problem!
Silent treatments ensue when both people feel they're RIGHT. And the more intense each spouse's conviction to their perspective, the longer the silence lasts. And, ironically, the more intelligent and the articulate the couple, the MORE LIKELY they are to endure silence between them. Because intelligent and articulate people have confidence in their position and justification for holding their ground.
Although Jodie is surprised that her and her husband, intelligent people, could be so petty; the fact is that one reason they're holding their silence for so long is BECAUSE they're intelligent. In other words, intellectual capacity and marital satisfaction can be INVERSELY related. Let me say it another way: When it comes to saving your marriage, you can be right or you can be happy. But sometimes you can't be both.
In a courtroom, a hospital, or an office, right and wrong determine success or failure. The decision to prescribe the right medicine, for example, could be the difference between life and death. The relationship between the doctor and the patient is secondary. Being RIGHT is what matters and what is rewarded.
But in marriage, being right has no value. All that matters is the relationship.
Sometimes you have to choose. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happily married?
Just because you're right/wrong paradigm works at the office doesn't mean that you should bring it home. "He who is a hammer thinks everything is a nail." Some things work perfectly in one area of life and fail terribly in another. In marriage, you have to be like a carpenter and know which tool to use. The right/wrong mode is the WRONG tool to use in your marriage.
The more you insist on being RIGHT, the more you will be miserable in your marriage. Don't go for RIGHT; go for LOVE.
Jodie expects that because she and her husband are "intelligent," they shouldn't find themselves in these petty stalemates. But just because Jodie and her husband have a high IQ, doesn't mean they have a high EQ.
IQ is a measure of your INTELLECTUAL intelligence. The higher your IQ, the better your ability to process information and determine what's "right."
EQ is a measure of your EMOTIONAL intelligence. The higher your EQ, the better your ability to connect with people and succeed in relationships.
Just as some athletes are strong but not fast, so too many people have a high IQ but a low EQ.
Bottom line: Intelligence, in the way Jodie means it, has little bearing on her and her husband's ability to succeed in their marriage. In fact, a high IQ coupled with a low EQ can be a disastrous combination for a marriage.
The good news, however, is that EQ can be developed. Anyone can increase their EQ and learn to make their marriage RIGHT.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness FULL POST
Posted 8/11/09 at 2:53 PM | Mort Fertel
Were your mom and dad happily married? Is your marriage like theirs was?
If you're looking into marriage and counseling, the chances are good that your parents struggled in their marriage too. Research shows that if your parents divorced, then your marriage is more likely to end in divorce as well.
Freud documented well the impact that heredity and upbringing has on a person's fate. We learn "tapes" early-on that we play again and again oblivious to how they control (and destroy) our lives. But does that mean the destiny of your marriage was determined years ago? Does that mean your fate was sealed by your genes and your childhood?
There is no doubt that you have deeply rooted relationship instincts. But those instincts do NOT have you.
Your past constantly vies for control of your future, but at the end of the day YOU have a CHOICE. Your domain is this moment, and every moment, when you can DECIDE to write a new script. At any time, in every time, you can decide to be the master of your destiny; rather than a victim to your past.
This, by the way, is the real value in understanding your past and your childhood roots. So that you can consciously REJECT what you know doesn't work and replace old habits with new ways.
This, of course, is no simple task. Not only because it's hard to break old habits and learn new ways, but also because most people are more comfortable doing what's familiar yet destructive rather than what's constructive but unfamiliar. In other words, most people are happier doing what they know doesn't work than they are working on something that they don't know.
But that's what it takes to be a "transition person." A transition person is someone who breaks free from unhealthy relationship patterns that have been in their family for generations.
You are by no means a product solely of your heredity or environment. There is a third element: YOUR DECISION. And that trumps ALL past events.
By the way, this, in my opinion, is the real meaning of marriage education...educating someone to acquire the ability to CHOOSE their behavior.
A successful marriage is not something that just happens; you have to craft it. It's a result of deliberate and conscience decisions to make a new way in your relationship.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness
Posted 8/5/09 at 10:55 AM | Mort Fertel
"The difficultly with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character." - Peter Devries
We can only appreciate the profundity of this statement if we understand what is meant by CHARACTER. FULL POST
Posted 7/28/09 at 12:26 PM | Mort Fertel
Do you know what happens after you plant the seed of a Chinese Bamboo Tree? Nothing. That's right. Absolutely nothing. For 4 years after planting the seed of this tree you get no satisfaction other than a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb. Must be something wrong, right? A still birth or stunted growth. A bad seed maybe.
If you didn't know about the growth patterns for this tree, you'd think that all your efforts to plant and cultivate were useless. FULL POST
Posted 7/21/09 at 10:18 AM | Mort Fertel
In your quest to stop divorce, you may encounter resistance-from your spouse!
Your spouse may dwell on the 101 reasons why "this just won't work for us" and blame you for every one.
Or, your spouse may be emotionally "checked-out" of the marriage and not care about your efforts to improve the situation or be willing to extend any effort of their own.
This is, by far, the most common question people ask me: "How do I get my spouse to change?"
Why would your spouse resist POSITIVE change in your marriage and what should you do about it?
There's a deep-seated belief in our culture that people resist change, no matter what. But is this true? Do people really want things to remain status quo? Do we really not want things to change? If you look closely at human nature, it's not change itself we resist; it's change that's IMPOSED UPON US.
Think about it. We have no problem with change that WE INITIATE ourselves. But when we feel forced or manipulated to change, then we resist WITH ALL OUR MIGHT.
Your spouse may not be willing to change for the sake of your marriage right now, but that's not because your spouse doesn't want a great marriage. Everyone wants a great marriage. It's because if they're going to change, they want the change to be THEIR IDEA!!!!!!
I promise you, your spouse will decide to change when they're ready to change and not one second before. And the more you push them, urge them, nudge them, ask them, scream at them, or beg them, the LESS LIKELY they are to change. I know it's hard to wait, but you have to let it come from them.
It's possible someone could INSPIRE your spouse to change, but the person LEAST LIKELY to be the inspiration is YOU. It's sad but true. A complete stranger is more likely to get through to your spouse than you are. A chance experience or encounter is more likely to shake up your spouse than anything YOU could do.
Mary Ellen (name changed) came to me for marriage coaching. She knew she had to make changes and came to our sessions with a genuine interest to improve her marriage. She wanted Tom (her husband) to be part of the process, but he wasn't willing to join her. She had been asking him to go with her to get help for over a year. But Tom consistently refused.
I met with Mary Ellen twice and convinced her to back-off Tom and just let him be for a while. I counseled her to make some changes that created a more positive energy in their relationship. When the time was right, I suggested that Mary Ellen ask Tom is he would be willing to speak with ME for 10 minutes. Mary Ellen's timing was good. Tom agreed.
Within 7 minutes of my conversation with Tom he agreed to join Mary Ellen in the marriage coaching sessions.
Why was I able to get Tom to agree to something in 7 minutes that Mary Ellen couldn't get him to do in over a year? It's true I know how to handle these situations, but there were 2 other important factors:
1. For the first time in over a year, Mary Ellen backed-off far enough so that Tom had the space to make his own choice.
2. The inspiration came from someone other than his wife.
Your effort to change your spouse is probably COUNTERproductive. The chances are good that you're "in the way." You need to get out of the way and create the space for your spouse to CHOOSE to change. That's the only way it'll ever happen.
I can't tell you how times a spouse will say to me that their husband/wife changed for a few days, but then returned to their old ways. That's because they never really decided to change. They were pressured. They were manipulated. And so it didn't stick.
If you tell your spouse what to do; it's a challenge. If THEY decide to do it; it's a great idea. YOU HAVE TO LET IT COME FROM THEM. That's the only way it'll make a difference long term in your marriage.
Now you're probably thinking, "Makes sense, but isn't there anything I can do to encourage my spouse's choice?" YES there is! YOU CAN BE AN INSPIRING EXAMPLE and let your spouse see how the choices YOU'RE making impact how YOU feel about yourself and your marriage.
Resist the urge to believe that your marriage won't change until your spouse "gets with the program"! The love YOU feel is much more a result of what YOU DO for your marriage than what your spouse does for it.
We tend to think that the love in our marriage is in our spouse's hands. But it's not. Love is a verb. And if we do it...if we love...then we feel love. THE CHOICE IS OURS.
Consider the love you feel for your children. Is it because of everything they do for you? Is it because they're such angels? Of course not. The love you feel for your children is a result of what YOU DO FOR THEM. The love you feel in your marriage is a result of what YOU DO too.
Furthermore, there's no better way to inspire your spouse to make the choice to change than to make that choice yourself.
It happens quite often that one spouse will register for the Marriage Fitness Tele-Boot CampTM in the "Lone Ranger" track and then half way through the program they will switch to the "Duo" track which is designed for couples participating TOGETHER. What caused their spouse to change their mind? Simple. 2 things. First, they learned to create a space in their relationship for their spouse to make a choice to change. Second, they showed their spouse, through their EXAMPLE, how to make that choice and that impact it could have on their marriage.
Very often one spouse will come to me to stop a divorce and ask if it makes sense for them to be coached alone. The answer is ABSOLUTELY yes! One spouse can make more than a 50% difference in a marriage. And that difference is often exactly what will get the other spouse to open up to marriage coaching too.
So, bottom line-as Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see..." It's YOU changing that has the greatest impact on YOUR EXPERIENCE of your marriage AND it's YOU changing that is the single most important thing you can do to motivate your spouse to change. So get off your spouse's back and be the change you wish to see and watch how much better YOU feel and watch how quickly your spouse will come around.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness
Posted 7/14/09 at 10:56 AM | Mort Fertel
Posted 7/7/09 at 11:27 AM | Mort Fertel
Do You Feel Like A Grape?
By: Mort Fertel
Have you ever been to a winery?
Can you imagine what it would be like to be one
of those grapes? Really...play along with me here
for a moment.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be
plucked, pushed, crushed, pressed, skinned, and
fermented? OUCH! The pain! What's the point of it
all? FULL POST