What are you fighting for?

Dr. Heitler’s Psychology Today post just came out and has almost immediately been listed as an “essential read.” Her topic is protest. She starts off talking about the political battles being fought around the world right now, especially the “Arab Spring” and the Occupy Wall Street protests. She then focuses down on our own personal battles. We end up much happier, she notes, when we are able to fight for something instead of just against something.

The power of positivity is one of my favorite subjects. There’s something to be said for not being too optimistic or naive. At the same time, more and more scientific studies come out that show being negative and anxious increases your chances of everything from headaches to heart attacks. If you believe bad things happen to you, they often do. If you believe good things happen to you, they often will.

I think scholars and leaders throughout history have touched on this subject. The Christian teachings of Jesus famously ask followers to always hold hope, faith, and love in their hearts…and so do teachings of Islam, Buddhism and Judaism and Hinduism. I can’t think of any belief system whose main tenants are for followers to be constantly fearful, pessimistic, and morose (this may occur among some sects but…well, I don’t want to get into that argument). The main message from all spheres of science and faith is that to attain happiness you must first embrace a positive mindset.

So back to protests. In her article, Dr. Heitler talks about the difference between today’s protests and the protests of the 60s she remembers. The 60s protests and the era in general had an atmosphere of joy and optimism. The protesters weren’t just against war or racism, they stood for peace, equality, and free expression. Much of todays politics and protest, in contrast, is about demonstrating against something and expressing shame, anger, guilt, and outrage. While strong negative emotions can be important motivators, it’s equally essential to have something good and tangible you are working towards. As Dr. Heitler asks, if you don’t have an identifiable goal, how are you going to get there?

It’s the same with your marriage problems as it is with a political idea. It’s much easier to find points of agreement when you talk about the things you like instead of focusing on what you don’t want or don’t like about the other person’s position. Chances are both of you have similar desires, and by being flexible you can find overlapping solutions to reach your goals. Getting stuck on what you don’t want is like pushing, while talking about what you would like is pulling. You can push against each other all you want, or you can band together to pull towards your common goals. This ends in mutually satisfying solutions.

Dr. Heitler’s article has made me think a lot about how the skills we teach in relationship counseling are incredibly important in all our interactions with fellow humans (for more see this post on PO2 in the workplace). I’d be interested to hear what you think.

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What should I do if my spouse is spying on me?

Phone hacking has been all over the news lately due to Rupert Murdoch’s “News of the World” scandal. While the public is quick to condemn the newspaper’s actions, reading other’s personal information is something that can seem morally blurry when it comes to your spouse. Aren’t you supposed to share everything? This is the topic brought up by the writers over at Jezebel.com on a controversy surrounding a response in the popular advice column “Ask Amy.” Here is the question that was sent to the column, edited for brevity:

My husband very strongly dislikes my best friend. He feels that she is a “bad influence” on me, as she is still dating and hasn’t settled down in her late 20s, goes to a gym that offers “pole fitness” classes, and had an abortion a year ago.

He is always angry when I am talking to her on the phone and has gone so far as to hack into my e-mail account and read our e-mails to one another.

Heaven forbid the e-mail contain a reference to an acquaintance of ours we find attractive or a (justified or not) complaint about a habit of his.

Amy Dickinson published this reply:

 Your husband is being unreasonable. But then, so are you.

The problem here is that you are putting your friendship with your girlfriend in the middle of your relationship with your husband. You also need to learn how to dole out information like a grown-up. [She shouldn’t have told her husband about the friend’s abortion or told her friend about her marriage complaints.]

You three need a do-over. You should be able to chat privately with your friend, but you should also welcome your husband into the circle from time to time. And he needs to grow up, too.

Amy is right to point out that there are always things that both parties (wife and husband) can do to solve marriage problems. At the same time, as Jezebel quickly notes, Amy completely misses the disturbing center of the asker’s situation: the controlling, manipulative and angry behavior of the husband. The Jezebel writer hits the issue right on with this quote: “when you get married… you don’t surrender your right to have private conversations with your friends…You don’t surrender your right to privacy or to correspond with people without worrying about being monitored. This is marriage- a lifelong partnership of love, respect, and trust.”

In fact, controlling or isolating behavior is among our top 5 reasons for divorce. If your partner habitually restricts your social life, cuts you off from loved ones, and insists that you only spend time doing his/her pre-approved activities, please, talk to someone about this. How to deal with jealousy and other problems can be learned with counseling, while controlling behavior is a sign of a serious and potentially dangerous situation in your marriage that requires immediate action and perhaps separation.

It is generally a bad sign if you feel that you need to check  your spouse’s email or cell phone without permission.  It may be a sign that you’re being too controlling.  Almost always, it’s a sign that something is seriously awry in the kind of healthy open communication, trustworthy behaviors, and loving consideration that are the foundations of healthy marriages.

At the same time, it’s also a bad sign if there’s anything in your “private” communications that you wouldn’t be 100% proud to share with your spouse.  Like Amy says, airing your husband’s dirty laundry to the girls isn’t fair–it’s a breach of the trust you share by having such intimately connected lives. Hey, would you want him joking about your love-handles to the guys?  

So, on the one hand foster independence in you marriage and stand up for your independence.  And at the same time, be very careful how you use that independence!
What do you think, dear readers? Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of a time when it would be ok to check your spouse’s email?
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Relationship Q&A: Hiding Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is a tough topic.  While it might be tempting to try and keep it from your spouse,  as an adult, it’s important to come clean.

No one wants to incur their spouse’s anger, at the same time remind yourself that it to shall pass.  Still, you must be thoughtful about how and when you tell you husband.  Read Dr. Heitler’s suggestions.

source: http://www.lhj.com/relationships/marriage/challenges/relationship-qa-hiding-credit-card-debt/

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