A newlywed reflects on lessons learned in a marriage education class, wondering if the tips he picked up could have saved his parents’ marriage, his sister’s, and what it means for his own relationship.
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“With each marriage tip I picked up, I immediately thought of my parents. The two broke up in an ugly divorce 4 years ago. While it was the last thing my mother ever wanted, my father was confident he needed to be single, blaming any unreasonable actions on ‘a mid-life crisis.’ I can’t stop myself from asking, What if they had tried working through their marriage problems? What if dad relayed his true feelings and desires? What if mom had Emptied her own Emotional Jug? Perhaps if I had known about the life-changing courses, I could’ve sent my folks. It may have made a crucial difference in the lives of my immediate family. At least now I am aware of PAIRS’ contributions. I am determined to get my currently-separated sister and her husband involved in PAIRS curriculum. If not for her sake, I’ll do it for the benefit of my two little nephews.”
By Todd McFliker
Sure, I had done my reading about tricks to maintaining a successful relationship. But participating in a PAIRS Essentials course made a world of difference in my comprehension of high-quality communication skills. Like a wise mentor once explained to me, “A person can’t learn to swim from studying a manual.”
Once I jumped into the course headfirst, I was able to express my deepest thoughts with a partner. Using good “Talking Tips,” I opened up about my hopes, as well as my inner-most fears regarding my wife, my mother, and my physical health. I used specific details, such as honing my wife’s listening skills and being too weak to quit smoking. Nothing that I said was hurtful. Nor was it right or wrong. It was simply honest. I now realize that unloading such feelings lifted heavy burdens that I had been carrying around.
At the same time, I got to practice some of the essential skills of being a generous listener. Maintaining eye-contact, I followed her every spoken word without interruptions of any kind. I nodded with assurance. Learning to not react defensively, I carefully paused before replying verbally. Doing so allowed for her message to fully sink in before I reacted or began a new conversation.
It felt fabulous to be a good listener. With each tear drop, I could see and feel how frustrated she had grown from her daily life. Being a school teacher during the day, it is difficult for her to practice her talking skills with an equal. Watching my partner unload, I realized that she must become a different person at home than from work.
The instructor taught the class about the “Love Bank.” Folks in the room now know how important regular deposits are for a happy relationship. I have to remember to make positive statements, like “Thank you for dinner” and “You look gorgeous tonight.” I’ll remember to help out with chores around the house. It’s no secret that both the Mrs. and I feel cared about when either one of us receives a back-scratch, breakfast in bed, or a text message sending love. Also, I will continue to give gifts of appreciation, whether it’s a fruit smoothie, a dozen roses or a steak dinner. Regardless of my mood, I will always kiss her goodnight. Finally, my wife and I will designate specific time together every week, like “Saturday morning dog-park” and our “naked movie Sunday” ritual.
I realized that I am guilty of using dirty tactics in my fights. Too often I make sarcastic remarks, and I make silly threats. I will stop making assumptions, besides assuming the best of my partner. I will never laugh at her feelings, no matter how different our perspectives. For example, I have to stop quoting Dice and Eddie Murphy at her expense when she takes to time to cook a nice meal.
Seth Eisenberg, President of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education, says I’m far from alone. “PAIRS classes deliver practical tools to help couples create harmony and experience deeper levels of intimacy and love,” he says. “Most of what leads to marital and family breakdown is preventable through skills training.”
After just hours in the PAIRS class, I have to agree. The lessons I discovered, including the importance of emptying my Emotional Jug without distractions, can be life-changing. I now know I have to specify time to clarify what’s causing me to feel angry, sad, scared and glad. I must open up about my fears, regardless of their sizes. Spending at least 20 minutes emptying my Emotional Jug, I share what’s in my gut, not my head. Being a great listener, my wife doesn’t form any judgments, or engage in a discussion. Rather, she just listens.
With each marriage tip I picked up, I immediately thought of my parents. The two broke up in an ugly divorce 4 years ago. While it was the last thing my mother ever wanted, my father was confident he needed to be single, blaming any unreasonable actions on “a mid-life crisis.” I can’t stop myself from asking, What if they had tried working through their marriage problems? What if dad relayed his true feelings and desires? What if mom had Emptied her own Emotional Jug? Perhaps if I had known about the life-changing courses, I could’ve sent my folks. It may have made a crucial difference in the lives of my immediate family. At least now I am aware of PAIRS’ contributions. I am determined to get my currently-separated sister and her husband involved in PAIRS curriculum. If not for her sake, I’ll do it for the benefit of my two little nephews.
The useful PAIRS curriculum taught in the classroom will be an enormous help in my life. I will practice the skills to effectively relay messages to the people I most cherish. I will also put the practical methods of listening to their messages to use. My wife and I are already anxious for what new information and skills we’ll pick up next weekend. Despite my years of college study in communication, the few hours I spent learning PAIRS valuable curriculum has already benefited the lives of those I love the most.