Confession: How Not to Ruin your Relationship
Here’s one way not to ruin your relationship.
This one piece of valuable advice is about how not to ruin your relationship. I have a confession to make. I almost ruined my relationship with my husband, Sam. Not because I wasn’t sure if I loved him anymore. It was because of my habit to make everything about me.
Let me explain further…
When he was busy with a project at work, I had thoughts like, “He must not care about me anymore.”
When he seemed distant, I would say to myself, “He’s barely paid attention to me all day. How dare he!?”
When he forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, I’d think, “What does he think? I’m supposed to do everything?”
Something tells me you can relate…
How to Ruin Your Relationship: Self-Centeredness
My worst habit that tended to sabotage our love was my own tendency to think from a self-centered universe. And most of my paranoia was a re-creation of the traumas I had experienced as an unwanted little girl, growing up in an alcoholic family. If my husband was distant, I would think, He doesn’t care about me. Or I am invisible. Or, one of my self-sabotaging, gloom and doom favorites—I am just not attractive anymore. It was always about me.
Especially when my husband and I argued or misunderstood each other. But when I got my head out of my ego and noticed him—what was really going on with him—it was a very different story. He was really worried about money. Or struggling with getting older or afraid he was losing his edge. Or worrying about business challenges. It was actually about HIM! I was shocked.
Luckily I now catch myself when I start to go down the tunnel of making things about me, I catch myself. But in the early days of our marriage, we struggled A LOT!
What really got me out of my little “Me Box” and turned things around for us was learning to listen without judgment. In fact, there’s one exercise that helped us more than anything else. In fact, I’ve seen hellish marriages come back from the brink of disaster using only this listening exercise.
The 10-Minute Miracle Session
When we started to drift apart early in our marriage, Sam and I committed to schedule and practice a formal 10-Minute Miracle Session with each other every other day. In these sessions, one of us talked freely about whatever came to mind while the other simply listened with full attention. The listener did not speak. No matter what. Then it was the listener’s turn to speak. We used a clock and honored a full ten-minute session for each of us. Anything that was said in that time was sacred and could not be brought up during an argument.
After more than twenty-five years together, Sam and I still regularly use these 10-Minute Miracle Sessions to get to know each other all over again. The practice has kept our relationship fresh, alive, and healthy.
The Rules of the 10-minute Miracle Session
If you and your partner have been trying to ruin your relationship with coldness or fighting, I highly recommend you try to incorporate this practice into your daily lives. If you’re in a new relationship, this will also help build a stronger foundation.
Here are the rules that make this work in a powerful way:
- One person gets to talk, free associate, or say whatever is on his or her mind while the other simply listens with complete and full attention.
- The listener does not speak. The listener acts like a good therapist, who is present and listening from a nonjudgmental state.
- If the talker has a silent period, she or he should just say, “Nothing is coming to mind.” Both of you then sit in silence until any other thought comes up—and, believe me, it will.
- No matter what, use a clock or stopwatch and honor the full ten-minute session—as if you were paying a therapist for his or her time.
- At first it’s best to avoid complaining about the relationship, itself, in these sessions. Instead, listen to what’s on your partner’s mind in order to really get to know each other.
Avoid Cross-talk and Debate
- After the two of you get used to having the listening sessions, you can try adding comments about the relationship or your partner. At that point, any complaint about the partner should be turned into a need and not an accusation, and phrased in the third person. This makes it less threatening. For example, you might say, “I feel sad because my husband/boyfriend works a lot, and I really need him to tell me he loves me.” Or, “I would love to make love more often with my wife—it makes me feel so close to her.”
- When the speaker’s time is over, switch roles and let the person who’s been listening have his or her ten minutes to talk. Do not use this time to comment on your partner’s ten minutes and turn this opportunity into a debate. That will also ruin your relationship.
- This time is not for a “right or wrong” session. It is a special time designed to allow partners to share their thoughts and feelings. As they say in 12-step programs: Avoid cross-talk. Cross-talk will kill the miracle.
The Bottom-Line Rule:
Anything that a partner says during the Miracle Session is sacred. Don’t bring it up during an argument. Whether you’re seriously dating and have hit a down tick, or you’ve been married for twenty years and it’s going down the tubes, practice the Miracle Sessions. That is, if you don’t want to ruin your relationship by being disconnected from each other. As I said earlier, I’ve used this in my own personal lab—my marriage—and it has allowed my husband and me to weather family upsets, disappointments, setbacks, losses, and other assorted challenges that are an inevitable part of living a life together. If your partner doesn’t want to reciprocate yet, you can start by quietly doing the deep listening. For more articles on how healthy couples communicate go to the Happy Couple Blog page.