Wednesday, January 31, 2007

AOL Health: It's All In My Head As I Read This Load

Women aren't women anymore. We are trivialized as little girls with too many issues that matter not in life and don't really exist. This is on AOL Health today:

Want a Happy Marriage? Be Nice, Don't Nitpick
True Compatibility Doesn't Exist, so Shrug off Little Conflicts
By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Feature Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

Thermostat settings. Dirty socks. Toothpaste caps. Our little habits make our spouses crazy. But no two people are ever truly compatible, so quit nitpicking each other, relationship experts advise. Save the battles for the big issues -- and you'll have a happy marriage.

Secrets of a Happy Marriage

Long-lasting, happy marriages have more than great communication, Boon says. "Dr. Gottman brings up something no one ever talks about -- that irreconcilable differences are normal, that you just have to come to terms with them, not try to resolve the unresolvable. On some level, that should have been obvious, but it hasn't been," she tells WebMD.

(We're not really fighting about those things--this is about control. Irreconcilable differences...I haven't heard that term in ages--maybe since the '80s. Which irreconcilable differences do they mean? I think we're touching on how different men and women are. Sexism is back and we call these new "irreconcilable differences" "normal". Let's read on:)

Most marriage therapists focus on "active listening," which involves paraphrasing, validating, affirming your spouse's feedback, says Boon. "That's all well and good and may help you get through some conflicts in a less destructive way. But, as Dr. Gottman puts it, 'you're asking people to do Olympic-style gymnastics when they can hardly crawl.' Many people will fail at those techniques. Research indicates that most people are dissatisfied with the outcome of marital therapy, that the problems come back."

In happy marriages, Boon points out, couples don't do any of that!

(Psychotherapy is out. All that conflict resolution stuff is old. Listening is gauche. I wonder what's in! It sounds like men aren't willing to have to work that hard anymore to keep us happy, and they shouldn't have to.)

Instead, you must be nice to your partner, research shows. Make small gestures, but make them often. "The little things matter," says Boon. "What a happy marriage is based on is deep friendship, knowing each other well, having mutual respect, knowing when it makes sense to try to work out an issue, when it is not solvable. Many kinds of issues simply aren't solvable."

(Women!! Read: He's not going to change and that's NORMAL. So, he shouldn't have to or WANT to change to make you happy, and you should learn to shut up and put up. Little things that REALLY matter are how you put up! If you can't say something nice...)

Learn how to identify issues that must be resolved, that can be "fruitfully discussed," she notes. "Learn to live with the rest. Just put up with it. All you do is waste your breath and get angry over these things that can't be changed. You're better off not trying to change them. Work around them. Commit to staying together, even though this is something you don't like."

(I agree arguing over toothpaste isn't where it's at, but who decides which conflicts are just these irreconcilable differences, and who in the relationship decides which conflicts are little now? Don't try to change them--work around them--meaning, how?)

A long-lasting, happy marriage is about knowing your partner, being supportive, and being nice. Research shows that, "for every one negative thing you do, there must be five positive things that balance it out," Boon tells WebMD. "Make sure to balance the negatives with positives. Your marriage has to be heavily in favor of the positives."

(By being happy no matter what. Say and do something nice and the issue (which is a non-issue from the start) no longer exists. To voice an issue or conflict is now seen as "negative", so stay positive (meaning say something nice or SHUT UP and keep doing those nice things like it's your duty.))

While it sounds easy -- and while it can be easy -- this commitment to being nice is no small matter, Boon says. "You have to do nice things often. But it's harder to be nice when the heat is on, when you're really angry, or when something has happened for the 15th time. Nevertheless, the balance must be heavily, heavily stacked in the positive, to have a happy marriage."

(You mean, shutting up is NOT easy, like, it sends women to the booby hatch?? I think our mothers and grandmothers can tell us all about those years, and about those sleeping pills and shock therapy...)

Also, couples must stay in touch with their special ways of repairing the relationship, Boon says. "It can be humor; it can be whatever helps diffuse the escalating heat. In happy marriages, couples naturally do this. They deflect the anger, and get back on an even keel."

(Just learn to laugh about it (and yourself for being silly for bringing up little things that don't matter). Just deal, because He's Not Going To Change For You and That's Normal--besides, what you're nagging about is NOT NICE. He is being perfectly nice by simply being himself, of course.)

Page: 2
Next: A Happy Marriage Means Respecting Spouse

It's true, research has shown that couples in satisfying, happy marriages have more positive emotions in their interactions -- including discussions of problems, says Shae Graham Kosch, PhD, director of the behavioral medicine program in community health and family at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

Kosch has been married (to the same man) for 32 years. She has counseled unhappy couples just as long.

(They know what they're talking about. They're experts at taking crap in their own lives.)

"Most marital conflicts don't ever get resolved," she tells WebMD. "There are always issues around in-laws, children. Solving the problems doesn't really matter. What's crucial is keeping things positive. You have to accept the other person's perspective, have an appropriate discussion without getting critical or blaming."

(See? Straight from the horses mouth: solving the problems doesn't matter. You're powerless and it's really all your fault. Read on...)

Other tips from Kosch: Men in good relationships don't react emotionally during conflicts. Men in bad relationships are more likely to withdraw from the discussion. They might actually leave the room, look at the ceiling, or tune out the conversation.

(And women are CAUSING their behavior by not dealing with them as they are and being happy about it. Don't blame the men, though. We hear it on Disney all the time that it's the woman's fault if he runs away!)

Wives in negative relationships also get entrenched in their particular viewpoint and ultimately feel greater anger and contempt.

(WE also CAUSE ourselves problems. Being entrenched in our own viewpoint, we are too UNWILLING to see things his way (and THAT'S what needs to be changed here). Desiring conflict resolution--or even seeing a conflict where there never was any--causes anger because non-issues never get resolved. So the moral of the story is, don't bring stuff up. Be a good girl and a good marriage will happen to you--wait--doesn't that make women all powerful over the destiny of their marriages? We're not subhuman--we're most powerful when we're silent and nice and committed to being happy, goddamnit!)

Your attitude toward your spouse plays out over the long haul, she adds. "Couples that have good marriages retain their mutual respect and understanding of each other -- even during discussions of their differences -- will stay together much longer."

(It's nice to know that our newfound ability to brush everything under the rug by calling them idiosyncrasies can impress our masters well and help please them longer.)

The Myers-Briggs personality test has helped many couples tune into their own psyches -- whether they're a thinking or feeling type, decisive or perceiving, or flexible. Those insights into themselves help their relationships. "It's a nonjudgmental measurement. It doesn't say that anyone is too rational or overly emotional. We all have these characteristics; in some people they are more dominant."

(Enter Myers-Briggs! Psychotherapy is out, Metaphysics and Jung are in!! Let's not tell the world about how Jung had his own sexist views on what defined the perfected male and female psyches in his day and age (Can you guess? Age of Reason, of course!! LOL!!). It isn't NATURAL for a woman to be an overbearing Thinking type--did you know that? That means she's being a man and that isn't nice at all! Leave thinking to men because it's what men do, not girls.)

Most importantly, for a happy marriage, be committed to seeing your partner's perspective, she tells WebMD. "Have a willingness to understand, make changes in yourself, and find some method to get out of negative communication patterns -- negativity that just escalates. Sometimes that couple just can't move forward. They develop what I call 'manure-colored glasses.'"

((Edited to say) What is this "negativity that just escalates"? Could that ever translate to meaning "no cause or responsibility for domestic violence"? Is this "let him win a debate (have a willingness (a feminine trait according to the enlightened) to yield or get beaten up" and law of attraction says it's your fault, not his?)

One trick that works: Discussing conflicts while talking on the phone, rather than face to face. "That removes all nonverbal cues. She won't see him looking at the ceiling; he won't see her rolling her eyes. It keeps things more positive."

(Ignorance is bliss!)

Page: 3 Next: Step by Step to a Happy Marriage

"Conflict is common, and a healthy dose of conflict is OK," says Terri Orbuch, PhD, a research scientist with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She's also a family therapist and the "Love Doctor" on a Detroit radio station.

(Normal is the new common. Conflict is common and NORMAL. The conflicts you imagine as being real or mattering to anyone else aren't bad for you--they're HEALTHY because they're normal. If you feel bad about these little no-things, you need to relax and forget about them! No one cares!)

In her research, Orbuch has studied one group of couples for the past 16 years. "How you deal with it, that's what matters in a happy marriage," she tells WebMD. "You have to fight fair. Stay calm. You cannot be at problem-solving best when you're angry. Come back to the situation when you're not, and you can have a whole new perspective."

(This is why you need Myers-Briggs: most women are FEELING types. So that's the problem--we're not like men who THINK. If you're a thinking woman, you need to feel more to be more balanced (like a woman *should* be according to experts). But if you get emotional, men shouldn't have to listen to you. In fact, feelings have no part in the natural logic that says you're going to lose in a fight if he refuses to take you seriously. Might is right. Being angry won't get you anywhere because you're the weaker sex (and there's nothing wrong with that kind of "knowledge" at all...said the serpent).)

Also, pick your battles. "You can't have a conflict over everything. We call it 'kitchen sinking' -- bringing up things that happened five, 10 years ago," says Orbuch.

(If it never got resolved, it's because it DOESN'T MATTER. Get over it so you can be AOL Healthy!)

For a happy marriage, here's how to deal with conflict:

Bring it up in a nonthreatening way. "Be nice. No name calling," she advises. Bring up specific issues or behaviors, rather than personality qualities. In a happy marriage, there's no attacking the person. "Bring up the specific time, how you felt about it, then people can change the behavior," Orbuch tells WebMD. "Otherwise, they don't know what to do about it, they're boxed in." Use "I" statements. Instead of "you're a very messy person' say 'I'm really bothered when you put clothes on the floor." Such statements show how you feel about a specific behavior, and that's important in a happy marriage, she says.
Try to stay calm. Studies show that the calmer you are, the more you will be taken seriously, she says. "Take a breath, count to 10, breathe. Try to be nonthreatening." Take a break. "If you're going back and forth, if you find blood pressure going up, take minutes or seconds," she says. "Don't take hours. If you take too long, it festers in the other person, they've had time analyze it; you're dismissing their feelings opinions, dismissing them." Don't bring it up at night. Choose the right time -- not when people are tired, hungry, when the kids are all around, when you've got a deadline at work. Those are not best times."

(Some good when's a good time?)

Consider your spouse's point of view, if you want a truly happy marriage. "I'm a true believer in this," says Orbuch. "Studies show that every single action has a different meaning depending on if you are male, female, your race, your background. That is important to remember in conflict resolution."

(How interesting...we're pointing out differences more and more now, aren't we? Let's stop listening to each other. Let's figure out our relationships by thinking about them in a new light. Try stereotyping people based on gender rather than by listening to the specific needs of the individual, because that would mean having to listen and work things out--that's old and ineffective. So let's timewarp about 50-150 years back. Just go with his point of view, not yours. "I'm just being a guy"...why isn't this good enough rationalization?)

Her research "has shown, time and time again, that conflict is not important, that how you manage conflict, how you handle it over the long haul, really is important to a happy marriage," Orbuch tells WebMD. "I'm a big believer in direct, meaningful communication -- but you have to choose the right time."

(So when is the right time? Of course, there IS no problem here. What is this problem I keep imagining? If it was really that important, it would have been dealt with a long time ago, but PLEASE--NOT NOW. And don't bring it up 5-10 years from now, either, because by then it wouldn't only not be nice, it wouldn't be fair).

Also, compromise is necessary in long-term relationships, she adds. "But each partner has to feel that it's reciprocal. One can't feel that they're making all the compromises." When one spouse makes all the compromises, it's uncomfortable for both -- not just the one giving in.

(We need to learn to yield to our men for OUR OWN happiness. It's not NATURAL for a woman not to yield. Can't you feel it? You would if you were a real natural woman.)

"You have to remember there are ebbs and flows in relationships," Orbuch says. "There will be times when you're making the compromises. But there will be other times when your partner is making them. As long as in the long-term things are reciprocal, that's what is important."

(Bottom line: Women must yield to men first (and drop it. LET IT GO if you want to be a good and nice person)! One day, he'll be nice in return. Have faith in your man no matter what. "There will be other times when he'll yield back"--it's karma, you see. As long as both genders yield to each other over the course of your many lifetimes, it doesn't matter what the real issues are because they're no such thing as reality anymore.)

Published Nov. 11, 2004.
Medically Updated May 30, 2006.

SOURCES: Susan Boon, PhD, social psychologist, University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Shae Graham Kosch, PhD, director, behavioral medicine program, Community Health and Family, University of Florida at Gainesville. Terri Orbuch, PhD, research scientist, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.