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Family Meetings for Couples

If you are interested in having a very happy, successful, and fulfilling relationship with your partner then family meetings are your paths to success. A once a week Family Meeting can be the "preventive maintenance" for a healthy, happy, fulfilling relationship.

The purpose and goal of Family Meetings is to connect emotionally on an intimate level and to "check the temperature" of the relationship for both parties on a regular basis. If one or both of you does not feel connected or on target with the relationship then the Family Meetings can provide the arena that will allow you to talk things through and to be heard. The structure of the meeting allows the couple to listen to each other for understanding, and then to validate one another so the relationship can get back on track. A family meeting gives each person the opportunity to be heard and to feel understood by the other. The Value of Family Meetings with Structure is to provide emotional safety. Emotional safety is critical for people that want to have great communication in their relationships. Without emotional safety the relationship will erode and will self-destruct over time. The foundation will crumble and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. Regular Family Meetings can and will prevent this erosion. These meetings will give your relationship the solid foundation needed for creating and maintaining a very happy and fulfilling relationship.

To have a great relationship, both parties must be able to express their beliefs, concerns, and preferences clearly, without damaging the relationship in the process. Unless you feel emotionally safe, you're not likely to share important thoughts or feelings with your partner. People may respond defensively if not feeling safe. Withdrawal is one manifestation. Angry defensiveness is another.

Structure provides for greater safety. Structure means agreed upon ground rules for safely handling conversations that are more difficult to deal with. Structure is especially helpful for keeping the negatives of a relationship from damaging the positives. For a relationship to grow through conflict, instead of being damaged by it, it's necessary to use agreed-upon strategies and techniques for keeping conversations safe and under control. It doesn't mean that conversations will always be pleasant, but that you will work at keeping escalation, invalidation, withdrawal and negative interpretations from surfacing. With adequate structure, you can manage conflict with less chance of damage to your relationships.

Guidelines for effective family meetings:

  1. Have one a week. Make this a priority.
  2. Schedule a time to meet when and where there will be no interruptions. (Turn the ringer off the phone or take it off the hook. Don’t have anything playing in the background – no TV, radio, or the like).
  3. Sit comfortably where you can face each other and yet not be directly across from each other. For example you could sit on a couch together and adjust your bodies where you are seated toward each other with some space to stretch out your legs.
  4. Use the structured Speaker-Listener Technique (see the guidelines below) for at least the first 3-months of family meetings and until it becomes a natural part of sharing and listening to one another.
  5. Set a time limit. When you first begin to have family meetings it may help to set a time limit. For example have a 15-minute to a 30-minute family meeting for the first 8 weeks or so until each partner becomes more comfortable with the process.
  6. Get to the point and discuss one topic at a time.
  7. Use a NAME Statement when you are the Speaker. (See below.)

The Speaker-Listener Technique offers couples an alternative...  

an alternative way to talk when issues are hot or sensitive, or when they are likely to get that way. It is important to ban problem solution attempts and have good discussions first! Agreed-upon rules for handling conflict can greatly facilitate your ability as a couple to handle conflict in a manner that protects intimacy and promotes growth in your relationship. Any conversation in which you want to enhance clarity and safety can benefit from this technique. When it comes to handling sensitive issues concerning money, sex, or in-laws for example, having the safety net that such a technique provides can be a real comfort.

The advantages of using the Speaker-Listener Technique:

1.  It counteracts the destructive styles of communication -- The WINE signs -- Withdrawal, Invalidation, Negative interpretation and Escalation.
2. It allows a couple to use structure to make it safe to communicate openly and clearly.
3.  When couples regularly use rules and techniques for dealing with the issues in their relationships, they develop an increased sense of confidence.
4.  Your communication is protected against destructive patterns, making possible clear and safe communication that can bring you closer together.

"RULES FOR THE SPEAKER:

  1. Speak for yourself. Use "I" statements and talk about your feelings.
  2. Don't go on and on. To help the Listener keep you statements brief and to the point.
  3. Stop and let the Listener paraphrase. Allow the Listener to say in their own words what they think they've heard. If the paraphrase was not quite accurate, politely restate what was not heard the way it was intended to be heard. Your goal is to help the Listener hear and understand your point of view.

RULES FOR THE LISTENER:

  1. Paraphrase what you hear. Briefly repeat back what you heard the Speaker say using your own words if you like and make sure that you understand what was said.
  2. Focus on the Speaker's message. Don't rebut. In the Listener's role, you may not offer your opinion or thoughts. Wait until you are the Speaker to make your response. As the Listener, your job is to speak only in the service of understanding your partner.
  3. Use the LDD Method – Listen, Don’t Defend

RULES FOR BOTH:

  1. The Speaker has the floor.
  2. Speaker keeps the floor while Listener paraphrases.
  3. Share the floor
  4. Use the LDD Method – Listen, Don’t Defend"

‚Äč‚ÄčThese speaker rules are from pages 64 and 66 in the book, Fighting for your marriage: Positive steps for preventing divorce and preserving a lasting love  by authors Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg.  We highly recommend that you acquire the book, read it and use it to help build your relationship. 

Remember this: We all want and need to be understood and appreciated by the people we love. We stay with partners that make us feel good about ourselves when we are around them. Be wise and use the structured Family Meetings to connect on a more intimate level and to communicate openly and honestly on a regular basis so you can create and maintain a healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationship. 

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