Josh and I had the privilege this weekend of participating in the second annual Marriage Adventures retreat.
You may remember my review of Cheap Love by professor friends Carrie and Erv Starr. Well, they rewrote the book with the title Marriage Adventures, adding lots of information and tips for a splendid married life in every aspect of a relationship–not just finances. This year and last, they held a small marriage retreat on their property, bringing to life a lot of concepts inspired by the new book.
We joined four other couples (who we hope to count among our new friends beyond this weekend) to learn and talk about communication, finances, and intimacy in our marriages. There was home-roasted coffee, date ideas, tools for avoiding unnecessary arguments, and more shameless sex talk than I can ever remember being a part of . . . It was awesome.
The one great tool that Carrie and Erv taught us about made Josh and I absolutely giddy with how well it worked. The Starr’s called it the Couple’s Dialogue. It’s this simple:
1) One spouse “has the floor” for 2-5 minutes. He talks, uninterrupted, about an issue in the relationship while the other spouse listens.
2) The second spouse mirrors back what she thinks she has heard. For example, “What I’m hearing you say is that you feel attacked when I confront you about financial problems.”
3) She validates what her spouse has expressed about his feelings and empathizes with him. “I understand why you would feel that way. If I were you, I would be frustrated in that situation.
Framing the issue in terms of “If I were you . . .” really helps Josh and I remember that we are not each other. Even if we don’t process situations in the same way, we can imagine what it would feel like to experience a situation through the other person’s shoes. We tried the Couple’s Dialogue technique with a topic that we had fought about in the past, and we were amazed at how talking in this way kept the hostility out of the disagreement. We couldn’t believe we had never tried anything like this before!
Just a few more things to carry with us on our own marriage adventure.