As I’ve mentioned before I’m slowly reading ScreamFree Marriage by Hal and Jenny Runkle. Well I’ve finally finished part one of the book and only have one slight criticism that I won’t share until I’ve finished the book. What I read last night was interesting and Paul Byerly touched on it in his blog post More Thinking, Less Reacting over on The Generous Husband.
The basic premise of what I read last night is that we are responsible for the marriage that we have. We have helped create it. We are responsible for forcing parts and we are responsible for allowing parts. Each of us has to take responsibility for what we have forced and what we have allowed and the results of those decisions. If you do not like what you have created, then you should reevaluate what your role is and was in what you created and decide what you really want.
The Runkle’s example was their Sunday morning routine when Hal wasn’t pulling his weight. Jenny tried different tactics, manipulations, to get him to help more, get ready faster, etc. but none of that worked. Eventually she applied some of what Hal was discussing with her at nights after his classes to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. She asked herself an important question, What do I really want long term from this situation? The answer wasn’t help with the kids or to leave on time but a husband who wants to be responsible, help with the kids and be on time. No amount of manipulation was going to get that from him. According to Hal he was in fact most of the time a responsible, help with the kids and be on time type of guy. He did his share of the house work etc. but on Sunday mornings they did their dance of him being slow, lazy and unhelpful and she did her best to manipulate him into being responsible, helpful and on time. I won’t ruin it for you but basically what she ended up doing was revealing what she really wanted from him in a way that also had him reaping the natural consequences for his irresponsible behavior.
The steps to a ScreamFree marriage as described by the Runkles is 1. Calm Down 2. Grow Up 3. Grow Closer 4. Repeat. Calming down is controlling your reactivity. Growing up is, to use Paul Byerly’s term, ‘more thinking.’ It’s evaluating yourself and how you contribute, by force or by passivity, to the situation, then deciding what you really want. Get closer is presenting your true desire to your spouse. It’s the get closer part where we often drop the ball because of our own insecurities and desire to be accepted. That dance we do where we want to show personal integrity by revealing our true self but aren’t willing to take the risk of having our true self rejected by our spouse. As I’ve said before, when you present your true self to your spouse what they choose to do with that says more about them and their ability to handle more intimacy than it does about you or what you presenting to them. If they don’t accept it 4. Repeat.
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