Hey guys, welcome back to the show! In the last episode, I said that I would have a guest on today to talk about people pleasing and resentment but she had to reschedule so tune in next week for that episode.
Today, we are going to talk about – how do you know when the work you’re doing in your marriage is working? Cause feelings aren’t facts, people. I don’t know about you, but my gage on whether things in my life are working rely on what time of the month it is. So feelings are definitely not facts.
Many times, I will hear from a client that she thought things were getting better – that the communication had improved, and she and her partner were making more time for each other – but then something happens. Some kind of blow-up fight or one of them goes back to an old behavior for a minute and she thinks all is lost.
This is catastrophizing, right? You get so scared to go back to how it was before that as soon as you see a sign that it MIGHT be going backwards you freak out and spiral – coming to the conclusion that there has been no progress, and this is how it’s always going to be. It’s a fear based conclusion. But fear is a feeling. And remember, feelings aren’t facts.
But in the world of psychology, we do have actual measuring sticks that allow us to look past the feeling of the day and gage how the marriage is going based on fact. So that’s what I want to educate you on today.
And by the way, this isn’t just for marriage. You can apply these measuring sticks to your parenting, your work, or any other area of your life that you are actively trying to improve. But this is a podcast about relationships so we will keep it to that.
Ok so there are three measuring sticks that we use when assessing whether the “symptoms” of the problem are improving, thereby giving evidence that the problem itself is improving.
The first one is frequency. How often the symptom arises. So for the rest of this episode, I will use the example of a partner who shuts down and gives the silent treatment as opposed to communicating. This partner could be you or your spouse, doesn’t matter. When trying to gage whether the communication is getting healthier or not, we are going to look at the symproms of the ineffective communication, this one being shutting down and giving the silent treatment.
So, you may have had the experience where one of you often does this – and by the way, if silent treatment is an issue in your marriage, regardless of whether its you or your spouse or both giving it, I have an early episode on that that people loved. It’s ep. 4 titled The Silent Treatment or The Silent Love Killer? I’ll link that in the show notes for you.
Ok so you may have had the experience where one or both of you has been working on not giving the silent treatment and it seems to be going well! The two of you are making an effort to sit through the hard conversations and be on the same team. Then one day, your partner completely shuts down and it feels all too familiar. Your brain yells at you saying, “see I told you it would never change. Here we go again!”
Or maybe you’re the one who shuts down because the tools you’ve been learning have only gotten you so far and you don’t quite yet have the tools to stay present with any marital topic. So now your brain says “see I told you you couldn’t do this, this is just how you are. This feels safe.”
These are thoughts that create the feeling of discouragement, disappointment, and sadness. But remember, feelings arent’ facts. So we look at the frequency. Measure it against before. If before you went to therapy or coaching or whatever help you’re getting you were shutting down in almost every conversation but this is the first time you’ve shut down all month, then this is huge progress, my friend!
There is a great book called The Gap and The Gain which talks about measuring yourself vs. where you’ve been as opposed to measuring yourself against where you want to be. It’s so important to look at the gain and not the gap. Psychology understands this and that’s why we have these three measuring sticks.
Ok so frequency was the first one – how often the symptoms arises. The next measuring stick is intensity. How intensely the symptom shows up. So, in keeping with the silent treatment example, maybe you’re still shutting down often but not as intensely. Maybe you’re walking away from difficult conversations but you’re not ignoring your partner afterwards. Or maybe you engage in a difficult conversation but can only handle a couple minutes before you shut down.
It would be easy for you to beat yourself up and say that you’re not making any progress. But actually, you are. Because the intensity of the symptom has lessened. This is actual measurable progress.
A different example would be if you’re working on asking your partner for help as opposed to just quietly resenting them for not helping. An improvement in intensity might look like asking them for help but maybe not as kindly as you would have liked. Or maybe still with some resentment. The point is its progress. And progress begets progress.
Ok and the last measuring stick is longevity. How long does the symptom last? So if we go back to the silent treatment example, maybe you used to shut down and give your partner the silent treatment for days! This unfortunately is not so uncommon. And maybe now you’re still shutting down when things get hard but you come around that night as opposed to two days later. This is huge progress.
Frequency, intensity, longevity. These are the measuring sticks that will allow you to see the facts as opposed to judging your progress based on your feelings- which are temporary and heavily influenced by other factors.
I’ll end by saying that if you use these measuring sticks and realize that the symptoms in your marriage are not improving in any of these three areas, it’s time to get some help. Seriously, it’s time. It’s so easy to settle and allow the abnormal to become normal in your life. But my whole mission is to help women improve their marriage so that their kids get the childhood they deserve. This isn’t just about you.
So whether you come to me or someone else, I don’t even care. Just don’t’ settle. Be the mom who does the work. You don’t have to do it alone! Shoot me an email if you want to set up a free call to talk more about what that process would look like. My email is Elana@nullpartnershipaligned.com and that’s in the show notes as well.