Relationships are like roller coasters, they are constantly up and down. Dr. Pat Love, family and marriage therapist, came to Fort Detrick Dec. 6, and offered advice and tips to couples on how to communicate effectively and enjoy the ride.
“Happy couples have the same number of problems as unhappy, unstable couples,” Love said. “If a couple has ten problems, and they solve one of them, another one will come up.”
Love emphasized the importance of understanding that your partner is the key to working through any difficult issue. She discussed how to listen to what your partner has to say, repeat it back, and ask “is there anything else?” By doing this, the partner is given the opportunity to communicate what is bothering them, and allows the listener to fully understand why behaviors, words, etc. are upsetting the partner.
“A mark of maturity and mental health is being able to be okay with people not always agreeing with you. Can you feel the feeling [of being upset] and still do the right thing?” Love said.
Love also shared two acronyms she uses with couples on a regular basis to help resolve issues and bring happiness back into the relationship. The first is HOME.
H- lead with your heart.
O- go outside! Love shared that research has shown that just 20 minutes outside will cause people to act better. Sunlight alters the chemical serotonin in your brain, the chemical that causes happiness.
M- manners. Using your manners, even when you are angry or upset is important. Love said, “Don’t let your partner decide the kind of person you are going to be.”
E- entertainment. Entertainment doesn’t have to cost anything either. Go for a walk, watch a movie, or find a free concert.
The second is PMS. No, not the emotional, hormonal syndrome that most women get once a month. PMS, according to Love, stands for Positive, Measurable, Specific. If your partner has a list of things about you that bothers them, it is important to listen to them, understand what they are saying, and then give them back a response that is positive, measurable and specific.
For example, one woman in the session discussed how it upset her and made her feel disrespected when her husband came home from work and made a mess in the house after she had spent most of the day cleaning. Rather than debating about who was right and wrong, her husband said, “I understand that me making a mess in the house after you clean all day makes you feel disrespected.”
He went on to provide examples of what he did. Following the examples he said, “I will make sure that I clean up my soda cans when I am done drinking them so the house can stay cleaner after you work so hard to make it that way.”
By offering a positive, measurable, and specific solution, the couple felt more at ease and felt they had made progress with the issue rather than constantly feeling frustrated about the same thing each day.
One of the ways Love emphasized women can show their husbands or partners their appreciation, or their happiness was through touch. Love said there is a distinction between touching and sex.
“Men need two to three times more touching than women to feel an oxytocin bond,” Love said. “Testosterone counteracts oxytocin, estrogen enhances it.”
Love described how women are more comfortable with touching in our society than men. Women hug each other, they touch their children, they hold hands, etc. Men are not as physical in that sense. Men generally don’t hug each other, hold hands, or show as much affection to their children. As a result, it takes more for them to feel the oxytocin bond with someone than women do.
“When your husband or partner touches you, even if they only touch your hand, it goes a long way to have a positive reaction,” Love said. “It won’t make your partner feel very good if you cringe or pull back from them.”
Love is the author of “The Truth About Love.” In her book she walks the reader through the different stages of love, from infatuation to expanding your commitment and into creating a haven together.
“Another common misconception about love is that it is a static state: once you fall in love, you get on a high and stay there forever. This is not true. The course of true love consists of a series of highs and lows. You can gain comfort in knowing that the peaks and valleys are inherent to love, but that they are shared by millions of people around the world. You are never alone in your relationship,” Love wrote in the introduction of her book.
Love’s visit to Fort Detrick was the first of a four part series. Her next seminar will take place March 14. For more information, call the Family Advocacy Program at (301) 619-2408.