Love and Respect
Relationship Advice from Our Experts
At The Woodsfellow Institute, we know what it takes to make a marriage work. In fact. 80% of the couples we’ve helped are still together. When you are ready for couples therapy, request marriage counseling or a marriage intensive online, or call (404) 325-3401 for your preferred appointment time at The Woodsfellow Institute for Couples Therapy in Atlanta, GA.
Learn about our approach to love and respect:
- Artistry in Relationships
- Thinking Decisions and Feeling Decisions
- How Do YOU Make Decisions?
- Different Ways of Knowing the Truth
- Make a Place for Love in Your Lives
- Try Blessing Each Other
- New Year’s Resolutions for Your Relationship
Artistry in Relationships
Everyone is creative, in one way or another. Most of us don’t recognize our creative art. But, perhaps we should.
Think about yourself as an artist. What is your medium? How do you express your creativity? How do you make beauty?
Do you draw? Or sing? Or dance?
Do you garden? Or decorate? Or repair things?
Or, is business your art form? Or communication? Or investment?
Or is it raising children? Or cooking? Or homemaking?
Try this idea: You are an artist. You make the world more beautiful. You make things that please others and improve their lives.
And your partner is another artist, who also makes the world more beautiful by pleasing others and improving their lives.
Now, think about the two of you as artists together. What is your shared medium? How do you express your creativity together? How do you make shared beauty?
Dancing? Decorating? Entertaining? Lovemaking?
Enjoy your beauty. Enjoy your art.
Thinking Decisions and Feeling Decisions
There are two major ways that people make decisions: They are "thinking" and "feeling."
In "thinking" decisions, one reflects on the abstract principle that pertains to the matter under consideration. By applying that principle to the particulars of the circumstance, one logically arrives at the appropriate course of action. It’s a very rational process. It is clear, impartial, fair, and even-handed. This way of deciding is an essential part of Justice.
In "feeling" decisions, one considers the impact of possible outcomes on the different people who would be affected by the decision. One tries to put oneself in each of their places to get in touch with how each person might feel. One works toward a decision that would feel best to everyone involved. It’s a very emotionally-aware process. It is caring, compassionate, kind, and involved. This way of deciding is an essential part of Mercy.
People are evenly divided between these two decision-making styles. But more men (about 60%) prefer thinking decisions, and more women (about 60%) prefer feeling decisions.
When things are going well, these two decision-making methods are complementary. For instance, if two parents differ in decision-making style, their children can benefit from decisions that are both fair AND kind.
But when things are going poorly, these two methods can seem to be at war, and people can invalidate one another’s styles. "Why can’t you be more logical!" and "How can you be so cold!" are among the battle cries from each side.
As in most polarizations, healing comes from respecting the others’ opinion. We benefit from mutual understanding, valuing differences, and openness to influence. Healthy couples develop a reasonable give-and-take that allows them to compromise and even see their differences with warmth and humor.
The world needs both Justice and Mercy. Not either/or.
How Do YOU Make Decisions?
Sometimes we know exactly what to do. Other times we’re not so sure. So we each need a way to make decisions.
Some people pray for guidance, some look to oracles, some prefer to think by themselves, some prefer talking it out with others. Some put it out of their mind until "the decision makes itself." Do you know your way?
I think you would benefit by knowing this about yourself.
How did your parents make decisions? Do you want to use their way?
Do you know your spouse’s way of making decisions? I think you need to know this too. You might want to ask them.
Do you two have a good way of making decisions together? You might want to develop one. Should it be your way, their way, or a blend?
Different Ways of Knowing the Truth
There are two different ways to know Truth. One way is to study what others have thought. The other way is to experience things oneself. They’re not necessarily incompatible. Actually, they can be beautiful companions.
The saying, "Good luck happens in the law library at 2:00 a.m." is an example. Being in the law library at 2:00 a.m. means that this person is willing to study what others have learned. At some length. And yet the good luck is the insight, or the inspiration, to put things together in some new, meaningful, important way.
Like many other polarities, we can have many different possible relationships between these two ways of knowing.
For some couples this can be a power struggle. One may be the advocate of formal learning, the other may prefer inspiration that comes from within. In a worst-case scenario, each could invalidate the other's approach to knowledge. Book-learning can be disparaged as rote, stale, lifeless, knowledge-without-wisdom. Insight can be put-down as ungrounded, deluded, grandiose, incorrect, etc.
When my wife went to grade school, she liked to learn the answers and remember them so that she could repeat them on the test. At home, she would line up her dolls and teach them each day's lesson. By repeating it, she came to know it and remember it. She was worried that she wouldn’t understand, so she focused on remembering.
I never liked remembering things at school. I could do it if I had to — I used flash-cards — but I found it a whole lot of work, and not very rewarding. What I liked was re-deriving things. I liked being able to figure it out again, from scratch. So I wouldn’t have to remember it. I particularly remember doing this with the quadratic equation. I spent my time on understanding, rather than remembering. I liked math, I hated history. I was worried that I wouldn’t remember, so I went focused on understanding.
Like any other polarity, over the course of a lifetime we get numerous opportunities to reconsider the strength of each trait and the balance of the two. It would be nice to be able to learn both ways, so that the two could complement each other.
It’s wonderful to study traditional sources and let oneself get into thinking what they might have thought, feeling what they might have felt, seeing the world through their eyes. And by doing old things old ways, we sometimes get insights that we couldn’t have gotten any other way.
But we also need to things our own. I like to learn the essence of something and then try it myself. That lets me learn by direct experience. This also leads to insights that couldn't happen any other way.
Make a Place for Love in Your Lives
Everyone talks about "making time" for things that are important. And that’s certainly a good idea. But, I also want to suggest the importance of "making a place" for the parts of your relationship that you want to improve.
If you want to encourage some aspect of your lives — like talking or lovemaking or planning — think about where in your home that happens. (I’m being literal here, not metaphorical: What room in your house? What part of the room?)
Now, consider that room carefully. How could you make it more conducive to your goals? Should anything be moved or re-arranged? Do you want to bring some new things into that space? Take some things away? Some furniture? A rug? Different colors? Some art? Some music?
It doesn’t need to be expensive. Many lovely and profound changes can be made with very little expense. The investment of your time, and thought, and creativity can go a long way toward nurturing your dreams for your relationship.
If you’d like to make love more, how can you make your bedroom more comfortable and seductive? Different music? A colored scarf over a lamp to change the light? Turning the television off?
If you want more conversation, where do you want to be talking? How can you make that place feel more comfortable and inviting. More pillows? Chairs closer together?
If you’d like to get your finances in order, how can you make your office space more welcoming and efficient? Another desk? More file space? An annual planning calendar on the wall?
If you want to have more prayer or meditation in your life, where do you want to pray or meditate? How can you make that place feel right for quiet, sincere centering and connection?
The old saying goes, "Nothing changes if nothing changes." Change some easy things first. Sometimes, a small change in your space and décor can lead to a big change in your life.
Try Blessing Each Other
It might sound corny, but you might want to consider the idea of blessing each other.
Maybe it would be easier to think about blessing your children first. We hope they will be happy, we hope they will be successful, we hope they will find love, and meaning, and comfort and peace. These are some of the blessings of life.
It's okay to say these things to them. From lullabies to wedding toasts, we wish them the best, and we hope that the world blesses them with inner and outer riches.
To bless them is to say,
As much as it is in my power to give this to you, I want you to have it.
As much as it is beyond my power to give this to you, I still want you to have it.
As much as I can influence fate or destiny, I would like to, so that you can have these blessings.
Now try the same with your partner. Think about blessing them. Think about wanting them to have inner and outer peace, inner and outer beauty, inner and outer wealth, inner and outer happiness, etc. Think about wanting to give it to them, as much as it’s in your power to do so. Think about wishing it for them, and trying to send it to them even when it’s beyond your power to do so.
That’s blessing them.
Not a bad idea.
New Year’s Resolutions for Your Relationship
Most New Year’s resolutions are about doing things differently than we did last year. And many of us have one or more resolutions about our relationships.
In that light, I’d like to share three age-old steps for making change:
(1) apologize, (2) make amends, and (3) do it different next time.
Step 1: Apologize.
Apologize directly to your partner. Let them know that you regret what you did (or didn’t do) in the past. Ask for their forgiveness.
Step 2: Make amends.
Find some way to make it up to them. Or find a way to make significant gesture of regret. Or ask them what you could do that would help make it better. Then, when you did this, let them know you are doing it to try to make amends.
Step 3: Do it different next time.
The next time you are in the old situation, be sure you do differently than you did before. This is the real proof of your sincerity. So, you need to watch carefully for when that same situation starts again. And when it does, do something different. That’s the moment of truth.
You might want to let them know that you’re doing it differently. You could say something like, "You know, I was tempted to do such and such, but I that doesn’t work well for us. So, instead, I am doing this new thing."
The saying goes:
"If you keep on doing what you always did,
You’ll keep on getting what you always got."
And some folks say that the definition of insanity is
"Doing the same thing, and expecting different results."
This is a great time of year to start doing a DIFFERENT thing.
Reduce Conflict and Increase Connection in Your Relationship
Love Cycles, Fear Cycles teaches readers the most important idea in all of couples therapy. This idea gives readers a new understanding of what’s been going wrong in their marriage – and a new way to make things right.