Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Relationship Author's Advice For A Happy Valentine’s Day

New Book Says Couples Should Follow The 72-Hour Rule For Arguing 

“To have a successful relationship, both partners must adhere to the 72-hour rule,” says marriage therapist Dr. Margot E. Brown.  “This means that, from this moment forward, they are only allowed to talk about the upsetting behavior or situation if it had happened in the past 72 hours.”

Too often, couples bring up the past and it inserts itself negatively between the partners.  If only there were a way to fast forward and put enough distance from the past to the present.

“Forget the past and your conclusion as to what negative impression you have about how your partner keeps doing that same behavior,” says Dr. Brown, author of Kickstart Your Relationship Now! Move On or Move Out!  “Make today a new and fresh day – free of agendas – just this conversation at this moment.  Try it as an experiment.  The goal is to focus right on what you are thinking and feeling now.  When your partner starts talking to you (and you are both facing each other, not doing something else with your back to each other), tell your partner what you heard, how you feel, and what you need, right now!  You have nothing to lose except perhaps a large and looming past that always comes between you every time you sit down and talk.”

If couples can abide by the rule, they can bury the hatchet on the past and permit themselves to only focus on the present.  It’s like a statute of limitations for crimes, only this applies to marital complaints.

Dr. Brown suggests these key steps be followed by both partners:

1.      Stop blaming each other about the past.  Stay in the now.
2.      Express your own needs/wants clearly but without blame.
3.      Pay attention, monitor yourself, and examine your own thoughts and feelings during the information exchange.
4.      Communicate your thoughts and feelings in a direct but non-threatening way to your partner.
5.      If you feel tense, agree to take a 20-minute break and to come back to finish the conversation.
6.      Communicate acknowledgement, not necessarily agreement.
7.      Finish the discussion successfully (without misinterpreting, making false assumptions, speaking with raised voices, and having full-blown arguments/fights that cycle to nowhere except more pain).

“Once couples learn the technique of staying in the present while talking about the past, then they can talk about anything with a successful outcome,” says Dr. Brown.  “Staying grounded in the present means being able to talk about a past hurt or unresolved problem but describe what you think and feel right

Dr. Brown, who is represented to the media by Media Connect, the PR firm I work for, is quite interesting to listen to. Here is a Q & A with the relationships expert:

1.      Your title suggests that one can recharge or kick-start their relationship. How does one do that? First, it is most important that at least one person in the relationship (preferably both) really is motivated and desires positive change, and are willing to do the work. HOW? By admitting their part of the relationship that has NOT worked (own their stuff). Second, they should no longer look to their partner to make it right, or assume it is all the other person’s fault that they are in this mess. Third, read my book – one page at a time if necessary.  Talk about what they read, do an exercise together and talk about the exercise, continue talking about what they think and feel and how it feels to do it together. Basically, kick starting anything is about doing it differently. So if you keep doing and saying and thinking and expecting the same ole’ same ole’ why would you expect different results?

2.      The subtitle is provocative—“Move On, or Move Out.” Yes it is and I love it because it has different layers to it. It might have various meanings to the reader. For example: “Move On” might mean moving on within themselves, getting unstuck in their negative perception, or making small and large changes in themselves.  It might mean moving on in life with their partner (or without). It might mean Move on from the little sticking points that makes them feel stuck and do not work in the relationship.  Whatever the reader interprets by these two words---the answer is that THEY HAVE TO DO SOMETHING either within themselves or externally as a result of their internal changes.  “Move Out” might mean moving out physically as a result of these changes. A person might decide to move out if they refuse to own their “stuff” and their part of the couple dance. Or, they might decide to move out if their partner is unwilling to participate in the positive change (that is not an automatic decision), or if they feel that have nothing left to give or energy to keep trying. Moving out might also be a positive conclusion from all of the hard work/effort that the partner who wanted something different (and after looking within)…decided moving out was the right answer for them. So, you can see it is a simple statement with convoluted answers.

3.      Margot, you suggest that couples employ what you call “The 72-Hour Rule.” What is that and how should it be used? “The 72-Hour Rule” is my solution to couples who blame each other – especially about the past. Every time they bring up something from months and years ago, it is building a huge wall between them. The 72-Hour Rule, is a tool in both language and in time. First, the language must be HERE and NOW. So you would not say, “I’ve told you this 19,000 times before!” That refers to the past, it is parental, it is shaming, and it is abusive. So, the key is to bring the language of the couple back to now. What are they thinking and feeling and experiencing NOW (then communicate that to their partner). The second part of the answer is that, in addition to language that refers to time, THE 72-Hour  Rule indicates that if some interaction between you and your partner did not sit well with you, then there is a real time line as to when you can bring that up to talk about it. So it challenges you to pick and choose your battles wisely. If you are upset about something, but decide that it really isn’t worth bringing up in conversation to state your worries within the first 72 hours, the rule says you should let it go. You cannot stew in it; you chose not to talk about it, so you have to let it float away. If it’s a topic you cannot let go, then you bring it up within 72 hours of the event and talk about it openly even if it feels silly.

4.      As a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist for many years, you’ve helped thousands of people. What did you find to be a pattern as for what couples argue about?
A) Communication skills -  One partner feeling unacknowledged or unnoticed
B) Money - different styles of spending, saving, sharing.
C) Sex (lack of it, different libidos for each partner).
D) Affairs (one-time, long-term, cybersex etc.)

5.      What should someone do if they feel stuck in a relationship? There are so many answers. Always my hope is that it is a high functioning, safe relationship and that we are NOT talking about Domestic Violence. However, if it is your normal usual, feeling stuck in a relationship…. I would really sit down by yourself for about 45 minutes and ask yourself some questions: Why do you think you are stuck? Have you done this in other relationships? How do you cope with being stuck (angry, depressed, anxious, etc.)? Do you blame your partner? Do you blame yourself? Once you have “checked in with yourself”, now you are ready to have a conversation with your partner. This could be anxiety producing, but extremely rewarding. However, first you have to practice over and over (when you are alone), out loud to hear yourself say, “Joe, I would like to set aside some time to talk. I want to know when you can talk, can you do it now? Or is Saturday better?,,,,”. The KEY HERE IS to pick a time when your partner is not rushing out the door. I would discourage anyone from thinking it through and practicing in front of the mirror, then as soon as your spouse walks in you say, “Let’s talk and blurt it out.” Remember that you have been thinking about this for a while, whereas your partner may be taken by surprise.” You have to couch it in love and friendship and respect. You have to talk to him/her like you were their best friend and you are delivering some painful news. For example: “This is difficult for me to say, but you look unhappy, I know I am unhappy and I want to talk with you to figure out what we can do to make it better.”

6.      What role do secrets, sex and money play in one’s marriage? Secrets about money or about sex are indicators of blockages and lack of intimacy. At some core level, there is a dishonesty. If you are married or in a committed relationship, it is vital that your foundation is built on honesty and respect. Anything less is doomed. If you aren’t getting what you need and you don’t communicate that, then you are adding mud to your 300-foot high wall of mud and brick that separates you from each other.

It takes two to cause a problem but what happens when one member of a couple routinely blames the other for unhappiness? This is a major (although common) problem in couples. The reason I say major, is because it goes back to everything I have previously stated. If one person is seeking the answer to their needs from everything externally such as their spouse to do more for them, do it right instead of wrong, do this, do that,…it is never good enough.  They constantly see only the other person’s role, and not their own. They point the finger at the other person.  Then, there is no room for growth in this marriage because it is the “blame game.” It is a deep-rooted cycle of communication, a habit, and it is shallow. Every argument is a repeat of the one before. The one who is blamed either retreats and the blamer gets louder and complains: “Why do I have to be the one who always has to point out what’s wrong with our relationship?” “How come you never talk anymore, I talk, then you agree and then nothing changes.” In this manner, the blamer conveniently (consciously and subconsciously) does not see their role, they do not own their role and they do not want to face the fact that they too are a participant in this negative cyclical dance of blame. So as it continues, the blamed partner becomes more avoidant and silent. Possibly, that too might change after a long time and then they get so exasperated they join in on the fight and the fighting escalates to an entirely more intense level then in earlier years.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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