In preparation for presenting at the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Annual Conference on Building Strong Families with ACCCTS I wrote the following. For those readers unfamiliar with ACCCTS they are simply the acts or behaviors that the research repeatedly demonstrates that strong families engage in: Appreciation, Commitment, Creative coping and problem solving, Communication, Time together, and Spiritual wellness.
These principles apply to all aspects of family life including the marriage relationship. Within these six simple traits are innumerable ways to increase our commitment, communication, connection and compatibility in our marriages. Here are just a few ideas and strategies you can use to check your current strengths in these areas as well as to encourage growth where needed:
Saying, I love you in varied ways, and often, with daily being the best.
Couple and self
Respect both the partnership and the individual. Both the partnership and individual have needs and wants that need to be carefully (meaning full of care) balanced.
Valuing differences builds self-esteem, increases the sharing of each partners talents and leaves people feeling appreciated. Bringing out the best does not mean trying to change your partner into how you think he or she should be.
Esteem, encouragement, and emergency aid or repair attempts extend family resources and couple caring.
Having shared expectations
Partners with similar, and selfless, goals create focus, trust, and teamwork.
Loyalty, affection, and giving both show and grow love.
Constraints and limits
Our commitments to, and expectations of, friends, investments of time and resources, and moral beliefs discourage breakup and encourage stability and growth. Healthy limits do not restrict, but act like the constraining walls of a warm house in the winter keeping the warmth and safety in and the cold and harm out.
Patience and perseverance
Even happy couples have to work out differences in personality, roles, finances, sex, parenting attitudes, and much, much more. This takes time. This takes work. Thus the value of patience and perseverance.
Having a growth orientation
Staying in love through difficulty and change takes hard work and learning. Keeping a focus on the growth process vs. immediate gratification can make all the difference.
CREATIVE COPING & PROBLEM SOLVING:
Coping with conflict
By staying calm, thinking things out instead of reacting, assuming or jumping to conclusions, and using humor we are better equipped to cope more effectively with conflict as it arises.
Focus on avoiding the negatives
Drown out the relationship killers of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, withdrawal/stonewalling (a.k.a. the four relationship poisons I mentioned in a previous article) by learning more effective ways of solving problems and communicating.
Strong couples have learned that by taking one step at a time, seeking more information (clarifying vs. assuming), and taking a long-term view of the problem (such as, will this matter five to ten years from now? Will this matter when we are 80 years old?) they are more effective at solving their problems.
Getting, setting and keeping realistic expectations
Reasonable expectations help a couple to stay optimistic instead of disillusioned.
The companionship, support, and mentoring offered by friends and family adds energy and insight to marriage. Also, a variety of friends and family with whom with we can exchange favors or practical exchanges lightens the marital load.
Books or educators offer valuable information and skills for life challenges. Counselors can help couples get unstuck from problems, work through crises, and develop a workable plan for moving forward.
Active listening skills
Tuning into our partners viewpoint and repeating ideas or feelings to check the others meaning are keys to effective communication.
Speaking love means learning to speak for self only instead of You think and You feel . Think of the classic I statements.
Describe vs. blame
Describing what is bothering you vs. blaming the other. This is simply and respectfully taking turns sharing ideas without interruption.
No two people are exactly alike, so emphasize agreements instead of emphasizing points of disagreement. Awareness of red flag issues can avert destructive conflict tendencies.
Agreeing to disagree
I know this may sound obvious, but love doesnt mean agreeing on everything. Having respect for different views, willingness to compromise, or the getting the aid of a counselor or mediator can help balance the me and us of marriage.
It is about time
Prioritizing couple time avoids drifting apart. Quality time is a function of quantity time.
Make date night a regular, and as frequent as possible, event. While frequency is important, consistency is more important. If not weekly then commit to every other week or every month, but then make sure you follow through.
Caring for others
Community volunteering and helping friends enhances family pride.
Being willing to take the higher ground, while avoiding being holier than thou, helps us stay focused on how I want to be instead of how I tend to react.
If you would like to learn more about the principles and strategies around these traits simply visit www.bardos.net/strongfamilies for seven more free articles on strong families.
More articles and tips for creating greatness in your relationships can be found at bardos.net/resources
© 2005 Jonathan D. Sherman, LMFT
This article provided courtesy of Bardos Relationship Consulting 801.787.8014 bardos.net
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