August 2007: Issue #006

Welcome to Marriage Matters, an ezine devoted to helping individuals and couples prepare for, enhance or revitalize their marriage.

In this Issue:

Feature Article:

From Gridlock to Dialogue

by The National Healthy Marriage Institute

Feature Article:

Emotional Anger Extinguisher

by The National Healthy Marriage Institute

Recommended E-Books

Forward to A Friend

Subscription Information

Note from the Editor

Feature Article

From Gridlock to Dialogue

by The National Healthy Marriage Institute (Used with permission)

She wants to live in the country, but he wants to live near the city. He wants lots of children, but she only wants one or two. She loves to dance, but he has two left feet. Do you feel like there are issues in your marriage that are simply irresolvable? Well, you're right. Some marriage researchers believe that there are usually about 10 issues that married couples will never resolve. More than 90% of these irresolvable issues are over the fundamentals: money, time, kids, sex, jealousy, friends, and in-laws. So, are we all doomed to marriage failure?

No, says researcher John Gottman. According to Gottman, all we have to do is move from "gridlock to dialogue.” Couples need to recognize the "gridlocked” issues that never seem to go away, and then talk through them to reach a satisfactory compromise. First, we need to recognize the dreams or aspirations that are behind the gridlocked issue: perhaps she wants to live in the country because it has been her dream to wake up to the sounds of nature; or perhaps he wants to have lots of children because he was an only child and felt very lonely growing up. One good exercise for couples is to write down their thoughts and feelings about their dreams separately and then share these dreams with each other. Open, honest, and carefully thought-out dialogue will help you both to see through each other's eyes. Share the conversation, don't try to over-ride your spouse; give them all the time they want to express their innermost feelings. When you have done this, you have moved from gridlock to dialogue.

You may actually find that some of the dreams and aspirations behind your gridlocked issues are achievable, perhaps in slightly amended terms, and then you can work together as a team to accomplish each other's dreams.

You will see a difference, however, in the way you deal with the irresolvable issues. Now that you understand with greater intimacy the dreams that lay behind your spouse's demands, you can learn to change your behavior and communication to respect those dreams. Also, as you engage in healthy, understanding dialogue, you can both make compromises so that at least a portion of each other's dreams may be realized: for example, if she wants to live in the country to get away from the city noise and be close to nature, perhaps the couple could look for a house in a small community next to a natural reserve, within reasonable distance from the city. Compromise is the keystone to a happy marriage.

Though your irresolvable issues may never go away, by moving from gridlock to dialogue, you can achieve greater intimacy and strengthen your marriage as you understand and respond to the dreams and desires of your partner.

There is a story about a farmer who plowed his fields but never planted them. Reading this tips but never using them will get you the same results as the farmer who plowed but never planted.

To learn additional skills and knowledge that can help you form and sustain a healthy marriage read the Healthy Marriage Pamphlet Series at

Feature Article

Emotional Anger Extinguisher

by The National Healthy Marriage Institute (Used with permission)

Do you like feeling angry? How often have you ever done something that strengthened or helped your marriage when you were angry at your spouse? Have you ever wished you had access to an emotional anger extinguisher?

Do you like the feeling that comes from helping someone who is hurting? Would you like to be in a marriage where both you and your spouse experienced that feeling on a regular basis?

Do you ever wish your spouse could understand a difficult issue from your perspective? How much better off would your marriage be if both you and your spouse understood each other's perspective on difficult issues?

Compassion is a tool that can help you extinguish anger, motivate you to help your spouse and understand your spouse's perspective. The key is to learn how to manage the emotion of compassion and use it in ways that can help strengthen your marriage.

Compassion is the emotion that fills you with an intense desire to do everything you can to help someone in need.

Picture in your mind your spouse is coming to pick you up from work. He or she is running late as usual but this time is extra late. You are cold, tired, hungry and have had a very difficult day. You try calling your spouse's cell phone over and over but no answer. With each passing minute you become increasingly irritated. You have a well planned out speech ready to unleash on your spouse as soon he or she shows up. 1 hour later your spouse's car finally turns into the parking lot. You can see tears streaming down your spouse's face. You notice dried blood on your spouse's clothing. Through the choking sobs your spouse shares how a 3 year old girl was hit by a car and died in your spouse's arms.

Any feelings of hunger, cold, resentment, anger or frustration are immediately extinguished by the compassion that fills every fiber of your being.

Has the fact that your spouse is late and you are cold, tired and hungry changed? No. What changed was your focus from what YOU were feeling to what your SPOUSE must be feeling. This is the key to tapping into compassion. You have to learn to change the focus from what you are feeling to what your spouse is feeling.

It's easy to use the tool of compassion to extinguish anger and frustration in an extreme example like this. But what about the more common experiences like an argument over money, sex, or in-laws. The same principle applies. By changing your focus from what you are feeling to what your spouse must be feeling you can extinguish the feelings of anger and replace them with feelings of compassion. This compassion can help motivate you to come up with solutions to your conflicts that both you and your spouse can live with.

Some people have a hard time recognizing the limits of what they can do to help someone in need. In some cases nothing they can do will alleviate the pain the person is in. All they can do is be there for the person as they suffer. In other cases some people do too much.

The power of compassion is that it can lift you both up. But this only works if both of you are shouldering as much of the burden as you are each capable of. Often we fall into the trap of wanting to make things as easy as possible on the person we are helping. In doing so they not only become dependent on us but also become increasingly weaker to handle the trials that will come their way. The key is to find the right balance.

Being able to tap into compassion is not an easy skill to learn. It's much easier to continue to focus on our own feelings rather than switch the focus to our spouses feelings. However the rewards are worth all the time and effort it will take to master this skill. As you become more compassionate negative feelings during disagreements will diminish, the level of emotional intimacy will increase and the quality of your physical intimacy will be enhanced.

This week practice changing the focus from how you are feeling to what your spouse is feeling.

There is a story about a farmer who spent all of his life plowing fields but never planting them. Reading these tips but never implementing them will get you the same results as the farmer who plowed but never planted.

For other tips to strengthen your marriage visit

Recommended E-Books

Save the Marriage by Dr. Lee Baucom.

For over 15 years Dr. Lee Baucom has been offering his unique brand of marriage help through his book, Save the Marriage. This is a very useful book that you can download to your computer in ten minutes and begin to use the information to help transform your relationship starting today.

For more information simply click on the image to the left.

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If you have found the articles in this issue useful to you, please consider forwarding this newsletter to a friend.


If you are not already a subscriber to Marriage Matters, and you would like to receive these newsletters, please click here and you will be directed to the sign-up page.

Note from the Editor

You may have noticed a lapse in the number of issues of Marriage Matters over the last several months. I apologize for this delay. Please be patient with me as I have been focusing my energies on managing rapid growth in my practice recently. Such growth is a positive thing for me but it has also meant that I have not been able to focus on other important matters such as this newsletter. I am excited, however, to resume publication and to continue bringing you timely and informative issues in the coming months.



Nathan Cobb, Ph.D. in MFT, RMFT, R.Psych
200C Haddon Road SW
Calgary, AB T2V 2Y6
Tel: (403) 255-8577
Fax: (403) 255-8570

For more information please visit

Nathan Cobb, Ph.D in MFT, RMFT, R.Psych

Nathan Cobb, Ph.D.
Registered Marriage
& Family Therapist
Registered Psychologist


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