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Boomers and the Valentines Day Gift of Discourse

Aug 17, 2007
This Valentines Day, are you hoping that your sweetheart will write words for the love song you've been waiting to hear? Are you busy shopping for the language of love that is bound to communicate the intensity of your true emotions?

How couples talk with each other is a concrete example of differences between the sexes - and the conversational styles of women and men are often poles apart. Despite your partner's ongoing support, you may find it difficult to speak about your deepest thoughts. Sometimes, when you just want your husband to listen to how you feel about a certain situation, do you find him intent on fixing the problem or finding a solution?

Statistics indicate that one out of two marriages in the United States ends in divorce. As a safeguard to this institution, some couples sign a clearly delineated legal pre-nuptial contract. There are other non-verbalized agreements that impact the marriage, but are not communicated as directly. For example, "I earn more than you and that gives me greater control over major decisions" is often understood but not considered a topic for conversation. An increase in either trust or tension in the relationship eventually leads to the expression and resolution of these kinds of concerns, one way or the other.

Still other decisions are unconscious, part of the psychological baggage that is carried forward from the family of origin or from previous relationships. For instance, "my father walked out on our family without an explanation so, when you're quiet for too long, I get scared" can be an old script left over from childhood. Shaped by earlier experiences and well hidden by defense mechanisms, these entrenched beliefs often continue to drive individual attitudes and behaviors.

Discover the benefit of bringing these emotional influences to conscious awareness. At this time of year, when so much love is in the air, use the following five tips and let your heart do the talking:

1. Pay attention to the positives in your relationship by noticing the qualities that bring you pleasure. Discuss these with your partner from time to time. And review them often for yourself.

2. When talking quietly together, be willing to reveal your own personal needs and opinions so that he has some access to your subjective world. Encourage him to do the same with you.

3. Opposites attract. Genuine mutuality thrives on recognizing the differences in how you communicate. When it's impossible to respect and honor what sets you apart, find the humor and fall back on laughter.

4. Create a balance between caring for your personal needs and the well being of your relationship. Take time out of your busy schedules each day to connect and converse about the ways to nourish both.

5. Reduce the stress in your lives in order to enjoy fuller and deeper conversations. A change in attitude can make your partner more responsive to you and to your needs.

Couples who practice conversational etiquette become more skillful in listening than in advice giving. Over time, many discover that a commitment to understanding each other's position goes a long way. As Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, so wisely said, "You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist."

Learning to recognize the differences in how Donna and her husband evaluate and work through problems has made their relationship stronger. She reflected, "We now resolve conflict by trying to see what the other one wants. We'll go around what we can't agree on and make every effort to reach a compromise. It has taken us years, but we've both grown to value our relationship more than being right."

On February 14th, mark your calendar as the first day of the rest of your lives. Cast a love spell as you celebrate your relationship. And commit to nurture a heartfelt connection with your partner through the gift of conversation.

(C) Her Mentor Center, 2007
About the Author
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are founders of http://www.HerMentorCenter.com, a website for midlife women and http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomers and family relationships. They offer free newsletter Stepping Stones.
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