You Change First!—What To Do If You’re Caught In The Blame Game

“I would be fine if they would just stop talking to me like that!” Sound familiar?

It’s extremely frustrating when we feel as though someone else won’t allow us to be calm, to be solution focused, or to be the person that we want to be. But often when we feel frustrated that another person’s actions have this kind of influence over us, our response is to try to change them first so that we can then be okay.


Are you getting caught in conflict?

Check out How to Heal Your Marriage (and Nurture Lasting Love)


The scenario I just described is a classic case of being caught up in the blame game. The key to escaping it is anticipating your tendency to fall into it in the first place and make plans for avoiding it before you start a difficult or typically triggering conversation. The dynamic I described is what happens when our brains become “flooded” with stress chemicals which causes our cortex (our thinking brain) to essentially go off line. At that point, our limbic system (our emotional brain) takes over and attempts to “solve” our problems by making us fight, flee, or freeze. This is exactly what occurs each time we find ourselves getting stuck in the kind of unhealthy cycle that occurs when we find ourselves caught in a blaming/reactionary conflict. When this happens, our brain works to distance us from the problem but prevents us from actually doing anything to solve the original problem.

The first step is increasing increase your awareness of when you start to become “flooded” with stress chemicals. What signs occur in your body—i.e. your shoulders tense, your face becomes flush/hot, you clench your fists? When you first start to notice these signs, take a step back, take a deep breath, send up a quick prayer and ask God to help you find solutions that will glorify him, and be the loving person he needs you to be—even in conflict.  Then, focus on something that will help you drain those stress chemicals from your brain and bring your thinking brain back online. In moments such as these I like to reflect on the verse from 2 Timothy: 1-7 which states, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

When we get caught in the blame game, our focus becomes fixated on changing, fixing, or controlling the other person—to get them to do what we want/need them to do. While this may not be the intention, it is how we tend to operate when we are in a blaming centered conflict. This reminder from 2 Timothy demonstrates to us that we are not capable of, nor is it our responsibility to control or change another person. Our responsibility lies solely in our ability to practice self-control and model the behavior we want to see in the other person. How do you wish the other person would behave?  Make sure you’re doing that first.  If that doesn’t get things back on track, pick a time when you’re not arguing to discuss things you both need to do to make each other feel taken care of when you disagree. 

Be aware of your signs of stress, pray, and breathe. Take a step back until you are able to respond in a calm and solution focused manner. Be a model of the behavior you want from the other person, and proactively discuss ways to better take care of each other when conflict heats things up.


If you would like additional resources to help you stop the blame game in your relationships, visit us online at

The Secrets of Communication: How to Be A Better Listener

We try to be our best. We mean well, and when our efforts are misconstrued we feel like there’s nothing we can do. But there’s good news: recognizing the ways that we can grow in no way means that we’re not well intentioned and doing our best! This is one of the greatest keys to communication. Understanding that we’re well intentioned, but we always have room to learn from the other person and grow in ourselves and our relationships with others.

In order to learn from another person and learn to grow in relationship with them, it’s crucial that we learn to listen effectively.


Are you struggling to get along with difficult people?

Check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts!


Research published in the Harvard Business Review describes that the typical ways we think we’re being good listeners—such as being silent, periodically nodding or acknowledging the other person, or even repeating what the other has said—aren’t as effective as we may think.

Here are a few ways to become a more effective listener:

Ask questions—while sitting in silence allows the other person to talk, it doesn’t always communicate that they’re being heard. Asking questions shows both interest and comprehension in what the other person is discussing. Likewise this allows for the dynamic of listening to understand rather than listening simply to respond.

Be a cooperative partner—research indicates that the most successful conversations are those where the individuals view one another as partners, meaning neither person gets defensive about comments made by the other. When we are partners in a conversation, we work together, we care for one another, and we are certain that our responses are solution focused (rather than derogatory, competitive, or distracting from the topic at hand).

Offer reflections—A good listener keeps the conversation going by gently offering reflections that open up new lines of inquiry. Complaints often occur when someone feels as though the other just “jumped in and try to solve the problem.” Good listening, however, requires that the suggestions/solutions are not the end of the conversation, they are a support to the conversation.

To learn more tips and techniques for effective communication, visit us online at

Your Faith and Debt

By: Judy Keane


The statistics are stunning.    According to a recent  Washington Post  article, the majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement.     While the amount varies, it has also been found that the average credit card debt per U.S. household is around 3,364 (Source: Federal Reserve) along with an average mortgage debt of $149,925 per household and average student loan debts of more than $26,000.  In total, American consumers owe more than 856.9 billion in credit card debt and more than 11 trillion in debt overall.

Meanwhile, our culture and the media continue to urge us to spend beyond our means to buy even more!  As a result, we are steeped in a buy now, pay later mentality, with little thought given to financial consequences down the road.   It seems everywhere we turn; we are bombarded with ads that attack our self-esteem or body-image if we don’t purchase the latest and greatest anti-aging creams, automobiles, or outfits.   “Retail therapy” has become a popular term of our time in which we seek to spend ourselves happy.   Beyond this, there is the ongoing barrage of credit card solicitations and endless parade on online shopping sites where one can easily purchase everything from major appliances to trips abroad without even leaving our homes.

A recent survey among our youth (ages 18-34) showed that 60% said they were jealous of celebrities and other public figures whose lifestyles are glamorized by television shows such as  Rich Kids of Beverly Hills,  Real Housewives  and  Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Of course, I don’t’ need to go into detail about our national debt which now tops more than 17 trillion dollars and continues to grow by nearly 2.5 billion a day!

Is it any wonder that so many of us find ourselves in debt?   Of course, it can’t all be blamed on external pressures.   We must look a hard look at ourselves, our spending habits, our lack of control, our priorities, and our ability to identify needs verses wants.   We know that debt leads to depression, low self-esteem, failed marriages, health problems, hopelessness, and despair.

Yet, God wants us to be debt free!   In fact, he calls us to be debt free! He wishes us to be free from the shackles of debt and the psychological ramifications it has on our minds and spirits.   Not only does he want us debt free, he in fact, wants us to prosper, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).     God also discourages us from getting into debt in the first place and warns of its dangers in Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender.”   This clearly states, we are in a form of bondage to our lenders until our debt is paid in full.

So what can we do in our own lives to get our debt under control or make sure we don’t go into debt again? The bible offers some solid advice to guide and direct us.   First the bible emphasizes we develop a realistic budget to make sure we can afford our purchases.   As we all know, we can easily get in over our heads financially by making even one purchase that is more than what we can afford.   The Gospel of Luke emphasizes this — “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,  saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30).   In prayer then, ask God if what you want is really something you actually need.   After all, God has promised to meet our needs, but not necessarily our wants, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom  and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).   In my own life, I’ve prayed over significant purchases and have on occasion waited 24 hours to think about them.  More often than not, I’ve discovered I didn’t really “have to have” what I thought I wanted and was later glad I didn’t make the purchase after all.

Ultimately, we must gain control over ourselves when it comes to our spending habits and also teach our children to do the same.  Enlisting God’s help along with creating a budget to keep us from the temptations of overspending can go a long way in keeping out of financial hot water. Sometime a health crisis, emergency home repairs, or natural disasters cause us to go into debt through no fault of our own.     Yet, in this case, it is the same.   We must do everything we can to pay down our debt and never lose hope that God will continue to provide for us as we work our way out of our debt crisis.     We can trust that God will show us the way and offer ways to move beyond it, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalms 32:8).   Most of all, we must never lose hope nor give into despair in the face of that which seems insurmountable, recognizing that the circumstances of today do not define our tomorrow’s and that God has plans for us that are so much greater.

In a culture where material possessions and status are more important than character, we must strive to keep God in the center of our hearts amid all the consumerism and temptations to over spend.   To this end, Pope Francis recently offered advice saying, “The world tells us to seek success, power and money.   God tells us to seek humility, service and love.”  We know that it took time to get into debt and it will take time to get out of it.   So if you find yourself in debt, be patient!   Have faith and don’t despair!   God is in the midst of your debt crisis and working with you as you work toward your financial freedom!

Credit to  Judy Keane of CatholicExchange.

Marriage is Work

By: Emma Smith

bible and rings

“Yeah, I’m getting divorced too,”  one of my co-workers replied to my boss the other day. The two ladies then exchanged stories about their horrible husbands and that “awful institution” called “marriage.”

Both of their husbands cheated on them and both of them dealt with a multitude of other issues with their husbands that only served to add to the pain of their failed marriages. It was awful to hear what they went through, and I don’t blame them for feeling hurt by the whole experience.

“There’s so much of that out there!” my boss exclaimed. “I know one of my girlfriends who is cheating on her husband and I know a couple of other people where both of them are cheating. I guess you’re lucky if it doesn’t happen to you.”

Then my boss looked over at me and, knowing I’m engaged, said, “Sorry, but I  neverwant to get married again.”

“No,” I wanted to say, “I’m  sorry.”

But I didn’t get it out. I was too busy sorting through all of the reactions in my own head. I ended up remaining silent for the entire conversation because somehow I didn’t think that these women would understand.

I didn’t think they’d understand that if I said, “my fiancé and I are never going to have that issue” that my statement would be one of fact and confidence, not one of blind love and young bravado.

I didn’t think they’d understand what I mean if I said “marriage isn’t just a luck of the draw. It doesn’t work like a lottery.” Because, to them, it does, while for me, I know that it doesn’t. Marriage isn’t a drawing of the straws, where if your spouse cheats on you, well, “sorry, you just drew the short straw. There’s nothing you could have done to prevent it!” It’s not an institution where if you are a strong, happy, and healthy couple you’re just “the lucky ones.” It’s not an institution where the fates decide who “wins” and who “loses.” It’s not a promise you enter into like buying a lottery ticket — someone will win the jackpot while most people just buy empty tickets.

Yet this is how our society has been trained to see marriage. This approach to marriage has so infiltrated our society that people refuse to believe that there should be anything like “marriage prep,” because how do you prep yourself for a game of chance? There’s no way of making yourself any  luckier, so why are you bothering to work on it? Our society has abandoned the idea that marriage is something you work on, and even more so, it has forgotten, and thus doesn’t understand, that marriage is a  calling.

It is a foreign concept that one would be able to say with complete confidence “my spouse will never cheat on me.” And yet, I  can  say that. I can say that because I have a faith and a God who stand behind me in that statement. And I can say that because the love my fiancé and I share is not human, it is divine. We love each other because we love God and we have discovered that in loving one another, we get to love God more fully. Moreover, the love that we have for one another is divine in  origin. God gave it to us at our baptism and it had a full 15-20ish years to grow and mature so that when we met, it blossomed.

That makes us blessed, but it does not make us lucky. We both worked hard on ourselves and on making God the center of our world before we even knew the other existed. In doing so, we returned to God the gift He gave us in that first sacrament. We returned to Him our hearts, and with them we returned to the Creator the divine love placed in our hearts for one another. God knows how to nourish our hearts and souls better than anyone. In nourishing our hearts, He nourished the love that grew in them for each other so that when we met, my soul immediately knew who my fiancé was. (And it only took me a couple of months to catch up with what my soul knew at first sight!)

We have a faith that can make these promises. Promises of faithfulness, love, commitment. Our faith allows us to make these promises because He who gave us love was faithful in His love until the end. He who originated love in our hearts died for us out of that same love. We as Catholics are granted the same strength of faithfulness to the end when we return our love to the one who  is  love. When we participate in making our love a sacrament, when we make a way for God’s grace to enter the world every day, when we demonstrate outwardly our inner devotion, we can say with full knowledge and confidence that we are not in a game of luck. We are in an institution of work and prayer, and we can rest assured that our success rests squarely on the shoulders of our prayerful work and the support of a God who made the universe.

Blessed Pope John Paul II is famous for his line: “man finds himself only in true gift of self.” If we only receive what we give away, then we must strive every day to give our hearts and our love back to Christ.

Giving a gift back doesn’t take luck. It takes work.


Credit to Emma Smith of CatholicExchange.

The Power of Matrimony

By: Francine & Byron Pirola


The power of Matrimony for renewing the Church and society rests in the very nature of the sacrament. Matrimony is the vocational sacrament within which the vast majority of adult Catholics live, and yet its capacity for teaching, renewing and leading the Church is largely overlooked.

All Sacraments reveal and witness to a dimension of God and our relationship with him. Matrimony witnesses in a very concrete way to the passionate, intimate love of Jesus for his bride, the Church. St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33) spells it out very clearly. After describing how husbands are to love their wives in imitation of Christ, and wives are to regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, he quotes Genesis: ‘“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”. This is a great mystery, and I am applying to Christ and the church.’ (Eph 5:31-32).

In commenting on this passage of St Paul’s, Pope John Paul II noted that the Sacrament of Matrimony had a ‘bidirectional’ nature. “As one can see, this [spousal] analogy works in two directions. While it allows us, on the one hand, to understand better the relationship of Christ with the Church, it permits us, on the other hand, to penetrate more deeply into the essence of marriage to which Christians are called.” (John Paul II, TOB 90:4) In other words, not only can couples look to the example of Christ to learn how to love each other well, they as a couple can teach the Church about how Christ loves the Church, and how we as his bride, are to respond to him.

Thus married couples are called to teach the Church about the nature of Christ’s love; through the example of their relationship, all married couples are called to be leaders, offering inspiration and prophetic witness in their parish communities.

Couples teach the Church that God’s love is as intimate as it is benevolent, and that his Kingdom is more relational, like a family, than legalistic. Like a passionately ‘in love’ couple, Jesus’ love for us is urgent, personal and intimate. He longs to be close to us, to be one with us, to be in communion. The ‘one flesh’ union of husband and wife is not just a physical joining of their bodies for brief and occasional moments. Nor is it their compensation for having to endure the difficulties of marriage and family life! No, their sexual union is a sacred gesture and is instrumental in what Pope John Paul II called ‘a communion of persons’ — the interpersonal communion of body and soul between two persons in a mutual self-gift.

The passionate married couple thus illuminates and images the Eucharistic communion — Jesus gives his body and sheds his blood in a total outpouring of love for his bride, the Church. When a couple make love, they too give their bodies and shed their blood (ie lay down their life in service) to each other in the image of Christ. And just as husband and wife become ‘one flesh’ in sexual communion, so also do we, the bride of Christ, become one flesh with Jesus in Eucharistic communion.

Sexual communion is a sacred rite; a deeply holy and sacramental act for the married couple. It is no accident that sexual union is considered essential to the establishment of the Sacrament of Matrimony when the couple marries. “In fact, the words themselves, ‘I take you as my wife/ as-my husband’ do not only refer to a determinate reality, but they can only be fulfilled by the copula conjugale (conjugal intercourse).” (John Paul II, TOB 103:2)

Married love is indeed a powerful witness and teacher. It images and makes real the profound mysteries of our faith and is thus worthy of contemplation and reverence.

Credit to  Francine & Byron Pirola and MarriageResourceCentre.


You Can Make A Lifetime Marriage

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

married couple

Sociology professor, Pepper Schwartz, has a rather depressing piece in CNN titled,  Lifetime Marriage a Crapshoot.        It reflects on the fact the the biggest percentage increase in divorces is among  people over 50.  It used to be that people felt that if you made it to 25 years, you were home free.  Not any more.  Althought the divorce rate is significantly lower among longer-marrieds than among those married fewer than 10 years, it isn’t unusual for couples to divorce after 25, 40, even 50 years.   Schwartz writes,

Lifetime marriage is turning into a crapshoot for many people, especially  Baby Boomers. Maybe holding on till “death do them part” is least likely for Hollywood stars whose work takes a hard toll on their relationships and whose exit from marriages is not generally impeded by financial concerns. But really, no marriage is immune against what seems to be an epidemic of marital unraveling.

She’s right.  No marriage is immune.  Not any couple.  Not anytime.

Crisis or Opportunity?

It would be easy to get depressed about this, but I tend to think of it as empowering because the key to lifelong marital satisfaction is actually hidden  within  the fact that no one can  count  on marriage lasting a lifetime.  What do I mean?  In my experience, when we say we can “count” on something, we usually mean “I don’t have to be concerned about it.”  ”I don’t have to take care of it.”  ”I don’t have to attend to it.”    I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to adopt this attitude toward my lawnmower much less my marriage.  Seriously,  what if you saw an article that said, “‘Neglected, 40-yo Lawnmower Breakage At All Time High’ Study Says”  would you be surprised?   Of course not.  Then why do we  tsk-tsk  so much about articles that essentially say the same thing about marriage?

No Such Thing As “It”

I note in my book,  For Better…FOREVER!    that one of the most important attitudes couples have to develop about their marriage is that there is no “it.”    Couples often claim, “It just died.”  ”IT just didn’t make sense to stay together any more.”  ”We couldn’t save IT.”   There is no “it” in marriage.  There is only you, your spouse and what you create together by asking yourselves what you can do to take even better care of each other today than you did yesterday—everyday for the rest of your lives.   If you do this, you will have a happy marriage that lasts a lifetime.  If you don’t, you won’t. Period.  As a friend of mine says, “It aint rocket surgery.”

The Answer: Intentional Loving

I understand that the ins and outs of taking care of your relationship can be a challenge.  Prioritizing your marriage in the face of work and life pressures, developing the self-control that it it takes to not lash out at your partner when things get tough, and learning to love your mate more than your comfort zone are all hard work, but assuming you intentionally commit to taking care of each other everyday, you can’t help but learn these things.  In fact,  although it gets a little lost among the paragraphs of hand-wringing, Dr. Schwartz makes this same point, herself, in her article when she writes,

[W]e have to be intentional about our relationship every day, year, and decade we are together. We have to aim high, have a lot of fun, work hard at being each other’s lover and friend and always do everything we can to repair problems along the way.

And that’s good advice whether you’ve been married 5 days or 50 years.

Resources You Need to Succeed

For more information increasing the likelihood of you and your spouse making it to happily ever after, check out  For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage,  The Exceptional Seven Percent:  Nine Secrets of the World’s Happiest Couples,   and  Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage.



5 Ways to Love Your Man

By: Francine and Byron Pirola

woman hugging husband

Men and women experience love in different and complementary ways. However, a woman will generally express love the way she experiences it, not the way her husband does. Most women primarily experience love through gestures of cherishment, while men experience love most powerfully through the medium of respect.

Here are five ways you can nail it in the love department for your man this Father’s day (or any day of the year).

1. Cut the criticism

Nothing makes a man feel more disrespected and unappreciated than being criticized and put down, especially when it’s in front of others. This applies also to the way we speak about our man when he’s not present.

2. Avoid Nagging

Not only is nagging almost never effective in bringing about the desired reform, most men will dig in and resist all the more forcefully when they feel nagged. If you need a behavior change, make a respectful and unemotional request.

3. Express Admiration

Identify the virtues and strengths of your man and tell him! It’s great for him to hear it, and it’s good for you to remind yourself as it’s all too easy to focus on what is lacking and overlook the many ways he gives without you even noticing because it is so constant.

4. Wait Till Asked

Whether it’s driving the car, finding your way without a map or assembling the furniture without the instructions… butt out! Let him drive, navigate and create without your constant suggestions. You may think you are being helpful, but if he wants your help, he’ll ask for it.

5. Give him the Benefit of the Doubt

It’s common practice when we feel wounded by our husband to make assumptions about his motives; every little gesture and word is interpreted as proof of his mean-spiritedness, selfishness, carelessness etc. So when he does or says something that upsets you, suspend judgment and make a choice to assume loving, generous motives rather than negative ones.

Credit to Francine and Byron Pirola of CathFamily.  

Over-scheduled Couples

By: Francine and Byron Pirola

couple working seperate

Too many marriages suffer from insufficient time. In fact, it’s possibly the single biggest contributor to marriage breakdown. There might be an affair or a falling out of love, but usually, these triggers are preceded by a chronic neglect of the relationship and it’s need for time and attention from both husband and wife.

Whether it’s the demands of career or family, couples need to prioritise their marriage by protecting their time together. Here are some tips to help:

  1. Daily Connection Ritual.  Craft a simple daily connection ritual that works for you. We like to take a brisk walk around the block (weather permitting). Others will take their coffee together while kids wash up the dishes. Some connect by phone several times a day to keep each other in the loop. It  doesn’t  matter what it is as long as it helps you connect and can be done regularly.
  2. Seize the moment!  We call them ‘date-claimers’ — those spur of the moment opportunities to do something together, like picking up a child from a party or dropping off the dry cleaning. We do it together and ‘claim’ the chore as a date.
  3. Date nights. It can be dinner, movies, the gym, flashy outings or simple picnics. Whatever it is, have a regular date night where the romance can flow. If childcare is a problem, there are a number of babysitting cooperatives that are an inexpensive solution.
  4. Invest in the long term.  Do something intentional to strengthen your bond; go on retreat, do some marriage enrichment, read a relationship book together, do an online relationship course.
  5. Schedule it.  If time together is important, don’t leave it to chance, put it in the diary and don’t let it get bumped.

Credit to Francine and Byron Pirola of CathFamily.


Spiritual Intimacy

By: Francine and Byron Pirola


couple praying

It is often difficult for a couple to share their personal faith experiences with each other. This is so for couples of different faith traditions, but is also true even if they are of the same religion.
We are trained to avoid talking about religion and politics in polite company because these topics are laden with strong feelings. Precisely for this reason, it is very important, for a couple who wants to be close, to trust one another with these feelings and to be open and accepting of the other’s deeply held beliefs and personal experiences.

Sometimes, people think that faith does not really matter to them because they are not overly religious. But even if they have no formal religious training, their concept of God and how they view themself in relationship to God, is central to their personhood and powerfully impacts their behavior and attitudes. If they simply avoid sharing that which is so central and foundational, they run the risk of their relationship becoming shallow and vulnerable to a great deal of misunderstanding.

Tension can arise because couples have sometimes been taught different things about what is right or wrong. They may even hold deeply seated misconceptions about the other’s faith traditions or experiences. Sharing faith can overcome this formation and draw a couple closer together whether or not they choose to practice their faith in the same way.
It is a great act of generosity to free the other to be themselves by sincerely encouraging them to reveal their feelings and experiences in their relationship with God.

Credit to Francine and Byron Pirola of SmartLoving.

Couple Decision Making

By: Francine and Byron Pirola


decision making

Behind every behavior or decision that you make, is a value; something that you hold in high esteem and is advanced in some way by the action.
For example, making the choice to working late, may reflect any one of a number of values, such as:

  • having pride in doing a job well,
  • reducing financial debt,
  • avoiding anticipated conflict at home, or
  • being appreciated by colleagues

All of these values deliver a good of some kind. Your values are influenced by your upbringing, gender, personality, experiences, conscious choices and your emotional needs, fears, desires and dreams. While there are some ‘universal’ values, like being loved for example, your value set will be unique to you.

Conflicting Values

When you disagree about something or can’t understand why your spouse behaves a certain way, it is a sign of conflicting values, or a ‘value divergence’. Before you can address the conflict, you will need to clarify your own values. A simple process of self-interrogation can help you:

  1. What do you want? This question forces you to take ownership for what you desire.
    E.g. I want to be admired by my colleagues and to be successful in the eyes of my father.
  2. Why is it important to you? Where does this value come from? In other words, what are the underlying values? Every choice will have some benefit. Identify what good will come from doing it this way. It also helps to know the source of your value, for example: your family of origin, past experiences, religious beliefs, fears, hopes.
    E.g. I feel better about myself when others admire me. I feel accepted by my father. My father worked long hours.
  3. How strongly do you feel about this value? Use the scale of 0-10, or descriptive words to indicate the importance of each value identified.
    E.g. Admiration = 6, Approval of father = 9

Once you ‘decode your behavior’ and identify the values, you will have a better understanding of yourself and what is motivating you. You can then look at trying to understand each other and what values are most important to you.

Embracing your Spouse’s Values

Once you have identified and shared your values with each other, the next step is to embrace your spouse’s most important values, honoring them as your own. Usually, it is not so difficult to see the good in the others values as they always have a positive good as their goal. Then you are in a position to evaluate the best way to act on those values.

To return to our example… Working long hours is one way to win the admiration and the approval of your father. However, it has some negative consequences such as neglecting your spouse and children, your physical and emotional health; values that your spouse has. Are there other ways to honor these values as well as the values of your spouse ? Perhaps you can put some boundaries around how many work nights you have, or perhaps going into work early rather than staying late accomplishes the admiration and father approval you seek, without the family feeling neglected or your health suffering.

Brainstorm together to identify a number of different ways that honours the values of both parties and choose the one that best advances your unity.

Unity — the Most important Value

We call this the ‘trump card’. Among the hundreds of different values you may have, the one that is most important is your unity. If you are serious about your marriage, a value for unity trumps all other values. And so unity is like the litmus test for any decision; will this choice advance our unity? If the answer is ‘Yes’, its a choice that will serve and your marriage well, drawing you closer together.  The call to unity is a call to be predisposed to see things from a couple perspective, taking the other into account and embracing that which affects one as affecting both.  When you make what is important to your spouse important to you, they will feel important to you.  It is a powerfully loving act and the first step on the journey to developing couple values. Deliberately choosing to make what is important to one, important to both, is the way you can intentionally develop your coupleness. It is a conscious choice to accept and embrace the other and to honour their values as we would our own.

Credit to Francine and Byron Pirola of SmartLoving.