Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gottman's Principles 6 and 7

GRADE: 50/50 (It is fascinating to look back at family relationships and evaluate. I am tempted to analyze sometimes and that is a dangerous thing for me! I enjoyed reading your paper!)
Lena Baron
Assignment 12
Principles 6 and 7
Overcome Gridlock
Create Shared Meaning

Overcome Gridlock: “Gridlock is a sign that you have dreams for your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other.” – John Gottman

After a long time of digging for an example of gridlock within my marriage I have decided to move away from my marriage and talk about my parent’s marriage which is filled with gridlock and unmet dreams. This is not a fun topic for me. Mostly because I can’t take the steps that Gottman suggests to solve my parent’s issues. However, I can learn from them and if the chance arises, I can try to give suggestions. In the end, my parents need some serious time in Gottmans’s Love Lab.

Gottman says “to navigate your way out of gridlock, you have to first understand the cause.” He goes on to say, “gridlock is a sign that you have dreams for your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other.”

I believe one of the main differences between my marriage and my parent’s marriage is that my husband and I recognize each other’s dreams and if and when possible, we work to help each other fulfill those dreams. Not all dreams are completely attainable. However, the key is the fact that we’ve validated each other in our dreams. My parents on the other hand seem to be so deeply engrained in their habits of bringing out the four horsemen that it leaves no room at all to even see the other person for who they really are and what they really want, let alone why they want it.

At the end of his book Gottman brings up a vitally important point that I believe would be crucial in healing my parent’s marriage and opening up a path for them to see each other’s dreams. He talks about criticism and what causes a spouse to be chronically critical, he says, “the other source of criticism in marriage comes from within. It is connected to self-doubt that has developed over the course of one’s life, particularly during child-hood. In other words, it begins as criticism of oneself.” He goes on to explain, “if you consider yourself inadequate, you are always on the lookout for what is not there in yourself and your partner. And let’s face it: Anyone you marry will be lacking in certain desirable qualities. The problem is that we tend to focus on what’s missing in our mate and overlook the fine qualities that are there-we take those for granted.”

Both of my parent’s grew up in difficult family situations. My father was sickly and small throughout his childhood. He then got bone cancer in his twenties and lost his leg. He never fully recovered from this emotionally and has always been self-critical, which I believe has led to him never fully embracing my mother’s good traits. My mother grew up in a stress-filled home where her father was sick and her mother worked full time. They never had any money and I don’t think she ever felt validated for the work that she did for her family. This self-concept moved right over into her marriage.

As a product of my parent’s marriage, I have unfortunately mastered the art of being self-critical. I can speak from personal experience that if a person becomes entrenched in the habit of self-criticism, it will most definitely distort their view of those around them, especially their “other-half”, being their spouse.

I also find this especially true with my children. I have a 6-year-old son. He is a wonderful child with a kind and obedient heart. However, he is a child, and children are practicing through trial and error how to become an obedient and responsible adult. They are also known for being egocentric. In the end, this means that they are often naturally difficult and ungrateful. My husband on the other hand has accomplished the task of becoming a thoughtful and responsible adult. This means that he is able to offer assistance and gratitude when appropriate. I have often asked myself why I am not able to have as peaceful of a relationship with my son as I have with my husband.  I believe that it is because my husband doesn’t invoke my feelings of inadequacy as my son does. After reading Gottman’s book, I have realized that I am most critical with my children during the times when I feel the most inwardly self-critical (a.k.a clueless as a parent.) So how do I overcome this? How could my parent’s overcome this? How do we get to a point where we can see another person’s dreams as well as our own? Could it possibly be as easy as finding gratitude, as Gottman suggests?

After sharing a wonderful exercise on how to go about seeking out the positive he goes on to say, “As you stretch the period of thanksgiving one day beyond a week, and then another day, and then another, you’ll receive a great gift: You will begin to forgive yourself. Grace and forgiveness will enter your world. This is what the spiritual “Amazing Grace” is all about. You begin to enjoy your own accomplishments, rather than consider them inadequate.” He continues, “The more you can imbue your relationship with the spirit of thanksgiving and the graceful presence of praise, the more meaningful and fulfilling your lives together will be.”

Truly, I believe that forgiving themselves and finding the good in each other will be the first step towards healing in my parent’s marriage. It is interesting that this lesson is in the very back of Gottman’s book… In my opinion, Gottman could have named his book “Seven Principles to Forgiveness.”

Create Shared Meaning:
My husband and I have a deep sense of Shared Meaning within our marriage and family. We were able to naturally move into a few rituals because they were family rituals that we both grew up with. For example, we both grew up in families who ate dinner together as a family, without the television on. We both grew up going to church on Sunday. And we both celebrated the holidays with family.

As a couple, and as a family, Leif and I have continued these same rituals as well as establishing some of our own. On an every day basis Leif and I have a ritual of saying “I love you” at the end of a phone call with each other. We also give each other a kiss in greeting or goodbyes. As a family, one of my favorite rituals is the natural (unspoken, not planned) ritual that we have of celebrating when anyone walks in the door after being apart for a while. Another ritual we have more on a weekly basis is that we go grocery shopping together.

Leif and I have a fun ritual that started when our oldest child was around two years old. We creatively decorate a cake for the child who’s celebrating a birthday. We’ve had a lot of fun with this and it has created a special bond as a couple and as parents. As a family, we go out every year just after thanksgiving to cut down a Christmas tree. When it comes time to decorate the tree, I give the kids each a new Christmas book that they can look at while we get the tree wrapped in lights. Going back to the daily rituals, I will mention that bedtime is filled with rituals. Papa (Leif) tells a story, we read scriptures, pray, Mama feeds the baby after lights-out, and hopefully the ritual of getting out of bed to go to the bathroom again is forgotten.

We have a family Mission Statement and a Family Motto. The mission statement is a scripture: Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High. Our Motto is, “We Are All on the Same Team!” This has given us a clear base for our goals and philosophies as a couple and as a family.

Finally, I will mention a few of the Symbols of our family. First, Jesus Christ is the prominent symbol in our home and family. Much of what happens within our home revolves around the teachings and influence of Jesus Christ. The LDS Temple is another symbol that reminds us of the promises we have made as a couple as well as the blessing we are promised from the Lord. We have a curio case that holds all of our twins’ belongings and memorabilia as well as an oil painting of the girls. We also have a flower garden dedicated to them and their memory. These are all symbols of the journey and lessons that we have traveled because of our girls.

As I finished this book by John Gottman I found myself preparing to read it again. I hope to organize a bit and follow a few of the exercises that Gottman gives throughout the book. Ultimately, I would love to feel confident in his Seven Principles to teach it to my small town community. I feel like it could be a gift to many couples. Thank you for sharing it with us! 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gottman's Principles 4 and 5

GRADE: 40/50 (I like what you have written. It is a good start. Including more specific examples of each principle would make a more complete paper. Also, Gottman wrote "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" and it is excellent!)
Lena Baron
Assignment 11
Principles 4 and 5
Let Your Partner Influence You
Solve Your Solvable Problems

While reading Gottman’s book my mind keeps screaming, “I need a Gottman’s PARENTING book!” He is so right on for marriage. Imagine how he could help with parenting!  But that’s a discussion for a different time.

While reading about Principle 4, Let Your Partner Influence You, I found this principle to be an original concept that I hadn’t really heard throughout my marriage studies up to this point. My studies are limited, yet I think that this idea is somewhat limited as well in its popularity. In addition, Gottman goes beyond the “norm” of yesteryear and tells husbands to start listening to their wives if they want a happy marriage, with a little mumble at the end that wives should also listen and learn from their husbands. I found it a bit humorous.

I appreciated the fact that Gottman didn’t leave the subject at “husband’s listen to your wives…” He brought in the why behind the suggestion. He says, “Although it is always important for both husband and wife to try to keep the four horsemen from taking over in times of conflict, it is especially important that men be aware of the danger to their marriage when they use one of them to escalate the negativity. For some reason, when a wife uses the four horsemen in the same manner, the marriage does not become more unstable. At this point, the data do not offer an explanation for this disparity. But we know that as a general rule women do accept influence from their husbands, which may help to explain the gender differences in our findings. So although it certainly makes sense for both partners to avoid escalating conflicts in this way, the bottom line is that husbands put their marriage at added risk when they do.”

When applying this principle to my marriage, I find myself profoundly grateful. I found a husband who wouldn’t know how to use the four horsemen on purpose if I asked him to. I have mentioned our weaknesses toward flooding and stonewalling in my previous paper. But with gratitude I can say that my husband doesn’t use the four horsemen on a daily basis and sometimes we can get through a conflict without him bringing them out at all. However, I can’t say the same for me. I grew up in a home where the four horsemen were members of the household. They were living and breathing entities within the walls of our home. Unfortunately, it takes a complete overhaul of habitudes to shake their influence from ones soul. Thank heaven’s that the husband’s influence in this regard can make or break a relationship.

I enjoyed reading through Principle 5, Solve Your Solvable Problems. This principle is one that I will refer back to often in the next while as I try to apply these principles to my marriage. I love that Gottman gives suggestions within this principle that are doable and so helpful. Again, I bring up parenting. I know these five steps will help me as a parent as well as a wife. While talking about Step 3, Soothe Yourself and Each Other, Gottman gives a Self Soothing exercise. I need to take this exercise and master it, and soon! As a massage therapist, my husband has mastered the art of relaxation and calming down. I am a work in progress to say the least.

Step One, Soften Your Startup, brought an image to mind. It went something like this; I’m cleaning up the living room for the umpteenth time that day, I am frazzled with my world and the kids, I’m at the end of my rope. Leif is in the next room. Suddenly, I find myself screaming his name (as if all that I’m feeling is his darn fault! And he better fix everything, Yesterday!) Well, those were my thoughts and feelings anyway. However, now that I’ve been taught the skills (Soften Your Startup), I have a choice to make. Leif hasn’t entered the room yet. When he does, am I going to continue my path with the four gallant horsemen, or am I going to calm down and soften my startup?  I pray that I can master that soft startup.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Warning Signs and a Love Map

GRADE: 50/50 (Great job! The emotion in your story almost brought me to tears. Sometimes, it is the challenges and sacrifices that bring us closer together.)
Lena Baron
Assignment 9
Warning Signs and a Love Map

I recently wrote a paper for my Balancing Work, Family and Marriage class where we summed up how we were going to find a balance between work, family, and marriage ten years down the road. After reading these three chapters in Gottman’s book, I wish I could rewrite my paper. 

My husband, Leif, and I have a happy marriage. However, I grew up in the classic negative example of marriage that Gottman discussed. The one headed toward divorce. For as long as I can remember, I have fought against the example that was set within my home of origin. I instinctively knew that my parent’s relationship was extremely dysfunctional and unhealthy. I was a junior in High School when I took my first Communications class. I remember feeling like a lost soul in the desert who had just found a stream. Learning a healthy way of communicating was life changing for me.

With this said, I have to admit that I felt a little uneasy when Gottman said that the “old school” way of therapy is ineffective. However, as I read further, truth be told, Gottman just teaches us a newer way to communicate. It’s not that communication isn’t important. But that’s just my opinion.

After reading about Harsh Startup’s, The Four Horsemen, Flooding, Body Language, Failed Repair, and Bad Memories, I have renewed my commitment to be more aware of my own personal thoughts and actions when communicating with my husband. 

Leif and I didn’t argue or bicker for the first two years of our dating and married life. That isn’t because we were in denial that there were ever struggles or that we were numb to our own needs or emotions. It is because we had a very healthy positive to negative thinking ratio. We both focused so much upon the positive within each other that there was little room for any negativity. We also had a healthy Love Map filled with growing details. It took harsh real life experiences, the loss of our twin daughters, within the third year of our marriage to rattle us off our virtually flawless foundation.

While reading about all of these warning signs I recognize them within our marriage only as shadows of the grief and hardships that stems from the loss of our girls and the sequence of events that followed. Their loss was only the beginning of a very difficult and life-altering season for our family. We had sold our business, a national nanny agency, only months before our girls’ were born, our savings was spent during and after the drama, and Leif’s real-estate license was useless due to the latest economic problems of that time.  Leif entered back into the college scene at 28 years old with only a Massage Therapy and Real Estate certification. We settled into my in-law’s “barn” (an apartment above their garage) and have lived here ever since. We have three children now and Leif has almost 10 years left in his school career before he will settle into his chosen profession as a Nurse Anesthetist.

I share the personal details of our life in order to explain how the warning signs that Gottman tells us about in his book apply to my marriage relationship. If Leif and I were to sit down and pin point our weaknesses they would most likely be flooding and stonewalling. I am the “flooder” in the relationship and my poor husband feels the “flooding”.  My weakness is allowing more emotion into the moment then what is involved in the present issue. Sometimes the flooding becomes so overwhelming that Leif resorts to stonewalling rather than taking on all of the issues again. And then if we’re both in a weak moment we’ll bring in criticism and defensiveness.

Leif and I are both reading Gottman’s book. When I asked my husband what strengths he thought we had as a couple he brought up the fact that our repair attempts are successful. We are able to argue or “hash things out” and end with a stronger relationship.

We have been asked how we have managed to keep our marriage alive and even thrive despite our losses and hard times. I truly believe that it is because through it all we have remained friends. We have steadily increased the details on our Love Map on a daily basis, we have always tried to meet each other’s needs first, and above all, we have continued to nourish our friendship.

Every day throughout our marriage Leif and I have used shop and small talk to keep our connection strong. As we end the day it’s not uncommon for us to take a few minutes and update each other on any commitments we’ve made, plans we’ve set, or conversations we’ve had that we feel like sharing. Along with staying connected through updating, we build our love map through observation and retention. By this, I mean that we observe each other as we are out and about together or with other people at a party or activity. We listen to what the other has to say, we observe the things that the other finds interesting or not interesting. As the years have progressed, we have come to a point where we know each other’s stories before the second word comes out. We know what book the other person is looking for on the shelf without asking because we’ve paid attention to the series of books the other is reading. We know the nitty-gritty details about each other because we want to know. And this desire motivates us to take the time to find out the details.

When I was in the hospital for six weeks prior to our twin’s birth Leif made the sacrifices necessary in order to ensure that I was able to visit with our son. Leif would come to the hospital every morning with our son and they would visit until his naptime. Leif would then take him home and bring him back so we could all eat dinner together. On occasion, Leif would find a babysitter for our son and he would come to the hospital for a “date night.” These were very special times. This is just one example of how we do our best to meet each other’s needs.

The trust that Leif and I have built over the years has strengthened our friendship and love. This bond of friendship and trust keeps us from chronically using the deadly communication tactics against each other that are discussed in Gottam’s book. Now that we are reading this book together we will be able to take the principles taught and apply it where needed, specifically when we are tempted to use flooding and stonewalling. 

Single Parent Families: Challenges and Strengths

GRADE: 25/25 (Excellent work!)
Lena Baron
Assignment 8

Single Parent Families:
Challenges and Strengths

Single parent families face many of the same challenges that dual parent families face. However, the struggle is more profound because they are left to overcome the challenges on their own. They have to balance work, childcare, housework, children’s activities, as well as visitation schedules. They are also faced with possible grief and emotional turmoil to overcome both within themselves as well as within the children.

One mother shared her story online, she said, “Now that my children are raised, I look back and wonder how we survived. I had two children, a low paying job, and an ex-husband who didn’t pay child support -- ever. I often worked two, and at times three, jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and a little bit of food on the table. I still have pangs of guilt. Why? Because I know that my children’s parental attention and guidance left a lot to be desired. I had no family to count on for help. Since I had to work many hours just to survive, I was not there for them. But I found that God kept His protective hand on them and gave me strength to endure.” (

This mother’s faith in God leads to one example of how single parent families can overcome their many challenges in a healthy way. One of the best ways for single parents to overcome their challenges is to seek out a strong and uplifting support group. It isn’t uncommon anymore to be a single parent. Luckily, it isn’t uncommon to find organized support groups for single parents either. Many states in the United States have programs specifically designed to strengthen single parent families. A person’s church might be a strong support group as well. There are also many groups and websites online where single parent families can find support.

According to Brigham Young University researchers asked a group of single parents how they were able to overcome the challenges they faced as single parents. They came up with a list of ways they overcame their struggles. They are as follows:
Acceptance of Responsibility, Commitment to Family, Open Communication, Successful Home Management, Care of Self, Maintain Traditions and Relationships, Have a Positive Outlook on Challenges. By taking responsibility, accepting their limitations, and maintaining the positive within their family, many single parent families are able to find happiness and stability within their family.

There are many challenges that single parent families face. However, there can also be many strengths within these families. For example, if there was a high contention rate within the family before a divorce, then chances are the family will experience less tension in their daily life after a divorce takes place. Single parent families are often inter-dependant families. Family members often find that they have to rely on each other in order for life to run smoothly.  

Within a single parent home, every member of the family plays a vital role. Within a dual parent household, the parents often take on the larger tasks of the family such as the grocery shopping, yard care, and deep housecleaning. Within a healthy single parent home, each family member is expected to take on these duties in order to keep the family in balance. This expectation and experience often teaches the children to take on responsibility and follow through with the tasks given to them.

Single parent families often find that their parent-child relationship is strong. They often depend upon each other in unique ways from dual parent families and their loyalty toward each other is a powerful bond. It takes effort to create and maintain a healthy single parent family, just as it takes effort for dual parent families. If the single parent will reach out for help when needed and teach the children how to work as a family team, it is likely that they will find success. 

The Parenting Styles

GRADE: 25/25 (Excellent work! I really like your examples and scenarios!)
Lena Baron
Assignment 7

The Parenting Styles:
Where and why they are on the Couple and Family Map

Democratic: Families with Democratic Parenting Styles usually find themselves within the connected to cohesive and structured to flexible points on the Couple and Family Map, bringing them right into the balanced center of the Map. Democratic Parenting families have found the balance between the roles of the parents and the children. The parents have set clear guidelines and boundaries, including the consequences for failing to stay within these boundaries. The children are secure in their role, as a child with a say in the family yet understands that the parents are the enforcing role within the family. In a Democratic Parenting family, neither parent nor child is overly dominating which is why they fit into the balanced center of the Couple and Family Map.

Authoritarian: Families with Authoritarian Parenting styles usually find themselves in the structured to rigid and cohesive to enmeshed lower right corner of the Couples and Family Map. This puts the family leaning toward or right into the unbalanced sector of the Map. Parents who use an Authoritarian Parenting style have taken the role of the child’s point of view out of the family game plan. The parents have set the rules and consequences regardless of the child’s influence. Within the family, the child is one to be directed and expected to obey without question. This rigidity leads to a serious imbalance within the family as well as in the personal life of the children involved.

Permissive: Families with Permissive Parenting Styles have managed to bring the voice of the child back into the family dynamic. Unfortunately, they have failed to bring in the parents role of enforcer back into the family. This leads the family towards the unbalanced edge of the Couple and Family Map, usually finding themselves somewhere in the flexible to chaotic and the cohesive to enmeshed points on the Map.

Rejecting: Families with Rejecting Parenting Styles fall into a severely unbalanced point on the Couples and Family Map. These families find themselves in structured to rigid and connected to disengage families. A family where the child is given many rules to follow yet is never acknowledged for their compliance to these rules and if they are acknowledged it is usually for their lack of compliance. This creates a spiraling imbalance within the family and the children’s development.

Uninvolved: Families with Uninvolved Parenting Styles pattern closely to that of the Rejecting Parenting style with the difference being that there is almost no guidance from the parents to the children (rigid or structure.) The child is basically left on their own without notice unless they directly interfere with the parent’s life. This lack of communication, guidance, enforcement, and connection, brings this family to perhaps the most imbalanced place on the Couple and Family Map.

The Parenting Styles:
Interactions within these families

Democratic: Interactions between a Democratic parent and their child would include the following. When faced with an issue or the need for a discussion this family would make a conscious effort to listen to each other respectfully and validate one another either in words or by action. This family has an understanding that the child is allowed to share their thoughts, feelings, and choices without fear of degradation. A Democratic family allows the children to choose their actions with an understanding of the consequences. A scenario might go something like this:

Everyone has been called to the dinner table to eat. Everyone in the family is getting situated in their chairs as mom brings the meal to the table. The two year old however is climbing on top of the table rather then into his chair. Dad comes in and sees the child’s obvious misbehavior. He calmly comes to the table and says, “Billy, you can choose to sit in your seat and join us for dinner, or you can choose to sit on your bed for two minutes and eat your dinner last. What is your choice?” Because this is an established pattern in the family, the toddler will most likely choose to climb in his seat even as his father is reminding him of his choice. Otherwise, the father will calmly carry the child to his bed.

Authoritarian: Interactions between an Authoritarian parent and their child is much more closed-minded and tight-lipped compared to a Democratic parenting style. Authoritarian parents believe that their children are meant to follow their direction regardless of how the child feels or what the child wants. There is little room for choice. Their scenario might go something like this:

The family has been called to dinner and everyone is situating themselves into their chair as mom brings dinner to the table. Dad walks in and sees the two year old climbing on the table instead of getting in his chair. Dad yells, “Billy! Get off the table Now!” Billy continues to play. Without warning dad walks over to Billy, grabs him off the table, and puts him in his room. He adds, don’t come out until I come and get you! He slams the door as Billy starts to scream.

Permissive: Interactions between a Permissive parent and child leave both the parent and the child without guidelines or expected consequences. Their scenario might go something like this:

The family has been called to dinner and everyone is situating themselves into their chair as mom brings dinner to the table. Dad walks in and takes his seat as he watches the two year old climbing on the table instead of into his chair. Mom asks the child to climb into his chair as she peaks back into the room to check what else she needs to bring in. Billy says, “NO! I want to sit here, jabbing his finger to the table. Dad responds, “Okay, let’s just make sure all of our glasses are out of the way so they don’t get spilled.”

Rejecting: Interactions between a Rejecting Parent and their child is filled with disrespect, shunning, and irritation. The parent might feel regret for even having to deal with the child at the moment and the child might just wish they were invisible. Their scenario could go something like this:

Mother calls to the family “Dinner’s ready, come and get it!” Everyone scrambles into the kitchen to get their fair share. Billy, the two year old is trying to balance his bowl filled with Mac n’ Cheese amidst the shuffle and accidently drops it all over the floor. Mom recognizes the sound of the clattering bowl and storms into the kitchen. She sees Billy bent over his bowl quickly trying to clean up the mess. Angrily she grabs Billy up and shoves him out of the kitchen as she yells, “I am so sick of having to clean up after all of you pigs! Get out of my kitchen!”

Uninvolved: A family with an uninvolved parenting style leaves everyone to fend for themselves. Their scenario might go something like this:

Mom is crashed on the couch with the television still on from last night. It’s almost noon and two-year-old Billy has been following twelve-year-old Jenny around the house screaming for 15 minutes as she talks on the phone. She finally ends her call and grudgingly swings Billy up onto her hip to go get him a corndog. She glares at her snoring mom as she enters the kitchen. 

Five Types of Marriages

GRADE: 25/25 (Great Job!)
Lena Baron Assignment #4
June 22, 2011
Five Types of Marriage
What kinds of practices, behaviors, or attitudes do you think contribute to each of the five types of marriages?

Harmonious Couples
Main survey, Olsen, Olsen-Sigg, & Larsen (2008), put 24% of couples as Harmonious.
Satisfied/Strengths With: Conflict resolution ability, and their roles relationship.

In this study they determined that the most common marriage type in America was the Harmonious Couples Marriage. I picture this type of couple being content in their marriage, not ecstatic, but content. They know that there are weaknesses “but they settle with the mentality of “what marriage doesn’t have weaknesses?” They enjoy each other’s company and share the responsibility within the marriage in a give and take relationship with respect. They have the skills necessary and a desire to fix any conflicts that may arise before they become too extreme. This adds to the harmony and contentment within the marriage. At times, they may wonder where the bliss went in their marriage or if things could be better.
Conflicted Couples
Main survey, Olsen, Olsen-Sigg, & Larsen (2008),  put 22% of couples as conflicted with 16% happiness 3 years after marriage and 54% were divorced or separated (per a different study).
Satisfied With: Nothing Noted
Weaknesses: communication, and conflict resolution

It has been determined that the second most common type of marriage in America is the Conflicted Couple Marriages. I picture this type of marriage being filled with unresolved conflict. It is likely that both people in the marriage have come into the marriage with unresolved issues. This then adds to the conflict that will be set forth within their current relationship. Because both people lack the skills to communicate effectively and to resolve conflict, the negative issues in the marriage quickly start to out weigh the positive issues.  This a sign of the couple’s inability to forgive each other and make the necessary sacrifices to promote healing within the relationship and according to one of the studies, 54% of the couples who fall into the conflicted marriage types is divorced or separated before the third year of marriage.

Devitalized Couples
Main survey, Olsen, Olsen-Sigg, & Larsen (2008) put 19% in this category
Satisfied With: Nothing Noted

The survey at hand determined that 19% of America’s marriages fall right in the middle of all of the marriage types with Devitalized Marriages.  I picture this type of marriage as a Conflicted Marriage that did not end in divorce, and has only progressed further and further down hill.  The word devitalized means to make weak or lifeless, to deprive something of its strength or vigor (Encarta 2003). I see a devitalized marriage that is not mended as one that has not only become lifeless as a relationship, but one that has sucked the life out of the marriage participants as well. It has become a toxic zone. Within a devitalized marriage, neither partner can see any good within their partner. It is also possible that they have lost sight of the good within themselves as well.

Vitalized Couples
Main survey, Olsen, Olsen-Sigg, & Larsen (2008),  put 18% of couples as vitalized with 60% happiness 3 years after marriage and 17% were divorced or separated (per a different study).
Satisfied/Strengths With: communication, conflict resolution, their sexual relationship, and finances.

According to these studies, couples with a Vitalized marriage are only second to the least common type of marriage. However, I see a vitalized marriage as the type of marriage that most Americans wish for in their relationships. In my opinion, a couple entering into marriage with a vitalized marriage enters with healthy interpersonal skills. They have a good handle on positive communication skills and conflict resolution. They don’t enter the marriage with unresolved issues, and they are strictly committed to their partner and their marriage vow. This type of marriage couple takes an active role in nourishing their marriage and each other. Finally, this type of marriage couple enjoys each other. They stay connected, physically, emotionally, and spiritually even through the ups and downs of life’s journey.

Conventional Couples
Main survey, Olsen, Olsen-Sigg, & Larsen (2008),  put 17% of couples as conventional.
Strengths: Spiritual beliefs, having traditional roles, and a network of supportive family and friends.
Weaknesses: personality compatibility, communication, and conflict resolution.

It has been determined that the Conventional Couples marriage type is now the least common type of marriage in the United States. I picture a Conventional Couples marriage as one that fits the stereotypical “old school” marriage. Perhaps a good example might be a Catholic couple who come from a strong Catholic upbringing. They get married, raise several children, spend their life among family, and never look back. In reality, this couple never really builds further upon their marriage relationship or their friendship. Their marriage is almost a business situation. The husband goes to work, wife stays home to raise the kids, and they meet each night in the bedroom, just like it’s always been.

Leif's Awareness Wheel Interview

GRADE: 22/25 (Your perspective on the conversation is well written. I would have liked to read more about how you guided him through the awareness wheel with sensory data, thoughts, feelings and actions.)
Lena Baron Assignment #3
June 22, 2011

Leif’s Awareness Wheel Interview

Leif walked in from work feeling tired and annoyed. Working at the public school as the In-School Suspension Supervisor and Lunch Program Coordinator had taken its toll on this particular day. Luckily, things seemed to be going smoothly at home so he was able to take a moment to unwind and digest the events of the day. He grabbed a few animal cookies from the cupboard and plopped himself down on the couch. It didn’t take long before Lena, Leif’s wife, walked in and asked how his day had gone.
            Massaging his face in his hands Leif’s response was a muffled, “I wish I knew why they insisted on pushing against the rules so hard.” Lena listened attentively and assured him that she was serious about wanting to hear about his day. So he went on by saying, “Well, all Hades broke loose first thing in the morning during breakfast. I walked in and the lunch-ladies were running behind, the kids were anxiously grumbling for their food, and then Jesse put James in a headlock. James started screaming for dear life, which got all of the kids laughing, and out of line. I walked over to the boys and insisted that Jesse let his brother go. He finally let go after screaming in my face and just for good measure, James turned to his brother and punched him.” “And that was just breakfast?” Lena said in response to the drama Leif had just painted for her.
“Yep! And lunch was a doozy too.” Leif said, stretching his legs out as if he had just run a race. “James ended up throwing another fit during lunch. This time he refused to go to the office and the janitor and I came very close to having to carry him to the office, the vegetable served today was corn and we had at least three corn fights to break up, and to top it off we had inside recess today! You wouldn’t believe how many kids tried to steal fruit off of the fruit cart during recess. I found myself making a chart in my head of the kids who I can and can’t trust within the school. I am so glad that school is almost out for Summer Break! I really want to be able to trust these kids.”

Narrative of the Five Listening Skills
(From the Interviewer’s Point of View)

This interview actually took place later in the evening after my husband and I had put the kids to bed. All of the story and narrative is how our conversation/interview went except for the timeframe of the day, and the animal crackers.
I told Leif that I needed to interview him using the Awareness Wheel and my newly learned Listening Skills. He agreed to accommodate me. We sat on the bed facing each other and began to talk.  I asked him if he had a particular issue that was on his mind. He brought up work and actually started the interview off perfectly by stating his wishes immediately. After that comment, he hesitated a bit and I used the 3rd skill titled “Invite”, by saying, “keep going, I really want to hear about this.” This comment gave him the assurance that I was interested in what he had to say and that I was ready to sit and listen through the duration of the conversation.
As Leif spoke, the thing that I noticed the most was how often I had to stop myself from ending his sentences or asking questions that weren’t necessary and that would have stopped him from sharing all of his thoughts and feelings. When I did ask questions I made sure that they were asked at the right time. To clarify something he said, for example.
As we talked, I nonchalantly glanced at the page that I had copied the 5 Listening Skills and the Awareness Wheel on. This helped me remember some of the skills that weren’t very natural for me throughout the conversation. Thinking back, I can recall using each of the 5 Listening Skills and covering all of the points in the Awareness Wheel. As a whole, it was a conversation that we both walked away from feeling content and valued.

What Was This Like for Me?

This interview/conversation was an eye-opener for me. It helped me recognize some of my strong points in communication, but most importantly, it helped me recognize the things that I need to work on such as letting the speaker lead the conversation and not putting words into their mouth. Truly listening and attending the conversation completely. The Awareness Wheel helped me consciously pay attention to whether we were covering all of the necessary bases in the conversation in order for each of us to walk away feeling like our needs had been met. It also helps me sift through the conversation and really get to the heart of the issue, which, in this case was Leif’s desire for these kids to be trustworthy and obedient.

Step-Down Principle

Lena Baron
Assignment #4
June 22, 2011
GRADE: 30/30
“I enjoyed reading your paper.  That is awesome that you have taken the time to improve your health and finances.  Way to go!  I hope you will keep up the good work and not slide back.”

Part One – Baron Family One Step at a Time

I have a lot happening in my life right now. I have three young children and I home school our children. My husband just graduated with a Bachelors degree in Public Administration. He is now working towards opening up a small Day Spa where he will work as a Massage Therapist during the next few years as he earns his Nursing degree. I am taking classes part time with USU and behind the scenes, I am also on a mission to heal and strengthen my sickly body.
Because of all that is happening in my world on an every day as well as long-term basis the Step-Down principle has been introduced to me at just the right time. I actually don’t think that there is a bad time for it. I wish we would have applied it to our finances years ago. The process of breaking certain issues down into steps and taking one step at a time towards a certain goal is a simple, yet profoundly helpful principle. Especially when you are overwhelmed by the task of reaching the goal.
As I was pondering the Step-Down principle and trying to decide what I would apply it to, I found myself wondering why it is called the step-DOWN principle and not the step-UP principle. Sometimes we think of progress as moving up the ladder. In this case, I determined that the purpose is to move down to the steady foundation of the basics. One step at a time we become more grounded.
I chose two different issues to apply the Step-Down principle to in my life. The first revolved around health and nutrition with the goal being to plan a menu for the month. The second revolved around our finances and ended with a budget plan for the rest of the year.  
I used the Step-Down principle to break down my health and nutrition and needs for a menu into four main steps. First, I conducted a food elimination diet experiment for 2 weeks. Second, I read the book “Breaking the Food Seduction by Neal Barnard, MD. Third, I determined which foods I would and would not include into my menu. Finally, I created a menu.
I am so excited about the menu that I have and the template that I set up in order for me to plan again for the next month. I have plans for meals that are not necessarily freezer friendly as well as half a dozen freezer friendly meals that I’ll double batch and freeze for the future. I have severe gluten intolerance. With this condition, it’s very difficult to eat healthy while always on the run, not to mention extremely expensive. This menu will be very helpful as I try to eat healthy and rebuild my body’s health and strength. I have wanted to establish a good system for planning ahead for our meals. The Step-Down principle was exactly what I needed in order to get organized and act upon what I needed to do, one step at a time.
My husband and I have been married for eight years this month. We have a happy healthy marriage. Up to this point we have been lucky when it comes to communicating about finances. I say lucky because the reality of thing could really cause shakeup in a marriage. We’re not near bankruptcy. But we’ve had to live off of student loans for a few years and that isn’t easy or stress-free. My husband has worked steadily as much as his schedule will allow. However, money is always tight and up until the Step-Down principle, we lacked a major stress reliever, a budget. Thanks to this principle, I was able to break things down enough to gain the confidence in myself to take on the all-day task of organizing this budget plan. It was overwhelmingly eye opening and worthwhile. As the day moved on my good husband joined me when I needed help and input and to close the night we were able to sit and discuss the plan and commit to it. The budget showed me just how much we can NOT dine out. It showed me how much our hobby farm really costs every month. And it has helped me plan for large upcoming expenses and holidays.  Up until this time we have always had to delve into the credit card. We won’t have to do that this semester as long as we continue to follow the plan one step at a time.
Part Two – Miller Family A Change of Habits a Change of View

It’s always interesting to me how I can pin point other peoples problems quickly but it takes years to sift through my own bad habits. I think this might be the case with the Miller family. It seems that they are so busy just trying to meet their obligations and responsibilities that their finances took the hit. If I were in their shoes and I had just discovered the Step-Down principle and applied it by creating a budget. I would apply it again by stepping down the amount of money paid toward food. I would cut the Eating Out budget down to $180.00 at the most. I would also cut out spending extra money on lunches all together and send lunches from home to school and work, using the money allotted in the grocery budget to pay for the lunches.
If these were the changes that the Millers chose to make, I’m sure it would take a major lifestyle change in order to take the steps. They would most likely need to make a menu and purchase the right foods for the meals. The kids are old enough that everyone in the family could each take a day to prepare the meals. If they plan ahead they can double batch meals and use left-overs for lunch or freeze them for another meal. Finding entertainment that doesn’t cost money or revolve around an ordered meal isn’t easy and most likely for the Millers it might require a real change of habits and a change of view. 

Money Habitudes

Lena Baron
June 22, 2011
GRADE: 50/50
“Good job.”
Assignment #3
Money Habitudes

I have really enjoyed learning about the Money Habitudes concepts within a marriage. I am blessed with a wonderful husband and a happy and healthy marriage. However, like many married couples there are times when money issues creep into the scheme of things and the Money Habitudes has opened up our eyes and understanding.

My Money Habitude is focused mostly around Targeted Goals. I believe this is my hearts desire. However, I am also equally focused on Free Spirit. In my opinion, these two Habitudes are opposites of each other, which can lead to frustration if I don’t find a balance.

Out of the advantages of the Targeted Goals and Free Spirit habitudes, I often make an intentional financial decision based on values and desired long-term outcomes. For example, I have decided to continue to take college courses in the Fall. This is a financial decision because it adds debt to our finances as well as a source of income during a semester when my husband will be building a Massage Therapy practice and won’t be able to bring in a steady income. Because we value the fact that I am home with our three young children and we have chosen to home school our oldest, I made my decision to continue my studies in order to stay home with them instead of seeking outside employment. This decision was also made with the long term intentions of learning how to become a better wife and mother now, and if need be in the years to come I will eventually earn the degree in order to help other people with the knowledge that I will gain.

This example also shows how I use the advantages of my Free Spirit habitude by my willingness to adapt easily to new situations. My husband’s massage practice was an unexpected turn of events. The nursing program he was going to attend in the fall canceled its program thus forcing us to draw up a new plan for the year.

When considering the disadvantages of my Money Habitudes I come back to my comment about my Money Habitudes being in conflict, which causes disadvantages. One of the advantages of having a Free Spirit habitude is having faith that others will provide. In my position as a wife and mother, I don’t think it’s fair for me to have the careless attitude that I have. My husband and I do have an understanding that he will pay the bills and take care of things. But I often find myself clueless about our money situation until we don’t have any. Then I find that my Targeted Goals habitude advantages and disadvantages come into play and I am demanding reasons for our lack of money. If I gave more support, I’m sure it would help ease some stress off of my husband and help me understand where we’re at financially and the direction that the path is heading.

Truthfully, my lack of mathematical and budgeting skills is what has left the finances up to my husband up to this point. My goal, notice the word goal, is to find a budgeting system that will help us reach our goals instead of leaning on our Free Spirit tendencies.

This leads me to the Money Habitudes advantages that I feel are missing from our financial situation. Security is missing in our financial habitudes. We set goals, but I lack the skills and my husband lacks the action (sticking to a budget) in order to reach those goals. We desperately need a budget. Security is not one of my strong Money Habitudes, nor is it my husbands. However, we both have strong Targeted Goals habitudes. Generally, we both know the overall status of our bank account amount. We both know the general timeframe that money will be deposited into the account and when money will be withdrawn. However, we lack the everyday expenses budget and the determination to stay within that budget to help us stay ahead.

Which leads to another advantage that is missing from our life, we do not have accessible money in case of emergencies. We understand from experience how important a cushion of savings can be. When I was pregnant with our twin daughters, they were diagnosed with a problem with their placenta. The only doctor that could solve the problem was in Seattle Washington. We had to purchase plane tickets and fly to Washington all in one day. We had some money set aside, but not enough to get us through all that was required. We had to rely on credit and family in order to make due. You would think we would learn from the mistake. We need a better plan and more action.

Gratefully, I do not have the disadvantages of the Status Habitude. This habitude is least like my husband or me. I am so glad that we don’t feel the constant stress of keeping up with others. Nor do we get into debt to maintain appearances.

In order to gain more balance within our financial situation I need to continue to pull from my Targeted Goals strengths by setting realistic goals and making wise purchases that will retain their value. I also need to bring more Security into our finances by establishing and following a budget plan. This will lead us to be able to enjoy the advantages of our Free Spirit tendencies, such as sharing generously with others. As well as bringing in the spontaneity of enjoying the fun life on occasion.

My husband and I have very similar Money Habitudes. His are based on Targeted Goals and Selfless. Mine are Targeted Goals and Free Spirit. The fact that my husband, Leif, is Selfless and I am a Free Spirit, is most likely why he has taken on the finances in the family. His selflessness leads him to take on the burden by himself. My free spirit goes along with this plan.

However, the conflict comes when the money runs out. Because we are both focused on goals, we naturally have plans and goals. However, we lack the Security habitude to make all of these goals happen. Luckily, we are both hard workers and responsibility isn’t an issue. The issue comes with the lack of care we put into our finances on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

This Money Habitudes exercise has already been very helpful for Leif and I. We recognize our strengths and weaknesses now. This has led us to seek out help in our every day finance plans and security weaknesses. 

Process of Elimination: Allergy Elimination Diet

I've decided to do one more thing that I can do about the food intolerances and allergies that are invading my life. I've heard about Elimination Diets and Rotation Diets. But they all seemed toocomplicated and time consuming for me. So I created my own personal plan.

Because many of my symptoms are appearing within the three hours after eating I decided to break my day up into three hour segments, only eat one single food item at a time, and document the reaction or non-reaction on a scale of 0-5 and written details if needed. I also have a scale that shows weight, body fat, muscle, water, etc. I keep a record of that to help me see any flux with that.

Every day I eat a Fruit, Vegetable, Nut/Seed, Grain/Bean, and a Meat. All of the foods are plain. No added seasonings except a dash of salt. This has been very interesting! So far my reactions has shown face with peppers, bananas, and really bad with peanuts. Interesting!! I should have a lot of good information to go on in about 2 weeks time.

If you're interested in the menu calendar and the list of foods I'm using. Make a comment on this post and I'll get an email. Make sure there will be a way to get in touch with you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Last night I watched Leif walk around our house while chatting on the phone, laughing, sharing a few thoughts and opinions, having an all around good time. He was talking to my dad. 

It means a lot to me to know that my husband and children love my dad as much as I do. My dad is a great friend to us and our boys. We talk on the phone often and enjoy keeping up to date. As a little girl my dad would always ask me a question that I didn't understand. He would say, "so how's life and it's vicissitudes? I now know that it means how is life and all it's happenings? It means a lot to me to know that he cared and he still does. I love my dad for who he once was and who is he today. He is a good man! I Love you dad! 

Happy Father's Day!

Foto Friday June Weeks 1 & 2

The last two weeks were marked by the arrival of our latest homestead inhabitants, Prince Charming and Snow White, our bunnies. We've enjoyed their company and soft hair. We enjoyed an evening Summer storm that came through and gave us the chance to watch the lightning and learn a little bit about electricity and lightning, not to mention a great family moment. This week Leif was voted in officially by the City Council as a Volunteer Fire Fighter. We are very proud of him for his willingness and excitement to serve the community! He was called out to his first fire this week. It was a semi truck fire. Somewhere in the middle of this week we found an afternoon to start gutting out Leif's dad's green house. It's been used as a storage area and it really needs a clean up. Another Great couple of weeks!
Prince Charming
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
The Happy Couple
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3

From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
Helping Mama with Laundry
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
We made Garden Plant Markers on salad plates
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
Our Little Tomato
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
Leif's First Fire
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
Leif and his dad fixed the fan in his laptop. It was a lot of work and money saved!
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
Jakob built a Baby Fort
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3
From Foto Friday June Weeks 2 & 3

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

John Gottman's Principle 2 & 3

Lena Baron
Assignment 10
John Gottman's Principle 2 and 3
Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away

While reading about Principle 2, Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration, in Gottman’s book, I was reminded of a blog post that my husband and I wrote together almost one month ago. It is a good example of what Gottam means when he says, “the best test of whether a couple still has a functioning fondness and admiration system is usually how they view their past.” He went on to say, “I’ve found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well.”  I would like to share the story that we wrote to our children on our blog. After I share the story, I will share a few examples of how our story brings out the points that Gottam is trying to make in the Principle.

Once upon a time, a prince and princess lived on a paradise island.  The princess loved children and loved going to the beautiful beaches where she would bronze her skin in the glistening sun. The prince worked in a special castle as a healer and people would come from far off places to be healed on this island.

This prince and princess met and during their time together on the paradise island they would often go to the oceans edge, listen to the wave’s crash upon the rocks of the shore, and watch the stars twinkle and the clouds roll across the sky in the wind. One night the prince took the princess on a great vessel upon the ocean where they rode out to sea together and listened to music from the islands. Soon the prince and princess decided they wanted to live happily ever after together and the prince lovingly asked the princess to be his queen. The princess assured him that she wanted this with all of her heart. 

Without delay the prince decided to go with the royal accountant to the royal jeweler to look for a ring for his future queen. He saw piles and piles of gold and diamonds.  The prince wanted something special for the princess so he asked the jeweler to present his best diamonds.  The jeweler showed the prince two beautiful diamonds.  One of the diamonds was huge and the other a bit smaller. However, the second diamond sparkled like the stars in the heaven.  The prince chose this diamond.  Then the jeweler presented two smaller diamonds to fit next to the heavenly one in the center.  The jeweler said that these were called tear drop diamonds, but when place just right next to the center one it formed the shape of an angel.  The prince was pleased, for it reminded him of his future queen, his one true love. After the ring was set in the jeweler’s best gold, the royal accountant paid for the ring.

The prince presented the priceless ring to the princess and to celebrate the prince and princess went to the special castle were the prince worked and went to the servants who lathered the prince and princes down in exotic oils and lotions while the court minstrel played music.  Afterwards, they went to a special feast were the cooks prepared a humongous cake covered in the finest ice cream and topped with a river of chocolate syrup.  They finished this off nearly bursting the seams of their finest garments.  

The prince and the princesses’ families were overjoyed that their children had finally found their hearts desires. Before very long, the prince and princess journeyed to their homeland to be married. It was here that the prince and the princess entered into the most sacred of all of their kingdom’s castles to be sealed together as King and Queen for time and for all eternity. Their heavenly king was with them on this day and they promised Him that they would love and cherish Him and one another for all of their days. They promised that one day they would teach their children about the true meaning of love and who brought them together as a family, never to be divided.  

The royal wedding was filled with all of the beauties of heaven and earth. After much celebration, the new king and queen road off into the sunset to begin their life together, and this was only the beginning of a real life fairytale…

This is an obvious dramatization of the story of how my husband, Leif, and I met. There are written details within the story that give examples of the admiration and fondness that Leif and I share for one another. For example, Leif is called a healer in the story because that is how I picture him in all walks of life, he has healed my soul in many ways. Leif compared me to an angel because he felt that I was sent to him as an answer to prayer.

However, the key elements within the story are not necessarily the words of the story, but the feelings and images that are stirred within our hearts while telling the story. Every time we read this story again, or tell it to someone else the love that we share seems to grow just a little stronger.

If there ever comes a time when our love becomes weak or distorted Leif and I have a great reminder within this story of how our “fairy tale” a.k.a “Fondness and Admiration” began and why we want it to continue.

In principle 3, Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away, Gottman says, “Comical as it may sound, romance actually grows when a couple are in the supermarket and the wife says, “Are we out of bleach?” and the husband says, “I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,” instead of shrugging apathetically.” I love this example of turning toward each other as a couple and making deposits into The Emotional Bank Account. There is no greater “deposit” that my husband can give me at the end of a long day then to offer to grab a diaper down stairs for the baby so I don’t have to go get it myself.

Last night I didn’t sleep well. I found myself tossing and turning and I eventually got out of bed so I didn’t disturb Leif. One of the first things Leif said to me this morning was that he was sorry I had a bad night. I hadn’t told him, and he wasn’t accusing me of disturbing him, he was turning towards me, instead of away.

Principle 3, Exercise 3 gives couples a chance to define the reasons behind the times when they feel like their spouse has turned away from them. This will be a valuable lesson for Leif and me because as I mentioned in my previous paper our weaknesses are often flooding and stonewalling. This lesson gives us a step-by-step guideline of how to get to the root of any issues that come up.

Gottman has given us invaluable information within these principles. I look forward to reading further and continuing to apply his lessons within my marriage. 
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