Making Marriage Simple by Harville Hendrix

Ten truths for Changing the Relationship You Have into the One You Want

The book will help you make your marriage better. Learn to create a new kind of marriage. Marriage is ever-evolving. Our ancestors often paired up. Marriage was arranged in the past to protect one another. It was not about love by any means. In the 18th century, marriages started to be more about romance. It began something of a choice. Sometimes, one dominant partner can emerge and that can be a problem. Learn to build a partnership marriage. It is where both parties are free and equal. This is the ultimate dream among partners. Everyone can create this kind of relationship. Learn to practise the ‘Partnership Marriage’. Stick with transformation and do not give up too quickly. Practise the exercises in the book. The work doesn’t end after you say ‘I do’. Building a relationship is hard work. One person can shift the dynamics of a relationship.

Romantic Love is a Trick. Helen is Harville’s wife. The initial stages and dating stage of a relationship is often very great. You feel your heart beat fast and palpitate. You will always look forward to seeing each other again. Being apart feels unbearable. This romantic bliss doesn’t last though. Romantic Love rides off into the sunset. Once the person reveals their true colours, you will realize that things are not so rosy anymore. Agony replaces ecstasy at the start. People all have their good and bad character traits, even our parents. This is known as ‘Imago’. Initially, you will feel the sense of belonging. However, later on, you will feel upset that your needs aren’t met. This is known as ‘childhood’ wounding. Sometimes, parents can be overinvolved or under-involved. Both cases are not ideal. As a wife, I tended to be in too much control of the relationship. Sometimes, what you give is not what the other person wants. Understand what your childhood wounding is. Were you abandoned in the past? It is your unconscious mind that chooses your partner. Write down the frustrations you experienced in your childhood and compare it with those you have with your partner now. Talk about the similarities with your partner. A lot of the frustrations you have with your partner stem from what you went through in the past.

Romantic Love is the powerful force that draws you to someone who has the positive and negative qualities of your parents or caregiver. – Harville Hendrix

Incompatibility is Grounds for Marriage. Incompatibility may not be such a bad thing after all. Honestly, my wife and I are very different. Sometimes, I wish she was more like me. Do not use words like ‘You always’; ‘You never’. Do not keep believing that you are right. This is known as the power struggle. This will make your marriage interesting. However, this form of tension can make your relationship turn out for the best. Both couples are different based on 1) structure vs freedom & 2) how they handle stress. Spontaneity vs structure. It is important to be non-judgmental about your differences. When reacting to stress, there are basically the minimizers (keep things to themselves) and the maximizers (Hailstorm). Turtles like to be quiet and have their alone time. Hailstorms are more extroverted people. They like to cross things off their list. Some people just like to talk about their feelings. Hailstorms want your attention. The more you withdraw, the more the other party will hail. The key is to give each other sufficient space. You have the power to change. Turtles hate being analysed and getting blamed. Make it safe for your Turtle to emerge. Compliment them and show appreciation once in a while. Do not push them till they snap. When the hailstorm is shouting, please give them your full attention. Do not withdraw. If the turtle can become more like a hailstorm and vice versa, order can be restored. If you are facing a turtle, try not to do anything or you may attempt to praise them. To calm a hailstorm, ask ‘what might you be able to do for her?’

Conflict is Growth Trying to Happen. Conflict can be valuable. Don’t run away for it. You can reflect on matters with a new perspective. The Power Struggle is not a sign that you should give up on the relationship. Do not simply bail so easily. Bailing is a sign of weakness. Use conflict to jump start growth. Learn to express your emotions and not hold them back. Usually, when one ‘thinks’ and the other ‘feels’, conflicts will arise. Conflict can be used as creative tension. Give yourself permission to feel. Learn to connect your heart with your brain. If you are comfortable with your feelings, it is easier to connect with others too. Understand what is meant by the ‘Stretching Principle’. Growth is about requiring both partners to stretch. You can work on feeling and logic. Stretch so that you can reclaim parts of yourself. Write down what you loved about your relationship back then. Write down what you wish the relationship had. It is crucial to be able to grow new skills.

Often what we need most from our partner is what they are least capable of giving. – Harville Hendrix

Being Present for Each Other Heals the Past. It is important to heal each other’s childhood wounds. Help each other grow into adulthood. Name their wounds and how you might go about healing them. Learn to ask what the other party needs. Do not assume. Accept his answer. If someone is usually angry, it might have something to do with their childhood. If you are a doer, it might be hard for you to start to listen. Answer your call to be a healer. The key is to create a safe environment. Healing only happens in a safe environment. Both parties need to get healthy, not just one. Sending one to therapy may not work. There is something between the both of you in a relationship. It is not just empty air and space. Unspoken communication is part of this space. Do not criticize and blame. Make the space ‘holy’ in nature. Build your relationship on trust and caring. Share with your partner on what are the negative things that happen in your space.

’Being present’ means giving all of your attention to your partner in a caring, open-hearted way – really listening to what your partner thinks and feels. Just because someone is in the same room with you, or is even looking right at you, doesn’t mean they are present with you. – Harville Hendrix

It’s not What you Say; It’s HOW you Say It. Sometimes, couples like to talk at the same time and not listen to one another. How you talk is important. Although it is important to air your views, listening is crucial as well. Our culture does not reward people for listening. Mirror, Validate and Empathize. Learn to share what you appreciate about one another. To mirror, repeat exactly what was said. This is a form of clarification. Ask ‘Is there more?’ Validate means you get the other person’s point of view. Say ‘You make sense’. See things from their perspective. Dialogue will enable you to heal wounds. Dialogue is good because it slows you down.

Dialogue sustains and deepens connection. Dialogue is a structured way of talking and listening that builds connection between you and your partner. It is this connection that enables you to heal your childhood wounds. – Harville Hendrix

Negativity is Invisible Abuse. Body language can be negative in nature. Negativity makes your partner unsafe and uneasy. In society, we are rewarded for critical thinking. However, in a marriage, you shouldn’t use it. Some couples are very stubborn. They keep thinking they are right and refuse to give in. Competition is good, but it shouldn’t take place in your relationship. Once you feel superior to your partner, this is when competition arises. You should be an advocate in a relationship and not give constructive criticism unnecessarily. Become ‘negativity watchdog’ and watch when you are being negative. Learn to share appreciation. Appreciate your partner every day. Replace judgment with curiosity. Open yourself up to new ideas and perspectives. List down your partner’s physical characteristics. Share three new things that you appreciate everyday with your partner.

Negativity is a Wish in Disguise. Behind every negative thought is an unmet desire. It could be a wish in disguise. Use more ‘I’ statements when talking. Be brief and clear. Approach your partner only when they are calm. Do not criticize or blame. Use the BCR method (Behavior Change Request). 1) Ask for an appointment to discuss a frustration; 2) State the frustration briefly; 3) Ask for what you want. Asking for an appointment ensures that you catch them at the right time. State the frustration in a brief manner. Suggest things your partner can do to ease your frustration. Keep them SMART. Learn to be creative. Write down the suggestions your partner raises. Start small first. Tackle the small problems first. Follow through on what your partner says.

Your Brain Has a Mind of Its Own. Your brain is a wonder. The lower brain is spontaneous and does things on impulse. It is focussed on survival. The higher brain is more logical and rational. It is capable of higher level thinking etc. Do not let the lower brain take control of your life. It is important to focus on rational decision making. You can choose which part of your brain to use when responding with your partner. Stop to let your higher brain review the situation. Try to reason why people are doing certain things/actions all the time. Take a brisk walk to help calm down your lower brain. Respond but do not react. You can always learn to change yourself.

Your Marriage is a Laughing Matter. Sometimes, it is useful to be light-hearted over certain issues. Life is about who we are at the core. Our core is JOY. Human beings are wired for social connection. Assumptions can kill a marriage. Do not assume you know what the other person is thinking. It is important to know what gives your partner pleasure. Share what feels caring to her. Being open and telling each other is important. Ask if you don’t know what the love language of someone else is. Let your partner know your secret wishes. Caring Behaviors are important and you need to know what your partner values. Pick up on a random dropping and delight her. Oxytocin has been known to release stress. Fun has a lot of power. A couple can start by telling each other jokes. Write down all your caring behaviors.

Your Marriage is the Best Life Insurance Plan. Turtles or introverts can care deeply about people. Everyone hopes that their relationship can live long and prosper. Divorce might not be the best way to manage conflict. Helen and I divorced before we learnt about the tools. Now, people are more aware of the benefits of marriage. They are healthier, live longer and enjoy higher incomes. A healthy marriage confers a lot of benefits. It improves physical health. Children tend to thrive when they are under married parents. Married couples tend to manage their finances better. It means better financial security in old age for the couple. Married couples tend to have a better sexual relationship. Your relationship is worth it. Love is contagious. Do not stay on the side-lines. Be the change you wish to see. Re-commit to each other. Share your written vows with one another.

Afterword. Love is the ultimate upstream solution. 1) Healthy Marriages are the Ultimate Upstream Prevention. 2) Healthy Relationships Create Strong Individuals. 3) Couplehood as a Spiritual Path. 4) Marriage isn’t a disease to be treated – it’s the cure. 5) Relationship education must be supported and made available to everyone.


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