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It’s nice to know that there is a heaven. What’s really nice, is to know you’re going there!
We each must escape the corruption that is in the world.
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:4
Though it may be hard and filled with much temptation, this is the purpose and why we came to this world to choose the way we should live, go the way we should go, and to conquer the enemy of all unrighteousness.
“And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.” Moroni 9:6
God’s Plan of Happiness was to gain a body of flesh and blood and know both good and evil, and to choose between the two. We are to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He hast sent. Jesus came to show us the way and to rescue us from our mistakes. After the test, comes the glory.
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make youperfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” 2 Peter 1: 8
“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 2 Peter 1:6
We must always remember and remind ourselves who we are!
“But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them.” 2 Nephi 1:10
“O my sons, that these things might not come upon you, but that ye might be a choice and a favoredpeople of the Lord. But behold, his will be done; for his waysare righteousness forever.” 2 Nephi 1:19
Through study and prayer and in choosing good versus evil, He will let us know that we are in the right place. But, we must have charity, which is to give up selfishness. As we all will come to ‘the end of the road’, this is a “to do list” in the work of God.
“Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.” 2 Peter 1:14
“ For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” 2 Peter 1:16-19
The “more sure word” means, ‘to see the Savior’. The Savior sometimes taught with parables.
As we learn the truths of the gospel, what do you think it means to see with our eyes and hear with our ears?
Why do you think light will be taken away from us if we are unwilling to receive greater light?
Think about what you need to do to receive more gospel light.
Study the parable of the sower. In this parable, the Savior shows that the same gospel message produces different effects depending on how people receive it.
In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the wheat represents the righteous, or “the children of the Kingdom.” The tares represent “the children of the wicked one.”
How can we remain faithful even though the “tares” are allowed to grow among the “wheat”?
Why is the word of God unable to grow in people “whose hearts are full of iniquity”?
Why do tribulation and persecution lead some to set aside the word of God?
In what ways might “the care of this world” and “the deceitfulness of riches” choke the word within us?
How can we ensure that our “ground” is good when the word is planted in us?
What can parents do to help children prepare their hearts to receive the word?
Here are THE KEYS:
2. Having your ‘Calling and Election’ made sure
“Righteous followers of Christ can become numbered among the elect who gain the assurance of exaltation. This calling and election begins with repentance and baptism. It becomes complete when they “press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end” (2 Ne. 31:19–20). The scriptures call this process making our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:4–11; D&C 131:5–6).
3. Knowing you are going to heaven
And here are things TO AVOID:
- “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be falseteachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter 2:1
- “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” 2 Peter 2:2
- “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” 2 Peter 2:3
- “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.” 2 Peter 2:12
- “And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riotin the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 2 Peter 2:13
- ” Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children.” 2 Peter 2: 14
- “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.” 2 Peter 2:12
- “ And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you” 2 Peter 2:13
- “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children.” 2 Peter 2:14
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be falseteachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” 2 Peter 2:1, 2,
(That bought them.)
WE HAVE BEEN PURCHASED BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST!
THE LORD’S PROPHETS
THE DEVIL’S PROPHETS
BEAR WITNESS: (sure word)
(May 17th, 1843.) “The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood. It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” D&C 131:5-6
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
Bliss is an emotional state that is characterized by perfect happiness (feelings of enjoyment, pleasure, and satisfaction).
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal, is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise.
Life is like an old time rail journey . . . delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and a thrilling burst of speed.
The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
Our Heavenly Father desires that we find true, lasting happiness.
Our happiness is the design of all the blessings He gives us—gospel teachings, commandments, priesthood ordinances, family relationships, prophets, temples, the beauties of creation, and even the opportunity to experience adversity.
His plan for our salvation is often called “the great plan of happiness”.
He sent His Beloved Son to carry out the Atonement so we can be happy in this life and receive a fulness of joy in the eternities.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.
If not so, .. righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.
Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
And if ye shall say there is no law,
ye shall also say there is no sin.
If ye shall say there is no sin,
ye shall also say there is no righteousness.
And if there be no righteousness,
there be no happiness.
And if there be no righteousness nor happiness,
there be no punishment nor misery.
And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—
Behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them.
Have you ever wondered why similar spiritual feelings permeate your soul whether you are reading the prayerful words of the Hebrew military commander Joshua . . . or General Washington? Or why your eyes get equally misty, and your heart similarly joyous, whether you are singing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing . . . or the The Star Spangled Banner? Yes, you know it is a “choice land” given by God, but have you ever considered that perhaps there is a deeper connection — even deeper than you ever imagined — between Heaven and America?
Open your eyes to this deeper connection and learn how and why ancient prophets — from Jacob (Israel), Joseph, Daniel, Jeremiah and Isaiah — foresaw the United States and knew of its divine ordination. Besides the advent of the Messiah, there were few things that almost all ancient prophets saw. America was one of them!
More astonishing, perhaps, is the idea that the fathers of this nation — from the Pilgrims to the revolutionaries, to the patriots of the Civil War — knew they had been seen by the ancients!
Why else did the early settlers insist they were the “New Israel?” Why was George Washington’s scripture of choice an Old Testament prophecy about the gospel destiny of America? Why did John Adams seek a “Restoration,” and why did Jefferson directly prophecy that it would occur shortly after his death and that it would land upon the foundation of the Constitution? Why (and how) did Abraham Lincoln, like a prophet of old, fulfill ancient and modern prophecy? And how did God prepare him for the work he accomplished. Learn why history has repeated itself in the founding of latter-day Israel, and why the Founding Fathers felt such a profound connection (in life and death) to “temple” worship?
These are but samples that reveal the true nature and purpose of America. Other evidences include symbolic images on our dollar bill, miracles in war, a prophet’s warning, a president’s prayer, scriptures with cryptic meaning hiding in plain sight — pieces, clues, words and symbols that actually fit perfectly together. You may say, “How did I not see all this before?”
The key to assembling the pieces of unrest and in solving the puzzle, and to understanding the miracles that are found in an ancient promise from the God who created this nation is that there was and is The American Covenant.
Recently I overheard a elderly couple in their last moments together at the airport with their daughter. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the father said, 'I love you, and I wish you enough.'
The daughter replied,'Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you and Mon enough, too.' They kissed and the daughter left.
The Couple walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see they wanted and needed to cry.
I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but they welcomed me in by asking, 'Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?' 'Yes, I have,' I replied. 'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?' 'We are old, and she lives so far away. We have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for one of our funerals,' he said.
'When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough..' May I ask what that means?' The elderly man began to smile. 'That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone...' He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more. 'When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’
Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory. . .
I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.
The couple again began to cry and walked away. They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.
TAKE TIME TO LIVE....
To all my friends and loved ones, I WISH YOU ENOUGH!!!
We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.
Heavenly Father desires that we find true, lasting happiness. Our happiness is the design of all the blessings He gives us—gospel teachings, commandments, priesthood ordinances, family relationships, prophets, temples, the beauties of creation, and even the opportunity to experience adversity. His plan for our salvation is often called “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42: 8). He sent His Beloved Son to carry out the Atonement so we can be happy in this life and receive a fulness of joy in the eternities.
Testifying of God’s “eternal purposes,” the prophet Lehi taught, “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2: 15, 25). Many people try to find happiness and fulfillment in activities that are contrary to the Lord’s commandments. Ignoring God’s plan for them, they reject the only source of real happiness. They give in to the devil, who “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself”
(2 Ne. 2: 27). Eventually they learn the truth of Alma’s warning to his son Corianton: “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41: 10).
Others seek only to have fun in life. With this as their main goal, they allow temporary pleasure to distract them from lasting happiness. They rob themselves of the enduring joys of spiritual growth, service, and hard work.
As we seek to be happy, we should remember that the only way to real happiness is to live the gospel. We will find peaceful, eternal happiness as we strive to keep the commandments, pray for strength, repent of our sins, participate in wholesome activities, and give meaningful service.
“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God”. Joseph Smith
We live today in a world so full of choices. Television offers both the good and the bad. Bookstores are full of publications offering the right and the wrong. Very few movies are worthy of seeing because of the profanity, violence, and immorality that fill them. Advertising is full of enticements to lead us to violate the body with stimulants. Some music, with its monotonous rhythms, beats illicit thoughts into our heads.
Consider some wise counsel:
“Now may I make a recommendation? Develop discipline of self so that, more and more, you do not have to decide and redecide what you will do when you are confronted with the same temptation time and time again. You need only to decide some things once. How great a blessing it is to be free of agonizing over and over again regarding a temptation. To do such is time-consuming and very risky.
Likewise, my dear young friends, the positive things you will want to accomplish need be decided upon only once—like going on a mission and living worthily in order to get married in the temple—and then all other decisions related to these goals can fall into line. Otherwise, each consideration is risky, and each equivocation may result in error. There are some things good church going members do and other things we just don’t do. The sooner you take a stand, the taller you will be!” Spencer W. Kimball
We are at a time in the world’s history when Satan is marshalling all his forces to lead the people off the strait and narrow path. Fortunately, most Christian are clear about who it is that they will serve. Like Joshua of old, they proclaim, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
I hope and pray that you great young people will have the courage to consistently choose the right! Moreover, I suggest that each of you find or create reminders to help you and your loved ones choose the right when a choice is placed before you. There is power in a white dress hanging in the closet if we associate them with our desires for purity and righteousness. Even more important than physical reminders is to have the conviction deep down in our hearts to live the kind of life that will cause us to make the right choices, not only for peace and happiness in the world right now, but also for peace and happiness eternally.
I promise you that you will receive everlasting happiness if you consistently choose to do what is right.
Research indicates you can get really mad or avoid conflict altogether. But the positivity must outweigh the negativity by five to one.
If you are worried about the future of your marriage or relationship, you have plenty of company. There’s no denying that this is a frightening time for couples. More than half of all first marriages end in divorce; 60 percent of second marriages fail. What makes the numbers even more disturbing is that no one seems to understand why our marriages have become so fragile.
In pursuit of the truth about what tears a marriage apart or binds it together, I have found that much of the conventional wisdom–even among marital therapists–is either misguided or dead wrong. For example, some marital patterns that even professionals often take as a sign of a problem–such as having intense fights or avoiding conflict altogether–I have found can signify highly successful adjustments that will keep a couple together. Fighting, when it airs grievances and complaints, can be one of the healthiest things a couple can do for their relationship.
If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my years of research into marital relationships–having interviewed and studied more than 200 couples over 20 years–it is that a lasting marriage results from a couple’s ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship. Many couples tend to equate a low level of conflict with happiness and believe the claim “we never fight” is a sign of marital health. But I believe we grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage.
Although there are other dimensions that are telling about a union, the intensity of argument seems to bring out a marriage’s true colors. To classify a marriage, in my lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, I look at the frequency of fights, the facial expressions and physiological responses (such as pulse rate and amount of sweating) of both partners during their confrontations, as well as what they say to each other and in what tone of voice they interact verbally.
But there’s much more to a successful relationship than knowing how to fight well. Not all stable couples resolve conflicts in the same way, nor do they mean the same thing by “resolving” their conflict. In fact, I have found that there are three different styles of problem solving into which healthy marriages tend to settle:
o Validating. Couples compromise often and calmly work out their problems to mutual satisfaction as they arise.
o Volatile. Conflict erupts often, resulting in passionate disputes.
o Conflict-avoiding. Couples agree to disagree, rarely confronting their differences head-on.
Previously, many psychologists might have considered conflict-avoiding and volatile marriages to be destructive. But my research suggests that all three styles are equally stable and bode equally well for the marriage’s future.
“HEALTHY” MARRIAGE STYLES
One of the first things to go in a marriage is politeness. As laughter and validation disappear, criticism and pain well up. Your attempts to get communication back on track seem useless, and partners become lost in hostile and negative thoughts and feelings. Yet here’s the surprise: There are couples whose fights are as deafening as thunder yet who have long-lasting, happy relationships.
The following three newly married couples accurately illustrate the three distinct styles of marriage.
Bert and Betty, both 30, both came from families that weren’t very communicative, and they were determined to make communication a priority in their relationship. Although they squabbled occasionally, they usually addressed their differences before their anger boiled over. Rather than engaging in shouting matches, they dealt with their disagreements by having “conferences” in which each aired his or her perspective. Usually, they were able to arrive at a compromise.
Max 40, and Anita, 25, admitted that they quarreled far more than the average couple. They also tended to interrupt each other and defend their own point of view rather than listen to what their partner was expressing. Eventually, however, they would reach some sort of accord. Despite their frequent tension, however, they seemed to take much delight in each other.
Joe, 29, and Sheila, 27, said they thought alike about almost everything and felt “an instant comfort” from the start. Although they spent a good deal of time apart, they still enjoyed each other’s company and fought very rarely. When tension did arise, both considered solo jogging more helpful in soothing the waters than talking things out or arguing.
Not surprisingly, Bert and Betty were still happily married four years after I’d first interviewed them. However, so were Max and Anita, as well as Joe and Sheila. Marriages like Bert and Betty’s, though, which emphasize communication and compromise, have long been held up as the ideal. Even when discussing a hot topic, they display a lot of ease and calm, and have a keen ability to listen to and understand each other’s emotions.
That’s why I call such couples “validators”: In the midst of disagreement they still let their partners know that they consider his or her emotions valid, even if they don’t agree with them. This expression of mutual respect tends to limit the number of arguments couples need to have.
Anita and Max take a different approach to squabbling than do Bert and Betty, yet their marriage remained just as solid over time. How can people who seem to thrive on skirmishes live happily together? The truth is that not every couple who fights this frequently has a stable marriage. But we call those who do “volatile.” Such couples fight on a grand scale and have an even grander time making up.
More than the other types, volatile couples see themselves as equals. They are independent sorts who believe that marriage should emphasize and strengthen their individuality. Indeed, they are very open with each other about their feelings–both positive and negative. These marriages tend to be passionate and exciting, as if the marital punch has been spiked with danger.
Moving from a volatile to an avoidant style of marriage, like Joe and Sheila’s, is like leaving the tumult of a hurricane for the placid waters of a summer lake. Not much seems to happen in this type of marriage. A more accurate name for them is “conflict minimizers,” because they make light of their differences rather than resolving them. This type of successful coupling flies in the face of conventional wisdom that links marital stability to skillful “talking things out.”
It may well be that these different types of couples could glean a lot from each other’s approach–for example, the volatile couple learning to ignore some conflicts and the avoidant one learning how to compromise. But the prognosis for these three types of marriage is quite positive–they are each healthy adaptations to living intimately with another human being.
THE ECOLOGY OF MARRIAGE
The balance between negativity and positivity appears to be the key dynamic in what amounts to the emotional ecology of every marriage. There seems to be some kind of thermostat operating in healthy marriages that regulates this balance. For example, when partners get contemptuous, they correct it with lots of positivity–not necessarily right away, but sometime soon.
What really separates contented couples from those in deep marital misery is a healthy balance between their positive and negative feelings and actions toward each other. Volatile couples, for example, stick together by balancing their frequent arguments with a lot of love and passion. But by balance I do not mean a 50-50 equilibrium.
As part of my research I carefully charted the amount of time couples spent fighting versus interacting positively–touching, smiling, paying compliments, laughing, etc. Across the board I found there was a very specific ratio that exists between the amount of positivity and negativity in a stable marriage, whether it is marked by validation, volatility, or conflict avoidance.That magic ratio is 5 to 1. As long as there is five times as much positive feeling and interaction between husband and wife as there is negative, the marriage was likely to be stable over time. In contrast, those couples who were heading for divorce were doing far too little on the positive side to compensate for the growing negativity between them.
WARNING SIGNS: THE FOUR HORSEMEN
If you are in the middle of a troubled marriage, it can seem that your predicament is nearly impossible to sort out. But in fact unhappy marriages do resemble each other in one overriding way: they followed the same, specific, downward spiral before coming to a sad end. Being able to predict what emotions and reactions lead a couple into trouble is crucial to improving a marriage’s chances. By pinpointing how marriages destabilize, I believe couples will be able to find their way back to the happiness they felt when their marital adventure began.
The first cascade a couple hits as they tumble down the marital rapids is comprised of the “Four Horsemen”–four disastrous ways of interacting that sabotage your attempts to communicate with your partner. As these behaviors become more and more entrenched, husband and wife focus increasingly on the escalating sense of negativity and tension in their marriage. Eventually they become deaf to each other’s efforts at peacemaking. As each new horseman arrives, he paves the way for the next, each insidiously overriding a marriage that started out full of promise.
THE FIRST HORSEMAN: CRITICISM
When Eric and Pamela married fresh out of college, it soon became clear that they had different notions of what frugality meant. Pamela found herself complaining about Eric’s spending habits, yet as time passed she found that her comments did not lead to any change on her husband’s part. Rather, something potentially damaging to their marriage soon began occurring: instead of complaining about his actions, she began to criticize him.
On the surface, there may not seem to be much difference between complaining and criticizing. But criticizing involves attacking someone’s personality or character rather than a specific behavior, usually with blame. When Pamela said things like “You always think about yourself,” she assaulted Eric, not just his actions, and blamed him for being selfish.
Since few couples can completely avoid criticizing each other now and then, the first horseman often takes up long-term residence even in relatively healthy marriages. One reason is that criticizing is just a short hop beyond complaining, which is actually one of the healthiest activities that can occur in a marriage. Expressing anger and disagreement makes the marriage stronger in the long run than suppressing the complaint.
The trouble begins when you feel that your complaints go unheeded and your spouse repeats the offending habits. Over time, it becomes more and more likely that your complaints will pick up steam. With each successive complaint you’re likely to throw in your inventory of prior, unresolved grievances. Eventually you begin blaming your partner and being critical of his or her personality rather than of a specific deed.
One common type of criticism is to bring up a long list of complaints. I call this “kitchen sinking”: you throw in every negative thing you can think of. Another form is to accuse your partner of betraying you, of being untrustworthy: “I trusted you to balance the checkbook and you let me down! Your recklessness amazes me.” In contrast, complaints don’t necessarily finger the spouse as a culprit; they are more a direct expression of one’s own dissatisfaction with a particular situation.
Criticisms also tend to be generalizations. A telltale sign that you’ve slipped from complaining to criticizing is if global phrases like “you never” or “you always” start punctuating your exchanges:
Complaint: “We don’t go out as much as I’d like to.”Criticism: “You never take me anywhere.”Being critical can begin innocently enough and is often the expression of pentup, unresolved anger. It may be one of those natural self-destruct mechanisms inherent in all relationships. Problems occur when criticism becomes so pervasive that it corrodes the marriage. When that happens it heralds the arrival of the next horseman that can drag you toward marital difficulty.
THE SECOND HORSEMAN: CONTEMPT
By their first anniversary, Eric and Pamela still hadn’t resolved their financial differences. Unfortunately, their fights were becoming more frequent and personal. Pamela was feeling disgusted with Eric. In the heat of one particularly nasty argument, she found herself shrieking: “Why are you so irresponsible?” Fed up and insulted, Eric retorted, “Oh, shut up. You’re just a cheapskate. I don’t know how I ended up with you anyway.”
The second horseman–contempt–had entered the scene. What separates contempt from criticism is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. With your words and body language, you’re lobbing insults right into the heart of your partner’s sense of self. Fueling these contemptuous actions are negative thoughts about the partner–he or she is stupid, incompetent, a fool. In direct or subtle fashion, that message gets across along with the criticism.
When this happened, they ceased being able to remember why they had fallen in love in the first place. As a consequence, they rarely complimented each other anymore or expressed mutual admiration or attraction. The focal point of their relationship became abusiveness. What Pamela and Eric experienced is hardly uncommon. When contempt begins to overwhelm your relationship, you tend to forget your partner’s positive qualities, at least while you’re feeling upset. You can’t remember a single positive quality or act.
This immediate decay of admiration is an important reason why contempt ought to be banned from marital interactions. Recognizing when you or your spouse is expressing contempt is fairly easy. Among the most common signs are:
o Body language–including sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip.
It is easy to feel overly critical at times, and it is human to state criticism in a contemptuous way now and then, even in the best relationships. Yet if abusiveness seems to be a problem in your relationship, the best way to neutralize it is to stop seeing arguments with your spouse as a way to retaliate or exhibit your superior moral stance. Rather, your relationship will improve if you approach your spouse with precise complaints rather than attacking your partner’s personality or character.
THE THIRD HORSEMAN: DEFENSIVENESS
Once contempt entered their home, Eric and Pamela’s marriage went from bad to worse. When either of them acted contemptuously, the other responded defensively, which just made matters worse. Now they both felt victimized by the other–and neither was willing to take responsibility for setting things right. In effect, they both constantly pleaded innocent. The fact that defensiveness is an understandable reaction to feeling besieged is one reason it is so destructive–the “victim” doesn’t see anything wrong with being defensive.
But defensive phrases, and the attitude they express, tend to escalate a conflict rather than resolve anything. If you are being defensive, you are adding to your marital troubles. Familiarize yourself with the signs of defensiveness so you can recognize them for what they truly are:
o Denying Responsibility. No matter what your partner charges, you insist in no uncertain terms that you are not to blame.
o Making Excuses. You claim that external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way.
o Disagreeing with Negative Mind-Reading. Sometimes your spouse will make assumptions about your private feelings, behavior, or motives (in phrases such as “You think it’s a waste of time” or “I know how you hate it”).
When this “mind-reading” is delivered in a negative manner, it may trigger defensiveness in you.
o Cross-Complaining. You meet your partner’s complaint (or criticism) with an immediate complaint of your own, totally ignoring what your partner has said.
o Repeating Yourself.
Rather than attempting to understand the spouse’s point of view, couples who specialize in this technique simply repeat their own position to each other again and again. Both think they are right and that trying to understand the other’s perspective is a waste of time.
The first step toward breaking out of defensiveness is to no longer see your partner’s words as an attack but as information that is being strongly expressed. Try to understand and empathize with your partner. This is admittedly hard to do when you feel under siege, but it is possible and its effects are miraculous. If you are genuinely open and receptive when your partner is expecting a defensive response, he or she is less likely to criticize you or react contemptuously when disagreements arise.
THE FOURTH HORSEMAN: STONEWALLING
Exhausted and overwhelmed by Pamela’s attacks, Eric eventually stopped responding, even defensively, to her accusations. Their marriage went from being marred by poor communication to being virtually destroyed by none. Once Eric stopped listening to Pamela, their relationship became extraordinarily difficult to repair. Instead of arguing about specific issues, every confrontation degenerated into Pamela screaming at Eric that he was shutting her out: “You never say anything. You just sit there. It’s like talking to a brick wall.”
Stonewalling often happens while a couple is in the process of talking things out. The stonewaller just removes himself by turning into a stone wall. Usually someone who is listening reacts to what the speaker is saying, looks at the speaker, and says things like “Uh huh” or “Hmmm” to indicate he is tracking. But the stonewaller abandons these messages, replacing them with stony silence.
Stonewallers do not seem to realize that it is a very powerful act: It conveys disapproval, icy distance, and smugness. It is very upsetting to speak to a stonewalling listener. This is especially true when a man stonewalls a woman. Most men don’t get physiologically aroused when their wives stonewall them, but wives’ heart rates go up dramatically when their husbands stonewall them.
The fourth horseman need not mark the end of a relationship. But if your interactions have deteriorated to this extent you are at great risk of catapulting even farther down the marital cascade–becoming so overwhelmed by the negativity in your relationship that you end up divorced, separated, or living lonely, parallel lives in the same home. Once the fourth horseman becomes a regular resident, it takes a good deal of hard work and soul-searching to save the marriage.The four horsemen are not the end of the line.
It is only after they turn a relationship sour that the ultimate danger arises: Partners seize on powerful thoughts and beliefs about their spouse that cement their negativity. Only if these inner thoughts go unchallenged are you likely to topple down the final marital cascade, one that leads to distance and isolation. However, if you learn to recognize what is happening to your once-happy marriage, you can still develop the tools you need to regain control of it.
KEYS TO IMPROVING YOUR MARRIAGE
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a deliberate effort to calm yourself. This strategy eases the need to be defensive and to stonewall–two of the “Four Horsemen”–and undercuts the physical feelings that sustain the thoughts that maintain distress.
From the data gathered in our lab we’ve seen how quickly discussions fall apart as soon as one spouse’s heart rate begins to soar. Learning how to calm down helps prevent unproductive fighting or running away from the important discussions you may need to have.
In addition, listening or speaking without being defensive helps to counter several destructive habits. If you happen to be a nondefensive listener, chances are it will make the cycle of negativity much less likely. And a nondefensive attitude on your part also helps to defuse the need to stonewall, particularly for men. But keep in mind that defensiveness is a two-way street; if you start speaking nondefensively, you will lessen your partner’s need to be defensive.
Letting your spouse know that you understand him or her is also one of the most powerful tools for healing your relationship. It is an antidote to criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. Instead of attacking or ignoring your partner’s point of view, you try to see the problem from his or her perspective and show that you think his or her viewpoint may have some validity.
When you’ve had one successful fight using these techniques, you may think you’ve fully mastered the strategies. But these lessons have to be practiced often. So often, in fact, that they become completely automatic. Each time you rehearse being nondefensive or validating is a new and different experience and it’s important to keep trying even when you’re tired and don’t feel like it. The idea is that if you overlearn a communication skill, you’ll have ready access to it when you need it most–during a heated argument with your spouse when you are physiologically aroused.
EXERCISE: HOW DO WE COMPARE?
This exercise gives you a chance to see the strengths of your marriage by comparing yourselves to other couples in your lives.
1. Each of you jot down the names of four different couples you both know. Two should be examples of “bad” marriages; two of “good” marriages.
2. Now share the names with one another and tell why you feel the good marriages work and the bad marriages don’t. Perhaps you admire how one couple is raising their children, or you disapprove of the way another couple berates one another in front of company.
3. Talk about your own marriage in relation to these good and bad marriages. Compare the way you and your spouse manage to get through difficult times with the way each of these couples handle their challenges. Can you identify behaviors you want to avoid? Are there things you’d like to emulate?
4. Talk about your own ability as a couple to overcome hardship. Have you weathered episodes or incidents of which you’re particularly proud? If so, how did you do it?
REPAIRING THE DAMAGE
Fortunately, in most relationships, there are ways of fixing things. I call these “repair mechanisms.” Often, they are needed most when people are frustrated and angry, so they are said with some irritation or hurt, or even accompanied by an insult or threat. But they are repair mechanisms nonetheless.
Happily married couples use certain phrases and actions during an argument that prevent negativity from spiraling out of control. In effect, these conciliatory gestures act as a glue that helps to hold the marriage together during tense times.
1. Try to make comments about the communication process itself, such as “Please let me finish,” or “We’re getting off the topic,” or “That hurt my feelings.”
2. Comment on what’s happening while it’s taking place, not afterward.
3. Remind your partner that you admire and empathize with them despite the conflict.
4. Use phrases such as “Yes, I see,” “Uh huh,” or “Go on.” These are little psychological strokes at which stable couples are masters.