Monday, February 16, 2009

GPS for relationships

Posted by Terry McNichols

In a Bringing Baby Home workshop I teach for couples with new babies, I use an example from my own marriage. For many years my husband and I fought the same nasty fight, over and over again. The issue was how we navigated during times of extreme travel stress. My husband would usually drive and I would try to navigate. I was not good at my part of the job, and he also had his flaws, so we would deteriorate into chaos during those intense times. I refused to be a blind follower and he desperately wanted me to trust that he knew what he was doing or where we were going. Around and around we would go, getting nowhere.

In the workshop, I teach skills in conflict regulation and we look at two concentric circles of compromise, where one puts the areas where no yielding is possible in the center circle and the areas where compromise might be possible in the outer circle. I give the solutions that my husband and I eventually reached as an example of how we finally reached compromises that allowed us to travel together in peace and actually enjoy ourselves, even in foreign countries, lost and driving on the left-hand side of the road!

But recently I have had to revise my story, because we purchased a GPS. This handy device has been an amazing boon to our marital happiness and we have found the other compromise solutions completely outdated as we now both trust Gertrude, our bossy voice from the GPS, to lead us to our desired destination.

As I was explaining the use of a GPS to solve this particular problem, one person in my workshop suggested that it would certainly be wonderful if there were a GPS for all similarly entrenched marital difficulties! I wholeheartedly agreed. I could be a wealthy woman if I could just invent such a device. In the meantime, we can work on learning to regulate conflict, without the help of technology! John Gottman, University of Washington researcher who developed Bringing Baby Home has some great books on the topic!

And here's a link to my current favorite GPS system, in case I've convinced you that you need one for the sake of your marriage!
(Photo by Dean Terry, shared via Flickr)

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