The Marriage Ref on Review

I recently watched The Marriage Ref which premiered earlier this month on NBC. According to Wikipedia.com, the premise of the show involves real life couples who have been having an on-going fight for a long time. A video clip is shown to the three-member celebrity panel, showing both sides of the argument. The panel then discuss the merits of each side of the argument and vote on who they think is right.

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While this show is one of the funniest I’ve seen in a long time and aims to do the right thing – give both sides a voice and listen to each argument – it doesn’t necessarily translate into creating change or fostering the proper habits for the couple. It starts to play off of what I call “Smart Heart Skills and Dialogue,” but they were not able to define and enact these skills. The Smart Heart Skills were validated but undone by the actors doing cheerleading into each other being right and wrong. Smart heart skills are not about being right and wrong as opposed to “walking in the others shoes” and making the person feel safe.

When I instruct couples to use Smart Heart Dialogue, it’s as a way to move beyond the anger and blame that typically is placed when an argument or disagreement comes to a stalemate. It can be used for smaller, more inconsequential arguments as well as larger conflicts, even when faced with infidelity.

Utilizing this type of dialogue is important in learning to fight fair as a couple. Fighting and disagreeing are not bad things, in themselves. Learn how to fight fair. It’s a misperception that fighting is bad; a relationship without passion enough to launch arguments likely won’t last for the long haul. However, arguing in the wrong way can also drive a relationship into the ground. I encourage having a weekly ten minute “Smart heart”-to-heart with a figurative emotional “bullet proof vest” to protect from hurt, anger and defensiveness, as you listen and echo back what you heard.

This type of discussion can open up the doors to putting the emotionality of a certain topic aside – whether it be finances, life decisions, career changes, fidelity, or a host of other things – and allow the couple to be honest with each other in a safe, loving space. Of course, this doesn’t mean that each person has a right to be angry and hurtful – quite the opposite. This exercise is designed to take the heated emotion out of a discussion so that the couple can share their feelings without a threat of emotion or anger getting thrown in the mix.

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These types of habits can be the glue that helps to create passion in a relationship, even during and spite of disagreements and conflict. This may start out as basically as telling your partner you HAVEN’T been communicating these feelings and asking them to be patient with you while you learn how to go through this process. It may involve treating eachother with more respect, and being more mindful of the problems at hand during heated arguments.

Events Coming Up

April 4th at 9pm EST
Discovery Health Channel “Unfaithful” featuring Dr. Bonnie and her patients on adultery/cybersex.

Carpe Diem: Seize the Day

There was a time in my life when wake-up calls would have to be pretty dramatic for me even to notice. I was so reluctant to come out of my little status quo cocoon, and it would take quite a crisis for me to wake up and see what was important. But in each of those instants where I would suddenly wake up, I’d see exactly what was important, how precious life is… only to crawl back in my cocoon again.

Nonetheless, those intermittent moments of being awake in time built up to help me change my life, and these days I use them as markers on my path, to remind me why I’m here and which direction I’m heading. If I wake up one morning feeling a little stiff or tired, instead of sitting around and moaning about how I’m getting older, I can go for a brisk walk and know that this is my body’s way of reminding me that exercise is important. If I don’t get something that I had asked for, I know that it’s either on its way, or something better is. I don’t sit and wonder whether I don’t deserve the things I want, or whether I’m just not good enough. Not holding back from loving someone was the hardest wake-up call of all, as I learned it when my father suddenly died at age 63. I had tried to punish him for not meeting my expectations of love, and I was waiting for him to come to the realization that I was right.

There are still still times when I’m aware that the path is never-ending, that one always has to practice vigilance in order to stay awake and be present. As I sit at my desk, I suddenly hear fire trucks in the distance, and I silently send out blessings to the rescue team and the people they are being sent out to rescue. Then I take a look at the collection of objects on my desk, and it’s fitting that the alarm of the sirens should make me take notice. Here are all the things that represent what I love, put there specifically so I will have a constant reminder, and yet sometimes I can lose focus until the sirens bring me back again. My pocket astrologer, a Buddha figurine, notes from friends and family, photos of everyone I love most, a small angel sculpture, and of course a few chocolates are all things I still see right through sometimes. But at least these days, the sirens are needed less and less, as my vigilance has supplemented my desire to be awake and present. For this I’m very grateful.

I’m reminded of a Zen story, one where all the masters gathered together to discuss where the Key of Life should be hidden. One master was adamant that the top of a mountain would be a great hiding place, but the others disagreed. Another master suggested that maybe the bottom of the sea would be better, but again he was met with unanimous dissent. Discussion went back and forth for quite some time, and finally, just when it seemed like all the good ideas had been used up and rejected, one master stood up. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed. “Let’s hide the key in the one place that humans never search: inside themselves.” Everyone agreed that was the best place to place the key, and there it remains to this day.

Ask Miseducated: Who is more sexually evolved?

Have a question you’re just dying to know the answer to? Want to discuss something extensively in email with us? Please send us an email and we’ll forward it to the appropriate Miseducated writer.

Reader

I’m very curious to hear why there is such a strong border at the point where one drops ones drawers. Why do you consider that to be the place where there is no turning back? If you look at aboriginal societies, and even at other naked societies like those of primates, obviously there are no drawers there to drop, and yet they manage to have quite evolved sexual societies, and they raise children who also grow up to understand sexuality in an intelligent way. So why is it so different for us?

Maryanne

This question of the line of demarcation is an important one, and to understand why dropping drawers is such an important boundary, we have to compare our culture to the ones of naked societies. Ted Bundy once said that he believed that violence against women would continue for as long as pornography exists in our society. There is a dehumanizing element in our media that makes us think of each other as objects, or worse, as predators and prey. This may explain why aboriginal and primate societies are more sexually evolved than we are – they are not exposed to these victimizing elements.

Unfortunately, we are not at the point yet where we can have a naked, peaceful, safe society, and there are no government warnings or instruction manuals for how to avoid the pain and suffering that people go through in relationships. In our current societal context, I can see a direct corollary between that suffering and the dropping of drawers. When people do not stop to consider the consequences, that’s when the suffering takes root. If we can find a way to resist this impulse a little longer, to pause and think about the responsibilities and consequences of sex, we will have a greater chance of creating healthy and lasting relationships.

Since we aren’t provided with a manual instructing us on the best ways to handle ourselves in this sexually complicated society of ours, I wrote Hindsight, What You Need to Know Before You Drop Your Drawers as a response to the need for people to have another way to react when they find themselves at that all-important line of demarcation. If we could just build our self-discipline to delay our gratification, we would find that there is freedom in that discipline, a way to make choices for ourselves that we cannot experience when we simply react to our initial impulses. If we can strengthen our muscles of self-discipline on a global scale, over time, there is the hop that we can evolve into a society that understands and values the things which are naturally sacred, rather than just stampeding over the line of no return.

But there’s another aspect to consider, as well, and that is the very fact that we are able to consider. That we have the capability to stop and think about our actions before we commit to them, is one of the chief differences between us and primates. We have the ability not only to delay dropping our drawers, but to decide not to drop them at all, if we don’t feel it’s best for us. But there is certainly a lot we can learn from the naked cultures of aboriginals and primates. If we can find good relationship models in those societies, who cares if they are not like us? If observing and learning from other people or even animals can help us determine the best time to drop our drawers, I can’t see that there is any harm in that!