Connecting Families: A Relationship Enhancement Program

¡ Turning off and shutting down when
disagreement occurs.
¡ Keeping score
3. When relationships are experiencing
these signs, they are in danger of falling
apart. Review Slide 3, providing
examples of each indicator. Focus upon
how each point is a negative behavior
that is not respectful of another. A
negative standard can color every action
in a relationship and taint even the
positive behaviors.
When disagreements quickly escalate, generally there are unresolved issues of conflict
that are fueling every small disagreement. Until the underlying issues are surfaced and
resolved the relationship will fester and deteriorate into a constant cycle of conflict.
Women more typically use the verbal put down as a negative behavior, while men more
typically turn off as a means to control their interaction in negative situations. Both
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Working as a Team, Session 3 28 2004
actions feed a conflict and do not support resolving an issue. Keeping score is a sign that
there are important issues that are not being addressed. Some times it is reflecting that
the individual is feeling that their contribution is not being recognized or valued. Other
times it is a reflection that one is feeling controlled and taken advantage of by the other
partner. Score keeping reflects that the couple is working against each other rather than
together. All of these are danger signs in a relationship.
Falling Out of Love???
¡ No one falls in or out of love
¡ Love needs constant attention to
keep it growing
¡ Negative patterns can take
possession of your relationship
4. Use Slide 4 to talk about falling in or out of
love. Love is not something that happens like
the romantic movies portray. Marriage
requires skills of negotiation and decisionmaking.
A relationship needs constant
attention to be successful. Today much focus
is placed upon the individuals in a marriage
being happy. Perhaps too much rests upon
this concept. To love someone means that
commitment, forgiveness, and friendship are
vital aspects of the relationship.
As a relationship matures negative patterns of interaction can develop and take on their
own life, driving the couple into having consistent negative interpretations of their
partner and their actions. When these patterns become the typical, it takes real effort to
start over to develop more positive patterns. Some couples who develop negative patterns
of discourse choose to stay together and their lives become one constant battle while
others more typically choose to end the relationship. The key to remember is not to get
caught up in the dance of conflict. Introduce the Relationship Indicator Assessment
Activity to assist group participants in learning more about their relationship.
Relationship Indicator Assessment Activity
Use Relationship Indicator Assessment, Handout 1 to engage group participants in
identifying factors in their relationship that may need to be improved. Ask participants to
complete the assessment thinking of the person who is involved in a significant
relationship with them. After the group has completed the quiz, use the Relationship
Indicator Scoring Guide, Handout 2, to discuss how the scores apply to their relationship.
Changing the Dance of Conflict
¡ Set ground rules
¡ Time out when can no longer
communicate with a listening
speaking pattern
¡ Accept each other’s differences
¡ Learn to forgive and give up
¡ Learn to trust
5. Use Slide 5 to review the steps in stopping
destructive behaviors. To stop destructive
patterns of handling conflict begins by a
couple setting ground rules. Ground rules
that establish how and when a conflict
issues will be addressed will help couples
deal with conflict. Some couples decide to
never go to bed with a conflict. In other
words, to set some time aside during the
day to discuss and try to resolve the issue
at hand.
Connecting Families Penn State Cooperative Extension
Working as a Team, Session 3 29 2004
Another rule that may be helpful is to have a time out rule that formalizes the individuals
desire to give some thought to the discussion before making a final decisio n. Time out
means that the issue will be dropped for now, but that a specific time to come back to the
dialogue is established. Another helpful rule is to always maintain a positive perspective
on the issue at hand. The more negative the interpretation of the conflict the more
difficult it will be to address. Setting ground rules prior to any conflict will help
individuals to abide by them.
Learning to accept each other is key to maintaining a lasting relationship. Everyone
likes different things and activities. Everyone finds happiness in doing different things.
Learning to accept the differences in each other builds a stronger relationship. This
means accepting the good and the bad habits that everyone has. Everyone has a few bad
traits such as, not being neat, or not being on time. Couples can choose to focus on all of
the positive traits or the few negative ones. It is where the emphasis is placed. When
one looks at the glass half full they see how lucky they are, when it is viewed as half
empty they are always regretting their choice.
Learning to forgive is a necessary aspect of all relationships. When an individual gets to
the point that they cannot forgive his/her partner, the relationship suffers. When one
starts to keep score and add up all of the things that their partner has done that they
resent, their happiness diminishes and the relationship begins to die.
Trust is a key element in any relationship. Trust lays the foundation upon which all else
is built. When one can trust another, they can feel freer to change and to invest in the
Speaking and Listening of Couple Talk
¡ No one person is to dominate the
flow of communication
¡ Develop a time and technique to
assist in talking about issues
¡ Be respectful and follow your
ground rules
6. Use Slide 6 to introduce the ground rules
to using the speaker–listener technique.
Learning to communicate in a nonconfrontational
manner assists couples in
dealing with issues in a positive manner.
The speaker–listener technique is one
way to help couples learn to use
respectful communication in discussions.
Frequently, couples evolve into a style of talking that easily slips into verbal fighting.
The couple gets stuck on issues because their communication habits lead to no where but
disagreement. Frequently, couples repeatedly disagree over the same issues, but through
different doors of related topics. However, all of their conflict lead directly back to a
few core issues that have never been resolved. The most common issues involve money,
children, in- laws and sex. To learn a new way of talking with each other requires
acceptance of these