Being a Jerk: Part VII

In conclusion, I am going to leave you with one more word of guidance from Dr. John Van Epp and his book, “How to Avoid Falling In Love With a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind.” This should be able to help you and your spouse have better communication, which is related to the last article about conversation.

Listening can be so hard. We’re busy, we’re doing something, we’re not that interested, or whatever our excuse is, is one excuse too many. Listening is a crucial part of our communication. So why is it something that we don’t see as that serious? How can we change that?

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are having trouble figuring out if you are a bad listener. Do you look somewhere else while your spouse talks? Do you not give your spouse the attention they need when they are speaking? Are you thinking about other things, like what’s happening tomorrow, while your spouse tries to connect with you? If you answered yes to one of these questions, then it seems like there are some things that you can work on.

One thing that you can consciously think about while conversing with your spouse are the nonverbal messages that you are sending and receiving. Van Epp says, “Many times the nonverbal messages speak more loudly than the verbal. This is one reason why you should pay attention to your intuition, hunches, inner feelings, and vices around your partner…Make sure you are “reading” the other person correctly so that you don’t jump to the wrong conclusions!” Have you ever been listening to what your spouse is saying and you just start assuming what they are trying to say? Or have you ever been talking and your spouse has a defensive posture on accident and you get upset? If this happens you can sit down with your spouse and talk about what these things mean to you. Ask them why they do certain things while listening to see what they are thinking in those moments. He went on to say, “Your interpretation of his or her nonverbal can become a topic in a future discussion, which will help clarify your understanding of what that person usually means by his or her body language.”

So now you’re intrigued by what a good listener might do and practice? Good! Van Epp has described what to do for just that! He said, “Listening is more than just passive silence.” Try to make your spouse feel engaged while you listen. Make them feel like you understand what they are saying (it also will really help if you do understand.) He also said that the more personal they get the more important it is for you to listen!

While Van Epp was in college, he was taught an acronym to help listeners listen better. It’s called SOLER.

Square Off – make sure your shoulders are square with the person talking.

Open – keep your arms and legs uncrossed so that you have an open, nondefensive position.

Lean – lean forward toward the person talking.

Eye Contact – keep eye contact with the person talking.

Relax – stay relaxed as you listen.

This acronym can help you be more in tune with your spouse as you listen. You will also be more willing to not just hear what they are saying but to think about what it is they are talking about.

Van Epp included that some people may feel a little ashamed and won’t admit that they are not great listeners though they want to be better. He assures that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Having a desire to strengthen this skill will enhance your communication with your spouse, as long as you do try and work on it. It will be something that will most likely receive praise over, not humiliation.

Lastly, in order to have a well-balanced conversation, both parties need to participate equally. He says, “There should be similar amounts of listening, talking, disclosing, and initiation between you and the person you are dating [married to.]” You can talk about interests, hobbies, career, family, values, and perspectives on life to create a conversation.

In turn, these helps will create a better foundation for conflict resolution. It is never a bad idea to strengthen yourself and your relationship with your spouse!

 

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Being a Jerk: Part I

Being a Jerk: Part II

Being a Jerk: Part III

Being a Jerk: Part IV

Being a Jerk: Part V

Being a Jerk: Part VI

 

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Being a Jerk: Part VI

So, change is possible but it can be hard to get started. It can also be hard to keep going. However if you are motivated to making things work with your spouse, you’ll be able to do it! Dr. John Van Epp has talked about a way to continue strengthening your marriage in his book, “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind.”

Van Epp says that deepening your communication with your spouse will do wonders. You are probably already aware that communication is key, especially since you and your spouse are different people. He said, “The key is to accurately and extensively get to know the person you are dating, delving deeper in your communication as your relationship grows.” Learning more about your spouse is something that you need to keep up with for the rest of your lives because of the growth that comes from it.

He went on to say that there are four layers that help communication and conversations get better and become more meaningful. They start ranging from “shallow to deep,” which is what we need and should desire. He has created an acronym called OPEN to help you remember these levels.


The first level is Observations and Facts. Van Epp says that this means, “these refer to the type of communication where you relay current events, established facts, and things you’ve heard and seen.” An example of this would be, “Gray is my favorite color.” You are just stating the obvious, facts about yourself, and things you have noticed.

The second level is Perspectives and Opinions. His definition is, “they describe the type of communication where you add interpretations and opinion to your facts. An example would be, “My favorite color is gray, which is the best color there is.” When you talk about something that has happened and discuss what you think about it or how it affected is you demonstrating the second level.

The third level is Experiences and Emotions. Van Epp explains that this means, “They convey more of the subjective, personal and emotional content about your facts and opinions. An example is, “Gray isn’t a sad color for me. I find it brings me happiness when I see it.” This is probably one of the more used ones while talking to your spouse, especially during a time of trouble or a fluctuation in moods.

And lastly, the fourth level is Needs and Relationship Responses. Van Epp says, “this deepest level of communication occurs when you put your deepest feelings into words. Both refer to a here-and-now experience where you convey feelings you’re having at that time about either something very personal or some way you feel toward the person you are with. An example would be, “Although gray can remind most people of rain clouds and being sad, I think about the silver lining on those clouds, like when we struggle.” This level gets to the very bottom of how you feel right now about where you are at, what situation you’re in, and the feelings you have towards your spouse.

Obviously these examples included were light and airy, but hopefully they got the point across enough to help you understand.

Have you and your spouse ever talked about something a few times over the course of a few months? If you have it’s because your communication is deepening. Van Epp explained that, “As a relationship grows and communications “deepens,” the same topics are revisited time and time again but with greater depth. For instance you can talk to someone about your experience within your family of origin with minimal depth. However, as time goes on and more is shared a greater depth of openness occurs. There are many depictions for the different depths of openness.” The longer you know and are around your spouse, the deeper your conversations are going to be. It’s normal, natural, and just what you want!

Being open in your marriage is what it needs to thrive. Learn about your spouse and your bond will grow with them. You two will be strengthened because of honesty and trust you give to one another. Here’s one more thing that Van Epp said, “Healthy relationships continue to cycle through the same topic areas from the situational and relationship domains, yet with more meaning and depth each time.” Hopefully this can help you with sharing more with your spouse. Build that strong and healthy relationship with them. Share thoughts and feelings openly, but don’t hurt your spouse. Communication is key to making your marriage work!

 

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Being a Jerk: Part I

Being a Jerk: Part II

Being a Jerk: Part III

Being a Jerk: Part IV

Being a Jerk: Part V

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Being a Jerk: Part III

In the previous article from the “Being a Jerk” series, we talked about the Love is Blind phenomenon by Dr. John Van Epp. The head and heart knowledge idea that he created helped us understand why we have certain thoughts about our partners. In this article we will be learning about how he says we can fix are negative feelings about our relationship and spouse. We will also be talking about his idea to help couples who are experiencing premarital dating, and also us, to figure out how we can grow closer to our spouses. There are five categories that he has made that summarize his extensive research.

The first category is Compatibility Potential. Van Epp says, “The balance between the similarities and differences of personality, values, and interests between you and this person – in other words, how you “fit together.” If you are struggling in your marriage or have an interest to be closer with your spouse, this is a great one to follow. What do you and your spouse do together that both of you enjoy doing? What are your similarities? How well do you get along while at home and in your routine? What do you do together to blow off steam? Try to find answers to all of these questions. If you don’t have answers then try out new things together. You can work out with one another, go on walks, play board games, or cook. Make sure that you have your hobbies, but also find hobbies together! This will make you two grow stronger because of the quality time you spend with one another.

The second category is Relationship Skills. This means, “Communication, openness, and conflict management and resolution.” How are your relationship skills? Can you and your spouse have a nice conversation or quick chat? Do you hold grudges and block progress after an argument? Are you truthful and honest with your spouse? Do you keep secrets? If you feel that you can work on some of these questions it would be better for you and your relationship. Try hard to strengthen your communication. Listen, don’t just hear your spouse. Let them talk without interrupting them. Try to understand how they feel instead of assuming you already know what they are going to say. Give them space when they ask for it. Tell them the truth and remember the standards you two have created in and for your marriage. Practice listening by asking about their day or what the plans are for the weekend. Repeating back to them can also help train you to remember what your spouse says!

The third category is Patterns from Other Relationships. This is what Van Epp’s definition is, “Relationship patterns from both romantic and nonromantic relationships.” How did your spouse treat their past interests? How do they treat their parents, siblings, friends, and strangers? How do you treat those people? This can be a good indication whether or not you and your spouse are friendly or nice. If your spouse treats the waiter nicely that can be a good sign. Or how you treat your spouse can tell whether or not there is room to work on it. There can always be more room to be nicer to your spouse. Make them feel safe when they are around you. Refrain from calling them rude or cruel names. Don’t let play fighting be taken too far. Treat your spouse how you would want to be treated.

The fourth category is Family Patterns and Background. Van Epp says, “The quality of the parental marriage and the family’s expression of affection and emotion, development of roles, and interaction patterns.” Basically, how was your spouse raised? Do they communicate through gifts, service, touch, time together, or words? How do their parents communicate? Learning more about your spouse and their family can help you understand how to better get along with them. Try to pick up on the little things they do. Do they clean when they are upset? You could try cleaning to help them know that you are paying attention to them and their needs.

The last category is Character and Conscience Traits. He says, “The emotional health and maturity of conscience.” Is your emotional health strong enough to be married and take on the responsibility? Are you and your spouse mature enough to depend on one another during hardships and struggles? Are you willing to sacrifice things you like for the betterment of your marriage and relationship? These are things to contemplate and consider. There is no better time to make yourself better and greater to help your marriage. Think things through and discuss them with your spouse. Ask them if there is anything you can work on and find out your weaknesses. Take those weaknesses and make them into strengths to benefit your life.

These are all great thoughts to consider frequently throughout your life together. Like I mentioned before, these were originally meant for those who are not married yet, but they work so well with those of us who are married. There is nothing bad about going back to the basics. We want our marriages to work and maybe all we need to do is go back to the beginning. Learn, talk, and spend time with each other. Purposely try to work together and in the same direction. There is no better feeling than knowing you have your best friend by your side through everything!

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Being a Jerk: Part I

Being a Jerk: Part II

 

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Being a Jerk: Part II

So continuing on from the original post, Being a Jerk,  John Van Epp talks about the Love is Blind phenomenon. We have probably experienced this phenomenon or at least have an experience similar to what it is. The Love is Blind phenomenon is when you fall in love and then everything becomes a blur. There are two causes that Van Epp has found while working with his patients, who can probably relate to you and me.

The first thing that he says creates this phenomenon is what he calls “head knowledge.” More head knowledge is needed when there is a lack of understanding you had about your spouse before you got married. If you have ever thought, “If only I knew then what I know now…” then this is a perfect example. Van Epp has heard this countless of times from his patients who discovered they didn’t have very much head knowledge in their relationship. This lack comes from not knowing what to look for in a spouse. Maybe you didn’t know that you wanted someone who could fix things, or someone who was ready for a commitment. Society plays a big role in how we figure out who to marry, which often times is negative and not helpful.

Van Epp has found five categories of premarital predictors that would help those who are dating. These categories can be turned into great strengths that you and your spouse can strengthen together. This will be discussed more in another article.

The second idea that completes the Love is Blind phenomenon is known as, “heart knowledge.” More heart knowledge is needed when there is an overdeveloped emotional attachment. Like head knowledge there are thoughts that accompany this idea as well. If you have thought “Things will get better” or “They love me and I love them and that’s all that matters,” you fit this description. You don’t have to wish that things will get better, instead you can just work at it! Also, love is very important in a relationship however there are other things that are needed in a marriage to make it work.

Although these were created for preventative measures before marriage that does not mean that married couples cannot learn from it. If you don’t feel you know your spouse that well, ask questions. Get to know their favorite foods, colors, and hobbies. What chore do they dislike the most? What color do they not wear? My husband and I ask each other personal questions all the time. Our favorite things can change all the time but we won’t know unless we ask! You can also play the newlywed game and quiz one another! You will learn a lot!

The Love is Blind phenomenonis real. It can happen in marriage as easy as it does while dating. We are creatures of routine and once we have a rhythm we can lose balance in areas of our lives. The areas of communication, understanding your spouse, serving and other things tend to take a backseat, especially when we have other priorities. Learn more about your spouse and find your balance of emotional dependency on your spouse as well. These things will help you get out of the Love is Blind phenomenon and eventually lead you to a happier and healthier marriage.

 

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Being a Jerk: Part I

 

Dr. John Van Epp PhD is the author of the book, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart without Losing Your Mind. He also travels to give lectures about the practice and application that the book entails. He is also the President and founder of LoveThinks, LCC. This company was created to help promote healthy marriages and individuals. Over the years he has been able to do a lot of research on individuals, premarital, marriage, and family relationships.

Starting out, you’re probably wondering why this book would be of any significance to you if you are already married. I too, am married but I still think that this book and research can be very helpful to us and our relationships. I think the first question that comes to my mind is about this book is, “Am I being a jerk in my marriage”? The next question would be “Is my spouse being a jerk in our marriage”?

What is a Jerk?

So in order to answer those two questions that we both might be wondering is to understand what a jerk really is. We all have our own definitions about what a jerk is or can be. Dr. John Van Epp explains in his book and through his lectures that a jerk is someone who has negative attributes. Some of these attributes can include narcissism, selfishness, being unreliable, being rude, dishonest, doesn’t listen and so on.

Criteria that Jerks Meet

The first thing he said about identifying a jerk is to see whether or not they are breaking boundaries. The book suggests that two of the biggest boundary breakers are players and space invaders.

The second trait a jerk can have is if they can see things the ways other people do. Meaning they will only see their own perspective and no one else’s. Dr. John Van Epp says (2007), “But after a person fails to recognize your perspective several times, a pattern emerges… This pattern is what becomes so difficult to handle in a long-term relationship. You feel a void of never being understood or validated” (p. 18, 19).

Lastly, the third feature a jerk can have is a big lack of balancing emotions. These people are very extreme whether it be the more outgoing and loud personality or the easygoing personality.

Who can be a Jerk?

So, just your spouse can be a jerk, right? Wrong. You can be one too. Anyone can be and act like a jerk. Dr. John Van Epp has stated that (2007), “Jerks have no gender…A jerk can be either a man or a woman” (p. 17, 29).

Acting vs. Being

Okay, so you might be a little worried because you might be thinking, “Well I’ve done at least some of these things in my relationship with my spouse! That makes me a jerk”? A memory might have popped into your head about you being selfish or a time you may have not been listening to your spouse can be making you feel guilty.

Fear not, Dr. John Van Epp stated (2007), “No one earns the right to be called a jerk from merely acting like on once or twice. If we are honest, all of us act like jerks now and then” (p. 17). Good news, we are all allowed to have bad days which in turn might lead to us acting like a jerk. Acting like a jerk is completely different from being a jerk. The difference is that true, real jerks are persistent and do not and will not change. They do not want to change no matter how many times they’ve been told they needed to.

a jerk has a core resistance to change

How to Change if You’re a Jerk

Change can be very difficult, especially this kind of life altering kind of change. But it is so worth it, for you, your relationship and kids if you have them. Although this change is worth it from being a jerk to not being a jerk, it can be very hard. According to Dr. John Van Epp (2007), “If it is possible to reform a jerk, it will almost always require a major life crisis or life-transforming event” (p. 17). He also mentioned that the longer you or someone else has been a jerk, the harder it is to get away from that lifestyle. So you really need to have the desire to be different. You need to be aware of your actions towards other people and thoughts.

 

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Citation

Epp, J. V. (2008). How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart without Losing Your Mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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