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Fundamentals of Dialogue with My Spouse

Download a PDF from the ‘Focus on feelings’ Resource

Writing My Personal Reflection:

  1. Write for the full time.
  2. Distinguish my feelings from my thoughts, using the five guidelines on pages 2 and 3. Then focus on my real feelings and sharing them with my spouse in my written reflection.
  3. Describe my feelings to my spouse, as fully as possible. See the six ways on pages 4 and 5. Keep my spouse in mind, so I’ll describe my feelings in ways that will help him or her experience what I am feeling.
  4. Write honestly, but be loving, tender, and considerate. Make my reflection my personal gift to my lover.

Dialogue with My Spouse:

  1. Exchange notebooks. No comments while doing this, or while reading.
  2. Read the other’s reflection two times, in silence – once for the head, once for the heart. Don’t correct grammar or spelling.
  3. Talk about what each of us feels after reading the other’s reflection.
  4. Select one strong feeling to share and explore. My spouse and I can choose this feeling fromany one of four sources:  My written reflection;  My spouse’s written reflection;  My feelings after reading my spouse’s reflection; or  My spouse’s feelings after reading my reflection.
  5. Explore this one feeling fully. Try to feel my spouse’s feeling, and experience the person behind the words. Ask questions to help my spouse describe the feeling.Examples: Is your energetic feeling like how you feel when we take a walk together? On a scale of 1 to 10, how strong is your frightened feeling? I think you’re saying your excited feeling is like a fireworks display. Am I hearing you correctly?
  6. Focus on sharing only feelings – no thoughts or judgments. Loving discussion of thoughts and ideas is also helpful, if both of us want to have a loving discussion – but it should wait until after we have fully shared our feelings.

Things to avoid in writing my personal reflection and in our dialogue:

1. Blaming anyone or anything for the way I feel. A feeling is an involuntary response to something. But it is my response. Each person may respond differently to the same situation. So I need to take ownership of my feeling rather than blame someone or something for causing it. This is why we avoid the words “make me feel.” When I am describing my feelings, it is better to use “I” messages. Avoid “you” and “they” statements, which can lead to blaming. Example: “I feel disappointed.” Avoid “You disappoint me.” My example: It is especially important to avoid blaming my spouse for the way I feel. This is a common trap called “garbage dumping.” It is a dangerous form of “make me feel.” Avoid this: You make me feel so angry when you are late. Use something like this: I feel angry when I have to wait for you.

  1. Analyzing my feeling. In our reflections and dialogue we seek to share and describe feelings. We avoid asking “Why do I feel that way?” Asking “Why?” can lead to blaming.  Or it can lead into analyzing my feeling rather than describing it.  “Why do you feel that way?” can be a subtle rejection of my spouse’s feeling.
  2. Trying to solve a problem or reach a decision. Save that for after dialogue, when we may choose to have a loving discussion. If we first share our feelings, we will know each other more deeply, and that will help us solve the problem or make a wise decision.
  3. Trying to change my spouse.
  4. Trying to please my spouse by writing or saying only what I think he or she wants to hear.
  5. Confessingaseriouswrong,suchasdishonestyorunfaithfulness should not be done during our reflection or dialogue. If I need confession, I am encouraged to pray for guidance after this Weekend and to consider consulting a pastor or counselor.

Feeling words