Saturday, May 11, 2013

The five key tasks of friendship

I really enjoyed the two evenings I went to during the week, firstly on Ten Things I’ve Learned about Life, from two women at my church, and then on Staying Emotionally Connected in Marriage, with Keith and Sarah Condie. The first one included two women’s personal testimonies about their own lives, so I won’t blog that.

The marriage presentation was really very good. Keith and Sarah Condie mixed it up by taking turns speaking, showing video clips, doing a little role play, having an interesting slide show, allowing moments of group discussion etc. And the content was well researched and fascinating. In many places they showed how what is coming out of the marriage research actually lines up with what Scripture has been saying for centuries. They stressed the importance of emotional connection in marriage, and that people have affairs because of emotions, not sex, and then shared this quote from John Gottman: “The nature of emotional interaction predicts what happens to a relationship.” It’s that important.

I did feel something of a goose being there (though there were a number of other single people present) and didn’t participate in the group activities or other interactive moments and tried to be inconspicuous. I am not holding out any hopes of being married any time soon (it’s been a very long time since a man considered me seriously enough to want to do something about it or ask me out, and I am now completely inept at the whole business and never seem to be able to do or say the right thing at the right time, and it’s not easy to find someone you detect any sort of connection with in the first place), but I was curious about what staying emotionally connected should look like.

I thought I’d just share a few points they made about the key tasks of friendship (which came under the heading of cultivating a safe and emotionally connected marriage) as something that possibly relates to single people. I’m not entirely sure what the protocol is for blogging seminars, and feel like it is not quite the right thing to do to make someone else’s presentation comprehensively available on the internet, but here is a little portion of it. The truth is, I feel like it would be difficult to obtain the level of friendship discussed with someone who is not your spouse, but you can try. So, the five key tasks of friendship:

Know each other’s worlds intimately – knowing what are the other persons stresses and worries, feeling like the other person is interested in knowing you, asking open-ended questions and remembering the answers.

Admire the positive qualities in your spouse – what do you like about them and do you regularly tell them. Are you scanning for your partners mistakes or for things to admire. It has a significant impact to say something you appreciate.

Respond to your spouse’s attempts to connect with you – people make bids for connection, empathy etc, which form an emotional bank account, and you can increase your mindfulness of how your partner (friend) makes bids to connect. You can turn away, against or towards a person in response to their bid for connection. This behaviour is apparently the basis of romance, passion and sex. For example, one person looks out the window and says “isn’t it a beautiful sunset tonight” – you can ignore them, say you don’t have time to look at sunsets, just say “yeah”, or you can say “how about we go outside and take a look together” etc.

Time – hang out with each other to catch up. They talked about the importance of making time for this. And that if during this time you can communicate how you feel, that leads to a greater emotional connection.

Enjoy – have fun together. No laughter or fun is a bad sign. It takes five positives to make up for each negative in an emotional bank account, so fun times are important and will help you survive the lean times.

And that is how you can work towards keeping the emotional "karte" full, and will do for one post. The Condies are coming back for two more seminars at church later in the year. I am not sure that all of them will be appropriate to let single people sit in on, but if so I look forward to going along.


Jessica said...

I have an audiobook (46 min long so more of a sermon) called Making Marriage Work. Sounds like the same things, making bids for attention etc. It's by Dr John Gottman. Anyway, I found it really useful for things like flatmate relationships and workplace relationships. How to have good arguments vs destructive arguments, for example. So I think it's good for singles to learn relationship stuff, and if we have to piggyback the marriage training, so be it.

Ali said...

Hi Jess, well it is highly likely that the source for some of these points is Gottman's work, as they did quote from him. I am going to look out for some of his material.

But yes, I found all very useful, married or not. There were things like beginning conversations with "harsh startups", which apparently women are big culprits for etc, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse (or four marriage killers) would kill any relationship ...