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Episode 91 - Taking Your Marriage to the Next Level Part 2: Practicing Healthy Communication
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the New Talk 106.7. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis and from time to time, even tips on how to take your millage to the next level. If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Well, today is one of those days where we're talking about taking your marriage to the next level, going into some mechanics of how to talk, how to communicate so that you can ensure that your marriage stays on the right track, stays healthy and in some situations, hopefully, you take it to the next level.
Todd Orston: Yeah, and this is the second show, we did another show last week where we began this discussion. This is a topic, Leh, you could go on for way more time than we have about how important this topic is. Yes, we are family lawyers, yes, we represent people who are unfortunately dealing with strife in their life, but we would love nothing more than for you that avoid conflict and one of the main things that we see, generally speaking, is a breakdown in communication, an inability ... You just lose sight of who your spouse is, you lose the ability or willingness to communicate and so these shows, this is the second of two, these shows are intended to just offer some advice, offer some advice based on things we've seen clients, issues that clients have dealt with to try and get you through the rough patches a little bit easier.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So, last time we were talking about really talking about swimming in a place of love and talking about some bigger picture of things, now we're getting more, like I said, the mechanics of the communication.
I want to start with, I guess tip number one would be arguments are healthy. We've run into some people that have felt like keeping the peace and avoiding arguments was a sign of a healthy marriage, but what we've usually seen is that's not the case. When you avoid problems, problems in your marriage, it's like failing to treat a bad cut on your body, it eventually gets infected and can make you very sick. I mean, a lot of times you seen gangrene. Well, the same thing can happen in your marriage at emotional levels. It's not physical, but it's emotional. But working through challenges and differences, when done right, that's the important thing, when done right, and we're going to talk about that today, is an effective way to strengthen your marriage and grow closer as a couple.
Here's the other thing, when you work through that and grow closer as a couple, when you hit a crisis point in your marriage, because everybody, you'll be able to work through it.
Todd Orston: We were talking about this, obviously, earlier and it's not a matter of if an argument will occur, it's a matter of when it occurs and how you argue. How are you going to conduct yourself during that argument, and is it going to resolve the issue and bring peace to your family, or is it going to exacerbate the problem? That's why what we're saying is we're not advising anyone, hey, listen you had a great day, go home and just pick a fight.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, we're not saying that.
Todd Orston: "Hey, honey, it's argument day. Come on." But what we're saying is that you can't bottle it up, you can't save it for another day because what ends up happening, and we've seen clients where they save it up, they save it up, they save it up and instead of it being a relatively calm disagreement and discussion, it is a blowup, knockdown, drag out kind of conflict that sometimes goes so far as to result in basically a breakup.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I've seen situations where the person, they bottle it up, they bottle up and then the wife says something simple, "Hey, do you mind opening the door for me," and they blowup.
Todd Orston: I hate when my spouse says open the door. No, I'm only kidding. Honey, again, if you're listening, I'm okay with you saying open the door.
Leh Meriwether: But they blowup and so the wife thinks that, well, he's got an anger issue because he just starts yelling for no reason, but he actually had a reason, he's had lots of reasons that had been building up over time and this one little thing, and it really is little if you look at in isolation, causes him to explode.
On the flip side, you see people where either they don't confront it or they're blown off by their spouse. "Oh, no, let's not talk about that now. Let's not talk about that now," and then they feel disrespected and so they wind up drifting apart from their spouse and getting a divorce too. So it's actually important to confront it if there's something in the relationship that's a problem to confront it.
Now, two tips I'd give here, sub-tips, are, one, there's a great book out there we could spend 6, 10 shows on, it's called Crucial Conversations, it's one of my favorite books, and it's about the mechanics of a good conversation, discussing something important. We don't have time to even barely scratch the surface on it today, but it's a great book out there and it's a great read that use storytelling to illustrate how to confront certain problems and they go into the why it's so helpful too. So, that's one tip.
The second thing is look at the time of day you're arguing. We have talked about ego depletion before where over the course of the day you're having to make thousands of decisions, maybe you went to a grocery store ... As weird as it sounds I've actually done psychological studies on this, but you walk down an aisle and you've got 50 choices for cereal and 80 choices for hot sauce, and so all these choices literally wear down your will power during the day. Your brain is using all this energy to make choices, and some of this is in the book The Power of Habit, your brain creates habits to make up for that to conserve energy. That's why some days you might drive home and not remember actually driving home because your brain literally kicked in the habit and drove you home.
So if you have an argument at the end of the day, odds are you've lost willpower and so you've the lost ability to maintain your temper to pause and listen to, like what we talked about last week, assume the person is coming from a place of love. Well, sometimes that takes a level patience. What are they really trying to say? I got to breakup the walnut and figure out what the meat of their complaint or criticism or concern is, and if you're tired you just can't do that. So I usually say wait till the next day to have the conversation.
Todd Orston: We also recognize it's not always possible, sometimes those arguments, they're organic, they pop up, you can't say, "All right, I see you yelling at me but it is 6 o'clock on Thursday night and so we're done. But I promise you tomorrow morning we're going to do this." That's not going to work out. I know if my wife wants to talk about something at three in the morning, we're having a conversation.
Leh Meriwether: I'm glad my wife doesn't wake me up at three in the morning.
Todd Orston: Well, my wife doesn't either, my point is, if that's when she wants to have a conversation, for the most part, I know it's going to happen, but I hear you. We have learned about ego depletion and read about that, and I truly believe in it. It is a real thing. By the end of the day you are exhausted, not just physically but mentally, and it's that mental exhaustion that can shut down lines of communication, make you unable to communicate, which means issues aren't being resolved.
Leh Meriwether: So that's when you want to, maybe if you can, talk to whoever's bringing up the issue and say, "Look, I love you too much, and this seems like this is really important to you, I love you too much to be discussing when I'm tired because I'm not going to give you the full attention it deserves and I'm probably going to say something stupid because I'm not thinking through what you're telling me, I'm not listening to what you're telling me, not because I don't want to listen, I'm just so tired I'm not going to be able to listen. But can we talk about this first thing in the morning?"
Todd Orston: My only problem is I would have to follow that up with I'm probably going to say something stupid in the morning.
Leh Meriwether: That's just you though!
Todd Orston: It's just me, right. Yeah. One another, now or tomorrow, I'm saying something stupid.
Leh Meriwether: You're just really good at that.
Todd Orston: I am. Well, thank you. Every once in a while you throw me a compliment like that.
Leh Meriwether: All right. Well, along the same lines of communication, another thing that you should do is avoid absolutes. So you can engage in the argument, or discussion, that turns into an argument ... Sometimes it will turn into an argument because you use an absolute like, you always say that or you never listen to me, those are two good examples. But what often that does is change the focus of the conversation from whatever you really discussing to the person goes, "Well, wait a minute, I don't always say that. Just the other day, I didn't say it," and all of a sudden-
Todd Orston: Well, it forces them to get defensive on something you can't even prove.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: I'm talking like an attorney now, but for the most part, if you're saying I always say something, I immediately have to jump into defense mode and go, "Well, hold on, no I don't. I don't always ... " As opposed to, I'm guessing, as opposed the, why did you just say that? Why in the context of this conversation did you say XYZ," because it hurt my feelings or whatever, bothered me in some way. You're focused on exactly what you're unhappy about as opposed to speaking in some absolute that unfortunately the other party, the other person, has to defend themselves, or at least they think. I have to now jump in and say no, your comment was actually not 100% correct.
Leh Meriwether: Right. If you're trying to resolve an issue, you want to stay focused on that issue. That's the way you do it, just avoid the absolutes altogether [inaudible 00:10:54] why did you say that just then, and focus on specifically what's right in front of you.
All right, well, up next we're going to get into why you shouldn't criticize someone's feelings and talk about how you consider someone's life filter when you're talking to them.
Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the New Talk 106.7. If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com. But today we're not talking about divorces, we're talking about marriages and things you can do to take your marriage to the next level and work through ... We're getting into some of the mechanics of communication inside of a marriage and really, some of these tips we're giving play outside the marriage too.
Todd Orston: Absolutely. I mean, communication is important in so many aspects of one's life. We deal with clients, we deal with judges, we deal with closing counsel, it all comes down to communication. What were talking about, though, is the communication between spouses because we have seen when the communication breaks down, what happens?
Leh Meriwether: So one of the things we left off of, we want to talk about, is criticizing feelings. Now, it's hard for most people to listen to criticism, and while we can often learn from the criticism, we've talked about how you learn from that, there is one form of criticism that should be avoided, and that's criticizing someone's feelings because we don't live the life of our spouses, we don't know how they grew up ... Well, we may have heard stories, but we didn't experience those stories and so we're in no position to say, you shouldn't feel that way, but we hear people say that all the time. Well, you shouldn't feel that way. I mean, for some people that makes them very angry because they don't understand what the other person, where they're coming from that caused them to feel that way. So next time someone expresses a feeling that doesn't seem to make sense, don't criticize it by saying you shouldn't feel that way, but use empathy and acknowledge the feeling and ask if they can explain to you what led them to feel that way.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I guess what I would add there is I can't prove or disprove that somebody feels something, and I've said that to people, I've said it to my kids when they said something where they responded in a way where they were ... We expressed our feelings and they said something, and I said you're punished for a lifetime ... No, I'm kidding. No, but I don't ... Leh, I don't know what you're feeling right now, I don't know what Al here in the studio is feeling-
Leh Meriwether: I could tell you.
Todd Orston: I don't really care what you're feeling ... No! So instead of sitting there and telling someone how they can or should feel, get to the bottom of why they feel that way. Just ask the questions, acknowledge ... Even if you think that the feeling is ridiculous, saying that's dumb, that's stupid, you shouldn't feel that way, whatever, shutting them down and criticizing their emotions isn't going to resolve anything. Instead, what we see and what we've heard and what we've read is basically acknowledge the feeling and now let's get to the heart of why you feel that way. What did I do? What did I say? What did you experience that is making you feel that way? Because maybe there's a miscommunication, maybe you shouldn't feel that way because the perceived slight, what you're angry about or what you're sad about, isn't something you should be sad about. "Well, I saw a communication between you and another woman," "That's my grandmother, okay? I'm not telling you shouldn't feel hurt or betrayed or whatever, but you don't have to here. I'm not telling you that those feelings are bad, but that's my grandma. Okay? So when I said I love you, I still mean it, and she's not my type." So, you need to understand, you need to accept it, but then you can open the door to a communication where you try and get to the bottom of it and hopefully, resolve that issue.
Leh Meriwether: One of the toughest things ... So someone says, when you said this you made me feel really small, and then the response often is, well you shouldn't feel that way. So that's the mistake. The better way to say it is, "I'm sorry, I'm trying to understand your feeling and why I made you feel that way. Can you explain to me how what I just said made you feel really small? Because that's not what I meant."
Todd Orston: Right, that wasn't my intention, and so if that was the result of my comment, I'm sorry, but now-
Leh Meriwether: I think the most important thing is when you start off with, I'm sorry, you're acknowledging the, and you're not saying but, I'm sorry-
Todd Orston: If my kids are listening to this show today, if they have heard ... "I'm sorry dad, but ... " No, no, no, no hit the brakes. The but just means that you're not really sorry. You're trying to placate, you're trying to do something that's-
Leh Meriwether: It's not a genuine apology.
Todd Orston: That's right. If I had a nickel for every time, to my kids, I said I don't want to hear but, I don't want to hear because, I don't want to hear anything like that, just apologize for what happened. now let's talk about the underlying issue.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So, I'm sorry, I'd like to understand more about how my comment made you feel that way, can we talk about it?
Todd Orston: Thank you, Leh. All right? I think we're going to work through this.
Leh Meriwether: Okay, good.
Todd Orston: Experience if we go onto the next segment.
Leh Meriwether: Yes! All right. So you know what you said, but do you know what they heard? This kind of falls along the criticizing feelings, why you shouldn't criticize feeling. We've seen arguments or arguments start because someone said one thing but the other person heard something completely different, and we all enter our marriages with different life experiences and we hear things through the filter of those experiences, so the next time, this is really important, the next time you say something and you get this look of anger or, what, you could tell by the tone if someone's irritated, and it's something you didn't expect, pause for a minute and ask them, "What did you just hear? Because that wasn't the response I was expecting. I was kind of expecting you to laugh but you just got really mad and I'm sorry. Can you tell me what you just heard me say?" "I just heard you say that I'm a terrible mother." "Well, I'm definitely sorry. I think you're a great mom."
Todd Orston: I said the noodles were al dente and I like them a little less firm. That was a criticism of you as a mother. But you're right, you have to ... Again, you can't shut someone down, you can't, like we talked about in the first show, let instinct kick in where you get defensive and then just go into fight mode and you can't go into flight mode where you just run away and don't deal with-
Leh Meriwether: You should engage in the conversation.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: Don't shut down.
Todd Orston: Right. So fight or flight doesn't actually apply because you can't run, you can't just go into battle mode, you have to sort of step back and go hold on one second, your reaction is not what I intended, so can I explain what I said? Tell me what you heard-
Leh Meriwether: I would ask what they heard first.
Todd Orston: Yeah, and I would explain what I meant. I've actually done that with my wife where ... I mean, I got a reaction where I'm like the wires got crossed somewhere, I don't know what just happened and I'm like, what do you think I'm saying here? And basically they will tell me, well, I heard you say ... All right, honey, love you, that's not what I meant at all, so I'm sorry for that. I didn't mean for that to come across in terms of the messaging and this is what I did mean.
Leh Meriwether: And sometimes you have to go back a little bit and tell your story because you'll see ... "But no, I know you meant that," but you have to pull back and say, well, no I didn't let me just tell you about-
Todd Orston: "When I was three years and I stole a piece of gum from a convenience store ... " No. All right, maybe not go that far-
Leh Meriwether: Not that far, right. But I'm sure a lot of times you say things from the perspective of a experience you had at one point in time you or maybe you say something out of a memory that you had and it just comes across the wrong way.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: All right, so let's talk about you have people grow, why should I bother improving my listening skills? "My spouse never listens to me anyways," and my response to that is some research that we've come across recently, and so up next we're going to get into some really good listening skills and some of the evidence from a study that came put in 2016 where they followed up with, I want to say it was about 4,500 different people, and I don't know the full depth of the study, but basically I'm going to the results was that they were able to identify some of the top listeners and the results of the study were shocking. They were a little bit different than what people expected.
So you probably heard people say, hey, you don't listen to me, you just jump in and try to fix the problem ... I mean, men really try to do that.
Todd Orston: I'm guilty of it at times. My wife will call me on it.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. But what the study showed was that sometimes the problem is the skill with which the suggestions are made and not the mere fact that you made a suggestion. So someone who's silent for the whole conversation and then suddenly jumps in with a suggestion, they lose credibility, but someone who seems critical all along the way and then gives advice at the end, they lose trustworthiness. So think of the times that you listened to a suggestion that someone and was it because you felt like you'd been heard. So improving your listening skills can actually improve your chances of your spouse listening to you. So up next we're going to explore some of those skills.
Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the New Talk 106.7. If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Well, today we're not talking about divorce, we're actually talking about things you can do to hopefully avoid ever getting divorced and in particular right now, we're going to talk about improving your listening skills. Because this is not only going to help you in your marriage, but it can also help you at work, with your kids, so we're going to touch on some things in the segment that deal with improving your listening skills. We dropped a hint of why it's so important in the last segment that often that you improve your chances of someone listening to you if you've improved your own listening skills, so let's dig in.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I'll say this, as lawyers, communication is key. Communication, especially verbal communication, is incredibly important to what we do and it is a skill. We have seen people right out of law school where they're incredibly intelligent, but they just haven't honed that communication skill yet. That muscle is still weak. But with time and with practice, they become much better communicators. Well, I think it's overlooked that while communication in terms of speaking is important and it's something you need to practice and get better at, listening is just as important. We find that also in court. It's not just a matter of what we say, it's when we say it, how we say it, are we listening, are we engaging, are we jumping in and adding our two cents at the appropriate time so that we're going to get the most value out of that? And so I absolutely agree that listening is just as important as what is being said.
I keep admitting to my flaws, but my wife has called me on that also. She's a professional, we will sit and we will talk about her work, and there are times where halfway through her explanation to me I have already in my mind formulated my response and clearly, it is very obvious-
Leh Meriwether: Her recommended course of action.
Todd Orston: Yes, and she is looking at my face and it is very clear that I've sort of checked out and I'm waiting for her to take a breath so I could jump in and save the day, and she'll look at me and be like, are you listening to me? It's like, "Yes, but I have answers. Slow down, hear me, listen to me," and we'll keep talking, and so I've been called out on that and I know that that's not a healthy way to communicate.
Leh Meriwether: So with that in mind, they say that listening ... Well, everybody knows that listening is an important part of a healthy marriage, and some of this research that I referenced in the last segment was part of good listening is actually asking questions that promote discovery and insight. By that I mean by asking those right questions, you tell your spouse that not only did you hear what they said, but you understood it well enough to want more information. So some people think, well I'm just going to sit and I'm just going to listen, I'm just going to be quiet, well, a lot of times they'll ... I'm a big guilty of that. My wife looks at me, I'm listening, and she's like, "Are you listening to me?" And I'm like, "Yeah!" She's like, "Well, you got this blank stare on your face." "I'm just listening. I'm trying to block out everything!" She's like, "I don't feel like you're listening." I did not say you shouldn't feel that way, but I've been called on it too, and when I read this a couple years ago it was really insightful because I wasn't asking questions along the way, trying to get a little bit more information about things.
Going back to your situation when she was talking about the struggle she was having at work, just before you gave an answer just say, oh, well, what happened here, or ... "And then I told them this and then ... " "Oh! Well, what did he say to that? How did he respond when you told them that?" "Oh, well, he said that," and then I'm like, "That's interesting. Okay." And so you just continue to ask those insightful questions to get more information.
Now, there's different listening techniques when you're trying to negotiate a deal, but right now we're just talking about listening to your spouse when you're trying to maybe work through something, whether it's trying to listen to be good listener so they feel like they're connected to you, or listening to try to work through a struggle that you two may be having. That's what I'm focused on right now. There's other listening skills out there that we could talk ... You know, we should spend a whole show on that.
Todd Orston: All right. Let's talk about that after this one.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah! There was another thing that you mentioned that's important, you could be sitting there and saying the right things, but if your body language is saying something completely different, the person speaking is going to feel like you're not listening also. So that was another key tail was your body language. If it looks like you're like on the edge of your seat, you can't see this on the air but right not I'm sitting on the edge of my seat, if you're sitting on the edge of the seat and your knees are bouncing up and down or you're tapping your fingers on the table, I don't know if you can hear that, but-
Todd Orston: Unfortunately, I can.
Leh Meriwether: If you're doing that what you're telling the person, even though you're not verbally telling them, is that I want to say something.
Todd Orston: Yeah, yeah, like, "Enough, enough, enough, can you stop talking? Stop talking. I'm done. My turn." So you are, with nonverbal cues, shutting them down when all they want is for you to be open to receive the information that they're trying to give you and they are looking for help but they need to vent a little bit first. They need to explain, fully explain their problem, and if you're shutting them down with verbal or nonverbal cues, then, even if you have the best of intentions, they're not going to feel like you are properly engaging with them. And you're not helping, you're actually potentially making the problem worse.
We've talked so much about communication, we've done seminars in the firm where we talk about the importance of not just verbal but nonverbal cues, and how nonverbal communication is actually, in many studies, more important than what is said. So it's not just what is said, but how you say it, how you go about interacting with somebody that could send more messages than the actual words you choose.
Leh Meriwether: Something you had said when I was listening to you, it reminded me of a time I was talking to my wife, and she's good at listening, I wonder if that's a ... Anyway, she's better at listening than I am, but even though I have all this data and I practice it all the time, she's just a natural at it. So she's asking me questions as I'm telling her something I was struggling with, and I wish I could member what it was, but I remember I came to a solution to my problem because she asked a question I hadn't asked. She said, "Well, what about this? How did that impact it?" And I said, "Oh my gosh, I didn't even think about that! That was the problem all along, I didn't consider this factor," but she didn't say a word. She just asked me a question as part of the listening process that helped me answer my problem. solvers gosh, I wish I could remember that. I'm sure she could remember.
Todd Orston: That'll be for the next show.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: All right, let's keep talking about listening though.
Leh Meriwether: Yes. All right, so this one is another thing that people ... It kind of goes in line with what you just said, good conversations feel cooperative with feedback flowing smoothly in both directions, with neither spouse becoming defensive. By contrast, poor listeners come across as competitive, listening only to identify errors in reasoning or using their silence as a chance to prepare the rebuttal, and that's where some of the body language can come in too. Preparing your response, listening to prepare your response, may make you a great debater, but it doesn't make you a good listener. It's okay to challenge someone's assumptions or disagree with the person speaking, but the person being listened to feels that the listener is trying to help, not trying to win an argument. That's the key difference right there.
So you can listen and provide input, but when you do it from the context of trying to win an argument or prove their reasoning is wrong, the person feels like that you're just debating with me rather than going, wow, you're trying to help me. So that's really important, just slow down.
Todd Orston: If I'm going to boil it down, at least for my benefit, it's the difference between talking with someone and talking to someone, or at someone. When people are coming to you for help, they don't want to feel, and this goes for when we talk to clients, when we talk to people on the phone who are looking to retain, they don't want to be talked at. They need someone that will talk to them, speak with them. It has to be a conversation among equals. In other words, we are both equals, but you have information just to help me. How can you help me? Here's my problem. And by engaging, I have found, by engaging with people, however that might be, and speak to somebody as an equal, you're showing respect and then they are going to be more open to whatever it is you have to say.
Leh Meriwether: So, slow down, listen, listen to not only what they're saying, but listen for opportunities to ask questions that will give you more insight into what they're talking about.
Up next we're going to get into some things we've seen that can create problems in a marriage, we're just going to touch on some of them, we're going to talk about how we've seen social media cause divorces and what you can do about it. And we're also going to give some tips to people that may be looking at a second marriage.
Hey, Todd, while we take a break here what do you think about taking a moment to speak just to our podcast listeners?
Todd Orston: I think that sounds like a great idea.
Leh Meriwether: All right! Well, first off, we want to thank everyone who is listening and downloading our podcast. We're so glad that you've taken the time out of your busy day to listen to us.
Todd Orston: Absolutely. We especially wanted to thank all of you that took a few minutes to post a five-star review of our show in iTunes.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, and if you're enjoying the show and getting a lot out of it and you haven't posted a review yet, we would be so grateful if you would take a moment or two to post a five-star review for us wherever you listen to this show. And if you're really enjoying it, please let us know what is it about the show that you enjoy in the review. If you want to post a review but you're having trouble figuring out how to do so, just Google how do I post a podcast review in iTunes? Or Podcast Addict, or Sound Cloud, whatever you're listening to.
Todd Orston: Absolutely. We'd give you a step-by-step guide on how to do it, but as soon as the show comes out, Apple or Google is probably going to issue an update that changes everything.
Leh Meriwether: Absolutely. Hey, everyone, thanks so much for listening.
Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the New Talk 106.7. If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Well, today we're not talking about divorce ... I've already said that in every segment, haven't I?
Todd Orston: Yes, you have.
Leh Meriwether: Because I'm so excited. I love talking about this stuff.
Todd Orston: Calm down, big fella.
Leh Meriwether: All right, well, here's something that's been bothering me, social media. Now, maybe I'm not a a big Facebooker ... Is that a word, Facebooker?
Todd Orston: It is now.
Leh Meriwether: But we've been seeing situations where social media has been causing all kinds of turmoil in marriages, and we've heard people talk about it, but we want to talk about for just a few minutes just to make you think about something for a minute.
Todd Orston: Yes, as with so many things, we obviously ... I've seen people, friends, share things on social media that are positive and it has allowed me, and I don't do a lot of posting on Facebook and those types of sites, but nonetheless every once in a while I'll check in and I'll see somebody I haven't talked to in 20 years, and I'm like, wow, that's really cool. That's a positive side of social media. But then because of what we do, we've seen the negative side of social media and how not only can it hurt a relationship, it can drive a wedge or create a wedge that ultimately drives parties towards a divorce.
Leh Meriwether: Yes. We've read lots of stories were someone reconnected to a high school sweetheart and I don't know about if ... That is an issue, but we're going to talk about a different issue, but that is an issue, reconnect with a high school sweetheart but then you have that situation where they start confiding with this old high school sweetheart about the struggles they're having, but this goes back to, if you've been following the other things, that would not have happened if you'd been listening to your spouse, engaging with your spouse, that the odds of someone reconnecting with ... They would feel uncomfortable doing that. My best friend is my wife, my husband, I'm not going to reconnect with that person.
But what we're talking about is something a little more subtle, in my opinion, that what happens is people see, let's say, that perfect family photo, and they go, "Gosh, why can't our family be like that?" But that photo is merely a snapshot of you and it did no capture the chaos that happened before that and the chaos that happened after that. So you don't know if that was 1 in 100 pictures that was taken and that one just came out right. You also don't know, because I've seen this happen, this too, I've seen situations where the family could not get a single photo that worked so what the photographer did was took ... Let's say there was two boys and so in each photo one of the boys was making a face but the other one was smiling, so they took the smiling face of one of the boys in another picture and literally superimposed it over the face he was making in the other one and were able to make this perfect family photo, but actually it was never a perfect family photo. It's a result of Photoshop.
Todd Orston: But we're not talking about the problem about people posting photos that show them happy, what we're really looking at and talking about is when people go online and they see these pictures and then they ... Because there's no communication with their spouse, that starts to try to ... I'm trying think of how to put this. They start to try to compare themselves and the issues they're dealing with-
Leh Meriwether: It's the comparison trap.
Todd Orston: That's right. That's where it can get very dangerous, and why we're talking about it in the context of when communication breaks down and your spouse then looks elsewhere, one of the places that we've seen them go to is social media.
There are other problems with social media, we have used evidence from social media in cases, but we're talking here specifically about comparing yourself and your situation to these glamour shots, basically-
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, they could be fake.
Todd Orston: Or they might be a real happy moment, but for ... I got to tell you, I wish I had a dollar for every happy photo that I pointed out posted by someone only to later find out that the party's divorce.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, we've seen that. Yeah.
Todd Orston: So, you can't. Don't fall into that trap. I guess my message would be don't shut down or prevent the communication. Don't shut down that line of communication, thereby allowing your spouse to look into these outside sources to try and define what happiness should look like.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So instead of comparing your marriage to a photograph that you see or a series of photographs you've seen in Facebook that may not be true, that couple could be heading towards a divorce, instead judge your marriage by the potential it will have when you and your spouse dedicate yourselves to one another. When you judge it by your potential, then you're focused on the two of you and not comparing yourself to others.
Todd Orston: All right, let's talk about the second to last topic, and this is a serious one, I mean all of these are serious, but are you the cause of your unhappiness?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. We see this a lot. Sometimes people, they come to us, they say I'm just unhappy in my marriage, I need to get a divorce, and then when you dig down, it turns out that the marriage is not the cause of their happiness, there's something internal going on. There's actually been this huge increase in cases of depression, and my understanding from talking to psychologists this isn't just that it's been diagnosed, and some people will say it's the pharmaceutical industry trying to promote their medications, no, from what I'm hearing is that there is actually an increase in cases of depression which is resulting in more medication been sold. But we have seed marriages that have been saved where someone was dealing with an unhappiness, they realized it was internal, they realized it wasn't the cause if it wasn't the husband or the wife or their kids, and they went to counseling, found out ... Or in some cases, the counselor referred them to a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication, and was able to turn themselves around and their marriage went from on the rocks to in a great place because the other spouse was doing everything that he could just to save that marriage but she was just mentally, inside of her head, was in a bad place. Thankfully she identified it and went out and got help.
Todd Orston: I've had clients where, again where it's the wives, I've had it where it's the husbands, where it's so easy to blame and they come in and it's ... And again, our jobs, our rules, are not therapists, but that doesn't mean we don't talk to our clients to try and get to the bottom of what the problems are, and sometimes just having those open, frank communications and conversations with our clients, they start to realize that, "Hold on a second, maybe I need to look in a mirror." So once you do that, I think once you do or are able to look in the mirror and understand that while it's easy to blame others, at some point you got to look at yourself to see what you're bringing to the table or maybe how you are contributing to your own problems. That's when you're going to start to heal, that's when you're going to start to get to a better place in that relationship.
Leh Meriwether: I would just leave it with this, if you're struggling where you are and before you talk to a divorce lawyer, go get a counselor. I mean, we've been working hard on trying to remove the stigma associated with counseling because counseling actually is a really good thing.
Todd Orston: It absolutely is. All right, so the last tip, I'm just going to refer to it as second marriage tips, and ... Go ahead. What are we talking about here, Leh?
Leh Meriwether: We didn't want to leave out people how have already gotten divorced, but here's the thing that I think if there was one big tip that we should give people that are looking to potentially be in a second marriage, take the time after your divorce to process what happened. Because here's what we see this again and again and again, people marrying the same person and then they get a divorce the second time and they don't understand why it didn't work the second time, because they didn't take the time to process what they went through, how they contributed to the divorce. Maybe their contribution was 20%, you don't know, and they don't know until they figure it out, but there's two things that happen, one, you figure out what baggage could I have brought to that first marriage that I don't want to bring to the second marriage? That's one.
The other thing is, [Bill Eddy 00:44:39] talked about this when he came on the show talking about the five types of people that ruin your life. You don't want to go from a bad relationship with somebody, say, with a severe personality disorder, a high conflict personality disorder, and get right into another relationship with the same person. But the thing is, if you rush, if you say, okay it's been six months I'm going to get remarried, you run a high risk ... And we see it, the shorter the time between the first marriage and the second marriage, the higher likelihood of a second divorce. The wider gap, the greater chances that second marriage will be successful.
Todd Orston: You see that a lot with abusive relationships where someone will be in an abusive relationship, they get a divorce, and next thing you know they're coming back, knocking on our door, saying I got married, I'm in an abusive relationship. Because they went out, they found the same kind of a personality, same kind of a person, they got married very quickly and now they're dealing with the same kind of stuff.
Leh Meriwether: And they didn't figure out how identify that same person, and one thing I've just identified, we're out of time! Hey, thanks so much for listening. If you want to read more about us and find more information about us, you can find us at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Speaker 3: This audio program does not establish an attorney-client relationship with Meriwether & Tharp.