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Four Types Of Exchanges No Marriage Can Survive For Long
August 02, 2007

Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #087, August 2, 2007

=========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========

· Four Types Of Exchanges No Marriage Can Survive For Long

· A Story About Itzhak Perlman


Written by Noel McNaughton (c) copyright 2007


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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

I know this newsletter is a day late. I have no decent excuse for that. It is summer and the weather has been beautiful here in Alberta. Elizabeth and I visited some friends at a lake a couple of hours north of Edmonton, and consequently, the newsletter is late.

The odd time I have seen a husband or wife criticize, belittle or in other ways undermine his/her spouse in public. I cringe when I see that happen. It's bad enough in public, but if that kind of thing carries on in private as well, chances are the marriage won't last. Dr. John Gottman has discovered four kinds of communication that are almost guaranteed to kill a marriage. I hope you don't use any!

I like inspiring stories. They give me a lift. And in midlife transitions, Lord knows we can use one from time to time. The story about Itzhak Perlman below gave me a lift, and I think it might you too.

There are about 1140 words in the articles in this newsletter, which should take you about three and a half minutes to read.




Four Types Of Exchanges No Marriage Can Survive For Long

If your wife complains that you don't listen, or that you are 'mean', you might want to take a look at your communication style when you and your true love have a disagreement.

Dr. John Gottman and his wife, Julie, established the Gottman Institute in Seattle, Washington. Gottman has studied relationships, especially marriage relationships, for years, and is unique as far as I know in that years ago he began 'wiring couples up' when they were having an argument. He would video them, and have various other monitors to get feedback on their physical reactions to the stress of having a marital tiff.

Gottman has learned a great deal about marriage relationships, and says he can predict with more than 90% accuracy whether a couple's marriage will last after interviewing them for 20 minutes or so.

He says in general, if there are at least five positive statements for each negative one in a marriage (or any other relationship for that matter), the relationship will be healthy. But he has discovered there are four types of exchanges which no marriage can survive over the long-term.

These are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.

The first two may sound a lot like anger and disagreement but there is a big difference. For example, John might say to Valerie, "It makes me mad that you didn't give me that message from my boss. He was irritated that I wasn't at the meeting and I hate looking irresponsible" OR he could say, "When are you ever going to learn to be responsible! As usual you screwed up and didn't give me that message from my boss. What do you use for brains!"

The first exchange will not hurt a marriage provided there is an ongoing balance of five positive interactions to one negative but the nature of the second exchange is too hostile for any marriage to survive for long. The anger is not the issue, it is the insult and derision that is destructive.

Stonewalling is common when a couple has had an upsetting fight and one of the partners either physically or emotionally leaves the room. This is "crazy-making" for the partner who is left behind and wants to get things resolved.

Dr Gottman's research show that 85% of the time it is men who do the stonewalling and the Love Lab has discovered a difference in the sexes which explains this. In a heated argument, men become more intensely upset physiologically than women, and they continue to be distressed long after a woman has calmed down.

During the argument, and even after it is settled, the man is often still flooded with adrenalin, and is so wound up he can barely contain himself. As he can't switch his system off, he is tempted to simply withdraw.

If this happens only occasionally, it is probably not a big deal, especially if he comes back later and finishes the discussion. But is stonewalling is his standard approach to marital conflict, the chances of his marriage surviving are pretty slim, according to Gottman.


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A Story About Itzhak Perlman

from The Center For Third Age Newsletter

This story was in the Third Age Newsletter a while back, and I found it inspriring. If you have not seen it, I thought you might too...

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him.

He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight.

He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap - it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do.

We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage - to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn't. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.

Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing, re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said - not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone - "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life - not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.


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I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.


Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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