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Where Social Skills Means Building Relationships



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Advocates or Adversaries

On wedding days, most people announce to each other and make the promise,  “…for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, in joys and in sorrows”.  These words can be easily said, but when the time comes, are you in a relationship where you and your spouse are advocates or adversaries?  To figure this out let’s explore an example of what this really means. 

An advocate is someone who are for you, defends you, and works for your best interest.  If a couple are advocates, they plead the cause “for” each other.  An adversary is someone who fights you, deceives you, and works for their own interest.  If a couple is adversaries, they press the case “against” each other.  In other words, advocates and adversaries can live through the same situation but come from the complete opposite direction.  Advocates are for each other and keep their wedding vows, while adversaries are against each other and break their wedding vows. 

Kendra grew up with parents, who were very judgmental and quick to make derogatory comments, about her appearance, choices, and life style.  Kendra remembered feeling a sense of freedom the day she moved out of the house, and swore never to move back in.  So far she has kept that promise, but still she feels the obligation to visit on holidays and special occasions.  Now married with young kids, Kendra begins to feel anxious weeks before each visit, causing her to be short tempered, moody, and isolated.  The fear grows with each day that nears, and so does her change in mood, as well of course, as her interactions with her family. 

During the visit, Kendra’s defensiveness is on high alert, and every comment by her parents is met with initial resistance.  It is both physically and emotionally exhausting experience for Kendra, and her normal easy going and happy demeanor does not re-appear until a couple of weeks afterward.  Kendra’s battles also has a negative impact on her family, who are very aware of her struggles, and feel the wrath of her anxiety, fear, and anger before, during, and after the visit.

As adversaries, Kendra used her husband Jack to release steam, unload pent up anger, and try to feel better about herself.  Kendra would not only be impatient, but frequently would pick fights over small and inconsequential things.  Kendra was waiting for anyone in the family to make the simplest of errors, so she could unload her pent up anxiety, relieve the pain in her stomach, and distract her from the real cause of her emotional disturbance. 

Kendra realized she was treating her husband and kids in this manner, and sought help.  She started to learn new skills that would allow her and her husband to be advocates, as they journeyed together through these difficult situations.  Kendra realized she did not have the power to change her parents, but she did have the opportunity to work with her husband, to become a team, and help each other through the fear and stress.

Months before the next visit, Kendra and Jack started to develop new habits of talking through their day, starting with things that cause anxiety, fear, anger, or sadness.  It was a difficult process for both, because they were learning a new way of talking to each other.  They spent a lot of time talking about “how to talk to each other”.  For example, Kendra has a tendency of becoming infuriated if Jack tried to comfort her, by saying, “It’s OK, it will be over soon.”

When it was time to go back to Kendra’s parents, she realized that she had not been short tempered with her family before going.  Instead, Kendra and Jack had set aside extra time for each other to process their feelings, leading up to the visit.  While at Kendra’s parents, the couple also found time and space to vent, process, and support each other.

On their way home, both Kendra and Jack felt a lot better about the visit, and both were able to get back to everyday life very quickly.  Kendra and Jack had advocated for each other, supported each other, and unmistakably were a team, in a house where people typically faught against each other.  

Within any relationship, there is a choice on how a couple can interact.  In your life, will you choose to be for or against; are you willing to build or destroy; will you open up or shut down; are you willing to work through the tough feelings and problems, or are you going to push them down; can you talk it out or will you tough it out?

In life, I have found that couples are better together, and by being advocates not adversaries they are on a path that helps them live happier, healthier, and longer lives.