Relationship Momentum Tool Re-visited

Parts One, Two, Three and Four.

Several comments and questions about the Relationship Momentum -1/+1 Chart from my last post.

First, a quick re-cap. At any given time, your relationship is experiencing either positive or negative momentum. The direction your marriage is going can actually be more important than where it currently stands as Athol Kay explains in this post.

Your relationship momentum depends on a series of small interactions that you and your spouse perceive as either negative or positive … the +1’s and -1’s that happen on a daily basis. Fairly simple concept, right? Keep the +1 interactions coming, avoid the -1’s and you’ve got great upward momentum and the relationship thrives.

Yes, but not so fast. The problem is that you may not have a clue that your partner is experiencing a -1. Your partner filters all your interactions through a lens made up of his past hurts and disappointments, previous interactions with you as well as other partners, his own areas of insecurity, his individual love language, etc. So do you.

It’s likely, then, that your partner is going to have a wildly disparate view of any given interaction than you do, but instead of letting you know, he holds it all in, assuming that you’re purposefully trying to be negative and seething with resentment. I see this all the time with coaching clients.

I detailed the example from my own life that really opened my eyes to this in a previous post, but basically my husband was trying to show leadership by keeping an eye on the kids’ going-to-bed ritual and I perceived it as him not wanting to spend time alone with me. My perception came from the fact that during his low T years, we had a pattern of him rejecting me and so every interaction we have is filtered through that Rejection Lens. I am ridiculously sensitive to anything that can possibly be interpreted as him rejecting me.

Everyone has a particular lens or a series of lenses through which they filter their interactions. For example, my husband’s family of origin had a pattern of being quite cutting and disrespectful to each other. Any weakness shown was exploited and much of their humor was directed at insulting each other. I’ve come to learn that he filters our interactions through his Disrespect Lens and is triggered by situations where he perceives that I’m acting disrespectfully toward him. This has led to any number of huge fights where he escalates what seemed to me to be non-events because he feels like I’ve shown a lack of respect for him.

So how do you keep your particular distortion lens from causing these -1 interactions in your marriage? That’s where the -1/+1 tool comes in.

First, though, when is this tool NOT going to work for you?

If you’re in a marriage where your partner holds all the power and you care more than they do about improving your relationship, this tool is not going to work for you. If you’re a husband whose wife isn’t into you, this tool isn’t going to magically change that. At best, she’ll be indifferent; at worst, she will perceive this as you whining to her and you’ll actually get negative momentum from using this tool.

If you’re a wife whose husband isn’t into you, either because he’s low T or porn addicted or just not interested, this tool will actively serve as a DLV (Display of Low Value) and he’ll see it as just another way for you to nag him about the ways in which he is failing at your relationship.

That being said, who WILL benefit from using this tool?

If you’re in a relationship where both of you are actively working together to improve things, but frequently misunderstand each other, this is a great tool for you. If you’re both committed to making things better, you’ll get a lot of traction from using this technique.

So, how does it work?

As you interact with your partner and experience something they say or do as negative, instead of remaining silent about it, let them know, “Hey, that was a -1.” You may very possibly get the same reaction I did from my husband, “Wait. What? Why?” As you start to realize that they weren’t perceiving the situation anywhere near how you did, the light bulb comes on. “Oh, they weren’t trying to be a jerk. We’re seeing this situation differently.”

It’s really amazing how that defuses the situation and the resentment you’re feeling dissipates.

It doesn’t actually matter whether they understand why you perceive the interaction as negative, although if you use this tool long enough, gradually patterns will emerge that give you a better feel for what triggers your partner. All that matters is that they understand that this was a -1.

During particularly turbulent times in your marriage, it can help to actually keep a chart of your -/+ 1’s and share them with each other nightly. I have honestly been amazed at some of the things my husband has perceived as negatives or positives. Things that I never gave a second thought.

In the last post, I gave examples from real life women in low T marriages. Here’s a chart comprised of real life examples from the guys.

DATE PLUS +1  NEGATIVE -1
Sunday Ordering my vitamins for me. Being snippy with me this morning. Not telling me why when I asked.
Being rude when you asked me to take the garbage out.
Monday Going to sleep on the sofa without telling me why. -100
Tuesday Meeting me at the door when I came home from work. +100 Ignoring my text messages.
Wednesday Making quinoa for me. Speaking disrespecfully to me in front of the kids. Undermining my authority with them. -500
Thursday Telling me what an awesome job I did fixing the stove. Criticizing how much time I spend on my job. -100
Friday Responding playfully to my text messages. +100 Disrespectful tone of voice to me when I was trying to fix the coffee maker. Treating me as if I didn’t know what I was doing. -100
Saturday Being fun on date night. Looking hot. Playing on your tablet instead of coming in for our weekly Goals & Expectations meeting. -100
Not pulling your hand away from mine when I held it.

One thing my husband and I also found helpful was to add numbers to those interactions that were particularly significant. By looking at the ‘big ticket items’, gradually a pattern has emerged for us. For my husband, his top items are inevitably those where he perceives a lack of respect from me. For me, it’s when I feel rejected by him.

So, what about you? What are the patterns in your marriage? What triggers each of you? Do you think using this tool will help you identify those patterns more easily? Leave a comment and let me know.


Comments

Relationship Momentum Tool Re-visited — 4 Comments

  1. I think it’s a great tool. I also agree that it will only be useful for those couples that are basically functional at a relationship level, but that they just come from different backgrounds and have differing perceptions. And like any technique, the key is consistently using it. It is very easy to become complacent when things are going better and to quit using it. Then all of the sudden you find yourself back repeating the old dysfunctional communication patterns.

    • AKA –

      Very true. My husband and I don’t always exchange charts anymore, and sometimes we use a bit of humor when we tell each other about our -1’s and are a bit more casual, but it’s formed a foundation for us to work from.

      It’s been especially helpful to my husband because as a recovering ‘nice guy’, he has had a major problem with telling me when he’s angry or disappointed.

      The -1 Interaction tool gave him a safe, unemotional way to communicate.

  2. It would be a useful tool for someone who has trouble talking, but if a person has trouble talking because the partner fights everything… i.e., “Hey, that’s a -1″… “What? No it’s not.” or “You know what, you did x and that was a -1 to me…”
    Totally not going to work.
    But it might be a very VERY good tool for said person to use PRIVATELY to get their thoughts in order…

    • TheatreMommy –

      Yes, absolutely true. If you’re in a situation where your partner isn’t at a point where they’re trying to improve things, this tool might actually be counter-productive to your situation. Your partner will just perceive it as more talking, and that eventually becomes a Display of Low Value. In those cases, Actions > Words.

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