Have you ever wondered how couples do it? How on earth do they remain happy in their marriages after so many decades?!
Incredibly, Dr. George Pransky's fabulous book, The Relationship Handbook, explains exactly how. The principles underlying successful marriages are learnable.
The pearls of wisdom shared here (gratefully reprinted with permission from Dr. Pransky) were highlighted on my Kindle version of the book (one of my favourite Kindle features!)
I highly recommend purchasing a copy for yourself, but in the meantime...
My Kindle Highlights ~ The Relationship Handbook ~ By Dr. George Pransky
The current thinking about relationships is laden with myths that lead people toward marital discord.
One purpose of this book is to raise readers’ vision of how quickly and dramatically people can change— to give the reader a more “realistic” view of people.
With the understanding expressed in this book, we eased off trying to change each other. We began to enjoy and appreciate each other.
If you read this book with an open mind you will see there is an easy way to be together in a relationship.
I know this understanding works because I have seen a myriad of relationships turn around in my years of clinical practice.
It is common sense that has been lost in the misinformation innocently proliferated by the field of psychology.
The cause, the real bad guy, is insecurity. Painful memories, negative emotions, habit patterns and bad communication are all symptoms of insecurity.
Insecurity is the source of distress and all counterproductive behaviour. Thoughts of insecurity periodically pass through our minds. If we dismiss these thoughts, we will remain secure, our ideal selves: easygoing, joyful, compassionate and wise. If we harbor our thoughts of insecurity, we end up in a state of distress.
The cure is to understand the psychological forces of thought, feelings and states of mind.
This book explains how these forces provide joy and satisfaction in life and in relationships.
Problems and adversity are not the crux of marital discord. All couples face adversity, but it doesn’t cause problems for harmonious couples.
People mistakenly believe that pain and effort are an inevitable part of relationships. They believe that analysing their problems and living patterns will change them.
Thinking is like breathing—we do it continuously from birth to death. Thinking is like a function that allows every human being to create a personal reality. Each thought creates a feeling that makes the thought appear real. If we think we are old, for example, we suddenly feel old. If we think our “to do lists” are overwhelming, we will feel overwhelmed and stressed. We can easily be fooled into thinking the feeling of stress was caused by the list itself rather than our thoughts about it.
The strength of their marriages lies not in their ability to cope with their problems, but in their ability to keep their bearings and to stay close.
Moods distort our thinking and perceptions. If couples make allowances for them, moods will have no lasting effect on relationships.
This book emphasizes thinking because it is the steering wheel for a happy life and satisfying relationships. Thinking is like breathing—we do it continuously from birth to death. Thinking is like a function that allows every human being to create a personal reality. Each thought creates a feeling that makes the thought appear real. If we think we are old, for example, we suddenly feel old. If we think our “to do lists” are overwhelming, we will feel overwhelmed and stressed. We can easily be fooled into thinking the feeling of stress was caused by the list itself rather than our thoughts about it.
What makes people so rigid, so predictable in their thinking? Mind-sets, which we also could call thought systems, create unique realities for people in the same way a film creates an image on a movie screen.
Often people think of feelings as things to work through or deal with. But feelings were meant to be a barometer to help us maintain our emotional equilibrium. Feelings provide our moment-to-moment experience of life. They tell us the extent to which our perceptions are distorted by our moods and thought systems.
Maintaining a sense of wellbeing is all it takes to make the relationship enjoyable and easy.
Respect and affinity are the feelings that turn the personality differences into assets in a relationship.
It is the thought of incompatibility that creates the feeling of incompatibility.
It was a relief to hear the definition of compatibility that related to inside feelings rather than the external situation.
There really is no such thing as incompatibility. It is all in our minds.
Compatibility is a matter of the heart. True compatibility is sharing a positive feeling. It is enjoying the time you spend together.
The feeling of compatibility in a relationship will diminish when one person is troubled by thoughts about the other.
Communication is a neutral transport container; it carries whatever feelings you have.
Positive thoughts are just as real as negative thoughts. It’s only force of habit that makes you dismiss positive thoughts and stick with the negative.
Good feelings can be the dominant part of your relationship.
Any time you can share hopeful, high-spirited thoughts, your relationship will benefit.
Communication isn’t nearly as important as how we feel when we communicate.
There is no such thing as progress in a discussion that alienates the participants.
When our thinking is negative, our feelings and perceptions will exactly reflect those negative thoughts and feelings in that moment. If we trust those perceptions and feelings, our lives will take a turn for the worse.
Warmth, understanding, compassion and a respectful sense of humour are the only forces that can help a person who is struggling with a low mood.
No one really knows why our thinking suddenly changes the way it does, giving us a different feeling state.
Understanding the relationship between thought and feeling determines our level of wellbeing independent of our moment to moment moods. With this understanding we become grateful when our mood is high and graceful when it is low.
The specific feeling state we are in at a given moment tells us the quality of our thinking in that specific moment.
In other words, our feelings, when properly understood for what they are, provide the self-correcting mechanism in the human psyche.
When people lose sight of the source of feelings, they mistakenly attribute their feelings to outside sources.
The conclusion is that all feelings come from our thoughts. End of story.
We all have the innate capacity to view that person as his or her admirers do. It is not in our genes to view him or her negatively.
The easiest way to rid your mind of negative emotions is to dismiss them as you would any distracting thought.
By using our emotions as a gauge, we can accurately assess how much to trust our perceptions at any given moment.
Emotions are never a statement about the world around us. They are always a statement about our momentary perspective on life. Emotions are a quality-control device that measures the quality of our thinking.
When we experience black emotions like anger and despair, we know that we are taking things too personally and have lost touch with the big picture. When our feelings are positive and light we know we are viewing life with more wisdom and perspective.
Emotions are garden-variety thoughts that have gotten excellent press in the psychological community.
A goldfish will grow as the size of its pond permits. Emotions are like goldfish. They will grow to any size depending on how much attention they get.
Resentments are just thoughts that can be dropped.
Don’t take negative emotions seriously; they provide information about the state of your mind, not the state of the world.
Compassion is misunderstood and undervalued. Without compassion and understanding, interpersonal friction erodes the good feelings in a relationship. Compassion is our innate interpersonal lubricant. It is a blanket of warm feelings that protects personalities. When our heart goes out to another person, these warm feelings automatically fill our minds and hearts. Were we not filled with compassion, we could be bothered by the other person’s behaviour.
Whenever people exhibit counterproductive behaviour, you can be sure they are in an insecure state of mind. If they were feeling more secure, they would have the wisdom to avoid those behaviours.
When we perceive counterproductive behaviours in others, our response is either resentment or compassion. We feel resentful if we focus on the behaviour and how it affects us. We are compassionate if we look beyond the behaviour to the troubled state of mind that motivated it. We remember how this state of mind wreaks havoc with our common sense. Our hearts go out to the person.
Warm, respectful, hopeful feelings are the best gift you can give a person in distress.
Compassion protects us from reacting unproductively to the behaviour of others. It calms us down and makes us feel more secure.
You feel distant from the speaker because your attention is on your thoughts and memories, not on him or her.
We all get crunched by our thought systems sometimes.
Benign neglect—intentionally overlooking a thought—will often have positive effects on a relationship. Once you drop your ill will, your mate will feel more secure and will be likely to correct the conditions that concern you. Benign neglect can free your mate from the pressure your dissatisfaction places on his or her ego.
The feeling state that you present to people hooks either their ego or their altruism.
When a couple sees money as a problem, the very thought of it fills their heads with reactions, and every exchange on the subject generates more reactive thoughts. The word “problem” brings on feelings of insecurity. “Problem” is, in fact, a state of mind that can focus on any issue.
There are two basic human thought models: the problem mode and the solution mode.
People can fill their heads with problems or solutions, but we function better when our heads are filled with solutions.
Faith is what keeps us in the solution mode—faith
If you think you have a problem, accept that your thought system is giving you trouble, not the world.
Our thought systems obscure the simple, obvious solutions to our problems.
Push escape, reset or whatever else will clear your mind. Possibilities will enter your head when you regain your sense of perspective.
When you are feeling insecure, you tend to take each other’s comments personally.
How do you make yourself feel secure? You intentionally clear your mind of negative thought.
Your thinking is limited to you.
Commitment frees you from the devices of your own mind.
Life looks a certain way to us and we assume that’s the way it really is.
That would be a good definition of commitment: dismissing doubts and alternatives in the name of enjoying your project or relationship more.
The point is to notice when you are taking it personally rather than listening with understanding.
Most of the issues in life get resolved without discussion. They just take their course.
I’m a little suspicious that it means so much to me.
There always comes a time when an issue becomes easy to talk about.
When you think or talk about an issue and your feeling of well-being drops, you should back away from it.
There is an obvious answer to every problem.
A problem does not look like a problem when it is seen in the right light. It looks like a portrait of circumstances, or even an opportunity.
What makes more sense is seeing alignment, truth and consensus in the ideas of others.
The opposite of disagreeing is understanding.
There is always a grain of truth in every view that opposes yours.
Everyone has a different set of beliefs. Each person’s set of beliefs could be called a belief system. All belief systems are self-validating and inclusive enough to provide an answer for every argument. When any two belief systems do battle, it always ends in a draw.
If you respond well to them, different points of view are not a problem.
There are many strategies you can adapt toward opposing opinions: stifle it, argue, consider, welcome.
If you listen for the truth in what the other person says, you’ll hear the common sense component and learn from the interaction.
Brush negative feelings aside so you can see the valid point he or she is making.
See different viewpoints as an opportunity to understand each other better.
Listen for the truth in what the other person is saying when there is a difference of opinion.
It seldom occurs to people that the reason they seek so much excitement is that excitement is not very satisfying.
When a couple acquires a taste for contentment, they truly appreciate the deepening feelings in their marriage.
Individual differences are buffered by feelings of appreciation, respect and gratitude.
He suggested we stop trying to analyse and “work on” the relationship and concentrate on enjoying each other.
I thought to myself, if we don’t argue or talk about “important issues,” what would we do with our time? We found we spent the extra time having fun and fooling around. We joke just the way I used to joke with my fraternity buddies. We seem to laugh at everything. It keeps us in good spirits.
Forgiving and forgetting are the answer.
When a relationship has been troubled for a long time, the partners usually have accumulated painful memories that overshadow their feeling of love.
Relationships can always get a fresh start.
To forgive and forget, you need only see that such action is possible and advantageous.
If people can forget the past in emergencies (i.e. when someone has days or weeks to live), they have the power to forgive and forget at will.
People think of forgiveness as a generous act, but it is actually very self-serving. If you have painful memories, you suffer. They’re like burrs that rub your skin every time the memories are simulated. Getting rid of the burrs so your wounds can heal is really being nice to yourself.
Understanding depersonalizes the event, transferring it from the “this is what happens to me” category to just another example of what happens in life.
How much would you benefit from a warm affinity with the other?
They need to see the innocence in each other’s behaviour,
People have to see for themselves that every misguided action is accompanied by an insecure state of mind.
At some point, the partners will see the other’s innocence and their hearts will go out to each other. They will see themselves as unwitting players in a comedy of errors, and they will see their history in the light of understanding. They will feel warm toward each other.
The past is no more real than a dream.
He suggested we forget our problems and start being happy together. He said the problems would take care of themselves if we got close. He taught us to take ourselves and our thoughts less seriously.
The relationship was now spiralling up with positive feelings as we focused on enjoying each other.
See the possibility of forgiving and forgetting. See how essential it is to your mental health to drop painful thoughts from your consciousness. Find the humility to see that you are both in this together. See the innocence you both possess. Remember that any relationship can get a fresh start today. That exhilarating feeling is always only a thought away!
When one person gets absorbed in his own thoughts, however, the closeness will decrease.
They don’t realize that the evaluation process itself is what dampened their intimacy.
It is not the schedule itself that makes them less close; it is the thoughts about the schedule.
Realise that any extraneous thoughts we have on our minds detract from our closeness to others.
Commitment can be defined as a wholehearted, single-minded predisposition to a person or activity.
Commitment to other people means seeing each person in the best possible light.
Forgive and forget any residual thoughts that interfere with affinity and respect.
Your concerns and fears will dominate your experience if you are too insecure to dismiss them.
When those feelings of warm affinity are present, everything else takes care of itself.
Chronic unwanted thoughts, and their respective feelings, are innocently held in place if we believe them to belong to external realities rather than being temporary and unimportant.
The more you focus on shallow, unimportant issues, such as insecurities, habits, emotional reactions and irksome personality quirks, the more negative thoughts you’ll have.
See the drama for what it is: thoughts that only exist as long as you buy into them.
Thinking comes so fast ~ we couldn’t possibly control it!
Feelings are exclusively manufactured within our own minds. Knowing that fact allows us to take our personal, habitual thought-created reality less seriously.
We realised that the answer to a nicer life lies in seeing “problems” for what they are: painful thoughts taken seriously.
Love and fondness are the default settings between human beings.
Imagine if the number one priority was to be happy in each other’s company.
You’ll find that the ‘Get Over Yourself Model’ has a learning curve. You will get better and better at getting over your emotional reactions and returning to the wellbeing you had before the reactions occurred.
It isn’t so much giving in, as it is not letting your mind get bogged down with negativity and emotional reactions.
We are always looking to get to a better feeling, not only because it feels better, but because we think better.
In reality, strong feelings just mean a person is having a strong thought, nothing more.
Both people feel like they are hooked up to an emotional reaction machine, and the other person has the switch.
“I won’t hold you responsible for my reactions. I’ll just get over my reactions, and you get over yours.” That frees them up to just live their lives and not have to walk on eggshells around each other.
No one is ultimately stuck in one mindset or one negative feeling. It is possible to leave a conversation and wait for a better feeling in which to return to the conversation. That better feeling can come in a second or maybe longer, but no matter what, it will come.
Topics become easier to have a conversation about when you wait for the feeling to be right.
The good news is that all this hope, all these beautiful feelings, all these great insights are within you.
When you see the good and innocence in another human being, you realise that whatever frailties they have are not as devastating to the relationship as it had looked like before. You can be happy with your partner, not in spite of their frailties, but independent from them.
When people get caught up in their thinking and become upset, they all have one thing in common: innocently created, unresponsive, if not dysfunctional, coping mechanisms.
See the inner beauty and goodness that lies within your partner.
The amount of time spent judging and analysing your partner, or your emotional reactions to them, is going to undermine your happiness.
It becomes a problem if you validate your negative feelings by believing that they must mean something.
Even the most compatible couples have reactions to each other.
The reactivity, in and of itself, is not the problem. The problem is how serious and important you see your reaction as being, how much time you spend ruminating over it and how much you blame your partner for it.
In reactionary states, people don't think straight, and they lose their common sense and perspective. When people have goodwill, they can naturally think straight. They can see what makes sense and what to do.
There is something that brought this couple together, that made them want to have a life together. I showed them that this something was always available to them.
Expectations are not some objective capital “T” Truth of how things should be.
You can be happy with anyone, because there isn’t such thing as an incompatible couple. Being happy with someone does not come from finding the ideal mate for you, but from you being able to hold on to your goodwill and not focusing your mental energy on dissatisfaction and judgments. And when you do have those thoughts, remember that it’s just your way of being sometimes. It doesn’t mean anything. You can easily bounce back and regain your goodwill and perspective.
Being happy with someone does not come from finding the ideal mate for you, but from you being able to hold on to your goodwill and not focusing your mental energy on dissatisfaction and judgments.
If you fill your head with judgments, concern and evaluations of your partner, then you will not be able to fully enjoy the relationship.
If you enjoy the person despite his supposed shortcomings, then you will live in that feeling of happiness.
Love is at our core. ♥️
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You can purchase your copy of the book here and visit Dr. Pransky's website here. To further discuss the principles outlined in this book, you can make an appointment with Sandy here. ♥️