Stop an argument and start a meaningful conversation.
Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale, has tips to help repair your relationship fast!
We all remember going through school and hearing how main subject
categories were noted as “the 3 R’s:” Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. And a
common learning tool for these subjects in school was use of the good ole’
flash-card to increase memorization. There is a 4th “R” you may want to
consider adding to the list of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic…that can also
be improved through the use of flash-cards: “Relationships.”
In the book, “Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love: Relationship Repair in a
Flash”, Dr. Nancy Dreyfus, Psy.D., explains how Relationship Flash-Card
Repair can help solve squabbles between couples.
Successful relationships are all about connection.
If a couple is unable to make a genuine connection, literally there are no
particular words to fix what’s wrong. They can hammer and drive their points
home or be nice for the sake of keeping the peace, yet no matter how
articulate or forceful or compliant, the disconnection remains. Sometimes
this is for a day…sometimes it is for years; sometimes, sadly, forever.
Whether it gets expressed directly or not, the continued experience of feeling
unseen and unheard leads to being disengaged and/or enraged.
When a couple is in a reactive mode, words get drowned-out by their
individual needs to hang on to how they have been offended by the other.
Talk is cheap ~ it’s what we do with each other all day long. In the heat of a
fight, combatants are too busy thinking up their next remark to even hear a
Out of UCLA came the research that our communication is 93% nonverbal;
tone, pitch, volume and timber are large conveyers of the message. If the
speakers tone isn’t perfectly angelic, which is often the case between
resentment and remorse, the gesture lacks conviction and the attempts to
repair are often unsuccessful and leave a couple feeling even more hopeless.
This is where written messages seem to have an edge. The novelty of the
visual format increases the odds of them being received and appreciated.
Some critics might say, “How am I supposed to look up a flash card and use
it when I feel so enraged or hurt or triggered? It feels awkward or clumsy…”
The key to self-mastery is to physiologically self-soothe; consciously shift
gears and choose to be in your right mind versus your reactive one.
Connection takes time, effort and energy….using flash-cards is a great way
to get out of your own way and get your relationship back on track.
There are different categories of flash-cards to fit different purposes within
relationship repair. The first category is Shifting Gears:
“THIS FEELS AWFUL….CAN WE START OVER & LISTEN TO EACH OTHER?”
Anytime we experience our partner as difficult we often forget that they are
not enjoying the negative exchange any more than we are. When you present
this flash-card to your partner, it is almost guaranteed to “de-enemy-ize”
you and surprise them with the awareness that you are both feeling the same
thing, a distaste for what’s going on between you. And the secret wish of
every human being is to be “felt.” In other words, to be understood, known,
or “gotten.” Being heard is a significant step towards feeling “felt.”
Another category is Setting Limits: You look at these as interpersonal stop
signs for when things are spiraling out-of-control and you are feeling
overwhelmed and helpless.
“PLEASE TALK TO ME LIKE I’M SOMEONE YOU LOVE.”
This statement is powerful because it immediately gets us out of the content
and into the heart of the relationship. Both of you deserve to be treated
lovingly. Couples have penetrated steel walls by ignoring all manner of
criticism and attack by simply holding up this one flash card.
All of this seems to be about “Expressing Vulnerability.” It does feel a little
risky to flash a particular card to your partner; what if they laugh or roll their
“I’M AFRAID TO BE REAL WITH YOU.”
Expressing vulnerability is to help you loosen the grip anytime your initial
instinct is to protect yourself from feeling insignificant, weak, needy,
awkward, unlovable, or unattractive. These insecure feelings are not to be
ashamed of; they are beautifully human. The best way for me to connect to
another person is to first make myself “connectable” by being vulnerable, real
It’s never easy to take responsibility…we get so caught up in what the other
person is doing to us…yet it’s one of the most powerful categories.
“I REALLY MISSED YOUR POINT…PLEASE GIVE ME ANOTHER CHANCE.”
To own your over-reactiveness, scariness or relentlessness or owning that
you have a blind spot regarding your impact on your partner, has a healing
element on your relationship like no other. It takes the wind out of your
partner’s angry sails and leaves them with the feeling that, “He/She gets it!”
In one session, a young husband couldn’t let go of the fact that earlier in the
week, at 3:00 in the morning, he got up to use the bathroom, painfully
stubbed his toe, while his wife seemed to fake being asleep, offering no
comfort or empathy for his plight. The wife insisted she must have been
asleep, understandably, since it was so early in the morning, but this man
could not let it go. Suddenly the wife took a deep breath and confessed, “I
wasn’t asleep. I did hear you. I was drained from the day, worried that I had
to get up early for work and wasn’t feeling very nurturing. I am so sorry…I
can see how un-taken-care-of you must have felt.” He simply smiled and
said, “I love it when you tell the truth.” The love and trust in that moment was
far beyond what it would have been if at 3:00 AM she had been Florence
The final category is “Apologizing.”
“I’M SO SORRY I COULDN’T HEAR YOU SOONER.”
I deeply appreciate a sincere apology because it is such a beautiful
expression of both vulnerability and responsibility-taking. We feel loved
because our partner is willing to own something less than honorable about
them with the intention of being clean in the relationship. Our partner, in
turn, gets to be loved and seen as honorable. This flash care has the
potential to make your partner feel deeply felt and cared for. With very few
words, this flash card says to your partner, “I’m sorry I forced you to live in
this world one minute more than you had to feeling you weren’t making
sense to someone who matters so much to you.”
A former radio host of Bonneville’s “Dr. Liz Hale Show,” Dr. Liz has become a
household name to many. As Studio 5’s resident shrink, she discusses a wide
variety of hot-topics ranging from sex to stress. (Sometimes all in the same
Dr. Liz is a transplant from Seattle, Washington, although “a few” years ago
was a college co-ed cheering for the Utah State Aggies. While USU football
hasn’t changed through the years, she remains a loyal fan.
Dr. Liz, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, has been in private practice for 12
years specializing in marriage and family relations. She currently serves as a
board member on the Utah Commission on Marriage and is a popular
speaker at their annual conference.
Her greatest joy in life comes from being with her own family and working
with other families along the Wasatch Front at her downtown SLC practice.