Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Friday, February 22, 2008

We had an interesting interview with Carol Tavris, Ph.D. yesterday as she talked about how her book, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me: Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts)" relates to Sandwiched Boomers. She has given each of us a lot to think about as we deal with our own family-in-flux.

Carol's take on how to move past the "I'm right and you're wrong" scenario resonated with several of our readers. Their comments about how to turn an argument into a real discussion are worth highlighting here. One recognized that "letting go of 'right vs. wrong' seems to give rise to the real issues, and leads to resolving them without all of the blame." Another acknowledged that she was "particularly struck by the concept that in an argument both sides must be willing to stop justifying their way of doing things as the only possible way. I often find when disagreeing with my spouse that only until we each seek to understand where the other person is coming from can we truly find common ground we both can feel good about." When we are able to let go of the need to be right all the time, we can instead focus on actually listening to our children, parents and spouse to hear and understand their positions.

Another Sandwich Generation reader was reflecting upon her method of coping with the simultaneous time demands of her parents and children. She wrote, "I am the only child of elderly parents who are very needy of my time and attention. I often exaggerate or lie about being busy with my teenagers so that I don't have to spend time with them. Then I feel guilty. Is that cognitive dissonance and what can I do about it?" Addressing her feelings, Carol responded,"the guilt that you feel about lying to your parents is indeed a part of cognitive dissonance: it stems from the internal conflict you are feeling between "I am a good and loving person" and "I am lying to people who need me and avoiding them."

Addressing our reader's question about what she could do differently, Carol suggested, "think of ways to change the way you usually interact with your parents so that your visits are more pleasurable for you. For example, why not interview them formally about their history--singly and then together? That is, turn their focus from you to them. You might all enjoy the results."

What additional ways have you developed to deal with your own conflicts about how you allot your time and energy between all of those making demands on you? Share them with other Sandwiched Boomers so that we can all learn from your experience.

Labels: , , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for having Carol Tavris on your blog - it was interesting and informative - I've jut ordered her book.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes it is important to agree to disagree. A resolution is not always possible between two people.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous CuriousDina said...

Right you are that finding common ground, or a 'shared story', can be the beginning to resolution. Most reasonable people would agree with that.

The problem is finding a strategy for how to reach commonality. That's where most couples, even the most well-intentioned ones, get stuck. They don't know how to say what matters most without being hurtful. Or, how to problem-solve in a way that respects both people. None of that is in the marriage instructions manual.

If it's okay, I'd like to share a bit of practical advice.

First, decide for what are wants and what are absolute needs.

Often in conflict, we demand what we want because it's most convenient and desirable. It's human nature, and leads to arguments. (And, no, saying I need it doesn't automatically make something a need- sorry). Needs are essentials.

Here's a simple example: I want to go to the movies. You want to go to dinner, and we only have time for one activity. Focusing on our desires only gets us stuck-movies, dinner, movies, dinner.

Things change if we shift the conversation. If we talk about our respective needs- to eat, to be entertained and spend time together- we can generate more options to meet those needs. Like, going to a drive-in movie instead.

Have trouble identifying your needs from wants? Ask yourself: why and so what? Why is that important and what will be different if I get it?

Second, make time to learn how to talk to each other.

Loving negotiation is an essential part of marriage and a required skill for sandwiched boomers, male or female. Take a mediation course to boost your comfort and abilities to negotiate better.

Even if a resolution isn't possible, your relationship will be enhanced by knowing how to say what's most important to you, listen compassionately and create realistic options.

Thanks for letting me talk this. I'm on a mission to re-invent midlife marriage.


12:23 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home