We didn't always have a thriving relationship. Early on in our marriage, there was tension, conflict, even fear.
Yet many people who come to our seminars or see our videos think we're the perfect couple. Some might even think we're too good to be true.
They see the harmony that exists between us, and they think it must have always been this way. They watch us laugh together, play off each other's sentences, and respectfully share the space with one another. They see how affectionate we are even though we've been together for over three decades. They notice the ease with which we relate to each other, and the flow of love we share.
Then they look at their own relationships and think, "Geez, I'm so far from that. Surely they've clicked like this all along. Maybe they just have something we don't."
But what we had wasn't something you don't have.
What we had was a commitment to change our relationship -- to take the not-so-healthy things out, and replace them with positive ways of relating. And you can have that same commitment, and follow the same path that we did.
Our Story: A Not-So-Healthy Beginning
During our first few years together, Gay had a tendency to be critical of Katie, pointing out everything from grammatical errors to the way she wrinkled her forehead. When she tried to put her arm around him in public, Gay would react with startled criticism. Katie wound up feeling like she was always doing something wrong, bracing herself for the next critique, and blaming him for doing so.
It took us a few years to even realize we were in a pattern of criticism.
In fact, it wasn't until Katie's parents came to visit that the light bulb went off. They were bickering the whole time, and it just made us cringe. Things were tense and uncomfortable -- not our picture of a happily-married couple.
Where was the love? We certainly didn't want to be like that.
Then we realized that we were doing the same thing! We thought we were just being clever -- intellectually one-upping or taking slight digs at each other -- but it was bickering all the same.
And it wasn't good.
Weeding Out The "Junk Food" In Our Relationship
We think of criticism, blame, and bickering as relationship junk food. They're not good for us, and we know it. But these habits have a tendency -- just like junk food -- to become a mindless habit.
We knew we didn't want these unhealthy habits to run our marriage, let alone ruin it. So we thought long and hard about what we were going to do, and then it came:
"What if we could invent a relationship that ran entirely on positive energy?"
Right then, we had the idea that if we could eliminate blame and criticism, we could spend our time celebrating all the things we loved about each other, and feel happy and connected moment to moment.
So we went on a diet. We cut out all the blame and criticism from our lives.
We started with one day, then one week, until, eventually, we made it years and years!
It wasn't easy at first, just like most diets. But together, we made it our commitment -- sticking with it, and developing tools along the way to make sure we didn't get off track. About three years later, we were able to switch to these tools immediately, even when things would get tense between us.
Getting To The Root Of The Problem
The tools worked for us, because we dug deep: In exploring the role of blame and criticism between us, we discovered the underlying, not-so-obvious reasons why we were bickering to begin with. And it wasn't because Katie was making grammatical mistakes!
On the surface, most relationship conflict looks like one person is the bad guy, and the other is the victim. In this case, Gay looks pretty guilty!
But relationship conflicts are never this clear-cut. There's a dynamic at play -- with each partner working off the other -- and when you discover your hidden relationship dynamic, that's where the real breakthrough happens and the door to intimacy is thrown wide open.
In our case, Gay (to his surprise) discovered that he was harboring a fear of intimacy that was keeping Katie at a distance, while Katie realized her childhood had inadvertently primed her to feel criticized.
Nourish and Transform Your Relationship, Just The Way We Did
When we stopped putting all our attention on blaming and criticizing each other, we were able to see our own internal patterns and struggles that were getting in the way of intimacy. So not only were we now spending our time connecting instead of bickering, but we were also growing individually in the process.
Once we unearthed the real cause of our relationship dynamic and committed to weeding out the junk food and nourishing it with the good stuff, miracles happened.
Blame and criticism are universal problems in relationship. They're so common, that people don't fully realize the damage they can do if they go unchecked. But once they go on a no-blame, zero-criticism diet, they immediately appreciate the enormous impact it can make to the health of their relationship.
We haven't exchanged a single word of blame or criticism in more than 15 years, and we know that a loving, joyous, and abundantly healthy relationship is more than possible for you, too.
Create your healthiest, most genuine and joyous love life ever with Katie and Gay's free relationship newsletter, Hearts In Harmony. You'll learn powerful insights and practical techniques based on the tools they've developed in their 30+ year marriage. As therapists, teachers, PHDs and authors, they've helped thousands of people break free from unconscious beliefs and emotions running their lives, and they can help you too: www.heartsintrueharmony.com