Is there something that your spouse is doing that you find irritating or frustrating? You know that if you say something about it, it will likely just lead to an argument? We have a great tool that we share during our couple-to-couple mentoring sessions that is perfect for situations such as this.
The exercise is called Stop/Start and Continue. It goes like this: Tell your spouse you want to play Stop/Start and Continue. Agree on a time and place to meet to play the game. As you get together, each of you gets to point out one thing you would like your spouse to stop or start doing. Remember it has to be done in a loving tone. Then you follow up by sharing something you want your spouse to continue doing.
Recently, Nathan decided he would try this game with his wife Tori. They decided they would do it at breakfast after church the following day. Nathan started by sharing with Tori that he would like her to stop looking at her phone to check her texts and emails when they were spending special time together. Nathan finished by telling Tori how he wanted her to continue sending the loving text messages that she often sends when he has a long day at the office. Tori apologized for being insensitive about being fully present when they spend time together and she committed to keeping her phone in her purse when they spend time together.
Now it was Tori’s turn. Tori asked if Nathan would start putting his dirty clothes directly into the hamper instead of throwing them on the floor when he undresses at night. She went on to say that she loves it when Nathan puts his arm around her and cuddles with her. She wants him to continue doing that.
Through the use of this little exercise, Nathan and Tori found that it was easy to take criticism when it was wrapped in an affirmation. It brought them closer together because they were able to lovingly share what they wanted changed in their relationship while reinforcing some actions they wanted to see continue. Finally, since the game meant that each person had to share, it was an even playing field. Neither partner felt attacked.
This is not a tool that can be used for major conflicts, but it is an excellent way to release the tension from little irritants in your relationship. Try it in your relationship and let us know how it works.
May God bless and keep you in His loving care!
Ed and Angie Wright
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