Relationship Fitness

S22 E1: The 1% Relationship Skill Challenge

In this first episode of Relationship Workout for Men season 22, host Vince Vasquez interviews Dr. Rivka Edery, a renowned psychologist, about the transformative power of the 1% Relationship Skill Challenge. They explore how small, manageable changes can significantly improve relationships, offering practical advice on handling defensiveness and improving communication.

Vince Speaking: 

Welcome to Relationship Workout for Men, a podcast dedicated to helping men be intentional in choosing a better partner and being a better partner to the person they choose. Season 22: Emotional Alchemy – Turning Trauma into Connection. I’m speaking today with Dr. Rivka Edery, a highly respected psychologist deeply committed to advancing mental wellness and guiding individuals through the intricate journey of trauma recovery. Episode One: The 1% Relationship Skill Challenge. In this episode, we’ll discuss how all relationships have room for improvement. So, when two people have non-aligning needs, can they move closer by making a 1% change? So, welcome, Rivka. What do you think about this topic?

 

Dr Rivka Edery Speaking: 

Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for having me on your show. And it’s a great topic because it makes relationship improvement so much more manageable and sustainable. You know, when you offer a couple the opportunity to change something only 1%, it’s so much easier to be encouraged as a couple. So, a couple comes into counseling and their marriage is on the cliff, as I often reference it, and they feel extremely overwhelmed and burdened and they don’t know where to begin. By offering the 1% rule, you’re offering so much hope because it’s actually manageable. It sounds really small and insignificant, 1%, but that small, consistent effort over time is quite powerful. So, let’s see how it works. Imagine your partner does or doesn’t do something that really bugs you. Maybe it just seems really illogical, annoying, repetitive. Now, conversely, there’s probably something you do or don’t do that your partner finds equally perplexing or annoying. Apply the 1% rule. Focus on making a small positive change, just 1%, in your behavior related to that issue. For example, aim to be 1% more punctual if you’re always late. If your partner dislikes how you leave dirty dishes in the sink, try to be 1% better at cleaning up after yourself. If communication is challenging, actively listen and respond 1% more attentively. These seemingly minor adjustments can create a ripple effect and transform your relationship. Part of that ripple effect in transforming your relationship is you start to feel better about yourself. You start to buzz with more positive feelings every time you get that positive reaction from your partner, that appreciation, that noticing. You may suddenly want to up it from 1% to 3%. You may find yourself just naturally wanting to do better at that, and it starts with that 1%.

 

And let’s see why it matters. The 1% rule isn’t about grand gestures or expensive gifts. It’s about being more present, appreciative, and kind. By taking responsibility for your part and considering the impact of your actions and words, you contribute to a healthier dynamic. When one person consistently makes a 1% effort, the relationship can improve by 100% over time. Remember, it’s not about changing your partner; it’s about changing yourself slightly to enhance the connection. And while we’re on this topic, we want to make sure that we mention avoiding one-sidedness. Communicate openly about your 1% changes and expectations. Divide roles and responsibilities in a way that feels fair to both of you. Address any unbalanced situations promptly to prevent resentment. When both partners contribute to the 1%, notice how the relationship thrives. So, embrace the 1% challenge. Small steps lead to lasting transformation. Vince, I hope I just answered your question.

 

Vince Speaking: 

Yeah, I love the kind of the small steps as opposed to the grand “let’s try to fix everything at one time.” And I can see how, if, let’s say, the issue that I’m dealing with is playing video games for four hours a day, my 1% change might be to play them for only 3.5 hours and spend the extra 30 minutes doing something my wife likes. How do I apply this if it’s a behavioral thing? Personally, I really struggle when I’m upset. I go right into the silent treatment. It’s really a struggle for me. How would you recommend applying this 1% rule if it’s a behavioral change?

 

Dr Rivka Edery Speaking: 

That’s a great question because it’s actually how the human mind and human behavior work. We can say, “OK, I love this concept, this 1%. I’m down with it.” But I get into a fight with my wife, as you’re saying, or maybe I get insulted, or I get scared and shut down. So, how do we apply the 1%? Imagine that you commit to, right as you notice you’re shutting down, your 1% involves noticing and naming that you’re starting to shut down and then intentionally take three deep breaths. Look at your wife and say, “I notice that I’m starting to shut down. I’m going to take three deep breaths,” or take the three deep breaths and then go do what you do when you shut down. A tiny little change would be to notice and name that you’re shutting down, maybe even call it out loud. This is what it feels like. Maybe the shame gremlins have taken over, or you know the big giant green fear monster. You can get playful with how you refer to what’s happening when you’re shutting down. Try to be compassionate and playful. Your 1% might look like noticing and naming and giving your wife a heads up, taking a deep breath.

 

Vince Speaking: 

Can you apply that if a guy is getting defensive? I think a lot of guys struggle with that. The wife is trying to communicate a need of hers, and in response, the guy gets defensive. How do I apply the 1% rule there?

 

Dr Rivka Edery Speaking: 

OK, great. I love that because it’s so typical. Your questions are very applicable. What I would say with defensiveness is that the 1% would be to notice and name what part of you might be taking over the living room, so to speak. When we get defensive, is it the inner teenager, the tough guy, or the little boy who was shamed so much by an alcoholic father that he just assumes he’s going to be the guilty one, guilty as charged? The shutting down or the defensiveness, in this case, gearing up for battle is not the same battle from where it originated. That’s something for you or any other man to do when you’re in a calmer state. Get to know the parts of you that possess you, so to speak, that take over the living room. If this scared little boy who was shamed regularly is the one that takes over the living room, get to know him before you’re getting defensive. The 1% might look like tuning in and finding that part of you that’s taking over right now and then taking that mindful minute. It could just be one minute. Your 1% could be one minute; if you can’t do a minute, boil it down to one second. Just pause. “I’m seeing that three-year-old.” That’s it. If you can walk away, take three breaths, take five breaths, and commit to something before you put the gloves on—I’m referencing gloves on as a metaphor for getting defensive. Take that minute, locate the part, take three deep breaths, and just tune into that part of you that gets defensive. Maybe ask a question: “Hey, where do you come from? Because you weren’t here 10 minutes ago. My wife and I were on the couch enjoying a movie and eating popcorn, and everything was calm. Then she said, ‘You didn’t mow the lawn,’ and now I’m ready to duke it out. So, where did you come from?” See if this part can tell you its story. It doesn’t have to be all at once. If you can take that 1% to tune in and ask and inquire, you’re already starting to dial down heading into the boxing ring. You may rethink heading into the boxing ring. Don’t judge feeling defensive or feeling angry. Let that be. Just use your focus, your 1% energy, to tune into that part of you. Does that make sense?

 

Vince Speaking: 

Yeah. I loved how you said in a quieter moment to think about who that person is you go to when you become defensive. I think, for me, it’s my 10-year-old self. I think the other important part, correct me if I’m wrong, is communicating that to your partner, saying, “This is the 1% I’m going to do when I’m feeling defensive.” From what you suggested, it could simply be, “I feel like my 10-year-old self is coming out right now.”

 

Dr Rivka Edery Speaking: 

Oh, that’s excellent. Then I would recommend trying it out. It’s not set in stone. See if it works. The next time you get into that defensiveness, pause and tell your wife, “That 10-year-old’s coming out. I’m feeling it in my chest. My breathing’s getting shorter. I’m feeling that anger right now.” See if that helps reduce the defensiveness and bridge that communication. If it does, you pop that tool in your toolbox. If it doesn’t, you tweak it.

 

Vince Speaking: 

I love it. I’m going to apply the 1% starting today. Thank you so much. In the next episode, we’re going to switch gears a little bit and understand attachment styles for men. I’m really looking forward to that episode as well.

Dr. Rivka Edery is a highly respected psychologist deeply committed to advancing mental wellness and guiding individuals through the intricate journey of trauma recovery. With over 15 years of hands-on experience, Dr. Edery is a steadfast beacon of support for those on the path to healing from trauma. Her unwavering dedication to the field of psychology is underscored by her remarkable accomplishments, clinical expertise, and profound philosophical perspective.

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