Warning: This is not a horoscope or a fortune cookie.

You are female, married 15 years with 3 children; your husband works too much; and your relationship has become more of an ongoing conflict than a peaceful place to turn to when you are having a rough day.

To be fair, here is the male version: You are almost making enough money, if you could just get a break; you wife doesn't seem to understand what a difference it would make if she just gave you a little more support; and your relationship is at its best when you can avoid conflict rather than solve problems.

There are three types of professionals to whom you can turn for help: doctors, the clergy, and lawyers.

  1. The doctor you can turn to for this particular ailment is a psychologist. Since self-help psychology has been popular since the 1960's, you probably have a pretty good idea of what is available from the psychological community. For example, someone like Dr. Phil is going to teach you how to deal with your own issues and empower you to confront and invite your spouse to deal with their issues.
  2. You should have a pretty good idea what the clergy will offer. In fact, if you are a Mormon, someone in your family probably is a member of your clergy. Someone who studies scriptures should be able to help you understand and apply spiritual principles.
  3. I bet you're thinking that lawyers are better at ending relationships than helping improve them. But the fact is, to deal with complex laws and complex situations, lawyers have developed a unique way of thinking. (For more about thinking like a lawyer, see Introduction to Teaching Modules at IKnowNetwork.info.)
    1. Lawyers begin by dividing every problem into elements, so that they can deal with one element at a time.
    2. Then lawyers draw from thousands of examples, identifying those cases and analogies which are most similar, so that they can illustrate how to solve a problem.

Let's see if you can follow me. I am going to divide your relationship into three parts. Then I am going to take a few of the best suggestions of psychologist and the clergy to show you how the lawyers' approach is the easiest way to solve any problem, including your relationship issues.

Part 1: Dealing with You

You are the first leg in the 3-Legged Stool Analogy (3LS). Let's deal with you first.

See if you agree with this. I have read hundreds of books on psychology. I have noticed a common theme. They all suggest that you feel your own emotions. No one else can feel them for you.

Next, see if you agree with this. Most self-help books suggest there are ways to manage your own emotions. If you use an unhealthy method, like suppressing your emotions, then problems generally get worse. But if you use more healthy techniques, then you can discover emotions that empower you to make life better.

The clergy have a similar message. The concept of individual free will means that you have your own emotions. The commandments to love God and love other people suggest that no matter what other people do to you, you are responsible to work on doing what is right. Additionally, religion generally promises that if you do your best, then God will help you.

The most difficult part about religion is that it tells us we are responsible, but leaves it up to us to figure out how to solve our own problems. Understanding what God is doing to help us can be difficult.

So here is where a lawyer can help. I can point you to the best material from psychology and religion. I want to make this entire process as easy as possible for you. That is exactly why I am building the I Know Network. Register at IKnowNetwork.info to learn about the most effective self-improvement methods.

I don't want to leave you hanging, so let me give you a #quickexample:

The book Leadership and Self-Deceptionteaches a concept called equilibrium. It suggests that when what we want doesn’t match what we have, we feel out of balance. For example, if your husband doesn't come home from work on time for dinner, that will naturally cause you to feel upset about his lack of caring or commitment to the family.

So you will do something to try to get back to equilibrium. For example, you may come up with an explanation for why he is late. Or you may say something to your husband about how his lateness is affecting the family.

His response will make all the difference in the world to you. If his response is to apologize, you may feel better, particularly if he usually comes home on time. But if his response is to explain how busy he is at work, you will feel worse. Whenever what you have expressed meets with resistance, it creates more disequilibrium.

Can you see where this is headed? Some people have strategies that naturally create more disequilibrium. Men don't understand that their “explanations” or excuses for their behavior are intensifying the problems they have with their families. And women don't understand how complaints make their husbands feel.

Other people have strategies to try to avoid creating more disequilibrium. They may act agreeable. They may apologize. They want to avoid or lessen conflict. Less conflict is nice, but it doesn't always solve the underlying problem. In fact, when unspoken explanations don't match, it can be even more difficult to repair the disequilibrium and build a happy family.

So what is the solution? There are two things that you will need. First, you will need to learn about the concept of emotional freedom. Second, you will need to learn to work on the Third Leg (discussed below), even when you feel badly.

I will talk about that more at IKnowNetwork.info. As I said, there are literally thousands of great concepts and techniques available to help us deal with issues effectively.

Part 2: Dealing with your Spouse

For purposes of this post, your spouse is the second leg of your 3LS.

I happen to agree with you. Your spouse is the source of your biggest problems. I am sorry psychologists and clergy, but we can't just be okay with what the spouse is doing. If we don't fix them, the problem is going to continue.

We don't want you to be the only person in the relationship who is learning and growing.

So how are you going to make them change? Criticize and complain? Do you need to hire a lawyer to threaten them with divorce? What about a hit man to threaten to kill them? Ouch! I bet you have tried at least one of those (hopefully not the hit man!)

We can make people change with brute force. And criticizing does work. Some people will do almost anything to avoid any more complaining. But a good relationship can't be built on a foundation of bad behavior. Criticizing to produce change is just another method of coercion.

I want you to give up coercion, except when absolutely necessary. And when you do use coercion, you are going to have to take responsibility for repairing the damage. (See D&C 121:42)

Now, I don't want to leave you without an alternative, so let me suggest another #quickexample:

There is a book entitled Get Motivated which introduces the concept of "Motivational DNA." The DNA stands for Drives, Needs and Awards. The book suggest that different people require different types of motivation. Some people are driven more by a need for Connection than for Production. Likewise, some people need Stability more than they need Variety; and some people feel more reward from Appreciation than Compensation. The book identifies 8 basic motivational styles, depending upon an individual's DNA mix.

Suppose you are a cooperative person who genuinely appreciates others and wants nothing more than security in your family. Suppose your spouse is highly competitive, loves excitement and measures his worth by what he earns. You have opposite motivational styles. Your appeal to your spouse to take a day off work to snuggle in front of the fire and reminisce is likely to put the two of you in a state of disequilibrium.

In fact, because your motivational style is shared by only about 12% of the population, 88% of people won't be motivated by the way you present ideas to them.

But no need to fear, because Get Motivated is written to help you understand the types of appeals that will motivate people who think differently than you do. According to the author, it is super effective with kids, particularly the ones that you have difficulty understanding.

Motivational DNA is one of many paradigms for understanding the people around us and the causes of their behavior. Again, I will make more information available at IKnowNetwork.info, if you are interested.

Part 3: Building a Relationship

I know people who have been working on the First Leg for over 60 years. They have put off building relationships until they are done. Isn't that sad? After all, there are billions of imperfect people around the world who have uplifting relationships, despite their imperfections.

I know people who have been working on the Second Leg for over 20 years. They haven't made a lot of progress. And some of them seem ready to give up. How sad that they've allowed focusing on someone else's imperfections to rob them of rewarding relationships.

Let me introduce you to a concept from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT):

ACT is a branch of psychology in which the therapist teaches the patient to accept the fact that some degree of pain will always be associated with some condition in their life -- either past or present. There are some things that we cannot eliminate from our lives. We cannot eliminate things that happened in the past. And we cannot eliminate some of our physical characteristics that we don't like (such as people with chronic pain or lost limbs).

But we don't have to let those sources of pain control what we do. When problems with the First Leg or the Second Leg become our focus, we just end up bringing more pain into our lives.

The ACT approach is the focus on the Third Leg by identifying values. In one example, a patient was told that if he valued being with his children, then he needed to focus on spending time with them. He had a dirt phobia that prevented him from going to their baseball games. He learned to live with his fear of dirt (a First Leg issue), so that he could attend the baseball games. He decided that he valued his relationships with his children enough to do some things that were very difficult for him.

Interestingly, the more difficult things the patient did while spending time with his children, the less his dirt phobia bothered him.

This concept from ACT is useful for building any relationship. Early in your relationship with your spouse, you had positive expectations. You imagined intimacy, caring, and building a family together. Along the way, you've experienced some pain too, and it may be distracting you from the things that you value. But to work on the Third Leg, you need to accept the fact that there will probably always be some degree of pain involved. Interestingly, as soon as you turn your focus to the things that you do want in your relationship, the pain will feel less severe.

Now, I need to give you something to work on together, which will illustrate the concept of working on the Third Leg. This is probably going to be difficult in the beginning. It is going to take some courage to do it. (And if you or your spouse don't like this suggestion, then just substitute your own ideas.)

Either you or your spouse has to be the leader on making this suggestion. There can be some give and take, if the give and take doesn't produce too much disequilibrium. But at some point, one of the two of you will have to give in and follow the other person's lead.

Here is what I suggest that you do, because it is active and healthy, and you can do it without concerning yourself about the First Leg or the Second Leg. Exercise together once per week for 30 minutes. You can go for a walk. You can jog. You can do sit-ups in your living room or P90X. If your fitness level is different, then just engage in an exercise that allows you to work at your own pace. Leave yourself the other 6 days per week to exercise on your own, if you want.

If you like it, then expand it. Increase the frequency. Add some variety. Try doing things other than exercise.

And when you get really ambitious, you can try working together. But before you do that, make sure you read my next post, 3LS Illustration 2: Business Relationships.