Marriage Hack: Put Yourself Through Therapy

Write out your negative emotions and what you wish would be different, then ask yourself these four questions by Byron Katie.

Our theme for the month is marriage hacks- helpful tips and tools for your marriage.

Marriage Hack of the week:  Put Yourself Through Therapy When Your Spouse Bothers You

Personally, I think everyone should go to a therapist at some point in their life.  It can be a very healthy place to process negative emotions so they won’t build up in unhealthy ways.

But we don’t all have the money, time or inclination to go to therapy, so if you are in this boat, try the next best thing: putting yourself through therapy.

Your negative emotions need a healthy place to process. A therapist's office is a great place for that, but if not, you can journal it out by asking yourself these four questions.

This is something I’ve been working on a lot ever since I read the book Loving What Is, which I describe more thoroughly in this post, but basically Byron Katie says whenever you have something that is bothering you, you should write it all down, ask yourself four questions and turn it around.

Generally when Rich and I disagree or when something bothers me, I unconsciously focus all my efforts on trying to figure out how to make him see things from my point of view.  I think through the best words to use, the best time.  When I’m upset, that hypothetical conversation with him is always running around my mind like a track on repeat.  I am desperate for him to see things MY WAY.

Now that I’ve read the book, when I’m upset, I’m consciously trying to focus my efforts on accepting my reality, questioning my own assumptions and forgiving.  That’s a pretty big shift from the general habits my brain has formed through the years.  My brain still reverts back to old habits pretty frequently, but I’m improving.

Thankfully that Byron Katie has provided everyone with a VERY helpful little worksheet to put yourself through if you have something that bothers you.  She calls it THE WORK and the worksheet can be found here (click on the image and it will take you to the PDF)


Most of that worksheet is the getting out your frustration part, but the magic happens in those four little questions at the bottom:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you be absolutely certain that its true?
  3. How do you react, what happens when you think this thought?
  4. Who would you be without this thought?

You put your frustrating thoughts through those questions then turn them around to prove the opposite true and your brain (and heart) have quite a helpful exercise to realize that the things that make us miserable don’t have to.


So, here’s a little example of this therapy at work with what happened to me on Sunday:

Sunday this week for whatever reason we were all in bad moods.  I think our Saturday was a little over-scheduled, the house was a mess, we didn’t get enough sleep, whatever, the Davises were all a bunch of grumpy pants.

Rich really wanted to go on a family drive through a local state park since the fall leaves are right about at peak beauty around here.  I agreed.  But then we kinda bummed around for a couple hours after church and then I had to go visiting teaching (like an assigned friend program at our church) at 4:00.   And the visit lasted longer than I anticipated so I didn’t end up coming home until 6:00 at which point we had to eat dinner and then it was dark and the day was over.

No family drive through pretty leaves.  No glorying at the world in its autumn splendor.  No butterflies.

Put yourself through therapy
Nope. None of this.

Just a bunch of grumpy Davises.

We were all crabby, but I noticed Rich more so since I returned.  When I asked if he was ok he snapped, “I just really wanted to go on that drive.  That’s all I wanted to do today!!”

Immediately, I felt attacked and my brain unconsciously went through all the reasons I was in the clear (It wasn’t my fault!  I was trying to leave earlier! I was doing something nice!) and why he wasn’t so innocent (We had hours we could have gone before I left! YOU didn’t initiate it!).  I felt like I was being blamed for his bad mood unfairly.  I was bugged.

So I gave myself a time out.

I went upstairs and gave myself a little therapy to calm down. I went through “the work” and filled out that worksheet.

I’ll spare you the exact transcript of what I wrote, but as I filled out the what is bothering me part I could feel myself calming down as my negative emotions now had a healthy channel to process through.

The work by Byron Katie can be life-changing. Write down the thoughts that make you miserable and then question them. Click through for more detail.

Then, when I asked the four questions, as I was answering the question “Who would you be without the thought?”  (my thought this time specifically was “Rich shouldn’t blame me for his bad mood”) something changed in me.  Like a little light switch in my heart when on.  I saw that without the thought I would be more understanding and forgiving.  That I could see him for who he is and what he’s going through instead of how he’s acting.  I would be compassionate.  I would be the Celeste I want to be.

That question was the freedom I was seeking.  My bad mood slowly transformed to peace and I was able to go downstairs, give Rich a hug and apologize sincerely that the day didn’t go how he had hoped.

We talked through some stuff after the kids had gone to bed and it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine (bad moods don’t tend to dissipate so suddenly), but the next day we were back on track.  I think if I hadn’t taken the time out to go through therapy the bad mood and blame and defensiveness I had felt initially could have meandered on the next couple of days pretty easily.

Thank you Byron Katie!

Here she is talking about the work:

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