Star-Bulletin Features


Tuesday, September 28, 1999


Language
of love is
not easy

Kaiser workshops teach
communication skills to
help couples cope

By Nancy Arcayna
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Tapa

TWO people meet. They fall in love. They live happily ever after. Don't you wish relationships were this simple?

Unfortunately, that is not how it happens. We fall in love and about the time the relationship deepens, we begin to see our differences, until differences are all we see.

Many of the problems couples experience can be attributed to a lack of communication. The pressures and hectic lifestyles of today leave little time for communication. Busy schedules leave us worrying about petty issues such as who will pay the bills and who is going to pick up the kids?

These everyday responsibilities prevent us from taking the time to sit down and discuss anything meaningful. If we love our partners, why can't we make time to discuss issues?

The Kaiser Permanente Lifestyle Program offers "Couples Communication Workshops" to assist couples in learning basic skills for sustaining a long relationship.


CAN WE TALK?

Bullet What: Couples Communication workshops
Bullet Where: Honolulu Kaiser Permanente Clinic
Bullet When: Oct. 12, 19, 26 and Nov. 2 or Nov. 9, 16, 23 and 30
Bullet Time: 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Bullet Cost: $90 per couple, or $80 for Kaiser members
Bullet Call: 597-2270 to register


Alan Lubliner and Charlene Yamamoto have been conducting these four-session workshops for 10 years. The workshops are not intended to be therapeutic sessions. The workshop does not promise happiness or to resolve your problems, but gives couples a chance to rebuild their relationships and gain an appreciation of their partner.

According to Lubliner, one couple's response was, "This is really what we needed. ... We thought our next stop was an attorney's office."

"People come in lacking basic communication skills," says Yamamoto. They often need assistance learning how to communicate since there is no instruction manual for this fine art.

Lubliner says the class emphasizes "complementing," rather than changing your partner.

According to the counselors, communication problems begin at a young age. In some families, there are "no-talking" rules in which certain topics are taboo.

Others have difficulties with using the word "I" because they feel self-centered talking about themselves. Others neglect to express their feelings because they fear a negative response from their partner.

Many individuals ignore "the little things" that may disrupt the relationship. "We tend to say things like, Let it go ... it's no big deal ... it's not important ... or it will go away." says Lubliner.

"Sometimes if we don't deal with the small issues, they can grow into larger issues which can then become resentments."

Techniques applied are intended to teach individuals to love their partners unconditionally, making it OK to disagree.

The communication workshops are not necessarily designed for couples experiencing difficulties. Better communication could enhance any relationship. Participants range from unmarried teens to those in their 80s, married more than 50 years. Relationships continually grow and change, making it vital to maintain open lines of communication.

Communication problems can lead to boredom, which manifests itself in withdrawal of commitment, time and energy from the relationship. This energy is diverted into other areas, such as work or taking care of the children. According to Lubliner, "We are naive about the time and energy needed to work on a relationship."

Differences in culture, value systems and levels of openness are all factors that contribute to communication problems.

The first session covers basic communication skills and caring behaviors. If no caring exists in the relationship, participants create a "wish list" of behaviors they would like to see their partner possess. This creates an awareness of each other's needs.

And here's something novel. Couples also spend 10 minutes talking to each other. They may share a childhood memory, something about themselves or something important to them.

Lubliner said that those in strong relationships may be surprised to find out how much these couples learn about each other in these 10 minutes alone, but it's no surprise to him.

"Some people tend to spend more time working on their car on the weekend than they do their own relationship," he said.

Values is the main topic of the second session. Participants of the workshop engage in exercises that allow them to think about their partner's values, which in turn guide their choices and behavior.

In the later sessions, couples learn to access who is responsible for decision making. "Decision-Gram" is an exercise that ranks who has authority in what areas. This and other exercises are designed to steer a power/control type relationship into a healthy inter-dependent relationship.

Couples are assigned homework involving communication exercises at the end of each session. They share the feelings they experienced doing the exercise with their partner. If couples did not complete the assignments, they are challenged to make appointments with each other. Set a time, date and place where they can discuss issues that are important to them.

Some couples go through the workshop a second time if "they didn't quite get it the first time or were not quite ready for it."

For those who have already taken and enjoyed the course, there is a sequel, "Couples Communication II." Deeper intimacy issues are addressed in this workshop.



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