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The noted relationship counselor discusses the four secrets of a successful and fulfilling relationship--honor, communication, constant renewal, and intimacy
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Gary Smalley is one of the country's best-known authors and speakers on family relationships. He is the author or coauthor of sixteen bestselling, award-winning books along with several popular films and videos. He has spent more than thirty years learning, teaching, and counseling. Gary has personally interviewed hundreds of singles and couples, and has surveyed thousands of people at his seminars, asking two questions: What is it that strengthens your relationships? And what weakens them?
Gary received his bachelor's degree in psychology from Long Beach State University in California. He has a master's degree and has received two honorary doctorate degrees in educational counseling and psychology for his thirty years of research.
Gary's books combined have sold close to 4 million copies. Several of them have been translated into several different languages. The Blessing and The Two Sides of Love have won the Golden Medallion Award for excellence in literature. The Language of Love won the Angel Award as the best contribution to family life. All the other titles have been top-five finalists for the Gold Medallion Award.
In the past ten years, Gary has spoken to more than 1 million people. His national infomercial Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships has appeared to television audiences all over the world. The eighteen-videotape series of the same name has sold more than 4 million copies.
Gary and his wife, Norma, have been married for thirty-five years and live in Branson, Missouri. They have three children -- Kari Gibson, a children's author; Dr. Greg Smalley; and Michael Smalley, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology -- and six grandchildren.
Gary Smalley's speaking schedule and video products can be found at www.garysmalley.comExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: Deeper: The Direction Toward the Ultimate Relationship
Every fully realized relationship is a trip from surface emotions down into the depths, descending through five distinct levels of intimate communication that move from the shallow levels to the fifth and deepest level. At this fifth level, a couple feels absolutely safe and accepted for what they feel and need as unique individuals. Throughout this book I am going to show you how to accelerate your journey through these levels, arriving at the deepest level in the shortest, most effective amount of time. For now, let's discuss the five levels, so you'll understand what your journey is going to entail.
These five levels of intimate communication were first introduced in John Powell's book, Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? But later, Dr. Gary Oliver, head of the Center for Marriage and Family at John Brown University, helped me understand that my entire life's work could be grouped within these five levels. All couples will move in and out of one or more of these five levels of intimate communication every day. This book will help you understand the five levels of intimate communication and how to use three powerful relationship skills to move in and out of all five levels anytime you wish. These levels are the outline of this book. Now I realize just how powerful they are:
The Five Levels of Intimate Communication
1. Speaking in clichés
2. Sharing facts
3. Sharing opinions
4. Sharing feelings
5. Sharing needs
The first two levels are natural, easy, almost effortless. I've discovered that a majority of couples, sadly, can remain in these levels throughout their relationship.
When you embark on a journey toward intimacy, in a sense you are "diving into" your relationship. Perhaps you and your mate have spent years climbing through the mountains, the ups and downs of your relationship. But now you've reached an awesome sight: the ocean. You don't want to remain stranded on the shore or stay stuck at the surface. You want to dive in deeply, to leave the shallow waters of superficiality and delve into, and revel in, the depths of intimacy. If you've ever experienced scuba diving, you know the feeling: it will be a long and frequently tough dive, but you will be amazed at the wonders you will find under the surface!
As you and your mate communicate with each other in the course of your daily routines, you are unconsciously always moving in and out of one of the five levels. Here is an explanation of each one:
LEVEL ONE: Sharing clichés with each other. This is surface talk, down only just below the water's surface, perhaps four or five feet. You're engaged in almost meaningless chatter. "Hey, how are you, how are you doing?" asks one spouse. "Okay, great, no problem," replies the other.
LEVEL TWO: Sharing facts with each other. You're talking about the weather, the office, what's going on with your friends. You're down deeper, but just barely, perhaps four or seven feet down. It's a safe level, requiring no deep breathing, thinking, or feeling.
LEVEL THREE: Sharing opinions with each other. This includes discussing individual opinions, concerns, and expectations, including personal goals, dreams, and desires. Now you're finally getting into the depths, and your initial reaction, as when scuba diving, is most likely fear. Your oxygen is dissipating and your ears are suffering the pressure. Sharing opinions is like diving to the eight- to fifteen-foot range; you may instinctively want to retreat to the shallower levels.
Most people can learn to dive down ten feet, pick up a seashell or two, and then retreat to the surface. But to reap the treasures in your relationships, you must learn to stay in the depths. As in diving, you must have the skills to give you the confidence to stay at this level -- and also to go deeper. Nobody in his right mind begins a session in scuba diving without training. But couples all over the world begin relationships without even the slightest guidance, which is why they often remain at the shallowest levels of intimacy.
Speaking in clichés and sharing facts are safe harbors from conflict. But opinions are something else entirely. Opinions cause conflict, and conflict is extremely scary to most people. If a couple uses Level 3 -- the sharing of opinions -- as a wrestling ring or a jousting court, if they're forever trying to "get" each other, to prove their respective views, concerns, and needs as superior to the other's, they're headed toward trouble. This type of slowly escalating jousting creates fertile soil for the seeds that can grow into divorce. But if each party attempts to refocus his or her thinking on trying to understand the mate, instead of trying to "convince" the other that a particular opinion is superior, then they can become a team.
That's usually easier said than done, because when couples move from Level 2 to Level 3, from sharing facts to sharing opinions, they hit a barrier: conflict. This conflict can be compared to a doorway that takes tremendous time and work to pass through before the couple can move down to Levels 4 and 5, which, in our scuba diving analogy, are the deepest and safest levels to which a couple can "dive."
But conflict can work two ways: Most often, it breaks couples apart. But it also delivers them to the deeper levels. Yes, conflict is the doorway to intimacy, but for most couples it remains an immovable roadblock. Clichés are a cakewalk and facts are usually benign, but sharing opinions, concerns, and expectations? Opinions are the Pandora's box; they create conflict. So one or both partners will tend to become "infected" with one or more of four main "relational germs" -- withdrawal, escalation, belittling, or developing false beliefs about each other -- and will never get to the deepest, most fulfilling levels. Most couples in conflict can't see that the very force that is battering them is essential to reaching a deeper relationship. They're too busy with the struggle of daily existence to search for the depth beyond the conflict.
LEVEL FOUR: Sharing your deepest and truest feelings with each other. At this level, you help each other feel safe to share your deepest emotions. You each know that you will both do your very best to listen and value what the other is sharing. Each of you can accept the other as unique and special, a creation made up of all your history, personality, and family background. It's as if each of you represents a different combination of "colors," and you can both treasure each other's individual "color" combination. What's so exciting is this: as you walk through the door of conflict to reach the deeper levels of intimacy, you are simultaneously eliminating all four of the "divorce germs."
LEVEL FIVE: Sharing your most important relational needs. This is the deepest level of love and marital satisfaction. You've been together long enough and you feel safe enough to share your deepest needs with one another. I have discovered from thousands of couples that seven needs keep surfacing as the most important to both men and women. But the most intimate part of loving communication is when both of you feel safe to reveal your unique needs to one another. This shows that you know you will be accepted and valued by your mate for who you are.
Guess how long it takes for the average individual to begin sharing his or her feelings and needs? Six years. Again, the average time for divorce? Five and a half years. Why? Because once you hit the third level of intimacy -- sharing opinions -- you're at the greatest risk for conflict. Without some training, you could stay conflicted at this level for some time. People have an intuitive sense that danger lurks behind the door of
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