Four C’s and a “FENCE” to KEEP LOVE THRIVING- Dr. Gerald Smith, Ed.D.* Licensed Psychologist

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Four C’s and a “FENCE” to KEEP LOVE THRIVING- Dr. Gerald Smith, Ed.D.* Licensed Psychologist

Four C’s and a “FENCE” to KEEP LOVE THRIVING- Dr. Gerald Smith, Ed.D.* Licensed Psychologist


Gerald Smith, Ed.D.*
Licensed Psychologist

Love thrives best when conflicts are resolved without scar tissue. Love
also thrives best if both partners accept that occasional conflict is built into an alive relationship. Occasional conflict is a given since most partners differ in a number of ways. One example might be how the two you differ in how much you like things to be orderly. Following are four crucial don’t’s important for keeping your love thriving. I’ll use oatmeal cookies to help illustrate. These don’t I call the the Four C’s


Don’t CRITICIZE “You know better than to be eating all those oatmeal cookies.”

Don’t CORRECT “You are kidding yourself ! It is no way healthy to be
eating that many cookies. Learn to control yourself !”

Don’t Attempt to CONTROL “I’ll just have to go back to hiding the cookies”

Don’t Attempt to CHANGE your partner “I’ve set up an appointment with your doctor. I hope he will tell you what you are doing to yourself with those cookies.”

Abiding by these FOUR C’s does not mean you have to silence yourself.

Not at all ! Instead, make yourself vulnerable enough to express your feelings with “I” messages, and mindful enough to not use “you” messages. The measure of an “I” message is does the sentence disclose a feeling? Here are two that do :
“I feel really angry with you about your cookie habit.”
“I really wish you would manage the cookie eating. I worry about your health.”
Your openness with “I” messages makes you vulnerable. You're being increasingly vulnerable is an essential ingredient for a love that thrives. Here is why “I” messages advance vulnerability. When I say. “I feel really angry with you about your cookie habit”, I’m vulnerable because I’m directly saying how I’m feeling . On the other hand, if I say “You make me really angry”, I’m not as open because I’m blaming my anger on the other person by saying “You make me ………..” The interchange can then become side tracked into what I call “courtroom” which is a focus on winning. Not a focus that advances love.

If you abide by these FOUR C’s you are respecting an imaginary “FENCE” between the two of you. Your “I” messages keep you on your side of the fence, because you are only expressing what you feel, not telling your partner what to do. (Be aware of a “you” message in disguise. An example, “I feel you really make me angry.” This is a “you” message with “I feel” tacked to the front of the sentence. It doesn’t qualify as an “I” message because it doesn’t disclose a feeling. Instead, it is a message of blame fronted with “I feel.”

The FOUR C’s and the “FENCE” are basic for maintaining an equal balance
between each of you, but in a deep love relationship the intensity of feelings can overpower any set of rules. If angry feelings really boil up, you probably won’t be able to abstain from using one or more of the FOUR C’s. Instead, “you” messages will squirt out and the FENCE will be trampled. The best you can do then is be aware of what you have done. Then talk it over with your partner to repair the damage..

Many forms of a relationship can work. For some a “one up/one down”
arrangement meets the needs of each person. One person has a need to manage the relationship. The other has a need to placate. As long as these needs don’t change this can work. But if the “one Up” person becomes bored, or the “one down” partner wants equality, the relationship is thrown out of balance and major problems can occur.

A more complicated relationship than the “one up/one down” balance is an
equal partnership. Here there is the best chance for being close yet also free to grow as a separate person. The FOUR C’s and the FENCE are more useful in this more complicated relationship. The opportunity for personal growth is most available in a loving equal partnership. Abide by the FOUR C’s and honor the FENCE and you have a guide to keep your love thriving without impeding your own growth. What an opportunity by way of an equal partnership to have it both ways with increasing vulnerability with the person you love along with the support that affirms your own path!




*Dr. Gerald Smith, Licensed Psychologist, has specialized in couple therapy for over 40 years. He has written two books about relationships: COUPLE THERAPY and HIDDEN MEANINGS. If you would like to talk with him via video conference call 650 328 7289.

327 N. San Mateo Dr. #8
San Mateo, CA 944o1