by Michelle K. Brode
My husband, David, always said he would try anything once. I have to admit, that’s been pretty helpful in the course of our marriage. His willingness has ranged from trying things like tofu chili made with peanut butter all the way to home birth.
When I started my Certificate in Positive Psychology (CIPP), I had lost sight of this great trait of David’s. To be honest, I had lost sight of most of his great traits. During the first intensive, one of my classmates spoke about how much she admired her husband. At the time, mired in the disappointments and misunderstandings that can pile up after more than a decade of partnership, and nearly as long parenting together, I listened longingly to my classmate’s reflections, wishing that I felt that way about David.
As I explored the concept of “permission to be human” (which is central to CIPP), I began to acknowledge my hurts and disappointments within our marriage. At first, this was an internal process. With permission to feel difficult feelings, I could look at where we were, and where I wanted to be in our relationship. I could consider the ways in which I was not being the partner I wished to be. When I extended this permission to be human to David, I could make space for his humanness and be gracious about his imperfections, as I was learning to do with my own. Over time, I got brave enough to talk about the realities of my partnership with a few close friends, and heard similar reflections from them. We decided to meet weekly to discuss our experiences and how we could contribute more positively to our relationships.
As I was reminded to appreciate the positive, I reconnected with David’s kindness, reliability, presence, support, and active parenting. I looked for and found the strengths in our relationship. And, as I appreciated the positive, the positive appreciated.
Over time, I began to feel a bit guilty about being the only one of us to be part of this Positive Psychology community. When David mentioned a desire to explore professional growth, I suggested CIPP. Although he had always been supportive of my ventures in personal growth, it had never really been his thing. But he had watched several online lectures with me, and had been touched by Tal’s teachings, and the ways in which he made psychology accessible to everyone. David was seeing the benefits I was experiencing, and was cautiously excited to check it out for himself.
David began CIPP as I finished. I sent Megan a picture of both of us on our laptops, watching different episodes of “Tal TV,” as we all call it. As he moved through the course, our marriage gained its own permission to be human—to have its challenges, to require attentive cultivation.
Inspired by the Relationships module of the course, we took a weekend workshop with Drs. John and Julie Gottman. Through that work, we connected with the idea that “doing conflict” is a way to get to know each other better—and learned that not “doing conflict” builds walls of isolation. We got a road map to guide us in having difficult conversations in a loving and balanced way. We now have check-in conversations with regularity, go out without the kids more often, and offer each other appreciations more readily.
Our shared experiences with Positive Psychology have given us a common language and a mutual toolkit that bolsters our connection to each other. We find that it also impacts our parenting and our interactions with friends, family, and colleagues. We offer appreciations to our kids and others. We help the kids reframe anxiety-provoking situations into “interesting opportunities” to practice taking on challenges. We use our annual holiday letter as a template for sharing Positive Psychology precepts with our wider community.
David’s willingness to try anything once was the gateway to reconnecting with the strengths in our relationship.
Click here to learn more about the Certificate in Positive Psychology.
Michelle K. Brode, her husband, David Kroopkin, and their two daughters live outside Seattle, Washington.