Confiding is the lifeblood of intimacy. Whether we’re in the same room with loved ones or a world away, these five steps, in sequence, help nurture and protect our relationships – the foundation for happiness, health, wealth and success. In PAIRS marriage education classes that include dozens of practical skills to help couples, parents, fathers, siblings and entire families create thriving relationships, many graduates have said years later that the Daily Temperature Reading (DTR) – used regularly — is the single most important tool for deepening and sustaining intimacy.
The DTR was originally developed by Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the field of humanistic psychology. Satir introduced the original DTR in the seventies. Over the past quarter century, it’s been refined, adapted and shared by PAIRS leaders to many tens of thousands of diverse participants across the world, becoming one of the most powerful exercises for deepening and sustaining relationships.
While some have shared this exercise with extended family over multiple days, others have connected through letters, emails, phone conversations, video conferencing, websites, blogs and even text messaging. Ideally, when circumstances permit, it’s best to share a DTR in person, setting aside 15 – 20 minutes to truly water the garden of your relationship. In the beginning, as you’re discovering the power and potential of this exercise, allow yourself a little extra time. As you become familiar with the steps and integrate them into your regular connections with loved ones, you’ll develop your own, natural, flowing style. As with gardens and all living things, relationships need regular attention. Just as a garden would almost surely wither and die if fervently tended one day and then ignored for subsequent weeks or more (unless you’re raising a garden of cactuses), the same is often true of our closest relationships; they need consistent nourishment to survive, and active, regular investments of time and energy to thrive. The results are well worthwhile.
In a world of more than six billion people, those we are closest to become the witnesses, cheerleaders, and supporting cast in the story that is each of our lives. So much of how we see and feel about ourselves is impacted by our experiences with our personal witnesses. As you allow yourself the freedom to explore and integrate the Daily Temperature Reading into your life, consider whose lives are you truly witnessing? What messages do you want your actions to give those people about how you see them? Also consider who is witnessing your life? What messages are you taking in from their actions?
Begin by being fully present to one another; distance yourself physically and mentally from distractions to allow yourself to be grounded in feelings of gratitude for the relationships and people you most cherish as you navigate each of these five steps.
- APPRECIATIONS: Take turns acknowledging each other, sincerely and specifically. This isn’t the time to simply say, “You’re a great mother,” or “I appreciate that you’re kind and caring,” or slipping in requests, such as, “I’d appreciate you calling me next time you’re going to be late,” or “I appreciate you remembering to take out the trash — tomorrow.” Be precise and authentic.
For example, “I appreciate all the effort you put into making a really wonderful, delicious dinner last night, especially that you cooked things you knew the kids would love,” or “I appreciate the text messages and pictures you’ve been sending me during the day to connect with me and show me our adorable baby!”
No matter what stage or situation your relationship is in – even (perhaps especially) during periods of stress, crisis, change, or uncertainty — we can always find something to genuinely appreciate in another person. Be generous in your acknowledgments and affirmations of those whose lives you witness. Your heartfelt words will help maintain goodwill, boost self-worth and self-esteem, and create an environment in which you can work together to constructively address the challenges, obstacles and differences that are a natural part of every active relationship.
- NEW INFORMATION: Be intentional about keeping each other up-to-date on what’s happening in your life, whether it’s something significant or relatively minor.For example, “The kids want to go to Japan Inn for dinner tonight,” or “I got new prescription sunglasses yesterday and am so happy to be able to finally be able to see better when I’m driving during the day,” or “Veronica is going overseas tomorrow and I’m thinking about how we’re going to adjust to her being in a different time zone for the next two months,” or “I read an interesting article in the newspaper this morning about a new program being offered at the YMCA,” or “I lost my balance during my walk yesterday and I’m thinking about making a doctor’s appointment,” or “Your sister called to say she she’ll arrive next Wednesday and can’t wait to see you and the baby.”
Sharing the events of our lives, including allowing significant others to know what we’re thinking about and feeling, is vital to the experience of bonding – a need we all have as humans. Too often, even in a world with technologies for sharing information that were unimaginable not long ago, couples and families can lose each other in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives with consequences that can last a lifetime. Keep each other up-to-date.
- PUZZLES: What are you wondering about that’s connected to someone important in your life? What assumptions are you making that you haven’t checked out that could be affecting your own attitude, beliefs or actions? Frequently in my work with couples who come to PAIRS classes on the verge of separation or divorce, their prior actions towards each other were based on a web of assumptions and reactions that weren’t validated. I’ve seen enormous distance develop within families, marriages and organizations as a result of puzzles that were never or only vaguely discussed, often resulting in awful decisions being made about people, events and relationships. Puzzles is your chance to ask questions about anything you’re wondering about. It doesn’t mean you’ll get answers – or that you’ll necessarily like the answers you get — but it’s an important step to make sure you’re not making and acting upon inaccurate assumptions.For example, “I notice you haven’t seemed very happy this week, I’m wondering what’s going on?” or “I noticed you looking at new cars on the Internet? Are you thinking about trading in your car?” or “Annie said she thought she saw you at East City Grill having lunch yesterday? Was that you? Who were you having lunch with?”
As you’re learning the DTR, especially if your relationship is in a fragile state, it’s important to be patient with each other; begin with smaller issues to give yourselves a chance to become comfortable with the process, develop good speaking and listening skills, and clearly establish goodwill. After you share a puzzle, the listener can respond with information to answer or shed additional light on your question, can let you know that they’ll give your question some thought and would like to talk about it later (as long as later actually comes), or can simply thank you for sharing and leave it at that. Asking questions doesn’t require the listener to answer, but it does offer the opportunity.No matter what the issue, remember to stay grounded in goodwill, respect, empathy, and openness to learning. If the answer to a puzzle is going to take more than a few minutes, it’s better to schedule time outside the DTR for a discussion since it’s important to develop a schedule of doing Daily Temperature Readings regularly in a relatively brief period of time that you can consistently devote to each other.
- CONCERNS WITH RECOMMENDATIONS: We are all unique. Differences are a natural part of every relationship, very much influenced by our individual perspective, personal history, and life experiences, as well as our physical, mental, and emotional well-being at any given moment in time. Rarely are differences themselves destructive to relationships; frequently, however, the ways couples, families and co-workers deal with differences is destructive.Significant research has indicated that you can predict a great deal about the future of a couple’s relationship by watching the first minute or two of how they deal with conflict. When one person or the other responds to someone’s expression of disappointment, sadness, frustration, anger, or concern in a way that adds more fuel to the fire (actively or passively), we eventually deprive ourselves of the opportunity to fully know and accept each other, create an environment in which it’s safe to confide, grow, and work through concerns, and become closer through our successful navigation of the challenges woven throughout our love and life experiences. It’s vitally important to develop the habit of listening with empathy and a desire to understand when someone we love shares a concern. This is easier to do when we’re comfortable with our own sense of self-worth and can be quite difficult when our self-esteem is low.When sharing a Concern with a Recommendation, be specific about the behavior you’re concerned about (don’t attack, judge, blame or criticize), share how you feel (not think) when the behavior happens, and ask for exactly what you want instead.For example, “When we make plans to do something together and you change them 30 minutes before we’re supposed to go out, I feel sad and scared that I’m not important in your life. What I want instead is to talk through plans fully when we make them and that if something comes up where you think it will be necessary to change our plans, you bring that up with me at least a day in advance,” or “When I come home after a long day and driving through an hour of traffic and the first thing you do is begin telling me things that you want me to do, I feel frustrated that I don’t have time to first unwind and scared that I can’t do it all. What I want instead is that you give me an hour after I get home to just relax and get settled before bringing up things you want me to do.“As the listener, after you’ve heard a concern with recommendation, you can answer (yes, no, or yes with conditions, i.e. here’s what I’d need from you), schedule a time to follow-up with a more extensive conversation outside of the Daily Temperature Reading, or simply thank the speaker for sharing, knowing that you now have more information about what you can do to be a pleasure in the life of someone who is important to you.
- WISHES, HOPES, DREAMS: There’s a popular myth that says when you really want something, you should close your eyes, wish for what you want, and don’t tell anyone for fear that then it won’t come true. As volumes of research and much popular literature argues, the exact opposite is more often true. Creating a life in which our dreams have an opportunity to come true involves actively (and passionately) sharing them with others; enrolling those closest to us to support and encourage the fulfillment of our goals and ambitions; and waking up each day learning the lessons and taking the actions necessary to breathe life and potential into those dreams we most desire. Whether it’s the special meal you’d like this weekend, the baby you’d like to create together, the test you want to ace, the vacation you want to enjoy, the home in the mountains where you hope to retire, or anything in between, regularly sharing your wishes, hopes and dreams – and encouraging others to share with you – brings us closer to each other, exponentially increases chances for our dreams to come true, and deepens our experiences of love, intimacy and connection.
PAIRS Foundation offers classes throughout the world and online to help couples master the steps of the Daily Temperature Reading, as well as dozens of other practical, usable, research-validated exercises for enhancing relationships. After experience with many thousands of program participants, I can say with confidence that integrating the DTR into your life and relationships will be one of the most important, valuable decisions of your life. Try it once a day for 30 days. With goodwill and openness to learning, I predict you’ll see miracles unfold in your life that you may have never imagined possible.
Seth Eisenberg is President & CEO of PAIRS Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and leading providers of relationship skills education. Learn more at www.pairs.com, e-mail email@example.com, or call (877) PAIRS-4U (724 7748).