BEHIND “THE 5 CORE CONVERSATIONS FOR COUPLES”

How a family therapist and divorce lawyer turned more than thirty years of talk into a book.

Remember the story of Rumpelstiltskin? The girl locked in a tower forever unless she can spin straw into gold? Just when she is prepared to accept her fate, an odd little creature shows up, forces her to make a promise and does just that – he spins straw into gold.

      In putting together “The 5 Core Conversations for Couples”, no one was ever locked in a tower.  The analogy, however, is a good one.  Not surprisingly, Julie came up with it.

     “I can’t write for shit,” Julie says.  

     That may be a little bit of a stretch, but her spelling is, shall we say, not exactly inspiring.  My wife has never met a comma either, as far as I can tell.

     “I’m the ideas girl,” she says.  “I am the creative one.  I write the stuff down and send it to you.”

     And I, Mr. Rumpelstiltskin himself, try to turn it into gold.  Or something like that, anyway.

     I am sure that Julie and I are similar to other couples that have been together for decades.  We do talk a lot.  We talk in the morning when one of us is late for work, during an afternoon phone call or two, at dinner and over a cocktail before bed.  Anytime and all the time, it seems. 

     “I do wish you would stop the chatter when I am in the tub,” she says.

     Not likely.  I like to see her in the tub.

     It was a couple of summers back I think when we were on the beach and Julie was guiding me through one of her wacky advice metaphors that I first started making notes.

     “It was a teaching moment,” she says. 

     And, to be honest, she is entirely correct.  I laughed, she laughed and I asked her to remind me of some of the others that she had come up with over the years. We rehashed the Costco story, the wide load, fixing the roof and cleaning the garage, all conversations that made their way into our book.

     From there, Julie started sending me emails, more and more recollections of discussions we had before or, just as often, she planned to have once I read through them. Single spaced, no paragraphs, and no punctuation; the kind of emails that I usually don’t have the patience to read. But, boy, were they creative.  And in a quirky sort of way, a lot seemed to make sense to me.

     Those emails and talks got me thinking.  Sure, most everyone in a relationship talks and communicates. Those that don’t generally end up in an office communicating and talking to someone like me for five hundred or so dollars an hour.  But were these daily conversations between a divorce lawyer and family therapist in some way unique or different from those had by other couples?  

     Once I gathered all the notes, we sat down at the kitchen table and tried to make some sense of all of it. With Julie’s love of puzzles and my desire to write, the pieces started to fit together.  What we figured out was that the very same problems, frustrations and complaints that were expressed in Julie’s office were exactly the same as those that I heard in mine, but from a varied vantage point and with diverse goals in mind.  Julie’s clients complain about their spouses being lazy, not taking care of the children and not paying enough attention to them.  They express angst over money, and not connecting with their spouse or significant other.  They are often frustrated with an unfulfilling sex life.  

      And in my office?  You got it.  The very same bucket of bolts.

      Once we had that “aha” sort of moment, much of the rest came easily.  We figured out that there were five basic areas – cores, if you will – of communication that couples needed to cover in order to be successful and maintain a long and happy life together. Those five communication cores are the foundation of our book: building and filling a relationship, money, sex, parenting and maintaining balance.

     Julie and I are not social scientists. We did not set out to put together a study of human behavior, nor are we qualified to do so.  Since Julie and I are fairly open about a lot of what we have lived through and struggled with during our own marriage, we decided to bare a great deal in the book. Our struggles with spending, parenting a child with mental illness, adoption, infertility and arguments about sex – its all in there and set against the backdrop of what we have seen professionally in our offices. We tried to keep in mind that talking does not come all that naturally to everyone and, as a result, each section ends with a series of questions and topics  – we call them “couples kick-starters” – to get the conversation going.

     The take away from our 5 Core Conversations for Couples is this – we are not experts in the world of relationships.  We have, however, seen much of what causes relationships to fail and what couples can do together that increases the odds of their staying together.  Its really not all that complicated. Keep talking.

Julie and David Bulitt, a licensed clinical social worker and divorce lawyer, have been married for 33 years. Their new book, THE 5 CORE CONVERSATIONS FOR COUPLES, is available online and a local bookstores. Follow David and Julie at www.thebulitts.com and on all social media platforms @thebulitts.

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