5.1 The Skill

The Five Yeses is a simple tool for communication that increases your ability to empathize with your partner. To do the exercise, one person will make a statement about something important to him or her. The second person will then ask yes-or-no questions about that statement until the first partner has responded with five yeses. Pauses while people slow down to really pay attention are a good thing. Getting a no is not a mistake either, but rather another way to learn how your partner feels. When you do get the fifth yes, it is a good idea to finish by asking "Did I miss anything?" Then your partner can add anything that was left out, and it is the other person's turn to make a statement.

One time we taught this skill to a marriage group that we had belonged to eight years before, which had continued to meet after we left. We came back because one of the wives was talking about leaving her husband. We invited him to make a statement, and her to ask questions until she got five yeses.

Husband- I miss you and I want to spend more time with you.
Wife- You resent that I got a job?
Husband- No.
Wife- You don't like having to do more around the house?
Husband- No.
Wife- You are jealous that I have new friends and my own income?
Husband- No.
She paused. It was clear that she was so intent on her own reaction that she had no idea what he had said. We invited him to say it again.

Husband- I miss you and I want to spend more time with you.
Wife- Do you want to spend more time with me, apart from the kids?
Husband- Yes. (#1)
Wife- Do you miss our Friday night dates?
Husband- Yes. (#2)
Wife- Is it ok with you that I got a job?
Husband- Yes. (#3)
Wife- Do you miss me?
Husband- Yes. (#4)
Wife- Do you love me?
Husband- Yes.(#5)
That moment changed the course of their marriage. She stayed. 



5.2 Quote

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,

And your wages for what does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,

And let your soul delight itself in abundance. 

Isaiah 55


5.3 The Story

Meet Me at the Cafe
When was the last time you met your spouse for coffee? I know, I know, there is coffee at home. And there is the babysitting issue, and money is tight. But all that aside, when was the last time?
A few weeks ago John and I actually planned to go out together. This is not normal behavior for us, but we did it anyway. I arranged for childcare and even had a place in mind. Then we got in a tiff. I did not really want to go out with him anymore. Why spend good money to argue when we could do it for free at home?
But something I cannot quite put my finger on pushed me to get in the car, not talking much, and drive to the cafe. We stood in line and ordered, and sat down at one of those little tables where neither of you can actually hide. It was almost as stilted as a date back in high school, only clammier. 
Then the food came, and we paid attention to our entrees. I bumped a glass and he caught it before it fell. We held hands for the blessing, because tiff or no tiff that is what we do.
Forgetting that I was supposed to be aloof, I started to tell him about my day. He listened, in a way that he has developed over the years and could not help but resurface even in the current emotional weather.
He smiled. I softened. The Issue started to lose its grip as a headline, and we were bantering about something much more interesting.
I lost myself in the moment, in the time together, in the familiarity of being with someone who has seen me chew with my mouth open. He has watched me misbehave and not bailed. How can that not be precious? How can I treat him more carelessly than someone else's dishware?
It was an ordinary lunch date. But then again, not so much.


5.4 Activity with Your Children

One way to help children feel really heard, especially young ones, is to write down what they say. It may be angry feelings, or sad ones, or a tirade about bedtime rules. There is a power in seeing it validated by being set on paper. It has permenance on the page, and that frees your child's heart up for new feelings to come in.

Once I had a friend whose little boy was jealous of the new baby. So his mother invited him to express it while she transcribed. He proceeded to dictate a horrific plan involving putting his little brother in a bag and throwing him in the river. She was shocked to hear him, but she carried through and wrote it word for word. The anger seemed to land on the paper and stay there. Her older son heard his own feelings and was able to let them go. The jealousy issue lost much of its strength.

I have seen this happen in myself. I tell John how upset I am about the dishes, and he listens without judgement. The dishes are still there, but I am less upset about it for having simply been heard.


5.5 Prayer

Oh Lord,

Sometimes I do all the talking and then wonder why You are not leading me.

Let me listen with a waiting heart.






5.6 Ideas

Probably you have a lot of photos, in albums, or on the computer, or in farmes on the wall. Look at them together and talk about what they remind you of.