You don’t have to be an avid golfer to enjoy the benefits of a Mulligan Marriage– the term “Mulligan” has now entered popular culture. A “Mulligan” means any “do-over,” or second chance after an initial failure.
Of course, strictly speaking, golf rules forbid the Mulligan. That hasn’t prevented it from becoming a part of the game. Some golfers apply their own particular “rules” on the proper use of the Mulligan, such as limiting its use to one “play” once per round, or limiting its use to the initial tee.
The Mulligan operates on a forgiveness principle. There are conflicting etiologies for the Mulligan. Of course, these perfectly reasonable but conflicting stories all start with a golfer named Mulligan.
However, the Mulligan offers an important mindset for marital communication.
When your partner criticizes, it’s only natural to defend. But what if instead of becoming defensive, you simply say;
Hey, I’m feeling kinda defensive right now.. could you put that a different way?
The Mulligan marriage is a way of gently protesting to your partner that you feel attacked or criticized without falling into a reactively defensive posture. It gives them an opportunity to reflect on what they are trying to say, and how it actually landed. Basically, you are complaining that your feelings are hurt, while at the same time you are trying to stay engaged in the conversation that your partner is attempting to initiate.
A Mulligan can go both ways. Imagine that you said something to your partner that elicited a reactive defensive response. You could say something like “You seem a bit defensive. I understand. Maybe what I said was too harsh. Please forgive me. Can I try again?”
These are the key ideas in having a Mulligan marriage:
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.
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