how to not start a fight

Most folks believe that communication is the key to a happy marriage. And yet, usually when couples say they have a problem with communication they actually mean something like this: “we don’t know how to talk to each other without it turning into a fight” or “we don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.” Their problem is more specifically conflict resolution and a lack of intimacy/friendship.

So, my job is to figure out what folks really mean when they say, “we need to learn how to communicate better.” In many instances, I’m helping people learn how to start tough conversations about feelings and needs in the hopes of decreasing the chance of defensiveness and subsequently, an argument. Ultimately, my goal is not to prevent couples from fighting; it is to help them treat each other with respect.

A few tips for softening your start up:

  • Think before you speak. Calm down, decide what you really want to communicate, and avoid the words “always” and “never.”
  • Put yourself in his or her shoes. Do you believe your partner deliberately and intentionally wanted to hurt or upset you? Try to lead with   some other softening statements like, “I know you’ve been busy…” “I don’t think you meant to…” or  “I can understand why…”
  • Be specific about the behavior you would like changed. Name-calling and character bashing are just mean (and do not help get your point across)! Neither does yelling. If you want to be heard, don’t be mean, stop yelling, and speak rationally.
  • Stop fighting to be right. If one of you “wins,” you’ve both lost. Understanding is the new “right” and if you achieve it, you both are winners.
  • It’s ok to let some things go. But do not, I repeat: do not stuff your feelings and allow yourself to get bitter or resentful.

Good luck getting started!

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the secret to a happy marriage

Ok, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… you suffered through reading alarming divorce stats. And why most marriage therapy fails. Now, you are ready for the secret.

And here it is: happily married couples share a deep friendship. This means they enjoy each other’s company and share a mutual respect for one another. They like each other.  In other words, their positive thoughts about each other override and outweigh their negative ones.

“In the strongest marriages, husband and wife share a deep sense of meaning. They don’t just “get along”– they also support each other’s hopes and aspirations and build a sense of purpose into their lives together” (Gottman, p.23).

Does this sound like your marriage? If it does, awesome! Keep on doing the things that keep you close and feeling mostly positive about each other!

If it doesn’t sound like your marriage, I pray you’ll consider doing something about it. Now, it doesn’t have to be therapy (although I’m sure you have picked up on my not-so-subtle hints that good therapy can help). It can also be through a group, classes, and workshops or even reading this book (the “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman) together.

Life is hard. Raising a family is even harder. And it’s just a darn shame when you and your partner don’t feel like much of a team. The good news is, there are a lot of resources out there that can help. Let me know if you’d like help finding them.

I wish you blessings in your journey, friend. Good luck!