Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: conflict

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    How Fear Impacts Your Marriage

    An angry wife greeted her husband, who was late getting home again from work, as he walked through the door. As was their usual pattern, an argument followed. This has been an ongoing issue between the two for several months with no apparent resolution in sight. 

    In Gary Smalley’s book, The DNA of Relationships, Smalley wrote that the external problem couples tend to argue about over and over again is rarely the real problem. Believe it or not, many couples argue about superficial issues, never actually getting to the real problem for the duration of their marriage. Smalley contends that this is a destructive dance many couples are involved in and it stems from fear.

    “We have found that most women have a core fear related to disconnection – they fear not being heard, not being valued, somehow losing the love of another,” said Smalley in his book. “Most men, on the other hand, have a core fear of helplessness or feeling controlled – they fear failure or getting stepped on. We noticed that the common core fears are all related to two main primary fears: the fear of being controlled (losing power) and the fear of being disconnected (separation from people and being alone). Without identifying your own core fear and understanding how you tend to react when your fear button gets pushed, your relationships will suffer.”

    The tardy husband had no way of knowing that at the core of his wife’s anger was the reality that her father used to come in late from work because he was seeing another woman. While she and her husband argued about his tardiness, the real issue – her fear that he might be cheating on her - did not surface until much later.

    Smalley’s book encourages people to do a self-examination to determine their core fear. Maybe it is rejection, feeling like a failure, being unloved or being humiliated, manipulated or isolated.

    Couples who are dancing the fear dance know the steps well. The cycle begins when your feelings get hurt or you experience gut emotional pain. You want to stop feeling this emotional pain and you want the other person to stop treating you in such a way that “causes” you to feel this pain. You fear they won’t change, so you react and try to motivate them to change. In doing so, you start the same process in the other person.

    “The fear dance can start with discussions of sex, money, in-laws, disciplining children, being late, etc.," Smalley wrote. “People fall into patterns of reacting when their buttons are pushed. Most people use unhealthy reactions to deal with fear. Most of us try different ways to change the other person’s words and actions so that we will feel better. As a result, our relationships are sabotaged. It’s how you choose to react when your fear button is pushed that determines harmony.” 

    So, how do you break the rhythm of the fear dance? According to Smalley, these steps can help:

    1. Take control of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Your thoughts determine your feelings and actions.
    2. Take responsibility for your buttons. You choose how you react when someone pushes your fear button.
    3. Don’t give others the power to control your feelings. Personal responsibility means refusing to focus on what the other person has done. The only person you can change is yourself. You can stop the fear dance.
    4. Don’t look to others to make you happy. Don’t fall into the “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” myth. Come to relationships with realistic expectations.
    5. Become the CEO of your life. You can’t force people to meet your needs, but when you express legitimate needs to others, they can choose to step in to assist you.
    6. Remember that forgiveness heals relationships. Taking personal responsibility means confessing your wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness. You also forgive others.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 19, 2019.


    Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!


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    Mad About Us, Part 2

    Read Mad About Us, Part 1 here.

    Almost daily, unhealthy anger causes some kind of devastation. It could be anything from child abuse or domestic violence to road rage, or to children methodically preparing to harm their teacher. The emotion of anger in and of itself isn’t the problem, though. When people allow themselves to be controlled by this powerful emotion, it can become unhealthy and cause harm to others.

    “We have to continually remind ourselves that anger is energy and energy is neutral,” says Gary Oliver, clinical psychologist and co-author of Mad About Us: Moving From Anger to Intimacy with Your Spouse, with his wife, Carrie. “We have total control over how we choose to express our anger, so we can choose to express this emotion in unhealthy or in healthy and constructive ways. Plus, we can choose to spend the anger-energy by expressing it in ways that hurt ourselves and others. Or, we can choose to invest the anger-energy in building a healthier relationship.”

    The Olivers believe that anger can be an alarm or warning sign that we need to look at some aspect of our lives or relationship. It can serve as a powerful source of motivation. Healthy anger provides the power to protect loved ones, and healthy anger can lead to more intimate relationships.

    “Disagreements usually involve the emotions of fear and/or hurt and/or frustration. These are the primary emotions that lead to the secondary emotion of anger,” Oliver says. “Anger sets most people up for conflict - and most couples don’t know how to do conflict well. Couples can choose to spend their anger-energy by dumping, blaming, attacking or walking out. Or they can choose to acknowledge the fear, hurt or frustration and invest their anger-energy in seizing the opportunity to better understand their spouse.”

    For example, Oliver spoke with a couple in the middle of a serious conflict. The husband made a comment at a party, and his wife responded with a joke about it. Her response embarrassed him in front of their friends. He was making a serious point and, she spoke without thinking about how it would impact the situation. Since this was not the first time she had done something like this, her husband was hurt, embarrassed, marginalized and frustrated.

    When they headed home, the wife asked him what was wrong. Although he initially denied being upset, he releases his frustration after several questions.

    In working through Oliver’s seven conflict management steps, they discovered that the wife had no idea he was being serious. The husband realized that his wife didn’t intend to make him look bad, but his friends started laughing and he felt naked, exposed and embarrassed in front of them. As they talked, the wife truly felt bad and apologized. This was a landmark conversation for them because they were actually able to talk through what had taken place and understand each other. Then they set a new direction for how to manage their conflict.

    Couples who develop the healthy habit of working through differences often find that listening, asking questions, listening again and asking more questions leads to understanding. Additionally, it provides a window into each other’s hearts and a pathway to greater intimacy.

    “When you know someone loves you enough to take the time to understand you rather than take a walk out the door, you know that person’s love is not a shallow, superficial, conditional love,” Oliver says. “That type of love makes a person feel safe and secure. This type of security leads to an increase in trust, which creates the perfect environment for deep levels of intimacy to grow.”

    If you're seeking to more effectively manage the conflicts in your marriage, try these seven steps:

    • Define the issue. Listen and seek understanding. Whose issue is it? Is there more than one issue involved? What is my spouse’s core concern? What is my core concern?
    • How important is it? On a scale from 1 to 10, with one being low-ticket and 10 being high-ticket, how important is this?
    • Ask yourself, “What is MY contribution to the problem?”
    • Do I need to apologize or ask for forgiveness?
    • Choose radical responsibility. Don’t wait for your partner to reach out and seek understanding—be willing to take the first step.
    • Choose what both of you can do differently.
    • Make changes and review them.

    “Healthy conflict is good,” Oliver says. “When a couple has a disagreement and one person takes the time to listen even if they think the other person is wrong, that says to their spouse, ‘I value you and you are important to me.’"

    It isn’t always about agreeing on something. When you know your spouse is trying to understand what is going on, it increases your sense of value and safety.

    One of the best ways to go from being mad at each other to "mad about us" isn’t reading books on new sexual positions. Instead, it's about creating a sense of trust and safety within your marriage. A spouse who feels understood will feel safe and be willing to trust. Consequently, that trust leads to the deeper levels of intimacy every person longs for. Guaranteed!

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    Mad About Us, Part 1

    Over the past 30 years, Gary and Carrie Oliver have worked with literally thousands of couples. Some were preparing for marriage while others were trying to figure out how to make their marriage work.

    “Every couple we have worked with began their marriage with a proclamation of their love and commitment to stay together ‘until death do us part,’” says Gary Oliver, psychologist and co-author of Mad About Us: Moving from Anger to Intimacy with Your Spouse.

    “In many cases, the couples we worked with talked about being madly in love with each other. But over time the madly in love feeling turned to feelings of being mad at each other. The vast majority of failed relationships have at their core the inability to understand differences, deal with the emotion of anger in healthy ways and engage in healthy and constructive conflict.”

    Close to 90 percent of people say they want to marry. Clearly, people want to be in relationships. Most married couples will tell you, however, that differences that were so fun and attractive while dating tend to cause marital conflict.

    “More than 96 percent of the people we have worked with view conflict as negative and something to be avoided at all costs,” Oliver says.

    He has spent thousands of hours playing referee for couples who do not understand that there is both unhealthy and healthy conflict. As a result, responding instead of reacting can make all the difference in the world. He says that conflict pushes buttons of fear, hurt and/or frustration, and things tend to get very personal. "When people feel misunderstood, the relationship doesn’t feel trustworthy or safe. Needless to say, this does nothing to build intimacy in a relationship.”

    Misunderstanding anger is one big issue the Olivers deal with as they counsel couples.

    “Anger is a complex emotion,” Oliver says. “One of the major reasons why the emotion of anger has gained a primarily negative reputation is that there is so much misinformation about what anger is and can be. We only tend to hear and read about unhealthy expressions of anger. It’s tragic that the mostly incorrect and inaccurate misinformation far outweighs the true and accurate facts regarding this powerful and potentially positive emotion.”

    Consider these common myths (and facts) about anger.

    Myth: If you don’t look or sound angry, you don’t have an anger problem. 

    Fact: Just because you don’t look or feel angry, or because your friend wouldn’t describe you as an angry person, does not mean you don’t have an anger problem. Anyone who does not understand and appreciate the potential value of anger may have a problem with it.

    Myth: Anger always leads to some form of violence, so it is never good to be angry. 

    Fact: Anger does not always lead to violence, nor is it always a bad thing to be angry. The key is to understand and control this emotion rather than letting it control you.

    Myth: Expressing anger to someone you love will destroy your relationship. Anger and love just don’t mix.

    Fact: Being aware of your experience of anger and choosing to express it in healthy ways can actually increase mutual understanding, It can also help, strengthen and enrich your relationship.

    Myth: Spiritual people don’t get angry.

    Fact: Anger is a fact of life. Everyone experiences it. If you want to be smart and healthy, choose to understand your experience of anger, then express it constructively.

    Myth: The best way to deal with anger is to stuff it. Expressing anger breeds even more anger and leads to loss of control.

    Fact: When in doubt about what to do with your experience of anger, don’t stuff it. Healthy expressions of anger allow you to deal with the root issues and decrease anger. They are constructive and lead to greater control.

    Myth: The best way to deal with anger is to dump it. Just get all of that anger out of your system. You and everyone else will be better for it.

    Fact: When you are angry, take the time to understand your experience of anger. It can help you express it in a healthy and constructive way.

    “Most couples we worked with were surprised at the degree to which they have believed many of these myths and the degree to which these myths have negatively impacted their marriage relationship,” Oliver says. “In fact, my wife and I both realized that neither of us grew up with models of what healthy expressions of anger looked like. Learning how to express anger in healthy ways tore down walls of fear, hurt and pain. It also helped us build bridges of understanding and trust that became the pathway to deep levels of intimacy in our marriage.”

    Read Mad About Us, Part 2

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    How to Select a Marriage Counselor

    It was an all-too-familiar conversation. Jody went to see a marriage counselor hoping to receive guidance for getting her marriage back on track.

    “After seeing the counselor twice, he told us, ‘You have three choices. You can separate for a period of time, file for divorce or keep on working,’” says Jody. “We were looking for someone to work with us on a specific plan for our marriage. Instead, we got a totally neutral counselor who didn’t seem to care whether or not our marriage survived. We weren’t neutral about wanting to save our marriage. He was."

    According to Dr. Willard Harley, psychologist and author of numerous books including the internationally best-selling book, His Needs, Her Needs, this is not unusual.

    During one woman’s first visit with a therapist, she specifically said that divorce was not an option. However, at the end of the 50 minute-session, the therapist told her he thought she really should consider divorce. There was no violence in the marriage - simply love gone cold.

    “People who seek help from marriage counselors usually assume that the goal of therapy is saving the marriage,” says Harley. "Unfortunately, most marital therapists are specifically trained to be nondirective or neutral. They see themselves as someone couples can talk to, but not someone who will coach them into changes that will ultimately save their marriage.

    “How can a plan possibly achieve its goal when there is no goal?” Harley asks. “It’s no wonder that most marriage counseling is so ineffective.”

    This does not mean that couples should not seek help. In fact, Harley encourages troubled couples to find a marriage counselor to help save their marriage.

    “Couples need to understand that there are times when even the strongest of marriages needs additional support and motivation. Frequently, only a professional marriage counselor or marriage educator can provide that,” Harley says. “An effective marriage counselor or educator will help you avoid or overcome intense emotional trauma associated with a failing marriage, create a plan that will help your marriage, and motivate you to complete that plan.”

    Whether your marriage is in significant distress or just in a tough spot, Harley’s tips can help you pick an effective marriage counselor.

    • Before setting up the first appointment, ask certain questions to make sure the counselor will help you accomplish your goals of making the marriage mutually fulfilling.

    • Ask to schedule a 10-15 minute phone interview. If the counselor is not willing to have an initial phone conversation, eliminate that counselor from consideration.

    • During the interview, ask about the following:

    What is your goal for our marriage? (Answer: To help you both achieve marital fulfillment, and save your marriage).

    What are your credentials and years of experience in marriage counseling? (Answer: a graduate degree in mental health (Master’s or Doctorate in Psychology or Social Work, with clinical supervision in marriage counseling).

    This is our problem (briefly explain). Do you have experience helping couples overcome that problem, and what is your success rate? (Answer: Experience helping couples overcome that particular problem with more than 75% success).

    • After both spouses have a chance to speak to a few potential counselors, Harley suggests choosing the one that answers those questions appropriately. Then set up your first appointment.

    Jody and her husband ultimately decided to divorce. Looking back at the whole scenario, they question if divorce should have even been an option. At the time, they both felt hopeless about their marriage. Without a recovery plan, divorce seemed to be the only answer for them.

    If the counselor had given them a plan to save their marriage, they might be happily married today. They will always wonder if a more encouraging counselor would have helped change the course of their family's life.

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    How You Can Keep the "Honey" in Honeymoon

    For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. 

    Starry-eyed in love, couples stand before friends and family and recite these vows with total commitment to each other.

    “Many people believe that if they have found their soulmate and are deeply in love, they won’t have disagreements or bad things happen in their marriage. If they do, they think something must be wrong with their relationship,” says Diane Sollee, founder of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.

    “I believe one of the biggest disservices we do to newlywed couples is not giving them expectations about how things are going to be when two lives come crashing together. They get married, go on a honeymoon and then come home thinking things are going to be great, only to find that there are these little things that keep coming up that are wreaking havoc in their relationship.”

    For example, one newlywed couple lived close to the husband’s family and saw them all the time. Since they lived close to his parents, the wife thought they should go visit her family for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He thought that was totally unfair. She thought it was so fair it made her extremely angry and upset. Her didn’t see the logic between where you live and splitting up the holidays. This was an issue in their first three years of marriage.

    Studies indicate that every happily married couple usually has approximately 10 irreconcilable differences.

    “Learning how to live with your spouse is a constant adventure that requires advance planning,” Sollee says. “I think the first years should be called the 'clash of civilizations stage' instead of the honeymoon. This stage is when two people actually get to set up a new civilization determining how they are going to do everything from eat, sleep, work, raise children, deal with in-laws, make love, keep house, pay bills, etc. Couples who believe that because you love each other you will simply agree about how all of this should work are in for great disappointment. Instead of seeing these differences as part of the marriage adventure, this is the very thing that sends what could be a great marriage over time into a tailspin.”

    It might come as a surprise to know that noted marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that happily-married couples disagree the same amount as couples who divorce. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. Couples who understand that these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas do better.

    “Finding these areas of disagreement is part of the adventure. It shouldn’t scare couples if they prepare for the journey,” Sollee suggests. “Entering into marriage without preparation would be like planning to climb Mount Everest and only hoping you have what it takes. When people first started climbing that mountain, many people did not make it because they did not know what to expect. Now the success rate is much better because people know how to prepare and often do so for years before they actually climb the mountain. The same is true with marriage. We know the tools couples need to be successful.”

    If you are marrying soon or are a newlywed, think of it as if you were preparing to climb Mount Everest. It's a great adventure with potential danger at every turn. You want to be as knowledgeable as possible about what to expect. That way, even the simple things do not pose a threat to your relationship. There are ways you can know what to expect from marriage - including how to navigate those annoying disagreements that keep rising to the surface.

    For instance, you can take a premarital or marriage education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

    “You can do almost anything in life if you know what to expect,” Sollee shares. “If you don’t know what to expect, you can fall in a crevasse and blame it on all the wrong things – your spouse, your mother-in-law, etc.”

    For more information on becoming a newlywed, get our e-book, 10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know.

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    How Couples Can Handle Toxic Subjects

    If you're married, you've probably had a spirited discussion or two with your spouse. Chances are, it's been about money, sex, jealousy over time spent outside the marriage, in-laws, child rearing or spirituality/faith.

    “Based on research, we have learned that these are six of the most common toxic subjects for couples,” says Beverly Rodgers, marriage and family therapist and co-author of Soul Healing Love. “These topics cause the greatest amount of conflict in a marital relationship. Every couple has at least three, and the average couple has five of these that they argue about or discuss on a regular basis.”

    “Couples know that they are dealing with a toxic subject when it triggers conflict and they can’t find a way to resolve it,” Rodgers asserts. “They either avoid the topic at all costs or jump in with both feet and later wished they hadn’t.”

    Toxic subjects often bring relationships to the breaking point. The reaction to one of these issues usually falls into one of four categories:

    • Withdrawal or stonewalling,
    • Criticism,
    • Defensiveness, and/or
    • Contempt.

    Take heart, though. Rodgers believes that you can learn how to keep these toxins from poisoning your marriage by identifying and dealing with the root issue.

    “We encourage couples to dig deeper to get to the heart of the matter so they aren’t just coping with the issue, but extinguishing it,” Rodgers shares. “We ask couples to answer some basic questions."

    • What does my mate do that triggers my anger?
    • When my mate does _____, I feel ________.
    • What is the root of my anger? Guilt, Inferiority/Inadequacy, Fear or Trauma/Pain?
    • When have I ever felt this before?
    • When I feel this feeling, what do I do? How do I behave?
    • What do I really need?

    “After literally seeing hundreds of couples who were stuck in a marital rut, we recognized that a great deal of what couples are in conflict about goes back to their childhood,” Rodgers continues. “We also recognized that guilt, inferiority/inadequacy, fear and trauma/pain are usually emotions underlying the feeling of anger. Identifying these emotions uncovers what is really going on inside when you are angry at your spouse.”

    Take this couple for instance. A husband expects his wife to have the house clean and dinner on the table when he gets home. Despite her best efforts, it is next to impossible to get everything done with two young children underfoot. Every evening he walks through the door and gives her a look of disappointment. She feels guilty and inadequate. On the other hand, he feels inferior. Both get defensive and the evening goes downhill from there.

    Through the digging deeper exercise, the husband realizes that throughout his childhood, his mother did everything for him. He interpreted that as a subtle message that he was incompetent or incapable of doing things for himself. This resulted in unrealistic and unfair expectations of his wife.

    His wife, on the other hand, is the oldest of four. She kept up with her younger siblings, and her parents criticized her whenever she didn’t do things quite right. This made her feel inferior and hurt (trauma). Her husband’s disdainful look echoes the disappointment she felt from her parents as a child. In response, she distances herself from him and pulls away, which is exactly what this relationship does not need. She really needs to know that her husband loves her unconditionally.

    “Rather than getting locked into a power struggle over cooking supper or cleaning the house, the couple will fare better if they understand the deeper meaning of what is really going on,” Rodgers says. “As couples begin to dig deeper, instead of fighting over often ultimately silly issues, they move away from being locked into a negative perception of each other.

    "In our example, the wife thought her husband was a control freak. The husband thought she was inefficient and lazy. Through this exercise, they saw each other on a deeper level and realized that there were wounds and needs behind those requests. The deeper understanding gave them motivation to meet each other’s needs rather than locking horns. Now there is empathy and desire, which can grow passion. What once was a lifeless relationship on the brink is now a relationship with new life.”

    Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

    Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

    Inside, you'll find:

    • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
    • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
    • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
    • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
    • AND MORE!

    PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.


     



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    Secrets of Long-Term Marital Bliss

    In this culture of throw-away everything, many young people are shocked to meet a couple who has been married for more than 20 years. They often claim to have never met someone who has been married that long. Then they ask, “How did you do that, and why?”

    What helps couples experience long-term marriage?

    Lead researcher Dr. Robert Levenson at the University of California, Berkeley, along with Drs. John Gottman and Laura Carstensen, launched a longitudinal study of 156 middle-aged and older couples to gain a better understanding of the emotional quality of long-term marriages. Every five years, the couples came to the Berkeley campus to talk about their marriage. They specifically focused on areas of conflict in their relationship.

    Twenty-five years later, Levenson believes the research shows some significant findings.

    • The first 15 years of marriage can be challenging. But, the next stage of marriage gets better. Couples stop trying to do extreme makeovers on each other. They take pride in each other’s accomplishments. And, they learn to value and genuinely respect each other.
    • Many couples believe the absence of conflict is a positive thing for marriage. However, the research showed the best indicator of enjoying a long marriage isn’t the absence of conflict, but the way couples handle it.
    • Believe it or not, the wife’s ability to calm down quickly after an intense argument positively impacted the long-term happiness of the couple. Interestingly, the husband calming down quickly did not have the same impact. The research revealed that couples who say “we” stand a greater chance of resolving conflict.

    In case you're wondering about the major sources of conflict in marriage, the research demonstrated that communication or lack thereof often is the culprit. Husbands believe their wives don’t think they can do anything right and wives often feel emotionally alone. The other big bone of contention is children.

    Couples typically spend a lot of time taking childbirth classes and preparing the nursery. But, they usually spend little time preparing their marriage for parenthood. Issues arise concerning how to raise the child, division of the home workload and the husband feeling neglected.

    Here's another interesting find: Some portion of happy marriage has to do with our DNA.

    A gene that helps to regulate serotonin can predict how much our emotions affect our relationships. All humans inherit a copy of this gene variant. Some have a long version and others have a short version. Those with the short variant were more prone to unhappiness in marriage when negativity was present and happier when more positive emotions were present. Conversely, marital satisfaction of those with the long variant was less impacted by the emotional state of their marriage.

    The findings of this study give great information for couples. It's useful whether you're preparing for marriage, already in the midst of the first 15 or leaping into the second half of marriage. Even though people can’t change their DNA, everyone can learn communication and conflict management skills. With that said, the key to building a healthy long-term marriage is committing to be a lifelong learner.

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    Stop Trying to Fix It

    Perhaps you have seen the video It’s Not about the Nail that has millions of views on YouTube.

    As a couple sits on the couch, the female describes relentless pressure and pain in her head that won’t go away. While she vocalizes her frustration, the scene expands enough for the viewer to see a nail in her forehead.

    The male says to her, “You do have a nail in your head.”

    Her response? “It is not about the nail.”

    An argument ensues. She accuses him of not listening and of always trying to fix things when what she really wants is for him to listen. She continues to talk about how much pain she is in, how she is not sleeping well and that every sweater she has is snagged.

    He looks at her and says, “That sounds really hard.” Her facial expression softens and she reaches out to touch his hand as she realizes he feels her pain. She leans forward to kiss him, only to hit the nail in her head. Once more, he tells her she just needs to get the nail out of her head, and off to the races they go…again.

    Men are notorious for wanting to fix the problem, but women just want men to listen.

    Sound familiar? There probably isn’t a couple on the planet that can’t relate to this scenario. 

    If you have something so obvious like a nail in your head and you aren’t willing to listen to your spouse that is a problem, BUT not everything is that simple. Sometimes, not everything sticks out like a nail in the head, but guys try to fix it anyway. And, there are many instances when guys really do need to just listen.

    Did you know there are ways to bridge this communication divide? Here are some tips to help you communicate with the opposite sex.

    • Stop trying to change each other. Men tend to communicate with purpose to solve a problem. Women spend a lot of time communicating to bond and build relationship. Neither way is wrong.
    • Before starting a conversation with your husband, tell him what you want. Do you want him to just listen or do you want him to help solve the problem? Doing this could spare both of you a lot of agony.
    • In general, men tend to think things through before they talk. Instead of saying nothing is wrong because you aren’t ready to talk about it, tell her you aren’t ready to talk and give her a time when you will give her the download. Women, this is your cue to back off.
    • If you want to keep your husband’s attention, cut to the chase and be direct.
    • Learn to listen. Listening does not come naturally. It takes effort to focus on what someone is saying.
    • Avoid mindreading. Assuming you know what someone else is thinking can create a lot of unnecessary drama.

    Men, learn to look past the proverbial nail in the head. And ladies, don’t be so quick to dismiss a potential solution to your problem.

    Instead of getting irritated because your spouse doesn’t communicate just like you, take it as a challenge to learn how to engage and understand each other’s point of view. 


    Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

    Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

    Inside, you'll find:

    • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
    • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
    • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
    • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
    • AND MORE!

    PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.


     



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    3 Skills for Managing Conflict in Marriage

    Just weeks into their marriage, Sam and Ellen* were caught a bit off guard as their different perspectives about certain things became very real. While they had discussed many of the big potential areas of conflict - money, career, children and how they wanted to deal with their in-laws - the impact of the more “trivial” matters on their marriage surprised them.

    For example, things like socks on the floor, how to squeeze the toothpaste tube, how to do household chores, how to spend their downtime and even how to get to a certain location had become frequently intense conversations.

    It baffled the couple that these seemingly little things could have such a stranglehold on their marriage. The conflicts were affecting their relationship and neither one of them liked what they were experiencing.

    In reality, it is nearly impossible for two people with different upbringings to not have differences in perspective about many things. Truth be told, we are creatures of habit. In most instances, it is far less likely that a spouse intentionally leaves socks on the floor or squeezes the middle of the toothpaste tube just to get on your nerves. It’s far more likely to be what they have always done.

    So, how can you keep these seemingly minor issues from becoming major areas of conflict in your marriage?

    Parents teach their kids to stop, look and listen before crossing the street. But believe it or not, this is a really useful skill for managing conflict.

    • Stop. Before launching into a lecture or hissy fit, consider these things. Ask yourself if what you are about to say or do will be helpful to your relationship. What is your current state of mind - are you stressed, tired or hungry? These things can impact how intensely you feel about something at any given moment.
    • Look. First, look at your spouse and remember you are on the same team, not rivals. Then, examine the situation at hand and ask yourself if this is truly a big deal or really a matter of different preferences. Whether it is folding towels, loading the dishwasher or the current condition of your car’s interior, some things boil down to personal preference. Is pursuing a conversation about these things worth the cost? And, in looking at the big picture of living life together, will you choose to place your focus on these areas?
    • Listen. Instead of assuming your spouse couldn’t possibly have a reasonable explanation for why they do something a certain way, seek to understand their perspective before telling them why your way makes the most sense. It could help you avoid a lot of unnecessary drama. Even when you truly believe you are right, is it really necessary to prove it?

    Undoubtedly, there are legitimate times for some hard discussions. Moving past those little irritations, however, will require you to think carefully about how you manage those conflicts. After you have walked through stop, look and listen, think about these things:

    • Considering how much time we have together, is this matter worthy of our precious time and energy?
    • Why does this particular issue get under my skin?
    • Am I willing to sacrifice our relationship for this issue?

    Most couples say their relationship is what matters most to them. What tends to trip them up is mistakenly making the minor things the major ones. In many instances, it’s better for your marriage if you agree to disagree and get on with enjoying life together.