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How to Stop Sibling Arguments

They can learn a lot in the process.

When each of my sons was born, I was ecstatic to add another person to our family. I thought about things we would do together, like buying matching outfits and taking family photos or trips together. I clearly remember one trip in particular. The boys were 11, 6, and 3. As we were driving to Florida, I heard my 3-year-old mumbling to his 6-year-old brother, “Stop touching me.” The mumble went to a yell, “STOP TOUCHING ME!!!” I was at a loss for words, but I was able to quell that disagreement. However, it was the beginning of what I call the “Rumbling Years,” that time where it seemed like every interaction between the boys escalated into sibling arguments. 

You may be experiencing the same thing with your kids. Perhaps they’re constantly arguing, hitting each other (or on the verge of it), or even ignoring their siblings. You may feel like you’re at your wits’ end. If so, you are not alone. 

These tips can help you make it through your own “rumbling years.”

Remember that it’s normal for siblings to argue.

Let’s be honest. There’s no way to stop or prevent all sibling arguments. Arguments or disagreements are just a part of life. At home, within the family is the correct place for your children to learn how to handle conflict appropriately. Think of your home as the training ground for how your kids will handle conflict throughout their lives.

Help them learn how to handle conflict – it’s a necessary life skill.

Conflict is something that everyone deals with. You may or may not like dealing with conflict, but it’s a part of our lives. As your children grow up, handling conflict is a vital life skill. To handle conflict in a healthy way, your child will utilize the following skills: 

  • NEGOTIATING. Suppose your kids are arguing over who is using the family computer. In that case, you come in and make a declaration about who uses it when. You have just prevented your children from learning how to negotiate a schedule devised by them. Think about it this way: If there were visiting grandparents and the same scenario arose, would you be there to solve the problem for them? No. Instead, teach them to solve the problem for themselves.  
  • HOW TO AGREE TO DISAGREE WITHOUT BEING DISAGREEABLE. Some issues may not be fully resolved. The best solution may be to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Yes, that sounds silly, but your child won’t get their way all the time. Help them learn that it’s ok to disagree with their sibling while still treating them with love, respect, and compassion.

Establish your rules of engagement.

There will be times when parents need to step in, especially if the disagreement has turned physical. There are times when the best thing to do is let your children work through the conflict on their own. Don’t overreact to their arguments. Remember when they fell as they learned to walk? If you reacted, they did, too. If you were calm, they were subdued. It’s the same with sibling disagreements. You can calmly say, “If you are going to argue, please do so in your own room.” (They may look at you strangely, especially if they are accustomed to your intervention.)

Acknowledge that their arguments make you uncomfortable.

I remember my mother asking me, as the oldest, “Why don’t you and your brother get along?” She went on to say, “My older brother took care of me. Why can’t you do that for your brother?” My mother was well-intentioned, but she was placing the interactions she had with her brother on me and my brother. Has that happened to you? My mother’s fear was that we (my brother and I) wouldn’t be close as adults based on our sibling arguments. Is that a concern of yours?

You are stressed and tired of acting like the referee. And it seems that your children are at each other’s throats all the time. Nevertheless, remain calm, knowing that this time in life teaches both you and your children lessons about patience and compromise. In the end, you all learn that conflict doesn’t have to ruin relationships going forward.

Other blogs you might find helpful:

How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse

These six skills can transform your relationship.

What would the world be like without good communication? 

Airports would be a complete wreck (figuratively and literally). 

Kids couldn’t learn reading, writing, ’rithmetic, and computer coding. 

The barista at Starbucks would write a completely different name on my cup for my order. (Okay, well, that happens anyway.) 

Not to mention… marriage would be chaotic! 

Fortunately, communication in marriage isn’t some tricky thing that some people have, and some don’t. It’s a skill that you, me, and everyone else can practice and improve. 

Here are six of the most crucial skills you can use to communicate better with your spouse: 

1. Practice the art of listening well. 

Listening well means seeking to understand. It’s putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes. 

Seek to understand their point of view. And know that just because it’s not the same as yours doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. 

Repeat back to your spouse what you heard. This lets them confirm you heard them correctly or restate what they meant using other words. 

2. Ask lots of questions. 

The ultimate goal of healthy communication in marriage is to connect. Be curious for the sake of knowing your husband or wife better and how you can strengthen your relationship.

Ask questions to: 

  • Explore: What was it like growing up in your household?
  • Clarify: Am I right in saying you don’t like surprises because…? 
  • Draw out: Can you tell me more about how you feel when the barista gets your name wrong? 
  • Know how to be more compassionate: What can I do to help you feel more relaxed right now? 

Oh, and don’t forget to validate what you hear, even if it’s different from what you’d say! 

3. Go deeper in your communication. 

Communication can be shallow: My day was good. How was yours? I’m kinda tired. Tomorrow is Friday…

Nothin’ wrong with that. It’s just that way sometimes. But marriage can’t thrive in the shallow end of the pool; it has to take deeper dives. 

Your spouse is a complex person (in a good way!). So are you. The joy of marital communication is exploring and appreciating these complexities for what they are. 

And this takes deeper conversations about feelings, opinions, shortcomings, goals, hopes, needs, past experiences, and future dreams. 

4. Practice vulnerability.

Being vulnerable means showing more of who you are. Which means opening yourself up. And that takes trust, which is vital for a healthy marriage. 

Healthy communication is the treadmill that exercises the muscles of vulnerability. 

Showing vulnerability in deeper communication might be uncomfortable. Talk about that with your spouse. Why does it make you feel that way? What can your spouse do to help you feel more at ease and willing to be more vulnerable? 

Keep in mind that building trust through vulnerability requires affirming each other’s opinions—even if they’re different. Respect each other’s differences, and these kinds of conversations can totally help strengthen your relationship. 

5. Practice often.

Schedule times to talk and connect with each other on deeper levels, even if it’s for just a few minutes. The average couple communicates for only 20 minutes a week; choose not to be average. 

6. Learn to work through conflict well.

Disagreements are gonna happen. That’s part of marriage. But how you communicate through disagreements makes all the difference. And if you communicate better with your spouse, that’s a game-changer.

Attack the issue instead of each other. Be solution-driven. Remember, You. Are. A. Team. Establish your Rules to Fight Right: no name-calling, yelling, walking out on each other, bringing up past issues, etc. (You know what I’m talkin’ about.) 

(For more easy-to-use resources, check out How to Improve Bad Communication in Marriage and 6 Ways Poor Communication Can Affect Your Marriage.)

No matter what, remember communication is a process.  Learning communication skills doesn’t mean you’ll get it right all the time. 

Miscommunication will happen. Give yourselves a break and keep on truckin’ to better communicate with your spouse anyway. Look to these resources to practice: 4 Communication Exercises for Married Couples and 3 Great Dates to Enhance Communication in Marriage. Because working on healthy communication leads to a thriving marriage. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How to Keep the Election from Ruining Your Marriage

You may feel differently about politics, but that doesn't have to change how you feel about each other.

Finally. After endless campaign ads, talking heads, polls and vote counting, the election is over. Now you’ve gotta figure out how to move forward and keep the election from ruining your marriage, especially if you live in a house divided.

One of you may be gloating over your candidate’s victory. But your spouse is licking his or her wounds, wondering how the nation will survive the next four years.

You CAN Keep the Election from Ruining Your Marriage

There’s probably an elephant or a donkey in the room nobody really wants to talk about. How will you navigate marriage in the midst of big political differences?

  • First word of advice: be nice and kind. When our kids start playing sports, most parents drill into their kids, “Nobody likes a sore loser and nobody likes a gloating winner.” You can feel strongly about your stance and still be generous in the way you love and care for one another.
  • Remember that your spouse is a multifaceted human being. Rarely do we look at a person and decide we can’t get along with them based on one aspect of who they are. 
  • Make a list of all the qualities you love about your spouse so that on the particularly challenging days you can refer to it. Let it remind you there’s a difference in how you feel about politics and how you feel about your spouse.
  • Make sure you’re having more positive than negative interactions when you are together. Research indicates a ratio of five positives for every one negative will keep your relationship in the green zone.
  • If you’ve been able to have civil conversation about politics in the past, but feel like things are too electrically charged right now, set some boundaries around what you will and will not have conversations about.
  • Be intentional about making time for fun together. Doing things you both enjoy together typically brings about smiles, laughter and playfulness between the two of you. On the inside your brain is releasing dopamine, known as the “feel-good” hormone. It boosts your mood and makes you want to spend more time together because you associate that time with your spouse in positive ways and you want to repeat it.
  • Guard against taking his or her political perspective as a personal affront against you. Family, religion and region of the country where they were raised are all factors contributing to a person’s political leanings. It likely has nothing to do with you, so your best move is to not engage.
  • Focus on what you DO have in common. It’s just human nature to pay attention to what divides you, but it’s really in the best interest of your marriage to consider all you agree on. Chances are great there is more that unites you than divides you in your relationship. 

When you get down to it, you probably both want what’s best for our country; you just disagree on what exactly that is and the best way to get there. It’s likely true you both want what’s best for your relationship, too. Keep in mind, while elections come and go, you married each other for the long haul. When your marriage matters more than who wins or loses in the election, your marriage becomes the winning team.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

#cancelled #cancelculture #RIP

If you pay attention to the news, you know this is a thing. Cancel culture promotes the “canceling” of people, celebrities and public figures because their beliefs are thought to be offensive or problematic. In other words, a group of people comes together to ruin the reputation and livelihood of someone who has views they don’t agree with.

On the surface, this may seem like a good thing. But if you peel back the onion a bit, you might think twice about whether or not it’s a good thing, especially when it comes to relationships.

Here’s an example of how it works in real life. A few weeks ago, screenwriter and television producer Amy Berg shared headshots of Chris Evans, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt and Chris Hemsworth and stated, “One has to go.” In no time, her Tweet went viral with many saying #RIPChrisPratt. 

Since the beginning of time, people have had differing opinions about politics, religion, the importance of a college education, how to raise children, money and plenty of other topics. What’s different today is the way people choose to deal with those who don’t think the same way. If you don’t agree with my perspective, you are #cancelled and basically cease to play any kind of relevant role in my life.

In many instances, cancel culture has silenced conversations between friends, co-workers and family because it seems impossible to have a civil conversation about a topic you feel strongly about and still walk away as friends.

Some may think that cancel culture is a new thing that has come along with social media, but it’s not. It just has a platform that didn’t exist before.

Yale research psychologist Irving L. Janis first used the term “groupthink” in 1972, defining it as when people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group even if they actually disagree or have doubts about the perspective. 

Research repeatedly has shown us that “groupthink” is very dangerous. Instead of saying what they really believe, some people will remain silent because they don’t want to risk rocking the boat or in this day and time—being #cancelled. 

Symptoms of groupthink include: perceived inability to be wrong, justifying a group’s decisions based on the supposed majority opinion, stereotyping opposing perspectives and creating barriers to alternative views or information that doesn’t support their way of thinking.

Cancel culture impacts relationships. Can we build relationships instead of canceling them?

Instead of canceling people out, let’s be respectful even in our differences because we all have something to offer.

  • Encourage conversation with people who have different opinions than yours. 
  • Focus on trying to understand where others are coming from instead of only trying to change their mind. This can help people feel heard and valued, even if you don’t agree with them. Wouldn’t you want to be treated the same way?
  • Ask questions—not in a third-degree way, but out of curiosity and wanting to learn more. 
  • Be willing to share your perspective without coming across as though your way is the only correct line of thinking.
  • Stay curious. Nobody has all the answers. There is richness in spending time with people who have differing ideas about how to solve a problem. It’s been said: two heads are better than one. That’s because many times what comes out of brainstorming together is much better than what one person can come up with on their own.

Whether we are talking cancel culture or groupthink, bullying people into agreement or attempting to shame someone for what they think doesn’t build relationships. It doesn’t change anything, either. Instead, it tears people down and creates division. Hanging with people who think and act just like you might be comforting initially, but consider this—in the end, your perspective could be wrong.

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Why Do Couples Stop Talking?

Get 10 ways to spark more conversation.

When you got married, did you imagine endless conversations and an unending exchange of thoughts, ideas, dreams, and emotions? Fast forward a few years down the road and now you find yourself sitting in the bed or eating a meal together in sheer silence, feeling disconnected from each other…

Finding yourself in this place isn’t that unusual. Many couples experience times in their marriage where the talking to each other seems to stop. However, like anything else in marriage, conversations do take a little extra intentionality than when you first began. To start talking again, it helps to understand some of the reasons you may have stopped talking in the first place.

Here are 10 reasons couples stop talking and a few ways you can spark the conversations again:

1. You’re just out of words.

It’s easy to run out of things to talk about. At times it’s okay not to be talking each other’s ears off.

The ebbs and flows of marriage will often self-correct this situation. Conversation starters can begin casual conversations that get you below the surface and learning new things about your spouse. Sometimes sitting and simply enjoying each other’s presence, taking a stroll down memory lane, or embarking on new adventures all aid toward a new batch of conversation.

2. You’re tired and busy.

Life stacks up, and all of a sudden you find yourself lying in bed at the end of the day too exhausted to connect. 

Stop, take a timeout, gain control of your schedule, and consider your priorities. Give yourselves the margin to gain your energy back and reconnect again.

3. You’re tired of having the same conversation over and over again with no resolution.

You know the argument… the one that never ends and neither of you can seem to agree or feel heard. You both feel like your feelings are being invalidated. This affects anything else you talk about, causing tension to build. Instead of saying the same things over and over, you choose to remain silent.

Giving attention to make sure you’re addressing the real issue and not just the symptoms may be the first step in removing the roadblock to your communication.

4. You live separate lives.

You work, exercise, talk to your set of friends, and golf. Your partner works, is a wine-tasting connoisseur, talks to their set of friends, and plays video games. You’re not sharing time, experiences, or interests.

Begin doing something together: cooking, hiking, puzzles, learning a new skill together, etc. It sparks conversations, creates memories, and cultivates curiosity in your relationship..  

5. There’s a lack of emotional safety in your relationship.

You don’t feel cared for or like you matter. When you do share, you feel judged, misunderstood, criticized, or dismissed. To prevent experiencing the sense of rejection, you shut down.

Have an open, honest conversation about how you’re made to feel when you share. Gently give specifics about comments made or expressions that hurt. Share with your spouse what an emotionally safe space feels like.

6. No one is taking the first step.

Neither of you wants the responsibility of initiating a conversation about what may be causing the lack of communication.

Choose to take the lead in meaningful conversation. Just like leading a dance, when one person leads, the other typically falls into rhythm and follows along.

7. Technology has taken over.

Distracted by the phone, social media, and all the technology trappings? 

Consider phone-free and tech-free time just for the two of you to connect.

8. You’re ignoring the elephant in the room.

There’s a topic that needs to be brought out in the open, and it’s causing the potential for any other point of connection to be shut down. 

There’s only one solution for this: have the hard conversation; but, make a commitment to discuss it in a healthy,  respectful way. Remember to affirm each other’s opinions and feelings. 

9. One of you is an introvert and the other is an extrovert.

If an extroverted partner doesn’t leave room for the introvert to talk… pretty soon, the introvert just gives up.

Discuss each other’s communication styles and how you can ensure that both of you have your thoughts and feelings heard and understood. 

10. There is anger or unresolved conflict present.

Something has happened in the past which causes you or your spouse pain. And this pain short-circuits any kind of meaningful conversation you could have with your spouse. 

Whatever has happened needs to be addressed in a safe environment. Each person’s pain needs to be validated. Seeking professional help may be the best option. 

There are lots of reasons why couples stop talking, but you don’t want this to become the norm. You are always in the process of either connecting or disconnecting in marriage; there’s no such thing as maintaining the status quo. Reflect back on why you married your spouse in the first place and become a student of your spouse; there is always more to learn about them, and therefore, always more to talk about. 

Understanding the reason you stopped talking in the first place can be the first step to reconnecting again. Ironically, talking together about why you aren’t talking can be the start of a beautiful dance. The goal to reconnect on a deeper level just might be, at the moment, the one thing both of you can talk about.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

Much of your talk with your spouse is “business” talk. Sure, it’s stuff that has to be discussed so things run smoothly around the house day to day, but you really wish you had more meaningful conversations with your spouse. How do you move from “business” talk to deeper, meaningful conversations about your marriage, the health of your family, feelings, needs, and hopes? Meaningful conversations build intimacy and keep you and your spouse connected. 

You need them and you definitely can have them!

Let’s look at the common roadblocks to meaningful conversations and how to remove them.

Roadblock 1. Busyness. 

Conversations have a better chance of being meaningful if you and your spouse aren’t tired, distracted, or constantly interrupted. Pick a good time to talk. You may have to schedule some talk-time or get on a regular date-night schedule. Build margin into your day—maybe you both get up a little earlier so you can talk over breakfast or coffee. Maybe you go to bed a little earlier than usual so there is time for some pillow talk. Try having some “phone-free” zones set up in your day and week. Get out of “survival mode” and don’t let your day “happen to you.”

Bottom Line: Be intentional. Carve out time for meaningful conversation to happen.

Roadblock 2. Nobody Is Leading.

Take the lead in guiding conversations to deeper levels. They say there are usually three levels to typical conversations: 

(3.) Talking about people. (Co-workers, friends, the kids, neighbors.) 

(2.) Talking about events. (The news, the kids’ soccer games, what happened at work.) 

(1.) Talking about ideas. (Feelings, needs, dreams, expectations, frustrations.)

Someone has to step up and make sure that conversations get down to Level 1. This might involve you being transparent, vulnerable, and opening up. Your spouse might meet you there. 

Bottom Line: Be patient and keep setting the example by modeling the behavior you want to see more often. Here are 200 conversation starters for couples to take you deeper.

Roadblock 3. You’ve Had The Same Conversation A Million Times.

This is very common. You’re not alone. Some couples just kinda run out of stuff to talk about and they default to, “How was your day… whatcha got going on this week… anything new at work?” This can become a little cliché. (The answers, by the way, are “Good… the usual… no.”)

YOU NEED NEW STUFF TO TALK ABOUT! Consider taking up a hobby together. Have a book club just between the two of you. Start listening to some podcasts, TED Talks, or audiobooks. 

Bottom Line: Stretch yourself. Be a lifelong learner and you’ll find more meaningful things to talk about.

Roadblock 4. Not Having Family Meetings or Regular Check-In Times.

Write this down: Sunday Nights @ 8:30. This is the time set aside for you and your spouse to check in with each other and keep your fingers on the pulse of your marriage. Take turns talking and listening to each other. No interrupting. The speaker can air whatever is on their heart. (Pro-Tip: Use “I” Statements instead of “You Statements.” “I feel – I need – I think…” This usually goes over better than, “You always… you never… your mother…”) BONUS: Use this time to decide if you need to call a family meeting and what you need to talk about during it

Bottom Line: Again, prioritize the time. Put it on the schedule. You will be having a healthy, two-way dialogue about meaningful things in no time.

Roadblock 5. You Need To Improve Your Listening Skills

There. I said it. Do you and your spouse not have meaningful conversations because you dominate the conversation, interrupt, make it all about you, or don’t give your spouse your full attention? Are you more of a “talker” and your spouse is more of a “listener?” Are you the extrovert and your spouse is more introverted? All of this will impact the quality of your conversations. Learn “active listening skills.” Ask open-ended questions. Become curious about your spouse. (Check out this article on active listening skills—especially the Six Levels of Listening.) Are you an external processor—you need to talk to figure out what you think? Is your spouse an internal processor—they need to think for a while to figure out what to say? 

Bottom Line: Notice the differences in how you both communicate and respect those differences. There is no one right way.

Roadblock 6. Avoidance

Is there an issue or incident that has caused you or your spouse to clam up? Maybe there was a major breach of trust, someone may have done something incredibly hurtful, a fight or argument may have never been settled, or there is a major issue you both know you completely disagree on and frequently fight about. Avoidance is not allowing conversations to reach a meaningful level because it might go there. It might stir an issue back up with all of its associated emotions.

If you want meaningful conversations, you are both going to have to face this and deal with it constructively to the satisfaction of each of you. After this hurdle, meaningful conversations should start flowing again.

Bottom Line: If it were that easy, you probably would have dealt with it by now. It might be time to call in the pros and let a reputable, qualified marriage counselor guide you both through this process.

★ Look, here’s the thing, you and your spouse might have huge differences in your definitions of “meaningful.” This might be where you need to start. Here comes a big fat fancy word: “metacommunication.” It just means “talking about talking.” All you might need is to have a talk about how you talk. Come up with a shared definition of “meaningful.” Talk about both of your communication needs and expectations. Check it out—you’re having a meaningful conversation!

Further Reading

KEYS TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE

COMMUNICATION KILLERS

HOW TO INCREASE COMMUNICATION IN YOUR HOME

6 WAYS POOR COMMUNICATION CAN AFFECT YOUR MARRIAGE

3 GREAT DATES TO ENHANCE COMMUNICATION IN YOUR MARRIAGE

THE MAGIC OF COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE E-BOOK

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

What if I told you that your perception of your spouse—whether you see them in a positive or negative light—determines your total marriage satisfaction both now and in the future? 

And then, what if I said your perception of your spouse is something you have the power to determine? 

It doesn’t take much to put us on a track where we see everything our spouse does or says as negative. Perception is our reality and it picks up momentum. It’s like the proverbial snowball that begins rolling down a hill. One annoyance, one disagreement, one little thing your spouse says that rubs you the wrong way can cause a perpetually growing snowball of thinking the worst of your spouse.

Of course, at times bigger things are at play, especially if there’s been a major incident that compromises the trust of your marriage. But assuming these incidents are fewer and farther in between, it’s safe to say that a negative outlook on your spouse is something that reinforces itself over time. 

It turns out, the way spouses perceive each other has so much to do with both present and future marital satisfaction. In a recent groundbreaking study, Samantha Joel and Paul Eastwick, in collaboration with many other researchers, found that what mattered most in a happy, healthy marriage included perceived partner commitment (which ranked top of the list), appreciation for one’s partner, and perceived partner satisfaction. In other words, if I believe my spouse is truly committed to and happy with our marriage, and if I appreciate them (and if they feel the same way), then our chances for marital satisfaction are much, much greater. 

Fine. Wonderful. But what if I don’t perceive my spouse in these ways? 

Then there is some work to do. But the good news is, with diligence and perseverance, it’s possible to change your perception. 

Below are seven ways to stop assuming the worst about your spouse. But one caveat needs to be made before working through these: changing your perspective is a mental exercise. And like any exercise, it needs to be practiced consistently before you start seeing results. 

  • Ask: What led you to start assuming the worst about your spouse? Can you narrow it down to an incident or a season of life? What was going on during that time? Were you experiencing feelings of stress, sadness, anger, grief, or pain? Reflecting on what started the snowball can shed light on the origins of negative thoughts and provide a frame of reference for how to change them. Even if you can’t pinpoint how the negative thoughts started, you can still work to change them.
  • Practice gratitude. Research has shown that when we consciously consider all that we are thankful for and express that gratitude, our emotional and relational health improves. So ask yourself: What are the qualities I truly appreciate about my spouse? What positive contributions do they make to our relationship? And then, thank them. Express your thankfulness to them on a daily basis. It might help to keep a daily gratitude log, with each day’s entry simply finishing the sentence, “Today I am thankful for my spouse because…Exercising gratitude is a very significant tool for eliminating negative thoughts about your spouse
  • Change the climate of your relationship. Make it your mission to connect more with your spouse. Create opportunities for simply being together, having calm, easygoing conversations, laughing and joking. Here’s a great idea: Ask your spouse out on a date. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but put effort into it and romance your spouse. Regular doses of courtship and connection can help change a negative perception and help you stop assuming the worst about your spouse. 
  • Keep your own health in check. Many times negative thoughts (about anything) emerge from the fact that we aren’t taking care of ourselves, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. And then those negative thoughts quickly find a target, usually the person closest to us. Adopt a lifestyle of self-care. Eat clean, get plenty of sleep, and get in some regular physical activity. Get outside more and absorb some sunshine. 
  • Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Stimulate your thinking with books, articles, or educational videos. Throw away negative self-talk and mental put-downs, and start affirming yourself. Keep in mind that these aren’t just shallow, feel-good therapeutics. Self-care is a lifestyle that can improve your relationship with your spouse.
  • Avoid negative talk, exaggerated talk, and the comparison game. All three of these serve to push that snowball of negative thinking faster and faster down the hill. Do everything you can to withhold negative comments, name-calling, and hostile sarcasm, even in the face of conflict. Practice healthy conflict-resolution techniques and take a time-out when necessary. Avoid using phrases such as You never… or You always… And be especially careful not to measure your spouse up against the people you see on television or social media. Those images don’t reflect reality (even on reality shows), which means your spouse would never be able to win that comparison game. 
  • Avoid scorekeeping. One sure-fire way of growing the negative-thought snowball is to keep reflecting back on all the wrongs and annoyances (no matter how big or small) that your spouse has committed in the past. And if you want to make matters even worse, keep reminding them of those wrongdoings. But, if you want to stop assuming the worst about your spouse, practice forgiveness, let the past go, and move on. This does not mean you don’t learn from the past or simply forget it. It does mean you choose not to let past events control the lens through which you see your spouse.
  • Practice empathy. A good bit of research tells us that the practicing empathy does a lot for relationship health and how we think of our spouse. Empathy helps you to consider what it’s like to be in your spouse’s shoes, to take on their feelings, and spark compassionate action. This keeps your negative assumptions and thoughts toward your spouse in check. When you begin to think the worst about your spouse, stop and seek to understand what’s going on in their mind and heart at the moment. 

I’m not going to lie. Trying to stop assuming the worst of your spouse isn’t easy. Sometimes it feels more like trying to stop an avalanche rather than a snowball. But if you make a regular practice of the above exercises—not just try them out, but dive into them with grit and determination—you’ll place yourself well on the road to changing your perspective and boosting your marriage satisfaction to the next level. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Too much of anything can become a bad thing. We need moderation to keep the balance in our relationships, self-talk, marriages, and so on. Asking the question “Is negativity hurting my marriage?” shows some great self-awareness and motivation to figure out how negativity can affect relationships.

What are you working with?

  1. Do you or your spouse see what hasn’t been done when you get home first?
  2. Do you see more things you or your spouse can improve on than what you or they are doing right?
  3. When things are tough, do you or your spouse feel like it’s only going to get worse?
  4. Do you or your spouse talk down about each other to other people?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, let’s see if there’s a perspective shift you can lean into so we can replace some negativity with positivity!

In an article for Thriveworks, Taylor Bennett interviewed Matthew Solomon, a Love and Happiness Coach who specializes in relationships, communication, and negativity and why it’s important to be aware of it.

Here’s his advice on how to confront the negativity.

1. Acknowledge the negative mindset. 

If you’re this far into the blog, chances are you’re being proactive or looking for a way to deal with the negativity in your marriage. Acknowledging is the first step for really any issue you may face. No one can fix a problem or meet an expectation they don’t know is there. By being mindful of what’s happening between you and your spouse, you’re setting yourself up to take the next step.

2. Understand the why behind negative thoughts.

Psychological research shows negativity bias can explain why we have an aptitude to see the negative more easily. 

Earlier in human history, paying attention to bad, dangerous, and negative threats in the world was literally a matter of life and death. Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive.” 

In another article by The Atlantic, researchers, led by Geraldine Downey, address negativity’s impact on a marriage and whether a marriage is successful. 

They found that people who are insecure were more likely to act negatively out of their sense of protection from rejection. “Their own fear of rejection no doubt intensified the distress they felt, because for them an argument wasn’t just about a specific issue but a sign of deep problems and an ominous signal that the relationship was in jeopardy.” 

You don’t want to just survive your marriage, you want to thrive in it. However, to thrive, you have to do more than see the negativity that’s hurting your marriage; you must overcome it, find the root of what is causing the spiral, and slow it down so it doesn’t take the good parts down with it. 

3. Choose new thoughts that benefit you (and your spouse).

When you want the best for yourself and your spouse, it takes an active willingness and effort to improve. Some great ways to get yourself in the mindset (and with time, habit) of seeing the good, positive things are by choosing to do things to serve your marriage. 

Try implementing these tips into your marriage:

  • Do not take negativity personally.
  • If your spouse rejects your offers of help, it’s okay.
  • Spend time with positive people who are for your marriage.
  • Invite your spouse to do some fun activity with you at least once a week.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s positive accomplishments and efforts.
  • Encourage your partner to try new things.

Sometimes it’s hard finding the right words to say or refraining from saying things you want to say, but know negativity won’t help in the long run—and acknowledging that some work still needs to be done is okay. If we’re honest with ourselves, anything worth having takes time, energy, and practice. A healthy, happy marriage is worth having. Have the tough conversations, try to stay positive, and celebrate the little wins as you reach them!

Additional Resources:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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