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Arguments can feel like a chess match. You both strategically state your case like seasoned lawyers, presenting key evidence to prove you are right. Other times it’s more like a boxing match, verbally duking it out, and sometimes coming away emotionally cut and bruised. 

Disagreements happen in marriage. It’s normal. But there are healthy and unhealthy ways to go about an argument. Both chess and boxing matches have rules that guide the fairest, safest way to determine the outcome. No eye pokes. Don’t throw your chess pieces or give your opponent a wedgie. 

Marital disagreements are the same way. Ground rules are essential to be sure your disagreements lead to a positive outcome.

Here are eight things you should never do during an argument with your spouse. 

1. Never take your focus off the problem at hand.

Arguments are about issues to be solved, but they often become attacks on each other’s character. Don’t let it get there. Focus on finding a solution, not fixing your spouse.   

2. Never listen to argue your point.

Instead, listen to understand where your spouse is coming from. Put yourself in their shoes. When you both invest in each other’s feelings, thoughts, and ideas, you can create solutions for the disagreement together. And you can’t do that without listening to your spouse for better understanding. 

3. Never say words like “never” or “always.”

You never do such-and-such… You always say or do this… These are exaggerated and accusatory statements. And they imply that a person needs fixing but will never be able to change their behavior. Instead, use “I” statements and say what you observe. For example, I sometimes see you doing this, and it makes me feel this way…

4. Never bring up old stuff.

Churning up what your spouse said at that party five years ago or the dumb thing they did back when you were dating doesn’t work toward a solution for the problem right now. You want to attack the problem, not your spouse. Keeping score attacks the person instead of the problem. And that’s counterproductive. 

5. Never call names.

It doesn’t resolve anything, and it’s just plain mean. Name-calling only separates you and your spouse even more. If calling names is a habit, throw it out the window. 

6. Never throw around the word “divorce,” also known as the “D” word.

It’s manipulative, and it doesn’t help you find any kind of solution. Maybe if we divorced, that’d show you… if this keeps up, we might need to separate… Unless you’re actually willing to go through with it, don’t use it to win an argument.

7. Never, ever intimidate, manipulate, or threaten.

That qualifies as emotional and verbal abuse, and it’s never a good thing. No one deserves that kind of treatment. (Read 

How to Be An Emotionally Safe Spouse.)

8. NEVER get physically aggressive with your spouse.

Hitting, spitting, slapping, pushing, punching, pinching, or any other type of physical abuse is totally unacceptable. Don’t go there.

Have a good discussion with your spouse and determine the ground rules you’ll follow to have healthy arguments. Use the ones above, and add more of your own — anything to help you attack and resolve the issue without attacking each other. Write your ground rules down, stick them on the fridge, and put them in plain sight. 

One last thing: the whole chess/boxing metaphor only goes so far in showing the importance of ground rules. But after that, it falls short. You see, in marriage, arguments aren’t a competition. You and your spouse aren’t opponents, even when you disagree. There’s only one winner in chess and boxing matches. In marriage, when one side wins, no one wins. Follow the ground rules, focus on the solution, and you’ll both be winners. 

Other helpful blogs:

Held Hostage by Anger: 6 Steps to STOP an Argument

Is It Good To Fight In Marriage?

Help! My Spouse and I Can’t Stop Fighting!

Why Do Couples Fight?

***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.***

Help! We Just Had a Baby and Now We Can’t Stop Fighting

You can have a strong, healthy marriage, even if you fight sometimes.

Having a new baby is amazing. And amazingly exhausting. You can always tell which parents have a newborn. They’re excited, but you can see the stress in their eyes. We’ve been there. When our son was born, he rocked our world. At times, we were so stressed and tired that the slightest frustration triggered an argument. And arguments, when you’re both exhausted, are dangerous. Here’s a secret, though: After having a baby, many couples can’t stop fighting. It’s not just you. All new parents experience high levels of stress and frustration.

Those first few months are filled with sleepless nights, hectic schedules, and disrupted routines. Not to mention you’re both figuring out how to balance work, family, chores, and grandparents. It’s no surprise that new parents experience high levels of stress. And high levels of stress often lead to arguments. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Parenting isn’t stress-free (sorry to burst that bubble), but you can reduce stress and manage it. 

How can you lessen the stress (and fight less) after having a baby? 

Communicate often.

It’s common for new parents to feel like they aren’t communicating with each other. Communication doesn’t have to be complex at this stage. Make sure to take a few minutes each day and talk to each other. Talk about your needs, emotions, struggles, and listen to each other. 

Don’t assume.

Assuming is dangerous, and it leads to frustration. But it’s so easy when you are both tired. Talk to each other, ask questions, and voice any concerns.

Apologize when you see you made a mistake.

If you’re in the wrong, own it. We all make mistakes, especially when we’re tired.

Don’t play the blame game.

When you both are stressed and arguing over something, don’t fall into the blame game. Own your mistakes, voice your concerns, but don’t turn it into a contest of who has made the most mistakes. 

When things get heated, take a break.

Sometimes the healthiest thing to do is walk away from an argument. You don’t want to say something that will cause far more damage in the long term. 

  • Address the issue at hand. Solve one problem at a time.

Tackle whatever the problem is that led to the fighting and come to an agreed-upon solution.

How do you reconnect?

Be intentional about talking for at least 5 minutes a day.

Schedules are hectic when a newborn is in the picture. It’s easy for time with your spouse to take a backseat. Set aside time to talk and reconnect.

Give at least two compliments or expressions of gratitude every day. You look great today. Thanks for taking care of ______. I appreciate all your help with ________. 

Expressing gratitude improves your physical health, reduces aggression, and increases your mental strength.

Be intentional about connecting with your spouse.

In the first few months of parenting, newborns own your schedule. But you can still connect with your spouse. When your baby is napping, it may be more important to sit and talk to each other than clean the kitchen.

Keep your marriage at the forefront of your relationship.

John Medina, a molecular biologist and author, was once asked, “How do I get my child into Harvard?” His answer, “Go home, love your spouse well and create a stable environment for your child.” One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a healthy, stable (not perfect) home.

If you just had a baby and you can’t stop fighting, remember that parenting is tough, but it’s fantastic. These last eight years as a parent have been some of the best moments of my life. You and your spouse can have a strong, healthy marriage, even if you fight from time to time. Put your marriage first and provide the best possible home for your child you can. 

Other helpful blogs:

Is It Good To Fight In Marriage?

10 Rules To “Fight Nice” With Your Spouse

Help! We fight about money all the time…

Should We Fight In Front Of The Kids?

How to Fight in Front of the Kids

Here’s the thing, whether you’ve been married for five years or 50, you are still two unique people from different backgrounds with varied life experiences. Each of you has different ingrained likes and dislikes, unique communication styles and approaches to conflict, mismatched habits, and even tiny little quirks and idiosyncrasies. You’re two “I’s.”

You are gonna disagree, argue, and, yes, even fight sometimes.

That might sound like a strange thing to say, but if you are invested in your marriage and you want it to grow, you know there will be some growing pains that have to be worked through. The enemy of a good marriage is a ho-hum marriage where people go through the motions on a daily basis with no real emotion and motivation to do anything any different. 

3 Benefits Of Fighting in Your Marriage. 

  1. You Build Trust. When you realize that your spouse will listen to your needs respectfully and make good-faith efforts to meet them, trust goes through the roof! 
  2. You Move Forward When You Don’t Hold Back. When both of you understand that you can be real, genuine, open, and transparent with each other and it is totally safe, your relationship will grow by leaps and bounds. You will reach new levels of intimacy.
  3. You Know Where You Stand With Each Other. So many couples attribute thoughts, motives, and feelings to each other and end up reacting to non-existent phantoms instead of their spouse. When you fight well with each other, it’s all on the table. And that’s a good thing!

Some people are intimidated by change (and their spouse) and they are fine to go along to get along. Some spouses are comfortable making all the decisions. But when it comes to finances, parenting, sex, and other topics, the marriage is at its best when BOTH spouses are bold and honest, and bring their differences to the table and work through them. This is what it means to be a TEAM.

The intimidated, conflict-avoidant spouse may have to learn to speak up. The intimidating, conflict-dominant spouse may need to sharpen those listening skills quietly.

There is no medal for the most passive spouse. You may be bottling-up tensions, disagreements, hurt feelings, unmet needs, and unfulfilled expectations, and all the “little things” that accrue during years of marriage which are far more dangerous for your health and the health of your marriage. Stuffing it all down, ignoring it, or pretending everything is okay eventually leads to acidic bitterness, corrosive resentment, and a sense of entitlement to go outside your marital boundaries and do things that will devastate your marriage. Bring that stuff to the surface in a healthy, productive way.

Dr. John Gottman, researcher, writer, lecturer, and all-around couples guru said this: “Our research has shown that 69% of relationship conflict is about perpetual problems. All couples have them—these problems are grounded in the fundamental differences that any two people face. They are either fundamental differences in your personalities that repeatedly create conflict or fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs.”

Or, as I put it to my oldest son who is inching toward the altar, “Marriage is picking the set of problems you will have the rest of your life.” Doesn’t that sound romantic? He didn’t think so either. But it is so reassuring in marriage to know we are both different and it is totally okay. We might have some iron sharpening iron moments, but it’s safe and ultimately our differences can complement instead of compete.

There was a school of thought that happy couples don’t fight. The reality is that happy couples fight right. Gottman elaborates by saying that even how often a couple fights is not what determines the success of a marriage, but rather, it is how a couple fights. Respect is the name of the game. As long as couples respect each other, fighting in and of itself is not a threat to the marriage relationship.

How Can You, As A Couple, Fight Respectfully?

  • Make sure BOTH of you have space to express yourself and be heard.
  • Keep it about the problem or the behavior—not the person.
  • Avoid words like “never” or “always.” It’s never always true.
  • Don’t bring up past, settled issues or re-open healed wounds.
  • Winning the argument isn’t worth losing your spouse.
  • Compromise. You both should feel like you gave a little and got a little.
  • Apologize and forgive. (Maybe some of the fighting wasn’t so nice.)
  • End by reaffirming your love for each other. When the fight is done, it’s done.
  • DON’T intimidate, manipulate, or threaten your spouse. That’s psychological and verbal abuse.
  • It should NEVER get physical. That’s domestic violence.

Plan Your Fights.

The “Speaker-Listener Method,” created by The University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies Drs. Howard Markman and Scott Stanley, empower couples to truly communicate. Couples set aside a half-hour each week and take turns with one person as the speaker and one person as the listener. The speaker respectfully says whatever they want; the listener just listens. They then move toward a healthy, productive dialogue about the issue, hoping to get to the root cause and take the time to brainstorm solutions. 

One of the benefits of this method is that it provides room for a quiet spouse to have the floor and speak up while perhaps putting the talkative spouse in a position to truly actively listen. Another benefit of this method is that often couples realize that they have been having the wrong fight all along. (It’s not enough to “fight.” You want to get to the right fight—the one that makes the biggest difference in your relationship and your marriage. Maybe the fight isn’t really about finances, it’s about one spouse feeling like they have no voice in financial decisions.)

We’ve all kind of been trained to think that all conflict is bad and all peace is good. But in marriage, honest conflict surpasses a dishonest peace. Growth in trust and intimacy occurs where there is honest (sometimes hard) communication. You want to keep your marriage on the grow! You’ve got this!

***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.***

Why are you fighting?” That’s the question one little girl posed to her parents at the dinner table as they were in the midst of a heated discussion about what needed to happen after dinner. How do you talk with your children about why parents fight? 

It’s pretty much a given that parents will get sideways with each other in front of the kids. Sometimes it’s about something ridiculous and other times it’s something of a more adult nature. Here’s the thing: whether it is something small or something that really matters, how you fight impacts your children. Children do not like conflict. 

Witnessing your parents have an argument can be very scary and unsettling for children of any age. Here are some tips for talking with your children about why parents fight.

  • Check your own emotional temperature. It’s very important to be emotionally-aware for yourself and for your child. Before you talk with your child about the reasons parents might fight, you’ll probably want to make sure you’re emotionally ready for it. For instance, right after a fight might not be the best time to have the discussion. When you take the time to cool down before approaching your child, you are practicing emotional regulation, which is a very important skill for both you and your child. When you talk with your child, be specific about the emotions they might be feeling right now. They could be experiencing fear, sadness or worry, among other things. Helping them to put names to what they are feeling will help build their emotional intelligence. It also helps them learn how to process through an experience.  
  • Keep it age appropriate. Everyone experiences conflict from time to time. Remind them about the time they didn’t want to share their toy with their sibling or when they were angry with one of you for not letting them do something. That’s a disagreement, too. Sometimes parents fight when they have different opinions about things, they are upset about something from work or they are tired, have a lot going on, or aren’t feeling well. Help them see that healthy disagreements are normal in families.
  • Discuss feelings and tone of voice. There are times when parents argue that their tone of voice sounds mean, angry and loud. These moments can be very stressful for children. Literally, researchers have measured cortisol (the stress hormone) in children’s bodies and have found that even infants respond to their parents’ fighting. This could be a time when you apologize for the way you expressed your emotions and use it as a teachable moment to talk about how what we say and do when we are angry or upset with each other impacts everyone in the family. We all make mistakes. The goal is to learn how to do things differently the next time you have a disagreement.
  • Reassure your child that you love them and that your desire is to work things out. If possible, let them see you resolve the issue together. If you are fighting about an ongoing issue that is creating significant angst in your marriage, be careful what you share with your children as you do not want to say things that are untrue or will paint your spouse in a bad light. You might tell them that you are asking for help to solve your problem if you cannot resolve it on your own.

Fighting scares children. As a parent, helping them to see that disagreements are part of being in a relationship and letting them know that just because parents are fighting, it doesn’t mean they are going to get divorced can help settle their anxiety. Teaching and modeling what healthy conflict looks like decreases drama in your home. It also prepares children for healthy relationships in the future.

***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.***

It started with a simple question from my son at the dinner table. “Can I invite a few friends to go to Six Flags Amusement Park with me for my birthday?” Would it end up as a fight in front of the kids?

Mom: That should be fun. How many friends are you thinking about?

Son: Two.

Mom: Sounds like a good idea.

Dad (Me): Hmmm. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea right now.

Mom: Really. Why not?

Dad: Have you looked at the cost for one person to go to Six Flags? Let alone 3 or 4. Have you looked at our bank account lately?

Mom: How many times does our son turn 10 years old?

At this point, we had a decision to make… 

  1. Do we continue this disagreement that was morphing into an argument in front of our kids? 
  2. Should we squash the conversation until we could get behind closed doors? 

We both were starting to recognize that we felt strongly about our opinions. Internally, we were questioning the next step of the discussion and asking,”Should we have this fight in front of the kids?”

I’m going to jump in with how we fight, or put another way, resolve disagreements and conflict in front of our children, if that’s where you find yourself. It is inevitable that you and your spouse will have a disagreement in front of your kids. How you handle these disagreements can have a great impact on them. 

If you choose to work through conflict with your spouse in front of your kids, here are a few tips:

1. Respect, Respect, Respect

  1. There is never a time when it’s okay to disrespect one another’s thoughts, feelings or desires regardless of how emotional you get or how strongly you feel about a particular issue. 
  2. It’s even worse to disrespect one another in front of your children. 
  3. We disrespect when we belittle one another’s thoughts, are dismissive of each other’s emotions and devalue each other’s desires. 
  4. Respecting one another is more important than coming to the “right” solution. 
  5. Dr. Adam Grant, a psychologist at the Wharton School and New York Times best-selling author states that, “When parents disagree thoughtfully and respectfully, that sets a standard for kids to learn to do the same thing.” 
  6. Your children are learning how to treat other people they disagree with based on what you show them.

If you realize you have disrespected your spouse, it’s important that you not only apologize to your spouse, but that you also talk with your children about it. They must understand that disrespect is not acceptable.

2. “I,” not “You.”

I could’ve said to my wife, “You don’t know how much money is in the bank.” But I could have also said, “You care more about him having fun than about us being responsible.” In that instance, I’ve attacked her and assumed what she knows or cares about. Dr. John Gottman, marriage therapist and researcher says, “When you start sentences with ‘I’ you are less likely to seem (or be!) critical, immediately putting your partner into a defensive position.” Instead of starting with “You,” I can say, “I’m concerned that paying for this trip may not leave us enough money for other necessary and important things.” 

☆ Focusing on what you know, think, feel, and want as opposed to making statements about what you believe your spouse knows, thinks, feels, and wants leads to better communication and understanding during conflict.

3. Avoid statements like, “You always,” or, “You never.

Statements like this make generalizations about a person’s character, placing the focus on them and putting them on the defensive while taking the focus away from the issue. 

4. Tone of Voice and Body Language Matter… a lot.

I encourage you to stop and watch kids talk and interact sometime. Many talk with their hands, give colorful facial expressions, their tone gets high when they’re excited and loud when they’re upset. This is the lens through which your child sees your body language and hears your tone of voice. Not to mention that research says 93% of communication is made with body language and tone of voice and only 7% are the actual spoken words. Avoid eye-rolling, sighing heavily like you’re disgusted, slumping your posture like you don’t care or rolling your neck like you have a bad attitude. Your children are reading each of the cues you’re sending.

5. Be clear to your children when it’s resolved.

Your child is processing what they see and hear. If they hear the conflict and are never privy to the solution, then you’ve left their imagination to wonder. Research by Dr. Rebecca Brock, assistant professor at University of Nebraska, indicates that unresolved marital tension can lead to children experiencing anxiety, depression, and distress

This may cause children to feel extremely insecure. 

If your child sees the two of you arguing, be sure they know and see that you’ve resolved the issue. Even if it’s just to say, “I know you heard us arguing earlier. I just want you to know that we figured it out and everything is good now.” The details of the solution may not be necessary to share. But the acknowledgment that the argument is not going to tear you apart helps bring closure for the child.

How Not To Fight

  • Never attack one another physically or emotionally. That’s domestic violence
  • Don’t manipulate, intimidate, or threaten your spouse. Threatening to walk out, leave the marriage, or do something that is hurtful or permanent can leave scars that wound for years.
  • Never put the kids in the middle of your argument. They should not be choosing sides or used as a pawn to help you win your argument.

What Not To Fight About In Front Of The Kids

There are some things that are simply a bad idea to argue about in front of the kids.

  • Sex
  • In-laws
  • Discipline

If you’re going to fight in front of the kids, then you should definitely make up in front of the kids. (No, not that kind of “make up.” Shame on you! 😳 ) A hug and a kiss in front of the kids is plenty. Verbally affirming your love, respect, and commitment for one another also sends the message that your commitment to one another is bigger than the disagreement. Arguing in front of your children can be damaging to them, especially when it’s not done in a healthy and productive manner. 

Model Healthy Conflict Resolution.

Studies show that your children can learn healthy conflict resolution skills when you model it for them. How you treat one another, including when you disagree, provides an example for how a couple communicates respect and acceptance. You’re also modeling how to effectively deal with your emotions and appreciate others emotions. These are all skills that will definitely be useful as your child engages in relationships throughout their life.

My son did get to go to Six Flags. After listening to me and his mother talk about our thoughts and feelings regarding the gift and adding up the cost, he had a greater appreciation for his gift. Did he know that I was not the one in support of the trip? Maybe, but I don’t think it bothered him as he, I, and his other friend rode the roller coasters. He also learned that his parents can disagree, both have strong opinions, and still love, respect, and remain committed to one another

★ What do you want your kids to learn when they see you fight?

***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.***

Fighting with your fiancé all the time, aka, the person you are planning on spending forever with, can feel just exhausting. The uncertainty from COVID-19, the potential for rescheduling your wedding, fear of job loss, or navigating unemployment while trying to secure a future together, spending what may feel like too much time together, and so many unknowns right now can definitely stir the dust in the air. Just when you think the dust is going to settle, one of you kicks it back up again! 

I have seen far too many people fall into the trap of marrying a person thinking that they knew them, but in reality, they only knew about them,” says Dr. John Van Epp, relationship expert, and author. 

So, for starters, if you find yourself in constant conflict with your fiancé, what exactly are you fighting about?  

  • Finances around the wedding?
  • When you will actually get married?  
  • What the celebration will look like in the midst of “RONA?”
  • One of you is messy and the other is a neat freak?
  • Your mother?
  • Quarantining during the Pandemic?
  • The dishes in the sink overnight?
  • Money in general?

Fighting about things that matter is one thing, but if you find yourself fighting with your fiancé about Every. Little. Thing, that’s a whole new ballgame. It might be a good time to take inventory of your relationship and see if it’s unhealthy. 

An important thing to consider—if you are fighting about everyday things that you will for sure continue to encounter, and you are thinking that once you marry things will simmer down and those issues won’t be such a big deal or you will be able to “work on your spouse” to get them to change… Do not be fooled. If you see things that you need to work on individually or as a couple, the chances of change happening before the wedding are far greater than after the ring is on your finger

The hopeful news is that conflict is inescapable for any relationship, AND some of the best news is that conflict handled well actually brings you closer instead of pulling you apart. 

You for sure are not alone in this. Psychologist Dan Wile says it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unresolvable problems.” It’s true.  Every couple has around 10 things they will not necessarily agree on for the duration of their marriage. Despite this, relationship expert Dr. Gottman, who has studied couples for the last 40 years, has found that about ⅓ of conflicts can be resolved with the right approach. Even for those things that you might disagree on for forever, Gottman found that how you approach each other is the key.

Dr. Gottman’s Approach:

  • Step 1: Soften Your Start-Up. Are you beginning the conversation where you left off in your head? When your fiancé gets to your apartment you say, “Why should I ever be ready on time? You’re always late.” They respond with, “I got stuck behind an accident. I’m working on my timing.” Then maybe you go on to say, “It’ll be something else next time.” Soft Start-Ups don’t include the Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling). Instead, you and your partner start the conversation gently and with intentions of understanding each other and coming to a resolution.
  • Step 2: Learn to Send and Receive Repair Attempts. Think of a repair attempt as slamming on the brakes when you see a red light. You do this to avoid a collision that could harm your marriage,” says Kyle Benson from the Gottman Institute. In the example above, acknowledging that your fiancé is working on their time management could have de-escalated the situation. Practicing sending and receiving repair attempts can help improve the quality of your relationship.
  • Step 3: Soothe Yourself and Each Other. If you know you’re too upset to have a conversation at the moment, take a 20-30 minute break and try and “focus on the positives of your relationship by yourself.” When you’re “Flooded, ” as Dr. John Gottman refers to it, your brain is flooded with stress hormones and chemicals that make it nearly impossible for your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for complex problem-solving, to function. As a result, you can’t physiologically function as you normally would. You can’t communicate as you normally should. Acknowledge what makes you feel flooded, talk about the best way and time to bring up issues to each other, how your partner can soothe you and what signals you can give each other to clue the other into how you’re feeling.
  • Step 4: Compromise. When you negotiate, you accept each other’s imperfections while recognizing your relationship is more important than the argument and being right.
  • Step 5: Address Emotional Injuries. Sometimes how you fight is what hurts more than what you were fighting about. Be open to talking it out and processing what you two went through. Accept responsibility and learn from your fights.

Fighting with your fiancé doesn’t have to be all bad—it can be an area for growth and an opportunity to understand each other’s differences better. A great way to fight for your relationship is by preparing for marriage. Consider premarital education or counseling to set yourselves up with the tools you need to thrive in your relationship.

Some other blogs you might find helpful!

10 RULES TO “FIGHT NICE” WITH YOUR SPOUSE

TOP 10 POTENTIAL MARRIAGE PITFALLS

10 GREAT DATES BEFORE YOU SAY “I DO”

10 RED FLAGS IN A DATING RELATIONSHIP

***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 AdobeStock.com

Discover the 8 Essential Lessons to Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

Preparing for Marriage is a self-guided online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME. All the essential tools to create a thriving marriage are jam-packed into 8 fun and fast-paced lessons guided by relationship experts.

How you’ll build an unbreakable marriage:

✅ You’ll get 8 essential lessons that you can work on when you want & where you want.

✅ Each lesson is divided into 3 parts, “Past You,” “Present You,” and “Future You.” Each part has a brief video led by marriage experts, Reggie & Lauren. You’ll have questions to talk through together and a handout to dive deeper. 

✅ After watching the videos and completing the lesson, there will be a quick pop-quiz* to make sure you’re getting the information you need! (And remembering it!)

✅ BONUS: You’ll have access to Reggie & Lauren by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!

Is anyone else having issues with their kids and getting them on schedule or getting them to do the things around the house the first time you ask? I knew the COVID-19 pandemic would change our lives for a few weeks, but  I never considered that it would stretch into the summer. As a result of the “new normal,” I have noticed changes in the behavior of my children as well. Some of those changes include:

Backtalk From My Kids

Arguments About Bedtimes, Chores, Hygiene 

Too Much Screen Time (Games, Netflix, Disney+, etc.)

What is really going on? How am I contributing via my stress, anxiety, or mood? In essence, how do I stop fighting with my kids? What are the things that I can do?

1. Remember That You Are The Parent

I recognize that my responsibility to my children is to be their parent. Even though I want to develop a close relationship with my child, being the parent means that I will have to do things that are not popular. In fact, because I love my child and want a close relationship with them, as a parent, I have to make unpopular decisions. The first time that my youngest son said to me, “Mommy, you are not my friend,” I took a deep breath and replied, “You are right. I am not your friend, I AM your MOM.” I want my kids to know that they are loved, accepted, and can always come to me, but I can’t always be their “buddy.” I can’t make decisions based on a popularity contest—I have to do what’s best for them knowing that they won’t always understand that this is real love.

In that particular situation, I chose to respond versus react. Reactions are automatic, without thought and usually driven by emotions. When I respond, according to the author and licensed marriage and family therapist Hal Runkel, “I take a pause before I do something.” In other words, I think, control my emotions, and move forward as the parent.

2. Become A Student Of Your Child

Learn what your child likes and what interests them. Talk with and listen to them, find out what shows they watch, what music they like, what are they feeling (e.g., fear, concern, anger, sadness). Creating a healthy relationship with them gives you insight into their world. Remember that the pandemic and all that is going on has had an impact on your child as well. Take your child’s emotional temperature by asking questions to find out how are they are feeling and what is on their minds. They may be acting out because they feel insecure, afraid, or anxious. They may be trying to get your attention

3. Create Structure And Boundaries And Consistently Enforce Them

It is important that our children feel a sense of routine, structure, and boundaries in the midst of all the chaos and confusion going on in the world. Structure and boundaries provide safety for children. They see and hear news about COVID-19 and racial unrest. They may feel afraid and concerned as a result. You can create structure and boundaries by: Making one-on-one time with each child to talk, Having dinner together as a family, or Family Game Night. These family interactions can develop connectedness between the members which hopefully can decrease the argumentative interactions.

Your children should have routines in the morning and evening and bedtime that place structure around their day. Give them a daily to-do list like: Brush Teeth, Eat Breakfast, Read For 20 Minutes, Exercise/Play For 1 Hour, Eat Dinner, Screen Time (as prescribed by parents), Bedtime Routine, Lights Out. Put the schedule somewhere at their eye-level. Even kids that can’t read yet can follow a list using pictures to know how to get ready for bed. These routines provide expectations for what the day will look like and there will be less to fight with your kids about.

Power struggles and arguments seem like they will always be a normal part of parenting. However, you don’t have to normalize fighting with your kids. When you recognize your role and responsibilities as a parent, it gives you a focus point. Creating a healthy parent-child relationship helps your children learn and respect boundaries. Make sure you are taking care of yourself so you can be your best self and respond, not react. One of the best lessons that I have learned on my parenting journey is, “Rules (structure) without relationship leads to rebellion.

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I was thinking about this question as I drove to pick my 14-year-old up from football practice. Without any context, when he got in the car, I asked, “Do we ever fight?” He said no, and I followed up with, “Why not?” [His insights surprised me and definitely made me look like a better parent than I am. More on that later.] Here’s what he said:

“You’re understanding. You don’t yell or instigate. And you don’t nag. You listen. A lot of it is personality—We’re both pretty chill. We don’t press each other.” [He’s not wrong. We’re both laid back. Also, I don’t know what “press” means.] “Like, yesterday, I guess you can call that a ‘fight.’ You wanted me to mow the lawn right after football practice and I didn’t want to. You listened to my reasons why and said why it needed to be done. I still asked a couple more times, and you said, ‘Sorry, dude. Do it now.'”

For the record, he is the youngest of five children. I’m 50. What he calls “chill” might just be parental fatigue. I have most definitely fought with my other kids. But he has also benefited from what I’ve learned from parenting his four much-older siblings.

He did touch on some things that might be labeled, “New School Parenting.” Listening to where your teen is coming from. Trying to understand their perspective. Letting them feel “heard.” Explaining your reasons. Not yelling or escalating. This was definitely not “Old School Parenting.” My father didn’t say, “Sorry, dude.” He just went straight to, “Do it now.” and probably threw in a “Because I said so!”

Here are some probing questions to ask yourself that could answer, “How do I stop fighting with my teen?”

Bear with me, I’m gonna start at the foundation…

1. Does your teen know that you love them?

Don’t be quick to say, “Of course!” I talk to a lot of teens who don’t think their parents even like them. How well do you know your teen’s heart? Do you know what speaks love to them? Do you show interest in the things that interest them? How much time do you spend time with them? Do you know their friends? Do you take a little time to welcome them into your home and get to know them a bit? When is the last time you told your teen that you love them? How about: I’m proud of you. I believe in you. I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me?

2. Do you have clear boundaries, routines, and structure in place?

At any age, boundaries and routines provide clarity and predictability and security. But they also provide freedom and communicate, “I care about your well-being.” They are just another way to say, “I love you.” ★ Have you made these boundaries clear to your teen and the benefits and consequences that are associated with them? ★ 

Both of these things form a relationship foundation that can stop a lot of fights before they start. An environment of love and good communication, as well as clear expectations and consistent consequences, will help you avoid many fights.

If you include your teen in making a cellphone contract or family technology plan or car-use contract, (or at least have a conversation that covers boundaries, expectations,  and consequences) everything is all laid out. You don’t have to think of a punishment on the spot or get angry, and you don’t have to raise your voice. You can just say, “Look, we talked about this. If you came in past curfew, you lost social driving privileges for ___.” (If you choose to go the contract route, remember, they aren’t carved in stone. They get adjusted as your child matures and builds trust. Plus, sometimes stuff happens—flat tires, extenuating circumstances, and sometimes some grace is in order.)

Stop fights before they start. There’s no “negotiating” which often escalates into a full-blown fight.

3. Still, no matter what, you are gonna have some fights with your teenager. 

  • Remember you are engaged with a teen whose brain is not fully developed. It won’t be until they are in their 20s. Just understand that the parts of the brain that regulate emotions, predict consequences for actions, and do other “higher-order” things like logic aren’t fully formed. If they are upset, it’s even worse. Don’t be shocked by an “I hate you!” or something similar.
  • Speaking of brains, when we (you and your teen) have hot and heavy emotions, our prefrontal cortex gets “flooded” with “fight or flight” chemicals that can make us say and do things that we will regret later. Learn to recognize when this is happening in you and your teen. This is when you need to call a “time-out.” Nothing productive is going to happen if one or both of you is flooded.
  • It takes two to tango. It takes two to fight. You are the adult—you can do things like de-escalating, not letting your emotions push you around, choosing the best time to address an issue, recognizing “flooding,” and knowing when you are out of line and need to apologize or calmly hold your ground. 
  • If you recognize there are specific issues or areas that tend to be the catalyst for fighting, take time (NOT in the middle of a fight) to have a conversation about them. Note: I said, “conversation,” that’s a two-way street that involves speaking and listening. I’ve found that even if a boundary didn’t change, but I took the time to explain the rationale behind it and listened to my teen’s point of view and made them feel “heard,” they had a completely different posture toward it. Sometimes even a tiny bit of “give and take” goes a long way.

Fighting with your teen is no fun at all, but it is part of parenting.

Do your best to stop fights before they start. Sometimes we expect our teens to act and respond like adults, and biologically they literally are not there yet. We have to be the adults in the situation. Remember: You are fighting FOR your teen, not WITH them. They will see the difference.

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