7 Ways to Avoid Marriage Madness

Stomping like a child, I stormed back and forth between our garage and house.  I was so angry!  Brad and I were packing for a trip to spend time with my family.  We were in a disagreement about where we were going to stay and how much time we were going to spend with my family while on the trip.  I thought he should want more time with my family.  Our interaction soured the whole trip.  This is my first recollection of my marriage making me mad.

Almost fifteen years in, and a few mad episodes later, here are some reflections on ways to minimize marriage madness.

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Why it’s Good to Have Expectations in Your Relationship

Have you ever heard of the “nocebo effect”?  No?  Me neither.

Have you heard of the “placebo effect”?  It’s the phenomenon where if you believe you are being treated for something, you feel the effects of it.  For example, if you are told the pill you are taking will cure your headache, you take it and assume your headache will go away.  When it does go away, you think nothing of it, except when you are told the pill you took is a sugar pill.  That’s the placebo effect.

Well, apparently the same goes for the opposite of the placebo effect – the nocebo effect.  If you believe that something is not going to work, it doesn’t.  If you are told the aspirin you are about to take is a dud and won’t work, it doesn’t – even if it’s the same kind of aspirin you always take for your headaches.

Can you imagine how the nocebo effect could affect your relationship? Read More

I am a Recovering Complainer

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I am a recovering complainer.

We were having a picnic lunch on a beautiful May afternoon.  There were three moms and four children.  While the children played, the moms talked. I remember talking about my house.  Actually, I did a lot of talking about my house.  I had a lot of complaints.  I live in a 117-year-old house that, by default, we are fixing up.  It is one problem after another. Not only did I complain about all there is to fix, but I also complained about the layout, the size of the rooms, the lack of closets, the location of the bathrooms, the lack of air conditioning…  I’ll stop there.  The picnic ended.  We parted ways.

Not long after the picnic, one of the three moms invited all of us over to her house. I parked in front and my daughter and I followed the sidewalk to the back of the house where there was a tiny backyard.  We greeted each other and were given a tour of the house.  I thought my house had small rooms.  I thought my house had problems.  Her living room was smaller than our office. There was one bedroom for four people, and it was smaller than my bedroom.  The floor was uneven.  It was dark.  It was crowded.  I was embarrassed.  I had complained about my house and here she lived in a smaller, more run down home than I did.  I felt terribleRead More

5 Easy Steps to Relax While on a Family Vacation

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Who doesn’t love to go on vacation? In the summer, we Minnesotans usually flock up north to a cabin on a lake. The warm sunshine, refreshing lake water, and lovely breeze are unbeatable – especially when you realize winter is only a few months away. But sometimes, the serenity vacation brings can be dampened by family dynamics and the little things that just drive you nuts. You know, your nephew waking you up at 6am, your father-in-laws tasteless jokes, and your husband’s grandma constantly tidying up when you’re trying to relax. It’s one thing to vacation with the family you grew up with, but it’s another thing to spend days with a family you are new to. Depending on how similar and different your family of origin was to your partner’s, your vacation might not be much of a vacation. Read More

Sometimes the Issues Aren’t What They Seem

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My wife, Michelle, and I met with a couple that were fighting about how much time they should spend at her parents when they visited that weekend. We tried to get them to agree on the amount of time. He said 2 hours and she said 6 hours. Eventually, they compromised. He was at 4 hours and she was at 4 hours and 15 minutes. They couldn’t close the gap between the last 15 minutes.
Suddenly, it occurred to me. This isn’t about how much time they spend at her parent’s house. This was about something else. Negotiating a compromise wasn’t helping.

There are different levels to what couples fight about. Sometimes, the real issues aren’t the surface issues. Read More

A Positive Posture Pays Off

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The plane landed and I hurriedly walked to meet my ride.  After having been gone for a five day business trip, I was eager to meet my family at my son’s flag football game.  After we shared hugs and heard about the kids’ week, my husband informed me that he had moved everything out of our office to install some carpet.  “Oh!”  I said, trying to manage my surprise.  He went on to say, “I labeled anything that I moved and organized it in bags and laundry baskets so you can find it.”  Unsure what to say next, I replied, “Wow, that was a lot of work!”  Inside, I was a mess of emotions ranging from, “Oh my, I wasn’t ready yet!” to, “I can’t believe he moved all my paperwork!  How will I find…” to, “He was just trying to finish a project we had been planning,” to, “Don’t blow up.  He put a lot of work into this.  Show him respect.  Calm down.  It had to be done at some point.” Read More

You. Owe. Me.

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Recently, my husband and I had an argument about how to get rid of some junk in our garage.  I wanted to post it on Craig’s List for free.  He wanted to take it to the dump. I didn’t want to pay to get rid of it.  He didn’t want it sitting on our front yard.  We compromised and agreed that I could post it on Craig’s list for three days and if it wasn’t gone he could take it to the dump.  Three days later, very little of it had been picked up and my husband had figured out what could be taken to the Reuse Center and what needed to go to the dump. Read More

Gold Medal Marriage

raceThe 2016 Rio Olympics have come to a close and for those who have watched, we have been inspired by seeing the fruits of the Olympians’ years of preparation and labor.  What can we learn from Olympians to inspire our pursuit of a “Gold Medal Marriage”?

  • Olympians work at it every day. They daily-discipline themselves to do what they ought to do, not what they want to do. In marriage that may mean holding our tongue, doing the dishes, or actively listening to each other.
  • Olympians build on each other’s strengths. Synchronized swimming teams identify who is the best person to do the lifting and who is the best person to be lifted. Once those roles are identified, the coach trains each person to excel in their role.  What are your strengths?  What are your partner’s strengths?  Have you defined roles and responsibilities to align with each other’s strengths? Read More

Pursuer vs. Distancer

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I fight with my husband from time to time. It happens because conflict happens. We disagree, but then we figure it out and move forward. Sounds easy, right? Not exactly, but it is easier now that he and I understand more about ourselves and our relationship.

Until just recently, every time we disagreed, we would find ourselves frustrated and in this cycle. I’d move closer, he’d move farther away. Thinking he needed space, I’d reluctantly back off. He’d feel comfortable again and move closer. Just as I’d warm up to being close again, he’d start to retreat, needing more space. We stumbled in and out of this pattern for years. Not entirely understanding why, but understanding this was us. Read More