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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The Art of Jumping to Conclusions

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We all do it – we all make quick decisions without hearing the whole story.  It’s our human nature; we had to make these rapid pivots to stay alive as cave dwellers.  Imagine yourself as a Neanderthal – there’s a giant snake in front of you, blocking the entrance to your home.  Unfortunately for the snake, you don’t have time to research if it is poisonous or not, you just have to smash it with a rock so you can protect yourself and your family back in your cave.

We still do this, but instead of a giant snake in front of the entrance to our home, it’s the garbage over-spilling in the kitchen, the same garbage your partner promised to pitch out last night.  She knew you asked her to do it, since you did it the last two times.  She must have decided it wasn’t a priority to take out last night.  This thought is appalling, what did she do all last night?  Watch documentaries about people with weird addictions?  That’s more important than committing to your partnership? 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

3 Quick Tips to Handle Holiday Conflict

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Imagine you are sitting at the outrageously decorated holiday table that your sister spent all morning setting.   Your most loved relatives are sitting around you, chatting, laughing, and grazing.  Your uncle starts up a conversation with your husband about politics from across the table.  He makes a comment about an immigration policy and you completely disagree with him.  You begin to feel agitated, your heart rate is increasing and your hands start to sweat.  On top of the agitation you are experiencing, your anxiety level starts to rise.  What is your husband thinking?  How much longer should you wait to hear your uncle out before you chime in with your opinion?  Should you chime in? 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

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

The Rules of Taking a Time-Out

alarmclock“We kept fighting and fighting and yelling and screaming and eventually we solved the whole problem completely!” Said no spouse, ever.

One of the most significant tools I help couples learn to implement into their conflict process is the time-out. Though I’m sure this term makes you think of a toddler sitting in the corner of a kitchen on their mini-stool with a parent standing over them shaking their finger, a time-out in the context of a marriage is a powerful and honorable thing to do.

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Why You Should Pick A Fight With Your Partner

Portrait of a young unhappy African American couple lying on the bed and arguingA few years ago PREPARE/ENRICH conducted a survey of over 50,000 married couples. It turned out that 78% of couples reported that they go out of their way to avoid conflict with their partner.

Maybe we could interpret this as a good thing—that the majority of couples are simply extra polite and courteous to their partner, not wanting to upset them.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Avoiding conflict was listed as one of the top five conflict-related problems for couples. “Why is it a problem?” you might ask. “Isn’t it a good thing to get along with your spouse?” Yes, it is, for the most part. Read More

Fighting Fair

Conflict in relationships is inevitable. You can try to avoid it by tamping down negative emotions and brushing seemingly minor issues under the rug, boxing_gloves_fighting_fairbut at some point, they will come back to bite you. Many times this is in the form of a blowup that is completely disproportional to whatever seemed to trigger it. You end up fighting not only about the topic at hand but ten other previously unaddressed issues as well.

As uncomfortable as it can be, the best way to avoid this situation and grow as a couple is to deal with issues as they occur. Studies have shown that it is not whether a couple fights that predicts divorce, but how they fight. Read More