Our last chat was about strategies to win that marital spat if things weren’t going your way. But is there really a winner when spouses argue? The best fight you can have with your mate is the one that doesn’t get started. Here are 5 ways to change the course of a discussion that’s headed toward fightsville.
1. Say the unexpected. Throw out fun facts. Or make one up. “Did you know that Shrek was originally supposed to be blue, but that got changed when he got mistaken for an oversized Smurf?”
2. Start singing. You might start off with something from your wedding, move to Coke’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in perfect harmony)” closely followed by Kumbaya. Don’t stop until your mate is singing along with you.
3. Wink. Close your eyes. Repeat. This will, more likely than not, result in your spouse saying: “What are you doing?” To which you respond: “It’s the opposite of rolling my eyes – it indicates eye agreement.”
4. Toss out a memory. One that had you both belly laughing. “Remember the time Bob was showing off on his pogo stick and fell face-first into that mud puddle?” I bet it will crack you both up all over again.
5. Pull a picture out of your pocket. A really cute one of the two of you together. Hold it up in front of your face. Now who can argue with that? Having such a picture in your pocket at all times will also serve as insurance – kind of like how it never rains when you actually have an umbrella with you!
Do you have any other suggestions for heading off a fight before it gets started? Share your technique in the comment section below.
Many marriage experts will tell you to ‘fight fair’ when arguing with your mate. But where’s the fun in that? How can you be the winner if you’re busy focusing on how your spouse is feeling or the long term effects? Here are 7 great strategies to help you be the winner of that marital spat – no matter what the topic!
1. Saint-self strategy: Start out all sentences with “I always” or “I never.” Immediately your mate will be on notice that you are the victim and, while you usually endure such martyrdom quietly, you have reached your limit. Examples: “I always am the one to empty the dishwasher” or “I never leave dishes sitting in the sink.” Your mate will be so busy trying to think of times when you did not empty the dishwasher or you did leave dishes in the sink, that you’ll have time to finish your tirade and exit before they get a word in.
2. Demon-you strategy: This is a variation of the saint-self strategy, but flipped upside down. Every sentence starts with “You always” or “You never” followed by the egregious act you want to focus on. Be quick with the attack. Be clear on how they never get it right and get out before they are able to come up with a contrary example.
3. Noisemaker strategy: This one’s fun. Once you have laid out your side of things, they may have the audacity to respond. If so, squelch their speech with dramatic noises such as smashing dishes, stomping loudly out of the room, and slamming the door behind you. Not only will you blot them out, you’ll have reminders of your dramatic rightness – broken dishes, a door hanging by one hinge – for weeks to come.
4. Toilet paper strategy: This strategy takes advance preparation. Keep track of any mistake your spouse makes by jotting it down on a roll of toilet paper. Nothing is too petty to make note of. Keep it rolled up and at the ready. Next time you’re in a tiff and your spouse is making good points, grab that toilet paper and start reading in a loud voice as you unroll. This clearly demonstrates to your mate that even though you might be in the wrong at this given moment, petty-scorekeeping indicates that overall they are ‘wronger.’
5. Tried and true strategy: This is the ever-popular silent treatment. You’re wrong? Make them regret pointing it out (which is the same as winning) by refusing to talk. Now don’t go amateur on me here – we’re not talking about keeping quiet for an hour or two. Unless taken to bed, you can’t be sure the rift will be deep. You hear snoring? Bounce around the bed until they wake up – how else will they be aware you are still not talking to them?
6. Comeback kid strategy: Are they starting to make sense? Distract them with name-calling. “Oh yah? Well you’re a . . . ” That should take the conversation in a different direction.
7. Blast the crass strategy: This is good if you’re just plain wrong. Spew out a string of angry expletives – something you couldn’t say in church or in front of your momma. It needs to be hurtful enough that it renders them speechless. Hey, a win’s a win, right?
Using these great strategies will help your mate understand that you live on a one-way street – your way. If you choose to act contrary to this advice, I will not be responsible for your boring-short-lived spat nor the fact that you won’t have an excuse to buy new dishes any time soon.
We can probably agree that the best marital spat is the one that doesn’t happen. Check back next week for tips on how to avoid fights before they start.
Do you have a fight-winning strategy? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
Those of you participating in the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge have either passed the half-way point or are very close to it, depending on when you started. (If you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late – there’s no bad time to get started!) We surpassed our goal of 100 people making a firm commitment to take it on, and the unofficial count (includes Facebook comments) is around 200. That’s a lot of appreciative spouses!
It would be great to get your feedback on how things are going!
Have you been able to remember to make an entry every day?
What suggestion do you have for others who are having trouble remembering?
Has it been difficult coming up with entries?
Has it made any difference in how you go through your day?
Has it affected how you view your spouse?
What is the upside to taking this challenge?
Has there been a downside to taking this challenge?
At this point, would you recommend others take the challenge?
Inquiring minds want to know! Please let us know how it’s going for you in the comment section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t want your name included. I look forward to hearing from you!
Remember the ‘Gratitude Journal?’ It made it’s debut 10-15 years ago on a popular talk show. It was a simple concept: each day write down things you are grateful for. I didn’t buy the official Gratitude Journal and I don’t remember if there were official rules, but my take was to write down five things every day (in an unofficial notebook).
It was easy at first: health, friends, spouse, home, food. Soon I had to go a little deeper to come up with my five. Things like electricity, running water, pillows, refrigerators, cars and other things I routinely took for granted started showing up. Then nice things that happened during the day: an unexpected call from a friend, a beautiful sunset. As time went on, I mentally reviewed each day pulling out things or moments to be grateful for. I’m not sure when the transition happened, but I realized that I had become hyper-sensitive to the blessings in the day – making note of a compliment from a stranger or a sunlit field of hayrolls to write down later. In spite of war, natural disasters, and losing loved ones, there was much to be grateful for.
And so it is with our marriages. Most of us have challenges – tough times, words uttered that should not have been said, issues with children, loss, complacency. One way to stay (or get) content in spite of obstacles is to focus on what is good about our mates – what we are grateful for. Writing it down gives it weight.
So here is the challenge:
FOR 30 DAYS WRITE DOWN 1 THING DAILY THAT YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE.
How easy is that? Fifteen seconds a day. (You can do more if you want, but a minimum of one entry every day.)
Here’s some easy examples to get you started: My spouse
You will find yourself expanding beyond the obvious: My spouse
By the end of 30 days, don’t be surprised if you are going through the day looking for positive attributes in your mate so that you have something to write down.
If you do this long term, you may be amazed at all that is good about your spouse and marriage – all the lovely, funny, silly, precious moments that get lost in the big picture of life and the negative marital issues that get so much of our focus. If you do this long term, you will have an incredible record to draw from when you hit tough times or marital snags that could take you off course.
But long term can wait.
All I’m asking you to commit to right now is 30 little days. Grab a nice journal, a spiral notebook, a calendar – whatever will motivate you to jot down your notes – and write down at least one thing you are grateful for about your spouse. (Make sure you put the date or number on each entry so that you have accountability.) If you miss a day (try not to, but don’t let a miss derail the commitment) just add a day to the end.
My goal is at least 100 people commiting to take the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge. Your spouse is worth it. You’re marriage is worth it. Let’s do this!
Sign up for the challenge in the comment section below. If you’re willing to take the challenge and would rather be anonymous, email me at email@example.com so that I can add you to the count without using your name.
Take the challenge. Challenge your friends, spouse, and family to take the challenge. The results are worth it – I promise! The 30-Day Gratitude Challenge starts NOW.
I’m in! Now I need 99 more of you to join me!
Some will automatically respond: “Absolutely not – that is an invasion of privacy that marriage doesn’t overcome.” Others, just as quickly, will answer; “Of course it’s okay – there shouldn’t be secrets between spouses.” I think the answer is a firm: “Hmmm – it depends.”
Being married does not entitle us to know every thought, conversation or idea that our mate has. As a matter of fact, not allowing every thought that passes through our heads to be transformed into words can be healthy for marriage. Many spouses have experienced a less-than-satisfying response to the heartfelt question: “What are you thinking about?”
Our mates should have the same reasonable expectation of privacy we do. Looking around in their personal stuff out of curiosity is inappropriate. Other violations of privacy are snooping because:
Some of you may be tempted to throw my own words back at me from a previous article (Google the One You’re with) by saying: “It’s not snooping, it’s smart.” But we have to keep things in context. First, in that article I was addressing dating situations. And it is smart to find out all you can about someone you are considering sharing your life with. Presumably you did that before you got married. Second, even in that context, I did not advocate rifling through wallets, purses, clothes pockets, telephones and personal files.
Picture this scenario: You walk into the bedroom and your spouse is on hands and knees searching your bottom drawer.
YOU: What are you doing?
SPOUSE: Just looking around.
YOU: Why? What are you looking for?
SPOUSE: Nothing in particular. Just making sure there’s nothing in here I should be aware of.
May I assume you would not be pleased? The physical position may be different, but looking through billfolds, personal correspondence, or checking the odometer after errands is no less invasive and potentially damaging to your relationship.
Now, please don’t confuse having a healthy respect for your mate’s privacy and personal space with ostrich-like behavior of putting your head in the sand when you have warning flags there’s a problem. If you have a legitimate concern – based on reliable information and/or your mate’s behavior – and discussion with your mate about it doesn’t ring true, it could be disastrous not to probe. Examples of such situations include:
If you, as an innocent spouse, would be offended by your spouse’s snooping in your things out of curiosity (or because of the behavior of others in their life), it’s a safe assumption your innocent spouse would be offended by the same type of snooping from you. But note the word ‘innocent.’ If there are red flags that a problem exists, the term “snooping” shouldn’t deter you from getting sufficient information to protect your children, yourself, your marriage, and your spouse from harm.
What do you think about snooping on a spouse? Have you had a negative or positive experience that resulted from snooping? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
We’re so busy we don’t have time for each other. Oh, we carve out moments here and there, but we must be quick because we have a slew of other matters waiting for our all-important attention. We quickly listen to each other, but we don’t hear. We lob information to the other that is never received. It’s not enough to be in the same place at the same time – we have to be present for each other.
My pastor tossed out a phrase in a recent sermon that has stuck with me: Behold Me Busy. Wow – what an elevated status! I think sometimes, in our heads, the words ‘busy’ and ‘important’ are interchangeable. The pastor was referring to how we go through life not truly connecting with others. It made me think about how we go through our own homes the same way – passing by our mates in a state of busy-ness that is a barrier to our being present for the other.
How many conversations do we start with: “I only have a minute but . . . ?” Which could be interpreted as: “How fortunate you are that I am fitting you into my busy schedule to convey this very important message.” (Behold Me Busy!) You have put them on notice that there is only time for a short conversation and you need to go first in case time runs out. They can respond later when you have another minute. Or, they can call you on your cell phone – and leave a message at the sound of the beep
To be present for the other means to be deliberate in our communication. Texting while watching a show together, ‘pinning’ while sharing ice cream, chatting on the phone while shopping together all send your mate the message (to use a tired expression) ‘you’re just not that into me.’
So in those precious moments you have together, put down the phone, turn off the computer, and ignore – just during this limited shared time – the text alerts. Being deliberately present during your interactions may not increase your time together, but it will enhance it.
Have an idea on how to be more present when you are with your mate? Please share it in the comment section below.
ON A DIFFERENT TOPIC, I had the pleasure of being a guest on Brandi Barnett’s blog for her summer-salad roundup. Because time is such a treasured commodity, my tasty blast-from-the-past dish has only 4 ingredients and whips up so fast it’ll be made before you can utter “Behold Me Busy!” Click here to check it out.
We covered the things husbands should not say to wives on Wednesday, but I sure don’t want to leave the wives out!
10 Things Wives Should Not Say to Their Husbands
1. You’re not doing it right. Translation: you’re not doing it the way I do it. This is a fast-track to getting a personal invitation to do it the right way – as only you can do it.
2. Your wearing that? Nobody likes to be criticized no matter how stylelisticly-challenged they are. Skip the condemnation and go right to the suggestion. No sense giving him an excuse to not have to go to the place he probably wasn’t thrilled about going to from the get-go. .
3. Any sentence that starts with “you always” or “you never” and ends with a negative. He’ll miss most of the lecture because he’s busy planning his defensive response before you finish the first sentence.
4. My mother warned me you’d do this. Nice. Now he’s mad at your mother, too. Long after you and he are on the other side of the tiff he’s wondering what else your mother’s whispering about him behind his back. Leave your mother out of it.
5. I agree with your mother on this. Ah, the ‘ol teamwork double punch. Great for brownie points with your mother-in-law. Not so great for the car ride home. Leave both mothers out of it.
6. Which of my friends do you find most attractive? Half of you are rolling your eyes thinking “what woman in her right mind would ask that question?” The other half are acknowledging they weren’t in a stable place when they did ask – or thought about asking. Nothing positive can come from any response he makes. If he says “none of them” you’ll assume he’s lying. If he picks someone ugly, you’re offended at his bad taste and wonder what it says about you. If he picks the beautiful/witty/fun-loving one, what’s your first thought the next time you see them chatting together? It’s a stupid question.
7. Does this make me look fat? (You knew it would be here, didn’t you?) If you suspect that your outfit makes you look fat, it probably does. Go change. This will spare your mate having to decide between annoying you with the truth or delivering a kind lie that results with you going out in public looking fat.
8. I left you a “Honey-Do” list. This was probably cute the first time you said it. And it’s totally acceptable if he requests such a list. But the cuteness quotient diminishes at a rate that corresponds directly with the number of times it’s said and the number of people you say it in front of.
9. What earrings look better with this outfit? It will only leave you annoyed when he answers so quickly it is clear he did not have time to make the proper comparison in order to give you an informed opinion. You may substitute the word “earrings” for any of the following: purse, shoes, sweater, any other form of apparel.
10. Any sentence that starts with “I’ve told you a hundred times.” What’s the point? Do you think the 101st time will result in magical enlightenment? I’m pretty sure it was perceived as nagging somewhere around the 37th time you mentioned it.
And that completes my list for 20 things you should not say to your spouse. Hopefully these guidelines will assist you in having a pleasant, conflict-free weekend!
Please let me know what I left off either (or both) lists in the comments section below.
Words are powerful tools that can be used to lift our mates up and celebrate our unions. They can also be vicious weapons more cutting than the sharpest saber. Used thoughtlessly they can create unintended conflict. To help avoid some of that conflict, I’ve put together a collection of statements that should not be uttered to your spouse.
Husbands, Part One is the 10 things that I suggest you do not say to your wives. Ladies, you can stop reading here, but check back on Friday for Part Two – we’ll chat about what wives shouldn’t say to their husbands.
10 Things Husbands Should Not Say to Their Wives:
1. Ask my mother for her recipe for that. Unless, of course, you would like to spend more time with your mother eating her cooking. A lot more time. Like sleeping on her couch for the foreseeable future.
2. You sound like my mother. Because apparently when she’s not doing wonderful things in the kitchen, your mother can be . . . well, motherly. You’re asking for trouble with this one.
3. You’re starting to remind me of your mother. Usually not in a good way. These are fighting words. Are you seeing a pattern here? “Mother” comparisons are off the table!
4. What did you do all day? Really? You want a list? It will probably be a list of what won’t get done tomorrow so that you’ll notice – and appreciate – the difference.
5. My sock drawer is empty. Because we both know there’s only one person in the home with the skills, the expertise, and the wild desire to wash your clothes. Making that statement is a great way to end up with a drawer full of pink lace-trimmed ankle socks.
6. I wanted to get you something practical. This statement is actually okay if it is said on a non-occasion. However, if it is a special occasion (hint: if the word ‘day’ follows something like birth, Mother’s or Christmas) these words should not be uttered. A good rule of thumb: don’t present as a gift something that has an electric cord and will reside on a kitchen counter or in a cleaning closet.
7. Don’t be such a . . . There’s just not a good way to end that sentence. Chances are she’s not going to agree with your characterization. Chances are she will share that opinion with you. Chances are good it won’t end well.
8. How about you start going to the gym with me? How about you just tell her you think she’s fat? No – that would hurt her feelings. The lame camouflage for the same sentiment is not likely lost on her.
9. Any sentence that starts with the word “Woman” and ends with a directive. As in “Woman, get me a beer.” This statement is probably funnier to you than it is to her. If there are others present, you may omit the word ‘probably’ in the previous sentence.
10. Just calm down. I can almost guarantee you those words will not have the effect you are requesting. Better to say nothing.
Husbands, I hope you found this helpful. You may have found it amusing. But I’m not kidding. Wives, I know you kept reading just to make sure I got it right. If I missed something, please let me know in the comment section below!
Two major marital stressors are finances and spouses not spending enough meaningful time together. We keep getting advice to date our mates or take little getaways to reconnect and celebrate the relationship – but that costs money. And our money is already spoken for. But if we don’t find a way to finance a little marital bliss now and then, it’s easy to drift into complacency and not nurture our primary relationship. When I say ‘finance,’ I do not mean ‘go into debt’ – that only adds more marital stress. With a little planning and financial creativity, Marital Bliss (MB) is within reach. Commit to one (or more!) of these 5 painless ways to save money and start planning your MB adventure.
1. Each spouse put a dollar a day in savings jar. Every day. Most days you won’t have trouble finding a dollar. Some days you might have to feel around the cushions of the couch – which could result in bonus money! After four weeks you have 56 uncommitted dollars – that’s a movie theater evening with an ice cream afterward. Six months nets you $364.00 – or, should I say, two fun overnights at a Bed and Breakfast a couple of hours away. You’re already ahead of me on the math – one year of painless saving adds up to $728.00 – enough for a 4-day/3-night getaway with a couple of souvenirs to boot.
2. Don’t spend your change. Ever. No matter what you buy, use only bills. It costs $12.01? You give $13.00 and put that 99 cents in your fun bank. Whether it comes from the dryer, a purse, or a pocket, every day you both deposit all change into the fund. You will be pleasantly surprised how quickly it adds up – and how quickly you will be able to have a fun outing together without taking money from the budget.
3. Have an automatic deduction taken from your pay. You’ve heard this before? It’s worth repeating. You don’t miss what you don’t see. If you have a $20.00 weekly deduction deposited into an account that you have set up as an MB fund, in six months you, your mate and $520.00 are on the way to that out-of-town concert you thought you couldn’t afford.
4. Designate a bill denomination that cannot be spent. Think carefully on this – at first blush you might think a one dollar bill would be the most painless to designate off limits. But do you get more one- dollar bills than five-dollar bills a week? Whether a one, a five, or a ten – whatever you both agree to – each day you remove the unspendable (a new word just for this occasion) bill out of your wallet to avoid “accidently” spending it prior to cash-in time and deposit into the MB fund. Set the date for counting-the-cash and planning-the-bash!
5. Trade in a treat. Do you buy two grocery store magazines a week? Trade that for one magazine and one deposit to the fun bank. Have a daily soda from the vending machine? Trade for a Tuesday/Thursday soda and a Monday/Wednesday/Friday pop deposit. Daily fast food lunches? Brown bag it two or three days a week and bank the profit. Did I hear you mumble this is not your idea of ‘painless?’ Okay, there’s a little sacrifice here, but don’t be a weenie – what’s a little discomfort now for Marital Bliss later?
Making sure that we have time to connect to our spouse, to have fun with our mate, is important to the longevity of our relationship and just plain enjoyable. There are plenty of options to date your mate for free. But sometimes, we need something more expanded to rejuvenate and refresh our connection. It’s often difficult to find funds to do so in already stretched-out budgets, but saving creatively can be fun and painless. And so worth the resulting Marital Bliss.
Do you have a suggestion for a painless way to save for some Marital Bliss? Please share it in the comment section below.
With internet and easy access to computers, we have a plethora of ways to communicate that didn’t exist prior – Facebook,
Twitter, Pinterest, and a bunch of other means that those of you with teenagers know the names of. Social media has brought together people who would not have otherwise met, reconnected people who would not have found their way back to each other, and provided people answers to questions by just tapping a few buttons. It has also brought people together who should have never met, reconnected people who should have stayed unconnected, and provided conflicting answers to questions in a way which left people confused.
So is social media good or bad for marriage? That’s like asking if a knife is a good or bad. A knife is a handy tool for cutting food into bite size portions, releasing dolphin entangled in net, or whittling down small branches for marshmallow toasting. It’s a good tool. The same knife can be used to slash tires, pop a child’s balloon, inflict pain on a body. It’s an evil tool.
A knife is a knife. It’s neither good nor evil. But how it’s used can be helpful or destructive. We control how it’s used. You see where I’m going with this, right? We can use social media in a way that enhances marriage or destroys marriage.
As a Family Law attorney, I have a front row seat to witnessing devastation caused by misuse of social media. Following are four bad ways to use it.
1. “Catching up with” old flames. You tell yourself you’re going to see if they’re online – just to see what they’re up to. There they are! You tell yourself you’ll just say ‘hi.’ It’s okay to just check in and see how they’re doing, right? No. It’s not. Would it be okay with you if you found out your spouse was ‘facebooking’ with a prior romantic partner? Most people don’t plan to have a physical or emotional affair – intimacy evolves one innocent step at a time. Don’t take the first step.
2. Criticizing a spouse online. There is no good venue to criticize your mate. But doing so online is the worst of bad, because it’s permanent. You have your little vent. You justify making a snarky remark online by telling yourself your mate never gets online anyway and others will think it’s funny. How funny would you find it if you were the subject of said snark? And long after you are on the other side of your tiff, others will still have the perception of your mate that you gave them in a moment of anger.
3. Sharing too much personal information. Social media is not a diary. If you feel the need to talk about what’s going on in your marriage, your financial information, family discord, or other topics that would make your mate wince if they knew you shared, find an outlet other than the public forum of social media. Seek out a trusted friend, a respected counselor, or a lovely journal wherein you can write to your heart’s content.
4. Spending too much time on it. Many a good thing becomes a bad thing by becoming excessive. Think shopping, eating, alcohol, prescription drugs. Examine your social media habits. Are you are missing out on family moments? Have you stopped going to bed at the same time with your mate? Are you secretive or defensive about the amount of time you spend on the computer? Has the issue caused arguments with your spouse?
Used with care, social media is a wonderful tool. In addition to making new friends, staying connected with existing relations, and being exposed to a world of topics you would not otherwise encounter, it can be used to enhance your marriage. Here are four ways:
1. Brag about your spouse. Post a picture of that delicious pasta dish your husband whipped up. Or that yard sculpture your wife made out of garden tools. Publicly congratulate them on their achievements.
2. Connect with your spouse. Facebook them a birthday greeting – complete with a post of that adorable picture from a long-ago birthday. Tweet them the haiku that you came up with to say “Happy Anniversary.” Send them a no-occasion “you are the best” message.
3. Share your family adventures. From recipes to vacations, there is plenty of fodder to share publicly that celebrate your marriage. Adventures don’t have to be exotic – whether you’re dating your mate (for free) or cooking up something new, adventure can result from attitude.
4. Update people who care. During challenging times social media can be a gift for those who appreciate the support of others but who are unable to interact with each individual. Updating friends and family on how a job search is going or the progression of health issues can result in receiving marriage-sustaining support and assistance.
Social media is a powerful tool. How we choose to use it can have a significant effect on our marriage. We need to control our use of it, so it doesn’t control us. Use it thoughtfully. Be selective. And remember to, on occasion, use it to celebrate your mate!