10 Surefire Ways To Turn A Small Fight Into A Big One

bombIt’s no secret. Couples have fights.

But not all fights are created equal. Some start small and stay small while others pick up steam as they go and leave a mess in their wake.

And the difference in outcomes is not random.

Have you ever seen a fight coming a mile away and done nothing to stop it?

Or worse, just for the heck of it you did your best to provoke it?

Sometimes we’re like that. We’re short-fused or irritable or maybe we’re bored. Or, as a friend likes to say, we’re simply a fight looking for something to pick itself on.

Other times, the last thing we want is yet another knock-down-drag-out about unloading the dishwasher, but we feel powerless to stop it.

The truth is: we’re not. Continue reading

Mastering The Art of Shutting Up

Say no more!

Face it. When it comes to marital conflict, most of us don’t know when to hush up.

If you’re anything like me, it’s hard… no, let’s be honest… it’s downright impossible to resist throwing in that one last clever comeback, that sigh, that snarky retort— even though it’s guaranteed to get the two of you all fired-up. And not in a good way.

Most of the time it seems that nothing can keep us from jumping onto the old hamster wheel and taking a run. Not even our wisest, sanest voice asking us if the thing we’re fighting about is actually worth it, suggesting we drop it, begging us to, just this once, zip our lips.

For some reason, we can’t. Or, we won’t. Continue reading

Why Changing One Thing Changes Everything

iStock_000004215488XSmallIf you had to guess the most frequently cited reason for divorce, what would you say?

Family violence? Infidelity? Money troubles?

Guess again.

In a recent study done in the UK, forty-seven percent of couples claimed that unreasonable behavior had prompted them to untie the knot.

My experience with couples in the US bears that out. It is well-documented that a vast majority of couples survive infidelity. Some studies suggest numbers as high as seventy-five percent.

Unreasonableness… that’s another thing entirely. Continue reading

How to Forgive Even If You’re A World-Class Grudge Holder

It happens to all of us. We want to forgive someone and we find that we can’t.Business Woman All we can do is think about the wrong that has been done to us— and each time we do, we’re as hurt and angry as the day we were betrayed.

If you’re like most people, when you’ve been betrayed, every waking hour can be filled with your outrage. Every song or movie, every sunset, every time someone says the word “love” or “friendship”, a switch flips inside you and there you are, once again, all worked up and upset.

People will spend years— or a lifetime— replaying and reliving the details of their injury, failing to recognize the toll it takes on their life.

Forgiveness is difficult, but it isn’t impossible, especially when you know what forgiveness is and what it is not. Continue reading

Fights Driving You Crazy? Try These Three Words

Say you’re about to get into one of your typical fights. The fight you’ve had ten thousand times before and it always ends badly. The one where you say this and your partner says that and the next thing you know you’ve turned into a matched pair of lunatics.

Maybe you slam a door or you yell. Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 9.04.47 AMMaybe you turn into an ice queen or a sniper or you go silent as stone. Whatever your style, if you’re like most couples, when trouble brews you do the one thing that’s 100% guaranteed to get you into a fight. You get sucked in.

What if instead of “going with the flow,” one of you gets a grip on your sanity and says: Let’s. Back. Up.

Short, sweet, and incredibly powerful— if you have the wherewithal to not only say it but do it.

Let’s back up is the next best thing to Continue reading

Want A Better Marriage? Change One Thing

Yes, just one. Even if there are ten things that keep you from being nominated for Spouse of the Year, start by changing one.iStock_000026522045XSmall copy

Maybe it’s your grouchiness or the way you’re quick to complain. Perhaps it’s your chilliness or your all-bets-are-off style of fighting or how you’ll hang onto resentments until hell freezes over. Then again, it might be your “look.”You know which look. I’m talking about the look that says, this again? Really? You’ve got to be kidding! The look that’s guaranteed to set your partner’s teeth on edge.

When I ask people to identify one thing they could do to be a better relater, very few Continue reading

The Change We Need Most

Most couples come into therapy seeking something they cannot have. Whether they’re struggling with trust or facing challenges in sex; fighting about money, or kids, Helpor the day-to-day nonsense like who left the half-and-half out on the counter; whether they’re reeling from the impact of an affair, or a job loss, or a death in the family, or pushed to the edge because one partner works too much, or spends too much, or drinks too much. Even if they aren’t quite sure what their real problem is, most people believe that the solution lies in someone else’s hands. My job is to help them see that it doesn’t.

Though there may be couples who seek therapy to make “a good thing even better,” I rarely encounter them. Most of the couples I see are in the throes of a crisis, a good number of them quite near the breaking point. All are worn out and discouraged by the ways that they’re stuck and many believe that they may be beyond hope. The couples I see have come in looking for answers, hoping I can tell them exactly what steps to take to get out of their quandary.

“What should I do?” they ask, Continue reading