Monthly Archives: January 2018

Is it dangerous to fight in front of our kids?

fighting in front of kids

Short answer – It depends.  I know it sounds like I’m sitting on the fence unwilling to commit, but hang with me – there’s good reason for my waffling.

Your first consideration should be the kids

Remember these facts:

Your children’s emotional boundaries are still developing. To them it can feel like they’re in the fight as much as you are.

Worse, if the fight touches on something they did, they can feel responsible for the tension between you and your partner.

Emotional intensity can affect children in ways we don’t know. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Oregon showed infants’ brains reacting to other persons’ anger, even while the infants were asleep.

''Infants’ brains respond to anger, even when they’re sleeping''. Click To Tweet
Is it worth the risk? I would say no. But I have a caveat.

Are you fighting to hurt?

Every relationship that matters to us has times when we need to work out a conflict.
How you handle this process is a function of your end game. Are you seeking to come to shared understanding? Or to win at all cost? To prove yourself right? To show your partner is wrong, even if it means belittling or embarrassing them? If you do this in front of your kids, regardless of their ages, you are emotionally crippling them, setting them up for ineffective patterns in their own relationships.

Or are you fighting to heal?

If you’re both doing your dead-level best to come to mutual understanding, to a solution that – whether or not it’s yours – is best for everyone, that may be a process your kids need to see.

In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at Wharton, cites a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Rochester and Notre Dame. The study of 235 families over the course of three years found that kids who felt emotionally safe and saw their parents argue constructively used more empathy in dealing with others, and in classroom settings they were more friendly and helpful.

Now that’s an outcome I can support.

''Kids who see their parents argue constructively show more empathy to others''. Click To Tweet

The bottom line

As I do with all of my clients, I urge you to look past the heat to the healing.

If you see that most of your arguments involve tearing down your partner, making fun of their opinions, or loudly exploiting an error in their logic, shut yourself down. Walk out of the room. Take a drive. Do whatever it takes to deescalate the emotions.

And most important of all, commit to never let this happen again. If you can’t, one of you needs to move out until you can get into therapy. It’s just not worth what you might be doing to your kids’ brains.

But if you’re able to say, “Let’s calm this down. I’d like to think about what you’re saying and talk it through again. Can we do it tonight after supper?” you might be in a place your children desperately need to see. After all, how many people in this world can show them how to calmly work toward shared understanding? And who better than the two people they love more than anyone else in the world?

If you want more of this peaceful yet constructive approach in your marriage, give us a call or schedule an appointment with us online. We are experts in helping couples manage conflict in relationships.

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Which Is Easier: Quitting Your Marriage, Or Fixing It?

quit or fix

I’ll give you my short answer right up front – In the long run, it’s much, much easier to make your marriage work than to give up on it.

That probably sounds counterintuitive, especially if you’re in the middle of the messy daily slog of a damaged relationship. And it runs counter to what you’ll hear from many of my marriage-counseling colleagues too:

Don’t feel guilty about ending the marriage; there is no shame in divorce. Ever.
Walk away if you feel it’s time.
If you feel you would be a better version of yourself without your partner, then go.
If you are miserable, it is better for you both to walk away…give
 each other the chance to experience a new beginning.

I grieve when I hear these.

Marriage is a sacred contract for good reason ''I grieve when I hear someone say it’s easier to end a marriage than try to save it''. Click To Tweet

Would you go into a business partnership with someone you thought might walk away at any moment? Of course not. You make a contract holding both of you accountable to not letting this happen.

In business, we contract. In marriage, we commit.

We commit to work through the problems in sickness and in health.

We commit even though some days our spouse is a jerk.  And on the days we’re the jerk.

We commit whether all our needs are being met. Or not.

We commit knowing there will be days we simply do not feel the love.

We commit because marriage is more than a contract. It’s a pathway to living up to who we want to be. ''In business we contract. In marriage, we commit''. Click To Tweet

If you quit, what will you miss?

This may not be the feel good answer you want to hear,  but when you endure hard days in your marriage, you grow.

Every marriage has potential walk-away moments.  In fact, any relationship of depth has those moments. Mine certainly has.  Yours will too.  Leaving may feel like a quick fix,  but in the long run, it doesn’t solve the problem. Or make your life better.  If you leave, you’ll simply repeat the destructive cycle over and over again, missing out on the growth that comes from enduring the hard days.

Growth comes from productive pain.

I teach my clients that un-productive pain is the cycle in which nothing changes or gets better. It just hurts.  If you’re unhappy with your marriage and considering divorce, that’s probably where you are right now.

Productive pain is similar to losing 20 pounds. You make the decision. You start to restrict your calories and increase your activity. It’s hard but you stick with it, working through the pain to get your desired result. You grow from productive pain. It has a purpose.

''Productive pain is pain with a purpose''. Click To Tweet

Now am I saying every marriage can be saved? Absolutely not.

If there is ongoing abuse, you need to leave the relationship. But most marriages can be saved.  And not just saved to survive. They can become partnerships of healing – for yourself and others.

Let’s be clear: There are painful times ahead

But let’s choose productive pain over the unproductive kind.  One ends in personal growth, a stronger marriage, and a deep connection that lasts. The other ends in agony, divorce, and a likely repeat of this vicious cycle.

The commitment is worth it. I’ve seen it in my life and the lives of friends and family. When things get hard, I’m going to honor my commitment and fight for my marriage. The alternative is far worse.

If you feel the same, but don’t know how to make your pain productive,  give us a call or schedule an appointment with us online. We can help you figure out what’s going on in your marriage and teach you how to fight for it.

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