Friday, July 10, 2015

4 Elements of a Good Fight

My last blog considered that married couples WILL fight, showed that we all can have positive or negative fighting styles, and uncovered the essence of a BAD fight- PRIDE. I think it is imperative to figure out how to stop having bad fights and start having good ones. The Parrots, in their book The Good Fight, list four key elements of a good fight. They used the acronym CORE.

C- Cooperation

The Parrots write: “a study reported in Psychological Science discovered that, when it comes to couples, the best arguers are those who work in tandem with their partner. According to the study, the person who says ’We’ the most during an argument suggests the best solutions.” Those who say “you” more tend to be more negative. The conclusion of the study was that “’We’ users may have a sense of shared interest that sparks compromise and other ideas pleasing to both partners. ’You’-sayers, on the contrary, tend to criticize, disagree, justify, and otherwise team with negativity.”

O- Ownership

Conflict is often caused by blaming the other person. We say things like: “We wouldn’t be in this mess if you knew how to manage our money.” Or “You’re the one who’s angry! Not me.” And “If you were ever on time, we wouldn’t have missed dinner.” The Parrots point out that, “when we blame our spouse (or anything else), we shift responsibility. We think our fancy footwork puts us in the clear.” But when it comes down to it, “the blame game is for cowards. Ownership takes courage. It takes mettle not to be a victim. Shifting blame immediately makes you powerless. But when you take ownership for your piece of the conflict pie, you’re instantly empowered to find a solution together.” Instead, you say things like, “It’s unfair for me to think you could balance the books with the week you’ve had.” Or “I admit that I’m feeling angry here, and I don’t know what to do.” And “I didn’t think about the traffic when I scheduled the dinner. That was a mistake. These are the words of ownership. They drive blame back to its corner.”

R- Respect

The Parrots state that, “Good fighters steer clear of belittling.” They also point out that, “Everyone needs respect. We can’t have a relationship without it. An attitude of respect builds a bridge of trust between husband and wife even when they are feeling at odds. Respect does more than curb contentment, however. It helps us to listen before speaking. It drives us to understand before passing judgment.”

E- Empathy

The Parrots noted that “Good fighters step into each other’s shoes.” They ask if you’ve ever said anything like this:

·     “I simply don’t understand him”
·     “I have no idea what would make her happy”
·     “We’ll just be talking, and he blows up for no reason”
·     “I don’t understand why she keeps bringing this up”

If so, they note, “Each statement reveals a lack of understanding, a lack of empathy…if you want to instantly and dramatically increase the odds of experiencing a good fight, you may only need to put the single core quality of empathy into practice. Why? Because research shows that 90 percent of marital spats can be resolved if all the couple does is accurately see the issue from each other’s perspective. Don’t miss this point: nine times out of ten, conflicts are resolved when couples step into each other’s shoes.

So follow these CORE steps to start having good fights. It would be wonderful to never fight, but since conflict is inevitable, try these tips.

Another way to learn how to manage conflict along with lots of other things to strengthen your marriage is to join us in September for our Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work Class. You can find more info at my website

Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Have a Good Fight

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love to read. I have several books going at a time and if I could, I would quit all my jobs and just read all day. I hope that, if you want to build the strongest marriage you possible can, you will read everything you can get your hands on so that you can educate yourself and have a full toolbox. I recently read Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot’s book The Good Fight and I’d like to share some things I have learned that might also help you.

If you have been married for more than a day, you know that it will not always be smooth sailing. It’s not a matter of IF there will be conflict; it’s a matter of WHEN. Not only will there be conflict, John Gottman’s research found that 69% of it will not be solvable! Yikes! How do we navigate that? The Parrots, in their book, give a lot of great tips to solve the 31% that can be solved and how to manage the other 69%.

First, all fights are not created equal, according to the Parrots, “A good fight, in contrast to a bad fight, is helpful, not hurtful. It is positive, not negative. A good fight stays clean, but a bad fight gets dirty. According to researchers at the University of Utah, 93 percent of couples who fight dirty will be divorced within ten years. A study at Ohio State University showed that unhealthy marital arguments contribute significantly to a higher risk of heart attacks, headaches, back pain, and a whole slew of other health problems, not to mention unhappiness. In the end, bad fights lead to marriages that are barely breathing and will eventually die.”

The Parrots have this great chart in their book that clearly differentiates a good fight from a bad one:

              Bad Fight                                         Good Fight

Goal:                 Winning the fight                            Resolving the fight
Topic:                Surface issues                                Underlying issues
Emphasis:          Personalities/power struggles       Ideas and issues
Attitude:            Confrontational and defensive       Cooperative and receptive
Motivation:        Shift blame                                     Take responsibility
Mode:                Belittle                                            Respect
Manner:            Egocentric                                       Empathetic
Demeanor:        Self-righteous                                Understanding
Side Effect:        Escalation of tension                      Easing of tension
Result:               Discord                                          Harmony
Benefit:              Stagnation and distance                Growth and intimacy

Which column shows your fighting style? The Parrots noted that, “if you boil the essence of a bad fight down to a single ingredient and sum it all up in one word, it would have to be pride.” Proverbs 13:10 says, “pride leads to conflict, those who take advice are wise (NLT).” It’s that simple. The Parrots explain further, “A prideful spirit keeps us from cooperating, flexing, respecting, compromising, and resolving. Instead, it fuels defensiveness and discord. It stands in the way of saying ‘I’m sorry.’ It lives by the motto ‘The only unfair fight is the one you lose.’ Self-centered pride is at the heart of every bad fight. Research shows that when pride sets in, a partner will continue an argument 34 percent of the time even when he knows he’s wrong or can’t remember what the fight was about. A full 74 percent will fight on even if they feel ‘it’s a losing battle’.”

In the next 4 blogs, I’m going to show you how to have good fights, ones that are productive and beneficial and can actually strengthen your marriage. So stay tuned.

Another great way to build a stronger marriage is to attend our Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work workshops. You can find out more info at

Friday, June 12, 2015


I really have enjoyed reading Dr. Chapman’s The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted. I want to talk about one more concept that he highlighted and then I want you to read the book for yourself. You can do what my hubby and I do sometimes and read it to each other.

In Chapter 2, he talks about having a Clear Conscience, and that after accepting God’s forgiveness, it is an important “step toward a growing, God-honoring marriage.” He quotes the apostle Paul’s statement in Acts 24:16:

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”

Dr. Chapman notes that this is an “important principle of mental health and, consequently, of marital health.” It’s not that Paul thought he did no wrong, but he kept his sin confessed so that he could have a clear conscience before God and also before other people. “We empty our conscience toward God when we confess our sins. We empty our conscience toward a spouse when we go to him or her and confess our failures,” says Dr. Chapman.

Dr. Chapman suggests you try this (after a good meal): “You can say to him or her…'Honey, God has dealt  with me today, and I now realize that I have been wrong in so many things. I have confessed them to God and want to ask your forgiveness. I have been very selfish in demanding that you_____. I have not been very kind in_____. I have failed in meeting your needs for_____. And I want to ask, will you forgive me?’ Be as specific with your mate as you have been with God. Give him or her a chance to respond.”

“But what if my husband is stubborn and won’t forgive me” or “what if my wife doesn’t believe I’m really sorry, what do I do then?”

Glad you asked. I agree with Dr. Chapman, “That is his [or her] problem and not yours. Your responsibility is to admit the wrong you carry and ask forgiveness. Your mate’s responsibility is not your responsibility. You have done what you can by dealing with your wrong. You have not done what you can until you have dealt with your own offenses. You see, you cannot confess your partner’s sin, but you can deal with your 5 percent.” That releases us to only worry about our own part and to do what’s right even if our spouse does not.

So what is the risk in taking this step? I really don’t like being vulnerable. What if my spouse doesn’t respond positively? Dr. Chapman suggests to “not worry about your spouse’s reaction to your confession. Do not think he  should fall on his knees and confess his own wrong. He may, and if so, great! You will have a tender evening. But negative feelings may not capitulate that easily. Personal pride stands as a hurdle for all of us. Allow time for God’s work in your mate. When you have confessed your wrong and emptied your conscience toward God and your partner, you have done the greatest thing you can do for your mate. He may not respond in like manner, but you have made it easier for him to admit wrong.”

And that’s all we can do.

Please leave a comment and share with us how you did with this.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

10 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married (or Engaged)

This is a little side blog in the middle of my thoughts on Dr. Chapman's book. In order to have The Marriage You've Always Wanted, you need to marry the right person for YOU. You also need to BE the right person for somebody else. Something to think about before you are

Seriously Dating or Engaged

That’s the name of the program I use when taking couples through premarital counseling. This program has helped countless couples prepare for marriage and was put together by Roger Tirabassi. Consider Roger’s 3 Keys to Great Relationships:

First: Grow in Knowledge.

Begin with yourself! Ask yourself the following 10 questions:

1. Who is the most important person in my life and why?
2. If I could only accomplish one thing the rest of my life what would it be?
3. Would I say I am an emotionally healthy person?  What steps do I feel I should take to become more emotionally healthy?
4. What are 5 positive traits I bring to a relationship?
5. What are 5 negative traits I bring to a relationship?
6. What is my relationship with money (good and bad)?
7. What is my relationship with food (good and bad)? 

8. What is my relationship with work (good and bad)?
9. What is my relationship with God (good and bad)?

10. What is my relationship with friends (good and bad)?

Second: Become a Skilled Listener.

If you struggle with empathy or patience--two important components of a great relationship--try these tips: 

1. Don't use "never" or "always."
2. Don't blame or shame.
3. Don't interrupt.

Third: Make Safe Decisions.

Don't make impulsive decisions or statements when you are upset or angry. Your words hurt. They can't be erased easily. Take a short "time out" and prayerfully consider what to say.

After considering these questions and suggestions, tell us how this was beneficial to you. And if you are getting married anytime soon, and considering Premarital Counseling, contact me through my website if you would like to go through this program. 

There are still a few spots left if you are interested in attending our Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work Class this summer. For more info, check out my website at

And look for us on Facebook at

Next time: Back to what Dr. Gary Chapman says about having The Marriage You've Always Wanted