What if you both have the same emotional wound?
- Ideally, learn what triggers your spouse’s emotional wound. Similar emotional wounds don’t mean the same fix/approach will be the same. Coach each other on what would help reduce the triggers but remember no expectations on what your spouse can do to help minimize or prevent the triggers. Having the same emotional wounds should help you each have more empathy and compassion for each other as you can relate to each other’s deepest hurts.
What’s the best way to help or motivate a spouse who seems unable or unwilling to empathize?
- Modeling is the best form of action vs trying to motivate them. Doing your own work will help you reduce your expectations and the pressure you put on your spouse to empathize.
In your opinion, what is the greatest threat to millennial and GenZ couples?
- We believe the greatest threat is pornography and unfortunately, it is not limited to just millennials and GenZ couples. Also, social media in general causes so much distraction and disconnect in young couples.
As a couple about to have children, what is your best advice on keeping our marriage healthy during this major life event?
- Sixty-seven percent of couples became very unhappy with each other during the first three years of their baby’s life. Only 33% remained content. What are they doing differently? There are many skills but predominantly couples remain intentional about their friendship. Read more about it in this book called, ‘And Baby Makes Three.’ Make sure to communicate often with each other about what you are feeling and what you need from each other.
What are your best practices to climb out of the pit of resentment and disdain for your spouse?
- The Weekly Check-In: a weekly conversation that is emotionally safe. We personally discuss 1. Our Schedules 2. Hopes & Dreams 3. Frustrations & Celebrations.
- Read more about it here: Weekly Check-In
- Try to understand why your spouse is doing the things that frustrate you. Help them tell you their story and the wounds, fears, and feelings that come from their story. That is where empathy and compassion take place instead of resentment and disdain.
- Make a gratitude list of what you like and appreciate about your spouse. Review it regularly, especially when you are really frustrated with your spouse.
If you can’t be calm after your 20 min break do you take another break?
- Yes, absolutely. Having a conversation when you are still flooded will not benefit either one of you.
- Keep having a conversation with yourself about why you are so flooded. Focus on why you’re having such an intense reaction to your feelings. (having a 10 reaction to a 2 circumstance)
- Remind yourself of what you like and appreciate about your spouse.
Advice for two turtles in the relationship.
- It feels peaceful because no one is fighting, both are avoiding conflict at all costs but beware of the resentment that is brewing below the surface. The homework for turtles is to commit to coming back to the conversation. Pre-decide once conflict happens how long you have before a conversation needs to take place. I (Danielle) used to take 24 hours but the more we practiced Conflict Repair the less time I needed to process the conflict. Shutting down and not discussing the conflict can become habitual and very hard behavior to break.
- The frustrations portion of the weekly check-in helps you be proactive to discuss frustrations.
How do you talk when you’re schedules are completely opposite? So you’re passing spouses/ parents who rarely are in the house together and when we are home at the same time, one of us is tired or asleep. Dates are rare.
- Hopefully, this is just a season but during this time try to have a Weekly Check-In even if it’s a short one. If not, perhaps have a Monthly Check-In.
- A fun way to stay connected during the week even via text message is to share your hopes and dreams.
Do you have advice for a couple with different parenting styles and a challenging elementary school kid?
- Our parenting styles were on the opposite end of the spectrum. We really struggled with this in our marriage but our hope in being so far apart is that we met somewhere in the middle which was ultimately better for our kids. Join a small group for young parents. Community is everything during these stages. It helps to know you’re not alone and the opportunity to learn about different resources to help you manage kids that might be challenging.
- Read one of the top parenting books together and try to implement its recommendations together. One of our favorites is Love & Logic:
How does a marriage survive a home remodel?
- Move instead? haha If you can survive a home remodel you’ve graduated to the top of the class! Ideally, share up front how you will manage blurred timelines and over-extended budgets. As it is happening, make sure to regularly share your feelings with each other and what you need from each other to help with the stress.
What do you find is the best way to stop in the middle of a heated conversation?
- It’s a practice that takes intention. Learn to walk away with a pre-decided discussion that walking away is your way to calm down and that you will continue the conversation once you’re no longer flooded. Have a hand signal (not a finger signal! haha) or code word that you both agree will allow each other to stop.
Can you talk more about emotional safety and what that looks like on a daily basis?
- It means coming from a place of vulnerability and not attacking with statements starting with, “You…” It is so important to coach your spouse in a loving and respectful way on what you need to feel safe. This includes your tone and body language.
What advice would you give to someone who is divorced and doesn’t want to bring the baggage of their first marriage to their next one?
- Unfortunately, it’s impossible not to bring your baggage with you. But you can unpack it by learning what baggage you’re bringing, own your 10 reactions to 2 circumstances, and commit to some form of mentoring/counseling to work through your baggage. We help couples understand the impact of their baggage so they don’t always blame their spouse.
In a blended family, how do you balance issues with stepchildren and preserve your marriage?
- One of the best gifts I received was attending a stepfamily seminar before I got married. There are recommendations that I adhered to when balancing issues with my stepchildren and preserving our marriage. Primarily it was to develop a strong relationship with the kids before any kind of direct discipline by me took place. My disciplinary requests would go through Russ instead of directly with the kids when they were little. You can learn more about stepchildren and marriage with Ron Deal: The Smart Stepfamily
How do you deal with a spouse more devoted to addiction than your marriage?
- It first starts with empathy. Addicts are not devoted to their addiction, they are addicted to their addiction. I (Russ) have been around addiction my entire life. There is always trauma/pain/fear that drives addiction. Try to learn the root causes of their addiction to help with empathy/compassion and ask them how you can help them manage their addiction. They may not feel they are addicted and depending on the type and level of addiction, you may have to put certain boundaries in place. I strongly recommend seeking out a professional counselor with addiction experience to help you manage how to live with an addict. Also, seek out support groups like Al-Anon.