How To Respond If Your Husband Likes to Argue

You’re the kind of person who avoids conflict. Your husband, on the other hand, seems to relish picking fights. It’s driving you crazy, but is it a serious problem in your marriage?

The answer is “it depends.” Let’s look at some reasons he may argue with you.

Possibility #1: He Just Likes to Debate

Some people just love to spar over politics, which “Avengers” movie was the best, where to order pizza … and on and on. For others, this is exhausting. That being said, very few people actually enjoy aggressively stirring up real arguments.

If he’s a debater and you’re not, the important thing is realizing that the two of you have different styles, and that you must learn to peacefully coexist.

“Respect” is really the key word here. If it suddenly feels like he’s talking about you, instead of, say, politics, pay attention. There’s a big difference between “I disagree with your candidate” and “You’ve got to be an idiot to vote for that guy.” And the latter statement is a sign of a deeper trouble in your marriage.

Possibility #2: He Wants to Talk EVERYTHING Out

You and your husband may be different in how much you feel a need to discuss things. Maybe you usually shrug off little annoyances, but he tends to make everything “a thing.”

You grit your teeth and put up with his family. He doesn’t hesitate to tell you how much your mom drives him nuts. You don’t say a word when he’s binge watching his favorite show. He lets you know he’s unhappy with the amount of time you spend on Instagram. Why can’t he chill out?

Maybe he came from a family where everyone expressed themselves openly, and your family was more reserved. Or, perhaps you were taught to let little things go, and he wasn’t.

Whatever the case, there isn’t necessarily a “right” approach. Some people with great marriages don’t express conflict openly. Others bicker all the time. The frequency of your arguments isn’t nearly as important as what’s going on in them. As long as you remain respectful, you’re on solid ground. (See “The Right Way to Fight With Your Husband.”)

Possibility #3: It’s Really About His Unmet Needs

Unmet needs can sometimes also be the source of intense conflict. The influential psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communication, noted:

Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.

Could this be true of your husband? Is it possible his agitation is really about a need that’s not being met? Maybe he wants more time with you? More appreciation? Consider listening deeper for that unmet need rather than joining him in the fight. How would your response change?

Now this doesn’t mean that he has license to yell or throw tantrums and to expect you to read his mind. He has some responsibility to ask for what he needs. You have every right to ask that he be calm and constructive.

Conclusion

No matter which one of these scenarios applies to your marriage, please know that you and your husband can manage it together. Understanding the reason for the disagreement is important in helping you determine how to respond. Next time he picks a fight, I hope you’ll start by asking yourself, “Why is he arguing with me?”

Is Your Marriage More Intimate Than You Think?

Women will often say that they want more intimacy in their marriage. If you’ve had feelings like this, I want to give you something to think about.

Typically, when a wife complains about a lack of intimacy, she means that she and her husband are not having deep and candid conversations about things like each other’s true feelings, thoughts, and dreams.

However, intimacy can take different forms in a marriage. Some men — especially those with a more traditional upbringing— have an easier time with nonverbal intimacy than with building intimacy through conversation.

Paths and Roadblocks to Intimacy

When your husband seeks intimacy more physically than verbally, it’s easy to misunderstand his motivations. You may think things like, “It’s all about sex for him” and assume he’s only seeking you out to fulfill his own desires. Usually, the truth is more nuanced. Yes, he’s probably enjoying sex. However, he’s also seeking connection and intimacy with you in a way that just feels more comfortable for him.

When you seek intimacy through conversation and he seeks it through physical connection, neither of you is wrong. You just need to see that these are two different paths to feeling closer, and find a way to honor both.

To set the stage for more intimate conversations with your husband, make sure there’s an atmosphere of safety and respect in your marriage. Listen when he talks. (Put down your phone!) Be curious about what’s going on with him. And don’t micromanage or criticize him — would you want to open up to someone who is constantly getting after you?

Enhancing Nonverbal Intimacy

In addition to deepening your connection through conversation, appreciate the various forms of nonverbal intimacy in your marriage and look for ways to increase that too. I’m not just talking about sex. You could also…

  • Offer physical comfort.
  • Reassure or encourage with a squeeze of the shoulder or a gentle touch.
  • Hold eye contact.
  • Hold each other.
  • Wink and smile.
  • Gently caress his face, hair, or arm in a cherishing way.
  • Sit close to each other.
  • Speak quietly and lovingly.
  • Lean on each other.
  • Reach out and hold hands.
  • Embrace.
  • Kiss.
  • Give him a pat on the butt.
  • Walk arm-in-arm, holding hands, or arm-over-shoulder.

On their own, these gestures will bring the two of you closer together. They could also make it feel safer for your husband to risk opening up to the intimate conversations you’ve been longing for.

A Minute of Silence

I want to leave you with one of the most vivid reminders of the power of nonverbal intimacy that I know of. Perhaps you’ve heard of Marina Abramovic’s work “The Artist is Present” in which she sat across from strangers and shared a minute of silence with them. That’s intimate enough itself! But when Abramovic’s ex-love sits down, look at how much passes between them before they even speak a single word.

As Abramovic shows us, there’s nothing more powerful than the connection between people. Make it a priority to constantly build your connection with your husband, whatever form that intimacy takes. My book, Strong Women, Strong Love, can give you more ideas on how to stay close no matter how busy and hectic your lives are.

How to Stop Being Too Controlling of Your Husband

You’re so controlling! Can you just get off my back?

If your husband has ever hurled words like these at you during an argument, you no doubt remember their sting. But besides feeling hurt, you were probably also confused. Me? Controlling? Where’s he coming up with this?

This conflict can cause real damage in your relationship if it continues unchecked. Today, I want to help you get to the root of the issue and to suggest some shifts that both you and your husband can make to strengthen your marriage.

Are You Really Controlling?

If your husband has told you that you’re controlling, you’re far from alone. This is one of the most common points of tension in marriages. But I don’t believe that most wives are out there secretly scheming to find new ways to boss their husbands around.

What’s actually happening? As you know firsthand, we women have a lot on our plates. In addition to going to work, women still spend more time on household chores and childcare than men do. And then there’s the emotional labor that goes along with having a family, which also disproportionately falls on women.

With so much going on, we have to be very good at getting things done. To keep all the balls we’re juggling in the air, we’re relentlessly focused and efficient.

Why He Thinks You’re Too Controlling

Here’s where issues of control come in. When you’re driving so hard to check off all the things on your list, sometimes it can feel like your husband is slowing you down or getting in your way. So you end up doing things like this:

  • Telling him how to do a task “right.”
  • Jumping in and taking over if he’s doing it “wrong” or taking too long.
  • Constantly reminding him about something you asked him to do because you’re worried he’ll forget.

You know that you’re just trying to get everything done because you care about your family. But he’s taking away a very different message from your behavior. If he complains that you are too controlling, he isn’t just saying that he feels micromanaged. The deeper meaning behind his words is that he doesn’t think you trust him or respect him which makes him feel demoralized and unmotivated.

Again, I know these aren’t the messages you’re trying to communicate to him. But they’re the ones he’s taking away.

Step Back So He Can Step Up

Your marriage doesn’t have to stay stuck in this destructive pattern, though. Here’s how to change the dynamic between you and your husband.

  • As we’ve discussed, the behaviors that he perceives as controlling are probably happening because you have too much to do and you feel stressed and overwhelmed. That means it’s time for an open and honest discussion about household responsibilities — chores, childcare, emotional labor — and how the two of you can divide things more equitably.
  • Once you agree that a task or responsibility is his to manage, back off. Don’t jump in and sideline him, even when you know that you would do a better job. Yes, taking over might be easier right now, but giving him some space to grow is better for you both in the long run. He might make some mistakes, but he’ll grow from them.
  • Remember “the friend test.” Our spouses are so close to us that sometimes we take them for granted and don’t show them the same respect and consideration we would show a friend. When you’re tempted to tell your husband how to do something, or to jump in and start doing it for him, ask yourself whether you would behave the same way with a dear friend.

Persist Through Discomfort

Shifts like these may feel uncomfortable at first because things will take longer to get done, and they might not be done according to your high standards. But I believe the closeness you’ll gain in your marriage more than makes up for any efficiency you lose. He’ll feel less controlled, you’ll feel less burdened, and you’ll both enjoy a more collaborative partnership that gives you more freedom and flexibility.

For more marriage tips like the ones in this article, pick up copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love. In it, you’ll find many more strategies for maintaining a strong relationship amid our busy, stressful lives.

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If He ‘Needs Space,’ What Should You Do?

Nothing’s wrong — I just need some space.

Those are some of the most alarming and confusing words you can hear in your marriage. Today I want to help you decode them.

What Is He Really Saying?

If your husband says that he needs space, or if you notice that he’s been distancing himself lately, a lot of thoughts might race through your mind:

  • He doesn’t love me anymore.
  • He’s keeping a dark secret.
  • He’s having an affair.

So what does “I need space” really mean?

I’ll let you in on a secret: It means he needs space. Yep, guys are pretty literal most of the time. And this need for space is not necessarily a signal that something is wrong in your marriage.

Why Does He Need Space?

Speaking very generally, “space” is a more confusing word for women than it is for men. As a result, when your husband doesn’t want to collaborate, you might quickly assume the worst.

However, men in the U.S. are usually socialized very differently than we are. They’re taught to be stoic and deal with problems and issues on their own. So when he says he needs space, here a few things that might be going on with him:

  • He’s working through a challenge or a problem, like a tough time at work.
  • He’s exhausted. Men will more readily take some time to themselves to recharge. This is one area where we should follow their example!
  • He’s experiencing a difficult emotion, such as grief, that he needs time to process.

I’m not saying that taking some space is the best way to handle any of these situations. But it’s his way, and it probably doesn’t reflect on his feelings for you.

When the Need for Space Is a Red Flag

Sometimes, however, “I need some space” really does translate to “There’s a problem in our marriage.” This is especially true if you typically have a very close and collaborative relationship and he suddenly wants more space. Don’t rush to conclusions, but do realize it’s time to open a discussion about what’s happening with him.

This is just one example of how navigating the differences between your husband’s emotional needs and communication style and your own can be tricky. For more proven strategies that can help, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.

Don’t forget to subscribe to receive new blog posts HERE and get a free report, “10 Easy Ways to Get Him to Listen.”

Is It Ever OK to Gossip About Your Husband?

You’ve met some friends for a glass of wine. Or you’re grabbing a coffee with your best girlfriends at work. Or maybe you’re huddled with some other moms on the sidelines of your kids’ soccer game. And then it starts: gossip about your husbands.

Does This Sound Familiar?

He’s STILL so helpless around the house. It’s like having another kid!

I asked him to pick up the gift for his mom, and he forgot — of course! He’s just useless.

He’s let himself go so much. We’re way beyond “dad bod” here. It’s killing my sex drive!

You’re amused and even titillated at this look into your friends’ marriages. And you can definitely empathize with some of the things they’re going through. In fact, you’ve got a couple of stories about things your husband has done lately. You know they’ll understand where you’re coming from. What’s the harm in a little venting?

Actually, there can be a lot of harm in gossiping about your husband. Here a few things to consider the next time you feel like dishing with your friends.

Is This Really ‘Joking’?

Sometimes there’s a fine line between poking some gentle fun at your husband’s quirks and talking about him contemptuously. You’re probably not doing any harm by sharing a couple of anecdotes about how obsessed he gets with work. However, if you start saying things like “I swear, he knows more about what’s going on with his coworkers than his own kids,” that’s a sign of some serious bitterness behind your jokes.

Would He Be OK With This? Would You?

How would your husband feel if he knew what you were sharing with your friends? Would he laugh at himself, or would he feel that you had betrayed his trust?

And here’s something else to think about: How would you feel if you knew he was gossiping with his friends over an embarrassing mistake you had made? Or if he was complaining to them about your low libido?

If there’s even a small possibility that he would consider what you’re about to say a betrayal, then just don’t say it.

Are You Avoiding Taking Action About Something?

If you’re having a problem in your marriage, gossiping about your husband with friends probably makes you feel better in the moment.
However, if your husband has no idea there is a problem, nothing can change. Does he have any idea how you’re feeling? If not, consider talking to him directly, rather than venting to others.

Is Your Listener Trustworthy?

I do understand that there will be situations in your marriage when you can’t talk to your husband. For example, you may need to get your own thoughts sorted out first or want some advice about how to approach him. In those cases, make sure the person you are confiding in is someone you can trust completely.

Your marriage needs an environment of respect and emotional safety. What you say in one careless moment can instantly undermine that environment. That’s why I urge you to tread very carefully whenever a conversation turns to gossip about your husbands. Take a minute to think through the consequences of sharing information about him, always choosing to protect the trust you have built together over the years.

For more advice about creating a healthy and respectful marriage, pick up copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.

Don’t forget to subscribe to receive new blog posts HERE and get a free report, “10 Easy Ways to Get Him to Listen.”

Why are Women More Stressed at Home?

Have you been in this situation with your husband?

The two of you are at home after work or on the weekend. You’re catching up on household tasks or things you need to do for the kids. Or you may be trying to rest, but your head is spinning with thoughts of all you should be doing.

While you’re stressed, he’s relaxing by the TV or happily scrolling through his phone. If it’s bedtime, he’s out like a light.

One of the most frustrating and fascinating things I see happening in relationships is that there’s still a big gulf between the way men feel at home and how women feel in the same space.

Despite all the changes in gender roles and expectations that have happened in the past half-century, I believe that most men continue to view home as a place to relax and as a refuge from the stress of the outside world.

Meanwhile, women see home as a place that has its own set of responsibilities and stresses. There’s a good reason for this. Wives still tend to do more housework than their husbands do. Primary responsibility for childcare also continues to fall mostly on women, as well as the emotional labor of the household.

And then there are the cultural norms that affect us all to one degree or another. Traditionally, we’ve seen the home as the woman’s domain. A lot of us know deep down that if, for example, the house is messy when someone drops by that we will be the ones who are judged for that, not our husbands.

Making Things More Fair at Home

But, just like your husband, you deserve to get some rest and relaxation at home. And your marriage will be better if you don’t have underlying resentment that you’re doing more around the house.

Change starts by talking openly about the unspoken expectations and assumptions both of you have. You might discover that the behaviors you were taking personally (“He’s lounging around and doesn’t care that I’m so stressed!”) are actually just habits he learned in his family of origin or stem from his lack of awareness of how much is on your plate.

After you’ve cleared the air, negotiate how the two of you can divide domestic responsibilities so that you both get some rest. For example, maybe you agree that each of you will take a set amount of time to decompress after work and then have certain tasks to complete. Or, perhaps, you’re responsible for the dishes and he does the laundry. The more specific you can be, the better.

This common conflict really drives home how social expectations can affect your marriage. Remember that you are both on the same team and can create a less stressful life if you work together to ease the burdens on each of you. For more ideas about decreasing the stress in your marriage, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love.

Don’t forget to subscribe to receive new blog posts HERE and get a free report, “10 Easy Ways to Get Him to Listen.”

How to Make Date Night Better With One Easy Shift

date night

How many articles have you read about the importance of having regular date nights with your husband?

From what I’ve seen, though, date night can backfire sometimes. Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re determined to have a “real date,” so you hire a sitter and make reservations at a nice restaurant or buy tickets for a special event. The cost of the evening, both in time and money, weighs on you, and so does the expectation that this date will somehow work magic on your relationship. Not surprisingly, the whole thing ends up being more stressful than fun.

Here’s another common scenario: That nice dinner out (or other creative date night idea) is simply not possible for you right now, whether because of scheduling, finances or both. So you end up feeling that there’s something wrong with your relationship, or that you’re somehow missing out.

Change Your Idea of Date Night

Let’s take some of the pressure off you. Look, I’m the first one to recommend trying something new with your husband — like going on a fun adventure or checking out a new restaurant — to stoke the passion in your relationship. But if you can’t right now, that’s fine.

The point of having a date night isn’t to do something you can brag about on Instagram. It’s to connect with each other. That’s why I recommend broadening your definition of what a date is. What if you were to think of date night as any time the two of you can be fully present with each other? Date night could mean snuggling and talking on the couch in the quiet time after the kids go to bed. It could be having a candlelight dinner in your own dining room. Date night doesn’t even have to happen at night! If possible, how about sneaking off during your work day and grabbing lunch once in a while?

Look for opportunities to turn overlooked moments in your day into times to connect. Perhaps, you could you take a couple of minutes to catch up with each other after work before jumping into household tasks? Could you create a bedtime ritual that brings you closer?

You can make date nights as big or as small as you want them to be. The best dates for the two of you depend on your specific relationship and what’s going on with you right now. Try to go on at least one “date” this week. And for more ideas about strengthening your marriage, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love.

Don’t forget to subscribe to receive new blog posts HERE and get a free report, “10 Easy Ways to Get Him to Listen.”

5 Things Every Mother Should Know About Marriage

motherhood marriage

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, today I have a special blog article on marriage and motherhood for you. It compiles advice from some of my most popular articles on this topic. Follow the link with each tip to read more.

1. Let experienced moms/wives show you the way. If this is your first Mother’s Day, you may already feel confused about how to juggle your marriage with your new responsibilities as a mom. Learning from seasoned parents who have already successfully made this stressful transition can be incredibly helpful. (Read more: Protecting Your Marriage When You Become Parents.)

2. Stop chasing perfection. It seems like the list of what women are “supposed” to be doing as wives and moms just keeps getting longer: staging elaborate parties for the kids, preparing organic meals, planning exotic vacations. And sometimes looking at other people’s social media feeds makes us feel like we’re the only ones not doing everything perfectly. As a result of constantly chase perfection, we often miss the flawed but lovely lives we already have. Pause, catch your breath and be in the moment. (Read more: ‘I’d Spend More Time Being, Not Doing’)

3. He does need to pitch in more. The research shows that in most marriages, wives still do more housework and childcare. If that’s true in your relationship, you’re probably feeling tired, frustrated and resentful. That’s not really conducive to being a loving, patient wife or mom! Open a conversation with your husband about how the two of you can manage household responsibilities better. That could mean that he takes on more or that you hire a housekeeper. (Read more: Why Does Marriage Get Worse After Kids?)

4. Do what you like doing sometimes. Do you always do what your husband or kids want to do? If that’s the case, then it’s time to get back in touch with your favorite hobbies and interests. This isn’t selfish. It actually makes you a better mom and wife. (Read more: Are You Stuck in a Rut? Here’s How to Re-Energize.)

5. Don’t forget to connect first. When we’re busy and stressed, it’s easy to take those we’re closest to for granted. We might be much more abrupt and less tactful with them than we are with other people. But taking that extra moment to connect first pays off. It helps your husband and your kids get into the mental space where they can truly hear what you’re saying and engage with you. (Read more: Connection is Always the First Step.)

Have a warm and joyful Mother’s Day!

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It’s Not About the Nail — So What IS It About?

If you’ve never seen the short video “It’s Not About the Nail,” take a couple of minutes to watch it now: https://youtu.be/-4EDhdAHrOg. You’ll probably enjoy a laugh — and feel a twinge of recognition.

As you can see, “It’s Not About the Nail” captures a common situation in marriage. Spouses often go into an interaction with very different expectations, and that can lead to conflict. For example, one spouse doesn’t get their needs met during the interaction and becomes upset. Then the other spouse becomes confused and frustrated because they don’t know why the other spouse is upset and what they need.

It’s All About Communication

Fortunately, there’s a way to avoid this confusion. It’s simple, but not always easy to carry out. The next time you’re in a situation that could turn into an “It’s Not About the Nail” moment, let your husband know at the outset what you’re seeking from the interaction. For example, do you just need to vent and feel heard? Or would you like him to help you solve a problem? Vice versa, if he’s coming to you with a problem, confirm with him what he really needs — even if you think you already know.

Sometimes we skip this step because we think our partner should “just know” what we need and how to respond. But it’s important to remember that each of you brings different experiences to your marriage, and that affects how you react to each other. What seems obvious to you isn’t so obvious to him, and vice versa. This is why being clear about your needs is one of the most loving and helpful things you can do for each other.

I love how the “It’s Not About the Nail” video uses humor to share some real wisdom about relationships. And I hope you’ll remember it the next time you feel like your husband just isn’t getting what you’re saying. For more advice on communication in marriage, pick up a copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love.

How To Keep Your Marriage Strong When You Have a Child with a Disability

Marriage isn’t a breeze for anyone. We all face challenges like balancing work and family and somehow finding time to nurture our relationships amid our busy lives.

Couples parenting children with physical, emotional or mental disabilities, though, face an extra level of difficulty. And that can take its toll. For example, one study found that parents of children with autism have a 10 percent higher chance of getting divorced.

The relationship advice I would give to any couple takes on even more relevance for parents of children with disabilities: The most important thing you can do for your marriage is to pull together whatever resources you can to help manage stress.

The Stress Adds Up

Parents of children with disabilities can face extra stress on many different fronts:

  • Paying for treatments or therapies for the child can stretch the family’s finances. Of course taking the child to these therapies can disrupt daily life.
  • When a child has a more severe disability, one parent may actually need to leave the workforce and stay home with the child. Of course, this can create additional financial strain, as well as feelings of isolation for the parent who stays home.
  • Caring for a child with health issues can place demands on time, which may limit a family’s ability to engage in activities and friendships they once enjoyed. It’s also easy to neglect your relationship when time runs short.
  • The emotional part of caring for a child with a disability can be hard. Chronic worry about your child and their future can be draining. Feeling frustrated when demands are high is normal, but many parents also feel guilty for feeling this way.
  • Being spontaneous can be difficult when your child’s every day life requires extensive planning and preparation. The monotony of a rigid, demanding schedule can become exhausting.

Stress Makes It Hard to Relate

So much stress has a very real effect on your brain. Dr. Daniel Siegel says that under extreme stress, the primitive area of the brain geared toward survival hijacks the part of that brain that reasons, plans and makes good decisions. He calls this “flipping your lid.” When this happens, it’s almost impossible to be rational.

As you probably guessed, it’s a struggle to be a good partner when you’re in this mode. You have trouble processing information and hearing each other. That makes it hard to have empathy. You may also become defensive and have difficulty being open. Since you’re in self-protection mode, your capacity for being patient with each other may be compromised.

Give Your Marriage Care Too

No doubt, you and your husband are fully committed and resourceful when it comes to seeking help for your child. But it’s important to also apply some of that care and dedication to your marriage. When your partnership is strong, that’s better for everyone in your family.

One vital thing you can do for your marriage is getting practical help to deal with your challenges. That help could take different forms, from seeking respite care to asking friends and family if they can take on an occasional babysitting shift or errand run for you. Don’t hesitate to try marriage counseling if you need a constructive place to figure out how to protect your marriage while supporting your child’s needs.

You should also take a look at the expectations you’re placing on yourself. Being a devoted parent doesn’t mean never taking time to focus on your marriage. Remember, without daily maintenance, your marriage is at greater risk for deteriorating. Since you probably don’t get much alone time with your husband, learn to maximize the value of small moments when you can connect throughout the day, like when you both first come home after work.

The best way to manage stress is to practice self-care. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your own basic needs because you are always focused on the needs of your child. Remembering that you need rest, nutritious food and support will make you a better caregiver. It’s also helpful to talk about how you and your husband respond to stress and how to engage each other at challenging times.

The two of you can be each other’s greatest ally as you work together to do what’s best for your child. It’s entirely possible for a marriage to grow stronger in the face of adversity, as long as you manage the situation well. For more ideas on maintaining your bond, check out my book Strong Women, Strong Love.