Search Results for: fly on the wall

Marital Conflict & the Fly on the Wall

Every married couple will experience conflict. Spouses disagree. Fortunately, the University of Waterloo is discovering ways to promote the successful resolution of that conflict. Here are two research based exercises they suggest for resolving marital conflict in a positive way:

  • The Fly on the Wall. When you find yourself in conflict with your spouse, take a breath, step back, and look at it from the perspective of a third party (the proverbial “fly on the wall”). Stepping out of your personal perspective and intentionally looking at the situation from a third person perspective leads to less biased decisions and judgments. It leads to “wiser reasoning” as well. Specifically, it Pointing fingers at each otherincreases a person’s awareness of the limits of their own knowledge and of the changing context of the conflict. It contributes to the person’s willingness to acknowledge their partner’s point of view; and, perhaps most important, it makes a person more willing to seek a way of integrating their two points of view into a common solution. That “fly on the wall” is a smart dude…and can help reduce the conflict in your marriage. (Read a review of the study here.)
  • Go Back to the Future. Another way to reduce conflict is to focus on the future. Imagine how you will feel one year from now. By doing so, you shift away from the current emotions of conflict and disagreement and allow yourself to focus more on the foundational emotions of your relationship. Couples that intentionally take time to focus on the future of their relationship during conflict become more positive about their relationship. They open up more to forgiving and being forgiven. They even reinterpret the conflict in a more positive light. So take a trip to the future and come back to a more positive relationship. (Check out this study here.)

Maybe, if you really want to resolve conflict quickly, you can focus on the future of a fly on the wall…never mind, that doesn’t end well. Just take a third person perspective of your conflict (as though you were a fly on the wall) and focus on the future of your relationship. With those two exercises you can enjoy a long, loving relationship with your spouse!

Want a Marriage with Great Sex?

Want a marriage with great sex? Dumb question…every married person does, right? And, truth be told, several factors contribute to a satisfying sexual relationship in marriage. But a study published in January, 2021, reveals two of the important factors for a satisfying sexual relationship in marriage. This study utilized data collected from 7,114 heterosexual couples across the United States. Both husbands and wives completed various surveys to determine how forgiving they were toward their spouse, the quality of their conflict resolution, and their level of sexual satisfaction. Not surprisingly, the higher the quality of conflict resolution, the greater the level of reported sexual satisfaction for both the husbands and wives. It seems that “make up sex” really is good when conflict is resolved well.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, was only related to greater sexual satisfaction for husbands, not wives. In other words, husbands with a greater willingness to forgive (a “higher level of forgiveness”) reported greater sexual satisfaction. To those of you who are husbands, pride interferes with forgiveness. Take the humble road and forgive your wife when the time arises…and it will. After all, humility is hot in a marriage.

Here’s the takeaway. If you want to have greater sexual satisfaction in your marriage, learn to resolve your marital conflicts well; and husbands, learn to forgive. If you struggle with resolving conflicting in your marriage, here are some helps to get you started:

And if you’re not sure about the whole forgiveness thing, start here:

After the Fight: Cold War or Intimate Harmony

Every family has conflict. It’s inevitable. Couples are going to disagree and argue. Siblings are going to clash, compete, and struggle with one another. Parental wisdom and desires are going to collide with their children’s push for independence. These skirmishes can create a cold war within the family; or, they can promote an intimate harmony within the family. What makes the difference?

Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas asked the same question. To find an answer, they recruited 226 cohabiting couples to keep an online diary of their conflicts for two weeks. They also gave them a checklist of behaviors to indicate how they resolved their conflicts. The checklist had 18 possible post-conflict behaviors that fell into one of four categories. (The 18 post-conflict behaviors and the four related categories were determined from a previous study by the same group of researchers.) At the end of the two-week period, each couple came to the lab where they engaged in “discussions” centered on two of their conflict issues, one chosen by each partner. The researchers observed each couple’s arguments first-hand in this setting. They discovered that a cold war or a more intimate family resulted not from the argument itself, but from which of the four categories of behaviors their post-conflict actions fell into.

  1. Avoidance, one of the four categories of post-conflict behavior, was more likely to result in a cold war. Such practices might include “pretending” like everything is fine even though no resolution was reached, not talking about it, or just ignoring the issue. As you can imagine, avoiding the issue does not make it go away. It only makes it worse. At best, a cold war can ensue. At worst, Shut Up and Put Up can Ruin Your Marriage.
  2. Letting go, another strategy couples use following a conflict, had in mixed results.  Letting go can work wonders for small issues like whether the toilet paper goes over the top or the bottom (top, of course) or whether the toothpaste is squeezed from the middle or bottom (bottom, obviously). But letting go can prove much less effective in larger issues…and, in such cases can lead to a cold war. Gottman suggests that 69% of marital issues are “perpetual problems.” They are unsolvable. They may be the result of differences in personality (extraverted vs. introverted, for example) or lifestyle (desire to travel, level of  house clutter tolerated, etc.). When it comes to “perpetual problems,” we need to accept the ways in which our spouse is different than us. At the same time, these issues don’t go away. Couples will continually return to them in their disagreements and arguments. To keep them from destroying the relationship, couples must learn to approach the conflict of “perpetual problems” with gentleness, personal responsibility, and humor. They must learn to build an overall environment of gratitude and appreciation into their home. Letting go, in and of itself, is incomplete and not effective in the bigger, more perpetual problems.
  3. Gaining new perspective, another post-conflict behavior, sounds like a great option. We are often encouraged to take our spouse’s perspective. Taking perspective can help us gain understanding and build a willingness to compromise…maybe. But if the compromise is one-sided or given begrudgingly, it can lay a root of bitterness, lingering ill-feelings, or even anger at the lack of perceived reciprocation. The result? A potential cold war. So, quit taking your spouse’s perspective and become more like a fly on the wall instead.
  4. Active repair, the final category of post-conflict behaviors, stood out above all the others in effectively promoting an intimate harmony and happiness. Active repair builds harmony through intentional listening, expressions of affection, and learning to give it up to lift up your marriage.

Conflict, disagreement, arguments…they can lead to a cold war or they can promote a more intimate harmony. It all depends on what you do after the conflict. What will you do? Avoid? Let it go? Gain new perspective? Work toward actively repairing the relationship? The choice is clear. Actively repair will promote more intimate harmony…and that is well worth the effort.

Arguing With Your Spouse: A Pain in the Back…or Worse!

The University of CA (Berkeley) and Northwestern University recently published the results of a study following 156 heterosexual couples for 20 years. The authors examined how the couple’s way of managing “conflict conversations” impacted their health over time. They found a link between “stonewalling” (which includes barely speaking, little to no eye contact, emotionally shutting down) and back pain. They also found angry outbursts were associated with cardiovascular problems. Let me repeat those results so you don’t miss it.  Pointing fingers at each other

  • The emotional withdrawal of “shut up and put up” is a pain in the back. It may contribute to backaches, stiff necks, stiff joints, and muscle tension over time.
  • On the other hand, flying off the handle with angry outbursts can break your heart. It may contribute to chest pain, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems over time.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my marriage to be “a pain in the back” or a “broken heart!”  So, what can we do when we disagree or argue to prevent this?

  • Remember your love for your spouse. Recall attributes and character traits you adore about your spouse. Keep your gratitude for your spouse’s positive contributions to your life in the forefront of your mind.(Read The Killer Wall in Your Marriage for more info)
  • Listen intently for the sole purpose of understanding your spouse. Your differences of opinion open the door for you to know our spouse more intimately. Your spouse becomes an open book voicing her opinion, thoughts, and desires. Listen carefully. You will learn a lot and grow more intimate as you listen with the sole intent of understanding your spouse. (Read Go Ahead & Argue With Honor for more)
  • Postpone your own agenda until your spouse feels emotionally validated and understood. Don’t even try to explain your side of the situation until you can restate what your spouse has said and your spouse responds with “Yes. You got it. Now you know how I feel!” (For more read Make Your Argument the Best Part of Your Day)
  • Breathe to stay calm. Men, especially, have a tendency to move into a fight or flight mode during disagreements. When you reach this point, you no longer think rationally. You simply defend, fight to win, or run. Breathing can help you stay calm, rational, able to listen, and compromise. Breathe.
  • Soothe your spouse, as well. Be aware of your spouse’s sensitivities and don’t push her buttons. Respond in love by respecting your spouse’s vulnerabilities. If you notice you or your spouse “losing your cool,” take a break, express some affection, or tell a joke—anything to help restore a sense of calm to both you and your spouse.
  • Allow your spouse to influence you. Sometimes your spouse may make a good point (I know, it’s surprising). Sometimes your spouse may actually be right! Sometimes they may simply have a different opinion than you…and neither of you are wrong. Enjoy the difference. Remain humble enough to admit his/her wisdom. Allow his/her opinion to influence your responses and actions. Doing so expresses love.

Follow these 6 tips and your marriage will not become a pain in the back, nor will it break your heart.

4 Marital Weapons of Mass Destruction

Father and BridePeople often enter into marriage armed with weapons of mass destruction. (We also possess tools to help our marriages flourish. Read about them in 4 Tools for a Happy Marriage.) These weapons will sink your marriage if you do not disarm them. Unfortunately, many people do not know the potential danger of these weapons. Many do not even know they carry such dangerous weapons into their marriages. As a result, they accidently discharge them with their spouses and sink their marriages. To avoid the dangers these weapons present to your marriage, you must become aware of them and disarm them. What are the weapons of mass destruction in your marriage? Let me briefly describe four.

  • Disrespect can blow your marriage apart. Disrespect does not appear all that dangerous when seen one “tiny” incident at a time. However, these “tiny” incidents add up. Words and actions of disrespect, no matter how small, accumulate. Your spouse may ignore disrespectful words and actions for a time, even laugh them off. Still, those disrespectful words and actions are not forgotten. They lodge deep within your spouse’s heart and mind. Like a time bomb waiting to explode, they build up pressure and move forward in a silent countdown until…they blow your marriage to smithereens from the inside out. Disarm this dangerous weapon with respect.
  • Passivity will destroy your marriage as well. A lack of involvement in the practical, day to day activities of nurturing and maintaining your marriage will leave an emotional emptiness in your spouse. As you give away your responsibility to care for your marriage, the emptiness in your spouse will grow larger. If you do not become actively involved in nurturing, caring for, and growing your marriage, the emptiness in your spouse will become a vacuum. Nothing can fill that vacuum but your active involvement in your marriage. If you do not step in and become actively involved, that vacuum will grow until your relationship implodes. The foundation of commitment and trust will disappear as the walls of love collapse inward into an empty abyss of darkness. Prevent this collapsing vacuum from destroying your relationship by becoming actively involved in your marriage.
  • Resentment will also sink your marriage. Any anger you harbor against your spouse or parents will grow into resentment and bitterness. That resentment will distort your vision. It will interfere with your ability to see your spouse’s positive contributions. Instead of recognizing acts of love you will perceive self-seeking benefits. Instead of admiration you will see manipulation. Instead of cooperation you will see nagging demands. I know it’s hard to believe, but resentment and bitterness will distort your vision dramatically. Eventually, you will blindly fire this resentment at your spouse like a torpedo. You will repeatedly fire torpedoes of resentment into your spouse’s loving, admiring, collaborative efforts and sink your marriage in the deep waters of bitterness. There is only one way to disarm resentment—forgiveness (read 5 Steps for Forgiving Family).
  • Pride will also devastate your marriage. Pride will render you insensitive to the needs of others. An exaggerated sense of your own self-importance blinds you to the needs of others, makes you disinterested in their pains and their joys, and leaves you insensitive to their needs and desires. You will trample on your spouse’s feelings while focused on your own needs and desires. You will crush opportunities to connect as you revel in your own sense of importance. And, as you do, your marriage will experience nuclear devastation. Avoid this nuclear devastation by humbly seeking your spouse’s best interest.

These four weapons of mass destruction can destroy your marriage if left armed and unattended. Take the time now to disarm them. Humble yourself. Forgive those you need to forgive. Get involved in your marriage. Show your spouse deep respect. In so doing, you will save your marriage and build a great, lasting joy!

What Drives Your Family?

What drives your family? I am not asking who drives your family…nor am I asking if your family owns a Chevy, Ford, or Toyota. I am asking, “What motivates your family life?” What Fun Vaninfluences your family decisions? What is the heartbeat of your family? Many families allow fear or guilt to sit in the driver’s seat.  When fear or guilt sits in your family’s driver seat you are in for a wreck. For instance, families driven by fear of bad behavior believe that structures and rules will make everything “work out alright.” As a result, when the fear of bad behavior sits in the driver’s seat, the family finds themselves on the road of over-rigid, legalistic, and unrealistic expectations.  Fear-driven families remain overly vigilant to assure the loose morals of society do not creep into their family. If anyone’s behavior starts to do down the “wrong road,” the family simply adds another rule to detour the negative behavior; and rules of avoidance are put in place to keep family members away from the “immoral influences” of society.  Rules pile upon rules. The structure becomes the top priority in the family…until the family experiences the inevitable collision with rebellion resulting from an inability to meet the expectations. Yes, the wreck is inevitable. Family members never internalize healthy limits in the family driven by the fear of bad behavior. When they find themselves “out from under” the family rules, they rebel. Or, when they feel that “no matter what they do it is never enough,” they give up and rebel. As the saying goes, “Rules without Relationship leads to Rebellion.”


Other families are driven by the fear of looking bad. When children throw a tantrum in the store, the parents in this family begin to worry that everyone will think they are bad parents who have no control in their home. Their embarrassment overrides the need to stand firm; and, they give in to their children’s tantrum behavior. This family, driven by the fear of looking bad, is more concerned with appearance than character. Their children have to perform to a certain level to experience acceptance and feel appreciated. This family believes that only the star athlete, the straight “A” student, the lead actor, the first chair musician, or the first whatever has truly achieved their potential. Anything short of this visible success brings “encouragement” in the form of prodding, nagging, or comparisons. Appearance, however, is fleeting. Achieving top status is not fulfilling. Sooner or later we all fall short of perfection. And, we all want something that no amount of success can grant us…acceptance. When that moment hits the family driven by the fear of looking bad, the wheels go into a skid, the sparks fly, and the family crashes into the wall of disappointment, anger, resentment, and isolation.


Families may also find guilt in the driver’s seat. Families driven by guilt often want to make up for some past hurt…the divorced parent who gives their kids everything they want; the parent who feels guilty when inducing the pain of discipline so puts up with inappropriate lovebehavior; the spouse who hurt his partner unintentionally so now gives in to her every desire. Each of these families, and more, are driven by guilt. Families driven by guilt may “discourage” unwanted behavior with guilt-inducing discipline. When guilt drives a family, you can expect a wreck. Intimacy is replaced with anger and bitterness. Family members help one another while harboring resentment that “I have to do this.” Even activities normally thought of as enjoyable become a burden, stressing the family relationships.


Instead of letting fear or guilt drive your family, put love in the driver’s seat. With love driving your family, each person will find acceptance and intimacy. The whole family will experience honor and respect. Mutual acceptance, honor, and respect will open the door for reasonable rules and structure to be internalized. Positive behavior will be lived out more intentionally. With love in the driver’s seat, no one worries about being made to look bad. Instead, each person encourages and lifts the other person, striving to make other family members look good. A family driven by love still disciplines as well. In fact, they discipline more effectively because they discipline with truth and grace, love and limits. They do not easily give in or give up. They graciously discipline in love, teaching a better way to live sensibly in this world.


So, what drives your family? Fear? Guilt? Or love? Think hard and answer honestly. A wreck awaits your family unless love is in the driver’s seat!

Celebrating Community

Party kids and their mother

  • Celebration fosters an abundant life by balancing our approach to life, refreshing our perspective of others, and restoring intimacy. Celebration enhances intimacy and culminates in a renewed vitality for life.
  • Family meals are a great way to celebrate family. During your next meal, share your favorite family memories and stories. Children often love to hear stories of thier parents’ childhood. Have fun–laugh and celebrate your family. Who knows, the next time you tell stories you may talk about this meal!
  • This weekend play a “game of note-leaving.” Leave notes of encouragement and love for your family members in the most creative and unusual places you can think of (but where they will still find it, of course). Have fun!
  • Make something together–cook something special or make a craft. Enjoy your time creating something as a family.
  • Encourage each family member to list 2-3 things they have a fun time doing with family. (If there are four people in your family, you will have a total family list of 8-12 activities) Do one of the activities listed tonight. Keep the list, pull out the calendar, and plan to do each one of the activities over the next couple months.
  • “Man is flying too fast for a world that is round. Soon he will catch up with himself in a great rear end collision.”–James Thurber. Avoid a “great rear end collision” this weekend by slowing down while you enjoy celebrating family time together.
  • Family dinner is a good way to celebrate. Make it really interesting tonight by eating dinner backwards. Start with dessert and end with the salad. Have fun and laugh together.
  • Have a Family Thanksgiving Extravaganza. Each night share thanks with your family. Turn those thanks into a song, a poem, a craft, or anything else that would display your Thanksgiving Extravaganza.
  • Two quotes from Stuart Brown, author of Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul point to the importance of celebration and play in the family.
    • –“Play is like fertilizer for brain growth.”
    • –“Play keeps everything in balance, providing resilience and flexibility in a relationship, and allowing couples to rebound from misunderstandings or unrealistic expectations.”
  • Play a game of “Creative Gratitude”-Everyone tries find the most creative way to show gratitude to other family members. While eating Thanksgiving dessert, your family can vote on who showed the most creative idea.
  • Make a Cornucopia of Thanks. Cut out 1-a poster board cone and 2-several fruit/vegetable shapes out of construction paper. Over the weekend, encourage each family member to write things for which they are thankful on the fruit/vegetable shapes and tape them to the cornucopia. Put it in a prominent place for all to see and share
  • Spend time with your family by having a tickle fest and pillow fight.
  • Have a “technology free night.” Turn off the TVs, cell phones, computers, and video games. Then, sit down to enjoy a family game by candlelight.
  • Share your favorite family stories. Ask your family to tell their favorite stories, too. You can share stories of your immediate family and stories of your own childhood. You can share funny moments, embarrassing moments, happy moments, or moments that made you proud. Encourage everyone to share their favorite family stories.
  • As a family, make a collage of all the things that remind you of your family members. Cut out pictures that represent occupations, hobbies, or special things that remind you of all the people in the your family. Include images and ideas that represent your family identity.
  • Build a snowman with your family and then come inside for a cup of hot chocolate. Spend the time celebrating your time together.
  • Go out for dessert after a family member’s special event. This presents a time to encourage, compliment, share, and laugh.
  • As a family, play a game–cards, board games, charades, etc.
  • Create a photo album using pictures from a special event or holiday. As you do, share and relive your favorite memories.
  • Create a memory jar by putting your favorite memories, scriptures, & family quotes on small pieces of paper. Put the papers in a jar. Add to it as often as you can. Then, once a week, pull out one slip for a time of celebrating and sharing your favorite memories.
  • Greet one another with a sincere, loving hug and kiss when you arrive home from work or school, a trip to the store or any other venture that separates you from your family for a time. Let this greeting hug become part of a “celebration of reuniting.”
  • Make a copy of one of your favorite family photos, perhaps of a vacation or some fun activity. Blow the picture up, put it on cardstock, and make it into a puzzle. Come together as a family and put it together.
  • Share a favorite family desert or snack. Enjoy preparing it together as well as lots of fun conversation and laughter while eating it.
  • Do something or purchase something simple–make brownies, buy some candy, make a card, send a text, etc–to surprise your family.
  • When you greet your family members upon returning home from school and work today, celebrate the “daily reunion” with a hug that lasts at least 6 seconds, eye contact, a smile, and a statement reflecting how glad you are that they are home.
  • Celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family. Give each family member one card (home made or store bought) each day starting February 1st and ending February 14th. Give fun cards and serious cards. Make a Valentine’s wall to display all the cards for the rest of the month.
  • Celebrate by participating in an activity that your family member enjoys. If they enjoy cooking, cook with them and enjoy the meal together. If they like music, make music together. If they like sports, play football with them. Whatever they enjoy, celebrate by enjoying it with them.
  • On Superbowl Weekend make some “superbowl food” and enjoy watching the Superbowl as a family. If you don’t enjoy football, watch the commercials and enjoy time with family and friends.
  • Turn a meal this week into a special celebration by “personalizing” the food-make pancake letters, carve names into the hot dogs, spell out a message with candy hearts, arrange the food on the plate as a smiley face…think of your own creative ideas to “personalize” your meal.
  • Buy some helium balloons-plain ones, heart shaped ones, ones with special sayings- and bring them home just for fun.
  • During a birthday celebration, recall and count blessings the birthday celebrant adds to your family life rather than simply counting the years.
  • Get the “Two in One Inspirational Journal” through Dayspring ( and share love notes, romantic messages, or humorous memories with our spouse.
  • Come together to bake a cake, make some cookies, prepare a meal…celebrate one another’s company and enjoy the time together.
  • Turn something ordinary into something special–serve a cup of tea with a ribbon on the cup, have dinner by candlelight, have a special dessert before bed, play a card game while offering a thanks with every turn you take. Be creative and enjoy your time together.
  • Enjoy a movie and a meal. Make the meal related to the movie theme–for instance, superhero sandwiches before a Marvel Movie like “The Green Hornet,” a picnic lunch before “Yogi Bear,” etc. Use your imagination and have fun.
  • Take a hike with your family through a local park or patch of woods. As you go, take pictures of things you see-the interesting, funny, beautiful, or meaningful-and put together a pictorial collage of your hike.
  • Check on-line or pick up a guide to the city/region where you live and find something to do or a place to visit as a family. This weekend, enjoy that place or activity with your family.
  • “Not only does laughter relieve daily tension, but it creates marvelous memories” (Sandra P. Aldrich). Make a point of creating “marvelous memories” by laughing together as a family this week!
  • Have a favorite meal smorgasbord. Find out each family member’s favorite foods–including meats, vegetables, desserts, and appetizers. Make meals this weekend that include one item from each family member’s “favorites list.”
  • Get a book of jokes and sit together as a family to read it out loud.
  • Cover all the clocks in your house and spend the evening enjoying one another’s company. You can play games, sing songs, tell stories, go for a walk, dance, or anything else you might enjoy as a family.
  • Get up early and go to a park where you can share a picnic breakfast while watching the sunrise. Then enjoy time playing Frisbee or some other outdoor game. If you are not morning people, take a picnic lunch to watch the sunset–play outdoor games before supper.
  • May 17th is National Cherry Cobbler Day–good reason to share dessert with your family…and celebration.
  • May 18th is International Museum Day. Take a trip to the museum or rent “Night at the Museum” to watch as a family.
  • Families can celebrate together…and such celebration strengthens both families. So, invite another family over this weekend for time together.
  • Share a dozen donuts with your family to celebrate National Donut Day (which is June 3 by the way…and one of my favorite days of the year).
  • National Ice Tea Day is June 10th-celebrate with family by sharing ice tea and conversation…be creative and try mint tea, raspberry tea, sun tea, sweet tea, peach tea, etc.
  • Create a family time capsule and set a date in the future to gather as a family, open it up, and reminisce.
  • Enjoy time as a family celebrating nature-God’s extravagant creation.
  • Keep a blanket, some bottled water, and a small pack of cookies in the car so you can have an impromptu picnic during your travels.
  • Celebrate your children by honoring their play.
  • Have an old fashioned cookout followed by smores.