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No dotcom. And hey, everyone, welcome back to On Purpose, the number one health podcast in the world.
And I'm so glad that we connect every single week and I get to let you in on what I'm thinking about, the conversations I've been having, the things I've been reading and studying. And I love sharing this time with you, because it's you investing in your growth. And I want you to recognize that, that every time you're switching on to on purpose, you're investing in your growth, you're investing in your mindset. And I love that for you because.
It's what it takes, right? It's what it takes, we're all living different challenges, different stresses, different pressures.
But you're here every week and that means the world to me.
Today, we're talking about the four things couples argue about the most and three things to do about it. Money, kids, their parents, housework.
According to relationship researchers, these are the four things couples fight about the most often. And for some couples, lots of us, in fact, where perhaps fighting now more than ever before.
In spring of last year in the US alone, the number of couples seeking divorce was up 34 percent over the prior year. And 31 percent of couples said that being in lockdown together has caused damage to their marriages and they simply can't repair divorce. And separation rates are similar across the globe. Any time there's increasing stress in one area of life, it's going to affect other areas. And during this pandemic, it can feel like all of these areas of our lives have been compacted and constricted, literally, in fact, as most of us are functioning in close quarters.
And when that happens, we tend to take that stress and strain out on those closest to us, especially our partners. Today, we're talking about what couples argue about, both what we think we're arguing about and what we're really arguing about. We're also going to talk about how to argue more effectively and how to argue less.
And if you're single or you're in a new relationship, listen up as well, because a lot of what we talk about today are going to be things you can build into your relationship to increase your odds of long term success and happiness. And, of course, it applies to friendships and families.
So if you're in a situation where you're like, gee, I'm just surrounded by negativity, I'm surrounded by negative energy, then this is the right podcast for you.
I want to start today with a story. There were two young monks who are journeying across the countryside to a temple that never been to before at the temple was a very wise teacher they wanted to learn from. They had been traveling many days when they came upon a vast rushing river, they looked at each other. How are we going to cross the one? Monk asked the other. Should we build a raft? A raft? The second monk said, That's ridiculous.
How on earth could we build a raft that would hold up in that rushing water? We should walk along the bank and see if there's a bridge somewhere. The first monk replied, That's a terrible idea. How could you be so foolish? First of all, which way do we go upstream or downstream? Second of all, we have no idea how far away the bridge could be and we're nearly out of bread for our journey. We must find a way to cross here.
The monks argued back and forth for a while. Yes, monks do argue, sometimes shouting and berating one another. Finally, all of a sudden, something across the river caught the monks attention. They tend to see a very old monk walking along the shore on the other side, wise one. The first monk called out, but the old monk kept walking. Great teacher. The second monk called out, and the old monk stopped and turned to look at them.
Why is one the first one called? Can you tell us how we can cross to the other side of the river? Should we build a raft? Great teacher. The second man called. Surely there is a bridge somewhere up or down stream. Please tell us where it is so we can get to the other side. The old man look to them for a few long moments. My friends, he finally replied, I do not know, for it is you who are on the other side.
I love this story because it's about the power of perspectives. And as I interpret and as I tell it, it's a story about the power of perspective in relationships as couples. It's like when we get together, we set off together towards this vague destination of happiness. A lot of the time it's like walking through the wilderness without a map. And so by the time we meet a major obstacle, we may already be a bit frustrated. We may already have had a few squabbles or spats.
And then when we meet that obstacle, we start fighting about how to cross it. Both are convinced that we're right, though neither truly either knows if our solution will work. But we've already taken a stance, so we dig in. On one level, the young monks have made an assumption that the old man got to the other side of the river by crossing it, and so he knows how they might cross it as well. But of course, the monk has never crossed the river from his perspective.
It is they who are on the other side. But what I like most about this story is the other deeper level of what the monk is saying. He is telling the younger monks, you are both on the other side. And what I see that and in that is that the monk is saying, don't forget that your. Together in this, they are a team that you're both on the other side of this obstacle together, so often we forget that the minute we start arguing about when this bill is getting paid or whose turn it is to cook, we forget that we're meant to be a team, that we're meant to cross the river together.
One of the things that so often happens in relationships when we meet obstacles, as happened with these young monks, is that when we fight, what we fight about is not what's upsetting us. And that makes it harder for us to truly resolve the source of the fight. What was really going on with the monks when they started arguing? Yes, they wanted to figure out how to cross the river, but why was it so emotionally charged? We know they'd already been journeying for several days and they were low on food.
They were probably tired. Maybe they'd started to worry whether they were going the right way. The lack of bread was a cause for concern. What if they didn't have enough to sustain them all the way to their destination, whether to build a raft or look for a bridge? Those were the branches of the argument. The route was different. The route was their fear. So instead of being able to calmly engage in a meaningful discussion, that fear took over.
There's lots of advice out there, including from me, on how to work together to resolve specific issues like disagreements about how to spend money, how many kids to have or how to address conflicts around one of these families. Today, I want to take a different approach to arguing by looking at some of the deeper reasons we fight and how to resolve them. We are only a few months into 2021 now, and I'm hesitant to say this, but things feel like they're getting better.
Spring is in the air.
I can feel it, but it really doesn't matter if it's winter or spring. It's always a good time to talk to someone. And that's why I highly recommend better help to all my listeners. That's a help of a secure online counselling and matches you with your own professional licensed therapist to help. Counsellors are trained to help with a variety of problems, and you can exchange unlimited messages with your therapist day and night or schedule live video sessions. It's also more affordable than offline counselling, and financial aid is available to.
One of the many things I love about better help is the general tool which allows you to write down and save your thoughts and feelings directly on the app. You can easily share your journal with your counsellor to, if you want. So many of my on purpose guests and my friends and family have shared their transformative experiences with therapy. I have to. And in these challenging times, mental health is more important than ever. So don't hesitate to get the support you need on purpose.
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Better help dot com forward slash purpose visit, better help dot com forward slash purpose and join the over one million people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced and better help professional. In my home, Rathi does the cooking and I do the cleaning. She's an incredible plant based cook, so really I don't have a choice, but I don't mind cleaning, especially since I've been able to easily choose green cleaning products from Grove Collaborative.
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But you have to use our special code. Go to Grove dot com forward CSJ to get your exclusive offer. That's Grove Duccio Forward Slash Jay. Understanding how to identify and talk about these deeper reasons for fighting, take some work, but when you get the hang of it, you develop something that I call a meditation mindset. What that means is that when you start to fight, when you start to see the argument coming, you can use those signals to switch to meditation mindset, which helps you slow down and identify what's really going on before you get off to the races with a full blown argument.
Meditation mindset is almost like a slow mo mode where now you're not being swept up in the pace of the argument, but you're able to slow it down and think about it differently. There's a great saying that goes, would you rather be right or would you rather be happy? Meditation mindset switches us out of rightness mode and into team mode. Now, the first thing I want to clarify is that fighting and friction aren't bad. In fact, they're extremely healthy in a relationship.
If you engage with them in a thoughtful and productive way, friction and arguments can actually become a tool in our relationship to get to the bottom of things that are bothering us that we might not have even realized are bothering us. And so they can be a gift really to help us identify problems so that we can resolve them. But again, only if we know how to do it effectively. And that starts with learning to identify and talk about potential roots of our problems.
I have a friend who is a body worker and something she once told me really stuck with me. She said, When I work with a client, I try and keep in mind that I'm never only touching one part of them, like their arm or their leg. Instead, I'm touching every experience they've ever had in their lives. I love that because this is exactly how we interact with each other as human beings in all circumstances, even though we can be really good at compartmentalizing whenever never only one aspect of ourselves, whenever only an employee or a father or a wife or a mother or sister, when we interact with our partner, we aren't just interacting with a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse.
We are interacting with every experience they've ever had in their lives. And we're interacting with all of their ideas and beliefs about life and other people based on what their unique experiences are. And so when you say to your spouse, why are you so terrible at loading the dishwasher, can you see that more dishes fit in and get cleaner if we put all the ball this way and one of the plates that way and glosses over here, I know you've had that conversation.
What your spouse might be hearing is something like you're wrong, you're imperfect, you should be more like me. And possibly even if you don't do things the way I want, I won't love you anymore. Look at how different that is. Like, seriously, right now, take a note of this. This is so powerful. Don't just focus on what you're saying. Think about what your partner is hearing. I say that again. Don't just think about what you're saying.
And often we don't even think about what we're saying. Focus on what you think your spouse or partner or friend is hearing or family members thinking.
But it's not just our spouse who has this filter where they hear what you're saying through a filter of their prior experiences and beliefs. We all have it. And so when you see those dishes organized or to your eyes disorganized in that way, what some part of you really might be thinking is something like when things are disorganized, I feel out of control. And when I feel out of control, I feel afraid or anxious or when it's organized. You're thinking, oh, my mom would have been proud of me, or that's what my mom would have expected, or that's how we showed love in our house.
Notice how it's all geared to something far deeper. One of the reasons I love personality quizzes and tools like that, they can give us meaningful insights into who we are and what our priorities are. One of the most powerful exercises I think you can do as a couple is to discover and discuss your attachment styles. Now, I did an episode specifically on attachment styles over the summer that was Episode one five eight and it included a mini attachment styles quiz.
I really encourage you to go back to that episode and listen to it together with your partner. To summarize, our attachment style is mainly to do with how we related to our primary caregivers in the first few years of our lives. Did we feel safe and supported to be ourselves, or did we feel like we had to do or not do certain things in order to receive love and support? The three most common attachment styles are secure, anxious and avoidant.
Anxious types often struggle with self-criticism and insecurity, and they tend to anticipate that their relationship will fail. So may need a lot of reassurance. People with an avoidance style, instead of seeking support from others, rely exclusively or almost exclusively on themselves to meet their own needs. They believe no one can understand or meet their needs as well as they can, or that if they ask for support and understanding, their partner won't be there for them. People with this attachment style often feel anxious or trapped when a partner or friend expresses needs, especially emotional needs.
And so they may try and avoid or shut down. Arguments as soon as possible, but here's the thing, even people who have a secure attachment style, meaning they generally feel comfortable trusting others and asking for and giving support for most people who are secure. A lot of the time they can still be. Times they're triggered to feel and behave differently as an anxious to avoid in type. And a common trigger is extreme stress like we're in now with the pandemic.
So people who typically do pretty well in couples may be arguing more or having more trouble resolving arguments because they've shifted towards feeling more anxious or more avoidant. Here's an example.
Let's say you and your partner sat down and created a household budget together that you both agreed to. Now, let's say we did that in the first place because even that takes some work. The next month. You're looking at the credit card statement and you see that your partner's spent several hundred dollars on a brand new Xbox. When you ask him or her about it, he or she says that gaming is how they unwind. When you press them, reminding them you'd agree to discuss any large purchases in advance, they shut down.
This is a tough one. Right. But if you each know your attachment style, it might lend some help in figuring out what this argument is really about. Let's say you normally pretty secure about your partner's anger triggers you into a space of feeling anxious. After all, you had agreed to the budget. Now they're doing something different. What else are they not telling you? Let's say your partner's is more avoidant. Perhaps deep down, they fear that someone will try to control them.
And when you set a budget, maybe they were on board at the time, but then something inside of them, maybe that deep child started to feel like maybe they were losing freedom to make their own decisions. And so they decided to rebel. Who's wrong here? When it comes to feelings and emotions? No one's wrong when we learn to see our partners not just through the lens of right now, but through the kaleidoscope of all their prior experiences.
It complicates things. Right. And that's actually a good thing, because when we add in that layer of complication, it invites us to be curious when we appreciate how complex both we and our partners are. Instead of judging them and assuming we know what's going on with them, we can instead be curious about where their words or actions are really coming from and that curiosity does something extremely important. It hits a pause button. In that pause, we can shift from anger or insecurity or fear to empathy, and that's where we can really start to get to the root of what's going on.
Remember, this curiosity cultivates kindness. So instead of assuming we know what's going on with our partner, let's get you curious. But admittedly, when everyone's worked up, it can be really hard to shift the curiosity mode. So that's why we've got to train the pause when I work with individuals one on one in coaching sessions, that's one of the tools I teach them how to recognize when undesirable thoughts or behavior are cropping up so they can train the pause when they notice in their body that they are feeling reactive or angry or anxious, or maybe when they start to raise their voice, it's an immediate signal to stop and breathe.
For example, box breathing is a great tool that helps give us a moment so that we can calm the nervous system and observe what's happening.
It's simply breathing into account for holding, for a counter, for breathing out to account for and holding for a count of four before starting the cycle again. We can do this when we start to feel ourselves shifting into an argument with our partner, when we start to feel tight and clenched in our bodies or anxious or angry, hit pause and breathe. And that breathing will help you give this space to shift the curiosity, to shift to that mode where you're motivated by wanting to understand not to win the fight.
Well, that might sound like to your partner is something like this. Hey, I just saw the credit card bill and noticed there's a charge for an Xbox. I'm confused and I feel upset because we just talked about consulting one another before making any big purchases. I'd like to understand your decision process. Can you share with me remember with training that meditation mindset instead of letting our emotions lead us, we want to read our emotions but be led by our minds when we've made a commitment to steer towards curiosity and we've trained that mindset.
When issues arise as a couple, we're more likely to be geared towards understanding rather than accusation. You've now heard me use the word training a few times. We're training the police. We're training a meditation mindset. Training is a word we associate with athletes. They engage in focus, practice off the pitch or off the field or off the core, so that when it's time to perform, when the stakes are high, what they've trained is what comes out.
If we consciously choose how we want to engage when we disagree and then train that behavior, that's what will come out in that moment. We'll start to default to our meditation mindset. And again, part of that mindset is the understanding that there is a deeper way behind the surface why of our partners words or behavior and of our own. Here are some more examples.
Using those common issues, we fight about one of my.
Friends had a recurring fight with her husband because she felt that he wouldn't stand up to his mother when she made critical comments about their choices in how they raised their kids. My friend accused her husband of being afraid to stand up to his mother. In turn, he accused her of being overly sensitive. Finally, they decided to address the issue proactively when they weren't actually fighting, when it hadn't just happened from this space.
My friend's husband asked her, what about the issue really bothers you? What are you feeling when I don't say anything to my mother about her comments? By engaging in an open and exploratory conversation, they realized that what was bothering her was that deep down, she was afraid that his unwillingness to stand up for their choices as parents signaled that his first loyalty was not to his partnership and children, but his mother. And that made her feel insecure. In an extremely vulnerable moment, she confessed to him.
When that happens, I feel like it's telling me that I can't trust you with my heart. And I want to because I love you and I want to know I can count on you and our relationship. Her spouse had no idea, and truth be told, neither did she until they sat down and got curious about the deep way behind this fight. Once they realized this, they were able to address the root of the argument. He was able to reassure her about his commitment to her and their children.
And he was also inspired to engage his mother in a deeper conversation about why she felt the need to criticize their parenting decisions. And that brought up another common issue people fight about, which is parenting decisions. When he spoke to his mother, they discovered together that because he and his wife make such different decisions about how to raise their children than his mother and father made, raising him and his siblings, his mother felt there was an unspoken criticism in that, that it was a comment on her parenting decisions and that her feelings and made her feel he thought she'd been a bad mother.
With this new insight, he was able to tell his mother that he and his wife made their decision based on the parenting information that's available today and what resources and options they have available that his mother and father didn't have. So he and his mother were also able to address the root of their issue. And once his mother stopped questioning their parenting decisions, he realized how stressed out her criticism had made him to. Everyone was relieved. Now, we're not armchair psychiatrist.
I don't mean to imply that. And it does take real practice to learn to start getting to these deep whys. But that's why I encourage you to undertake that practice. And again, think of those athletes. They don't practice during the game. They practice before the game, after the game, but they don't practice in the game. Don't practice in the argument. Practice before the argument, after the argument. And you'll be peaceful in the argument.
You need to have a connection beyond conflict. You want to talk about fighting and arguments when they're not actually happening in order to have better, more fruitful ones when they are happening. And here's one way you can do that. First, you're going to set aside a time where you're going to talk about how to fight when athletes engage in competition. There are rules, right. And we know these in advance. So you're going to sit down and create your own rules of engagement for tough or charged conversations.
Now, what I want you to do is when you have this conversation, don't sit across from one another, sit next to one another, and preferably if you can do it at a meal. It might be awkward at first, but you're going to sit next to one another at the table or the counter while you eat. One of the reasons I love this is that it calls back to the story of the monks. I said at the beginning of the podcast, sitting next to one another helps to remind you that you are on the same side.
You're not facing each other with the problem of the challenge between you. You're on the same team. You're confronting and dealing with the issue together. Now, why over a meal? As Buster Benson, the author of Why Are We Yelling The Art of Productive Disagreement, says there is something about eating together that disarms us. Historically, the idea of breaking bread together conjures friendship and companionship, like the big reception meal after a wedding. Once you're settled in together, you're going to do something psychologists call priming.
If you've heard the expression prime the pump, it means to stimulate something you want more of. When you use a hand pump to pump water, you pump it a few times to get the water flowing. What we want more of in this case is positivity. We want to connect from a place of mutual interest and support. We want to connect from a place of love. So we're going to prime this space of loving exchange by answering a question.
The question is, what does your partner do that complements you? What's a skill or strength they have that isn't particularly one that you have and that you appreciate about them? Explain why you appreciate that. How does it help or support you? One of the reasons this particular question can be so helpful and feel so supportive is the. When we first get together with someone, we tend to appreciate the ways we're not alike, but as my very insightful wife rightly pointed out when she was a guest on my podcast recently, after a time, we can often start to be irritated or resentful of our differences and think, why does she have to be so social and chatty with people or why can't we balance the checkbook once in a while?
Yet these were once things that you valued, that you saw as compliments. So it can be helpful to remind each other that we're not meant to be clones of one another. After all, who would want to be romantically involved with themselves? We want to be reminded to appreciate our differences. Now it's time to set your guidelines and boundaries around how you'd like to argue. I know that might sound a bit strange, but stick with me. You're each going to take five to 10 minutes to think of an answer to this question.
If you're someone who takes more time processing, you might want to start thinking about this question in advance. Think of it as your homework assignment. You can make notes and bring them to the conversation. Here's the question. When my partner and I reach a point where we're arguing or an argument is about to start. What helps and what hurts?
Then you'll share your answers. Take turns back and forth, each sharing one thing and then going back to the other person, for example. It might be something like it would help me if you put down your phone when we talk, it hurts my feelings when I perceive that you don't care about what I'm saying or it helps me when you ask me questions instead of accusing me, it hurts my ability to listen to you when I feel like I have to defend myself.
And at the end of the statement ask, can you do that or does that sound reasonable to you? This is the big one. It's a huge one. You're going to repeat what your partner said in a way that shows you truly heard it. For example, I understand that when I'm on my phone while you're talking to me, it feels like I'm not listening to you. If I'm in the middle of something important that I need to finish, I'll ask you for a few minutes.
When it's time to talk, I'll put away my phone and give you my full attention. I promise these practices are game changers. Plus, when you can diffuse emotions in this way and put boundaries around how you argue, it's much easier to get to the bottom of the deepest way behind the argument because you've created safety within the argument. You can go to those vulnerable places together when you're curious and you're focused on understanding rather than accusation. The final practice I want to leave you with is a simple one, but it's extremely impactful.
Remember when I said that you want to have some kind of connection when you're not in conflict? As relationship experts John and Julie Gottman say, just learning to fight better or to avoid disagreements isn't going to make a relationship healthy. If you don't have a fundamental appreciation for one another and a friendship, you've got to foster that strong foundation when you're not fighting so that when you do argue, your arguments will lead to insights and understanding, not hurt feelings and frustration when it comes to fostering that foundation.
There are loads of ways, and I've talked about many of them here before, play together, learn together, engage in new experiences together. But here's one that specific that I want to focus on today. Express gratitude to one another on a daily basis to be effective at securing the foundation of a relationship. Gratitude needs to be specific, sincere and steady. No one, be specific about what you're grateful for, the incredible meals they make, caring for the kids, the fact that they're energized in working out, always positive.
Be sincere. Don't just make something up to have something to say. Say what you really feel in the moment. You don't need to take out a separate time to express gratitude. And number three, be steady. Tell your partner something you're grateful for about the East once a day. Build it into your morning or bedtime routine or surprise them with a text or handwritten note sometime during the day. Gratitude is the great relationship reset button. When we remind one another about what we are grateful for, about one another, it actually helps us argue in a more loving and productive way, because secretly and securely we know that there's deep love.
Don't forget to go back and listen to Episode one five eight so you can learn more about your attachment style and how that might be impacting your arguments. Drop a note in the comments on Instagram and let me know how you're getting on. Tag me in your biggest lesson from today. We can do this. I'm here for you and I'm cheering you on. Thanks for listening.