© Rick Hanson, Ph.D., and Jan
Hanson, L.Ac., 2005
5 Keys to Settling Marital
I'm sick of fighting!
Enrico and I love each other, but wow do we argue, especially since
having children. Help!
No doubt about it, marital
squabbles and even ugly fights usually increase after children come
along. The causes are painfully familiar to us all: sleep
deprivation, little time for oneself, feeling let down, vicious
cycles of finger-pointing, the in-laws, etc. etc. We certainly
fought more frequently and intensely after having kids than ever
To solve these problems -
and maintain an intact family in which to raise precious children -
we've found five key methods. They're not glib, they're not a TV
sound bite, but they're the real deal. Try them yourself - and see
if you can get your spouse to go along.
Here they are:
- By taking better care of yourself, you'll be able to take better
care of your partner, and have a cooler, clearer head in quarrels.
This means really doing the fundamentals: protein with every meal,
good vitamin supplements (please see our book if you have any
questions), sleep as an extremely high priority, personal stress
relief practices, and the support of good friends and family.
The 80-20 Rule - Put
80% of your energy into how you can be a better mate, and
just 20% on how he/she could be less of a jerk. You have little
power to change your partner, but great power to change yourself.
Take maximum personal responsibility for whatever is true in your
partner's complaints, and then unilaterally make appropriate
changes. That will make you feel good about yourself, give you the
best odds of getting better behavior from your mate, and put you on
the high moral ground.
Empathy - Try to get
inside your partner's skin, sensing the being behind the words - and
ask firmly for the same. Isn't that why you married each other, that
you felt deeply known and listened to? Being empathic doesn't mean
you agree or approve or let someone off the hook, just that you
understand. And when you understand, you're more able to
address what's really at stake for the other person. And when you
feel understood, you're more willing to get to the heart of the
matter and make peace.
Focus - Go after what would make things better from now
on rather than argue about the past. Be honest with yourself:
what are you up to, making a case for why you're right, or making
things better in your relationship? Pick a topic and stick with it
without jumping around. Then make realistic agreements, keep them,
and move on.
Loving At Will
- Life is hard for all of us, and we all suffer in a variety of
ways, so each of us is called to bring compassion and loving
kindness to other people - even the person we're married to! This
both makes us quietly happy and helps the world be a better place.
While love may not be top of mind in the midst of a nutty day, any
one of us can use the will to reach down inside and pull up a little
love. Giving it ennobles us, lifts our own heart, brings dignity and
self-respect . . . and often kindles a fire of love in