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How to Fix a Relationship After a Fight

How to Fix a Relationship After a Fight

How to Fix a Relationship After a Fight

Don’t Break Up. Break Through.

 

How to fix your relationship after a bad fight. All couples fight, sometimes. This is not a bad thing: Conflict can lead to constructive conversations and deeper connection. And… some fights are just toxic and unproductive.

Here at Growing Self we offer a lot of relationship geared towards helping you proactively solve problems, avoid conflict, turn conflict into connection, and use communication skills to have productive conflict… but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, couples just have a terrible fight where they both say mean things to each other and feel like they damaged their relationship in the process.

Has this just happened in your relationship? Have you just had a nasty fight, and now you’re looking for help to get your relationship back on track? 

You’re in the right place: Real help for your relationship is here. Read on for actionable tips, PLUS a video, a quiz, and even a podcast — all here to help you mend your relationship. 

Fix Your Relationship After a Fight

First of all, if you’re actively looking for help to fix your relationship after a fight, that in itself is a great sign. It means that you care enough about your relationship to work on it, and to put your time, energy and effort into healing after a fight.

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I work with couples all the time who are concerned about the level of fighting in their relationship and want to heal their bond. Here are some of my top tips for how to not just fix your relationship after a fight — as in a “Let’s slap a band-aid on this and forget it ever happened” — but really and truly, use the experience you both had to move forward and develop the amazing relationship you both want and deserve.

5 Tips To Repair Your Bond After a Fight

Here’s some from the heart advice from a professional marriage counselor to help you fix your relationship after a fight, and use this as an opportunity to start a new chapter of growth and closeness in your relationship.

  1. Do not catastrophize. If you’ve just had a bad fight, you might be feeling worried about your relationship, wondering if you’re compatible, or even if this is the beginning of the end. Let’s stop: All couples fight. If you get too worried about the fight itself, it might lead you to withdraw emotionally and that’s never helpful. Here’s a reframe: : Fighting is actually a good sign — it means that you both still care enough to tangle with each other, try to be understood, and attempt to create change in your relationship. When couples are really in trouble, like on the brink of divorce, fighting often stops. People have given up. (More on this: “How to Stop a Divorce and Save Your Marriage.” But not you two! You are still fighting for your relationship.
  2. Take a break. Do NOT try to fix your relationship after a fight in the heat of the moment. Really. Neither of you are thinking clearly, and it’s best to let it go until you can both calm down. Leave it until the morning, or go take a walk, and don’t even try to repair your relationship until you’re really and truly feeling calm. How will you know that you’ve calmed down enough to mend things? When you can shift gears from your perspective to theirs. (Listen to the podcast below for a much more detailed explanation of this!)
  3. Remember: fighting happens because people are trying to be heard and understood… but feeling invalidated by their partner. The quickest and most effective way to repair your relationship after a fight is to — deep breath here — let go of your agenda for a little while, and put your energy into understanding your partners feelings, hopes, desires and perspective. Hard? Yes. Effective? Double-yes. This doesn’t mean that you need to agree with or acquiesce to their feelings (at the expense of yours), but when you listen with the intention of understanding it immediately calms conflict and starts rebuilding trust, empathy and compassion.
  4. Don’t be afraid to apologize. It’s not unusual at all for people to say or do really regrettable things in the heat of the moment. Yelling, stomping, slamming doors, even name calling. When you get flooded with emotion it really does turn off the part of your brain that is thoughtful, articulate and can anticipate cause-and-effect. Basically, when you get angry it unleashes your inner toddler who does a smash-and-grab job on the emotional safety of your relationship. (Or one who “punishes” by silence, rejection or weird passive-aggressive things which is not cool either). We all have the potential to do this. It can be tempting to reach for blame in these moments (i.e., “Well I only burned the toast to teach him how it feels to be uncared for,” etc) but that just perpetuates disconnection. Instead, try saying, “I didn’t behave well during our fight and I’m sorry for that. You deserve to be treated with respect no matter how upset I get and I’ll try better next time.”
  5. Use this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Fighting in a relationship can actually be extremely productive and helpful when it results in couples talking about important things they don’t usually talk about, learning new things about each other, and finding new solutions to old problems. Relationships stagnate when people walk around holding in their feelings, not wanting to rock the boat, or doing anything that will upset the other. While this sounds virtuous and noble, it’s actually a recipe for resentment and growing disconnection. Healthy, strong couples talk about things that bother them and work together to find solutions that feel better for both of them. Is having a drag-out fight the very best way to do this? Well, no, BUT even the worst fight can be the doorway to creating new understanding and solutions in your relationship IF you’re willing to listen to each other, acknowledge the validity of each other’s perspective, and agree that you both deserve to feel loved and respected in this relationship. You do!

Relationship Resources To Help You Heal and Grow, Together

I hope that those tips help you fix your relationship after a fight. Ideally, if you take this relationship advice to heart you’ll not just repair your relationship after this one fight, but you’ll head off the next fight before it starts! Now, that said: Sometimes, couples can fall into negative cycles of interaction where fighting, negativity, resentment and bad feelings have been growing for a while. If that is the case, you might find that it’s a lot harder to bounce back after an EPIC fight because of all the water under the bridge previously.

There is still hope, and there is still help. Consider enlisting the support of an expert marriage counselor or couples therapist to help you set aside your differences so that you can address the deeper issues in your relationship and reconnect with your compassion and love for each other. Having a great couples therapist or relationship coach can help you have constructive conflict that grows your relationship (rather than negative, unproductive conflict that destroys it).

If you’d like to get started with positive, effective, and evidence based couples therapy, marriage counseling or relationship coaching we invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of the amazing therapists and coaches on the team here at Growing Self.

Wishing all the best for you both,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: Because SO many couples start looking for resources, relationship advice,  and start looking for ways to fix their relationship after a big fight, I have even MORE resources for you. Please check out the podcast  (and video) that I recorded on this topic, just to help you in this moment. (Both are available below). I know it feels like a crisis right now, but trust me — this can be the start of an amazing new chapter in your relationship. Your partner in growth, LMB

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

How to Fix Your Relationship After a Fight

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credit: Derek Clegg, “Hanging By a String

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How to Fix Your Relationship After A Fight

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

Are You A Good Listener?

Listening with intent and genuine interest is a skill that, unfortunately, most of us are not born with. This skill is what ultimately builds connection and develops a reassurance in our relationships (romantic, platonic, and professional!). Did you know that most toxic relationship issues (no matter what the topic) come from a disconnect in communication? It’s true! As a Couples Counselor, I have worked with many couples who are going through these exact same disconnects in their relationship, and I want to offer you practical listening skills that you can practice to become a better, more effective listener.

The wonderful thing about diversity is that we all come from unique backgrounds. These different backgrounds make up different cultures, values, and ideals we hold as individuals. However, when you bring two (often very different) people together, there sometimes is a sort of tug-of-war into whose values are more authentic and which ideals the relationship will hold. Since we all have distinct and very personal views of “right and wrong”, this makes hearing other opinions often challenging.

Listening to your partner without judgment is essential to building connection, rebuilding trust, and fostering an environment where a relationship can grow and thrive! We all want to be heard, and when we aren’t we feel as though our emotions and needs are often overlooked. Not listening to your partner can result in power struggles, negative behaviors, resentment, and ultimately…separation.

You don’t want to wait for things to “just get better” in your relationship, because they won’t without intentionally taking the steps for improvement (both personally and as a couple). The good news is, you can start today! Here are six practical and mindful ways that you can improve your listening skills while making yourself a more responsive and connected partner.

TAKE BEING RIGHT OR WRONG OUT OF THE EQUATION

Your values are no better or worse than your partner’s values. An active listener will work hard not to judge his or her partner’s emotions.

Needs and emotions are never “correct” or “incorrect” they simply just are. Discussions that lead to black and white thinking, right or wrong, are usually about asserting control. Control then leads to blame, anger, and resentment, not connection. A partner who feels judged or is “wrong” in an argument will feel invalidated and unheard. A listener’s job is to listen, not judge. If a listener intends to hear and not control, then the result is better connection.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO AGREE ALL THE TIME

Our culture has taught us the fallacy that a healthy couple never disagrees or gets into arguments. In reality, many healthy couples disagree about important topics regarding their relationship, and no couple will ever agree entirely about everything.

Authentic listening comes from hearing and validating ideas you don’t agree with, as this shows respect for your partner. The goal is to listen and accept, and not necessarily agree, which can lead to the compromise that’s needed for couples to navigate difficult times and topics together.

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS FROM THE CONVERSATION

For most of us, this means putting the cell phone down, turning off the TV, or walking away from the computer screen. Non-verbal cues are incredibly important as a listener. If you are distracted and disengaged, then clearly you cannot validate your partner (who may feel they’re talking to a figurative wall).

To get even more real with your partner, use non-verbal cues such as touch, eye contact, and body language(as well as the verbal cue of vocal tone). These cues are what babies learn in their early development to feel safe. These same cues will calm an adult’s limbic system – allowing more safety in sharing emotions and needs. Your non-verbal cues of acceptance and security are not just a crucial listening skill, but also a critical skill for building any relationship.

CONTINUALLY PRACTICE EMPATHY

Empathy is being able to understand another person’s experience, and it’s the opposite of judgment. Your partner’s emotions and needs are real and often come from painful, deep experiences. Just as you have your own needs and emotions based off of your experiences, so does your partner.

Try putting yourself in your partner’s shoes to feel and understand their pain, or access your pain and examine how you’ve dealt with it. Everyone at some point will experience a difficult situation or circumstance, your partner included, and showing empathy and understanding will allow for more in-depth conversations and connection between the two of you.

LISTEN FULLY BEFORE FORMULATING A RESPONSE

Few behaviors invalidate more quickly than interrupting. Interrupting usually involves fear or a lack of emotional safety on the listener’s part. This behavior, however, will cause your partner to believe that you feel your opinion has more validity than theirs. Try not to rehearse a response in your head while your partner is sharing, as that disengages you from empathy and feeling what your partner is trying to share with you. Let the conversation happen organically and without distraction or interruption of preplanned responses (that could ultimately cause more pain than healing).

VALIDATE YOUR PARTNER

Many of my clients in couple’s counseling have revealed to me that feeling unheard is one of their biggest triggers to pain and anger.  So how do you show your partner that you genuinely have heard their emotions and needs?

One way that has been proven to be effective is to repeat (in your own words) what you think you heard your partner say to you, and to ask if you heard them correctly. Be careful not to infer your interpretations into what your partner said, as those may be incorrect and invalidating – simply repeat what you heard. If you don’t get everything, that’s okay! You can ask your partner to repeat what you may have missed. This is even more effective when using your non-verbal cues for safety.

IT TAKES PRACTICE…

Listening can be a difficult skill to learn, and you won’t perfect this skill in just one conversation. If you continue to practice these six steps to improve your listening skills you will see improvement overtime (and it will get easier and more natural too!).

Self-care and general happiness are also tied to helping with the development of listening skills, as well as therapeutic techniques such as thought stopping and grounding activities. However, those who have suffered from trauma may have difficulty accessing these skills, and individual therapy to process and heal from the trauma may be needed to listen safely and with compassion. It’s true, listening can be difficult, but the rewards of being able to do so are numerous: clarity, understanding, emotional honesty, and better connection. You have the power to make changes with your listening skills and to show your partner that you can take that next step and truly hear them with empathy and understanding!

All the best,
Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC

Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach who helps people create deeper relationships, heal from difficult life experiences, and increase their confidence. His warm, non-judgmental approach makes it safe to discover new things about yourself, and take positive action to change your life.

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Read More By Seth Below!

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How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

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Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Be Friends, First

Over time in a long term committed relationship it can be easy for couples to lose sight of the underlying friendship aspects of their relationship. Research has found that being friends with your partner is actually fundamental to a couples’ overall success and satisfaction with the relationship. Unfortunately, it’s easy lose sight of that over time.

Creating A Strong Foundation

When thinking about how to strengthen your friendship with your partner, it might be helpful to think of the qualities you admire in your closest friendships. These friendship “ingredients” may include fostering underlying trust, respect, teamwork and a sense that the other person is on your side or “has your back” at the end of the day. These qualities can also include sharing simple connecting moments like having inside jokes with one another or talking about how your day went in the evening with your significant other. 

As a couples counselor and marriage therapist I have had the opportunity to work with many couples who desire to not only build this foundation of friendship with their partner, but also maintain it. Here are a few practical tips that you can use in your own relationship today! 

Three Practical Tips For Restoring and Maintaining Friendship With Your Partner

Intentionality is Key 

As previously mentioned, with the busyness and demands of life, it can be easy for couples to lose sight of these necessary friendship qualities to a relationship (balancing a Career and Relationship sound familiar?). Couples may also find it difficult to set aside intentional time for maintaining a friendship. Phone conversations, for example, may become limited to shorthand speak about what time dinner will be and did you remember to pick the kids up from soccer practice today?   

Even setting an intentional date night can sometimes miss the mark in maintaining friendship between couples. For example, there may be a lot of pressure to make date night grand and romantic or spending the majority of time together finding activities to do rather than simply connecting with one another. While doing fun things together is also important, it may not provide couples with the opportunity to connect in a way that fosters true intimacy and sharing with one another the way you might when having coffee with a close friend, for example.

One suggestion to avoid this pitfall is rather than setting a routine “date night” couples might focus on one time during the week that they set aside for connecting or “checking-in” with one another. Maybe you meet at your favorite coffee shop or simply have “couch time” one evening a week where you talk about how you’ve been feeling individually in addition to how you’re feeling about the relationship. This can be a great opportunity to share things that feel really great about the relationship or ways that you wish things might be going differently between you. [For more ideas on how you can set aside time with your partner, read: “How To Fall In Love Again”]

Honest Communication 

Another important component to maintaining friendship between couples is honest communication about what’s going well in the relationship and what isn’t. Part of this communication means giving honest feedback to one another on a regular basis. It can be easy to jump into defense mode when receiving feedback from your partner. Additionally, giving feedback to your partner can feel anxiety provoking and built-up resentment can make delivering feedback to your partner in a caring way difficult. 

One way couples might reduce anxiety around giving and receiving feedback to one another is imagining what it would be like to give or receive the same feedback to a close friend. How would you want the feedback delivered? What would be most important to communicate to the other person? What do you ultimately need from this person in the relationship? Sometimes imagining the conversation in this way can take some of the pressure and steam off the conversation with a romantic partner when the stakes often feel much higher and more emotionally loaded than in a platonic friendship. 

Mutual Respect 

The importance of mutual respect in a couple relationship cannot be underestimated. Mutual respect also means that there is a shared sense of equality in the partnership; that both members of the couple know that the other takes their needs seriously and cares about making the other feel cared for and important. In a friendship, this component is often easy because without it, you wouldn’t have much of a foundation upon which to build a friendship. 

One big way that couples lose a sense of mutual respect for one another is the way that conflict gets resolved in the relationship. An example of how this might play out is with grand romantic gestures. For example, a couple gets into a fight and one member of the couple buys the other a bouquet of flowers that gets delivered to the office the next day as an apology. Often times, while well-intentioned, grand romantic gestures disclude the fundamental component of mutual respect which is talking and communicating about what happened during the fight in a meaningful way. 

This involves a conversation where both members of the couple take responsibility for and convey understanding of any hurt feelings to one another. These conversations allow couples the opportunity to truly move on from an argument in addition to turning conflict into an opportunity to foster intimacy, honesty and connection in the relationship while grand romantic gestures tend to sweep things under the rug temporarily.

Most couples in long-term, committed relationships struggle to maintain these aspects of the relationship that are so important to overall relationship satisfaction. So know that you are not alone. I do hope you found this article has a helpful jumping off point to thinking about overarching ways friendship might be maintained within the context of a romantic relationship. Share with me your thoughts in the comments below!

Warmly, 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss, PhD, LP-C

 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss is a couples counselor, individual therapist, life coach and creativity coach. She specializes in helping couples restore emotional and sexual intimacy, individuals move past heartbreak and into healthy relationships, and creatives find their voice.

Let’s  Talk

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Let’s Talk About Date Night

If you’re in a long-term relationship the time will come when that burning flame of romance and passion dims to a comfortable warmth, it’s inevitable. This doesn’t mean that the romance and passion are over, it’s a new era of your relationship. If you welcome this era with an open mind and a willingness to experience this stage with your partner – you will find that this warmth is not only sustaining to your relationship but welcoming.

I know it can feel discouraging to think back on how alive and in love you once were before the chaos of life, work, and family obligations became primary conversations at the dinner table. Maybe you’re even asking yourself “can it ever be like it once was?”

The truth is, if you’re both willing to put in the effort to keep your relationship “lit” then YES you can have those rekindling experiences in your relationship! In fact, research by love gurus Dr. John and Julie Gottman has even shown that couples on the road to separation were able to rekindle the flame in their relationship. So what’s the secret? You guessed it…date night.

How To Get The Most Out Of Date Night

It’s easy enough to go on a date if time and circumstance allow. However, it can feel like there’s just not enough time in the day for dating, and if you are like most of my couples clients you have a lot going on. It can feel like your only conversations together happen in passing after a long day at work or at the dinner table with the kids. This means that you have to be intentional about date night, and you need to get the most out of your time together (yes, I’m talking quality over quantity).

So, How Do You Do This?

First, it’s important to choose a time that works for both of you. It might feel silly scheduling each other in, but I promise if you schedule your date together you’re both more likely to make it work. So sit down, get those phones out (or paper agendas, whatever works for you!) and pick a time where you are either both free or available to move your schedule around. This might mean getting a babysitter, rearranging less important plans, or simply saying “no” to lesser obligations. But remember, you don’t have to force a date for the sake of dating. Sometimes an hour at the nearby coffee shop can be just as fun — do what works best for you!

Next, be deliberate about the activity you choose to do together. Since time is limited, what you do with that time is important. Try to orchestrate a date that is both fun and meaningful for both of you! The more thought you put into the date, the more you’ll get out of it. Before this starts sounding like a chore, I’m not talking about an itinerary that has every little moment planned out. Think about what you both like to do? Where do you like to go? What have you done in the past you’d like to do again? What are some new places, food, or experiences you would like to try?

Number one rule – make this time about the two of you. You don’t have to stick to any version of a date that isn’t appealing to you. However, the more time you spend together, the easier dating becomes. If this means staying home and watching a movie together, sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine, going out to an upscale restaurant, or checking out the “hottest” club – do what’s right for the both of you.

Looking for some great date night suggestions? Take a look at these simple to elaborate ideas you can implement into your new date night routine.

Fun Simple Suggestions:

  1. Pizza & A Movie Marathon— whether you like the DIY method of making your own homemade pizza or you like someone else to do the work for you (aka…ordering delivery), this is a staple date night. You can choose a movie that has a special meaning to the two of you, or maybe even take turns showing your current or childhood favorites.
  2. Build A Fort or “Camp” Indoors—sometimes laying down together in a new place can be exciting and spark some old feelings you thought were lost!
  3. Go On A Long Walk Together—use this time to hold hands, talk about life, or even get to know each other more. Did you know that exercise helps release brain chemicals that can make you feel happier? So by simply doing something active together can create positive feelings between you and your partner.
  4. Desserts and Discovery—make your favorite desserts together and ask one another questions to get to know each other again. There are various apps that supply questions to ask your partner (I recommend the “Gottman Card Decks” app). You could even get creative and use this desserts and discovery date to spark some sexual intimacy as well!

More Elaborate Suggestions:

  1. Surprise Date Night—if you and your partner have similar schedules, surprise your partner with a spontaneous date (to a restaurant, bowling alley, movies, etc). The excitement of the surprise may spark some long-awaited affection.
  2. A Mini-Vacay—find a babysitter and book a hotel room for the night! A night away from home can be especially rejuvenating for a relationship, especially if you have children.
  3. Take A Class Together—some communities offer classes to the public. Register for a local class together such as art, culinary, dancing, or exercise classes. Some classes may even be free!
  4. Recreate Your First Date—think about your very first date together and recreate it.  Reminiscing on the past may help reignite passion in the present. It can also be helpful to talk through all of the obstacles you have overcome as a couple over the years and take time to appreciate how your partner has contributed to the strengths in your relationship.

Date night can be a helpful tool for relationship health. Whether you’re wanting to stick to something simple or splurge on an elaborate night out, there are many exciting ways to get to know your partner and rediscover the excitement in your relationship. Try some of these suggestions and share your experience with me below in the comments section!

Wishing you the best on your date,
Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT

Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.

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How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

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Financial Therapy For Couples

Financial Therapy For Couples

Financial Therapy For Couples

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

How to Stop Fighting About Money

For many couples entering couples therapy or marriage counseling, differences around money are a significant source of conflict in their relationship. And of course, money fights are common, because money is one of those things that means different things to different people.

For some, money a stand-in for love and connection, and for others money means security. Some people view spending money on things they enjoy as what gives life meaning, and others view accumulating money to pass on to the next generation as the purpose of life itself

Other people view money as freedom, and still others see it as a tool. People can also have negative associations around money, including guilt or fear. Other people can even tie their sense of self-worth to the money they have in the bank, or to outward displays of wealth.

Money is, in short, a loaded topic.

So it’s only natural that all couples usually have at least some differences around money, because they’re different people. Even if a couple is in basic agreement about their values around money, there will still be differences. In general, financial values exist on a spectrum between “spending” and “saving.”

Why Couples Fight About Money: Savers vs Spenders

In every relationship, there is a person who has a “saver” orientation and a person who has a “spender” orientation. This is even true between two people who are freer with their money than other couples, or within a couple who generally saves more than other couples. They, as a unit, may appear aligned around what they’re doing with money, and yet still find things to squabble about between themselves.

Saver fights: “I thought we agreed to put $1500 into the retirement account and bump the mortgage payment by $500 from now on. We can totally live on a $300 a month grocery budget — you eat too much anyway. Don’t you want to have the house paid off in three years???”

Spender fights: “No, I’m excited about Rekyvic and Dublin and Amsterdam, but I really had my heart set on Prague too. I mean, if we’re going anyway shouldn’t we embrace it? We’ll pay it off! We can use the line of credit from the condo in Vail, it’s appreciating like crazy. Why are you such a kill-joy?”

Of course, in couples who are even further apart on the spender / saver continuum than these examples, you can only imagine how intense fights about money in a marriage can get. This is never more true than around the holiday season, when budgets get blown faster than you can say “Fa-la-la.”

As we speed toward the holidays, life can become a twinkly blur of get-togethers and activities. The internal, sometimes even sub-conscious drive to have a “nice holiday” can drive us to spend way more money than we intended. In some couples, holiday spending can even be hidden between partners, creating a rupture of trust when it’s disclosed in the sober grey light of January.

Yes, “financial infidelity” is a real thing, and it causes real trauma to relationships. When couples are frequently fighting about money to the point where it feels like it’s impossible to communicate about finances, people will begin to hide spending, hide debt, or get overly controlling or even aggressive about money. This can lead to splitting up finances, which is often a symptom of avoidance in a relationship.

When it feels impossible to come to agreements about money, when communication about money always turns into a fight, where there is a lack of financial trust, or vastly different values around money, couples move towards separate bank accounts… and sometimes, sadly, eventually separate lives.

Financial Therapy For Couple

By the time couples arrive in marriage counseling to discuss the ongoing conflict about money, it has often evolved into a bigger deal than can be solved by simply making a budget together, or getting scolded by a financial planner. Feelings have been hurt. Trust may have been broken. Even worse, couples can start to fear that they are too far apart in their basic values around life and money to even be compatible.

This can be a scary time for couples. I remember how it was in my own marriage when money was the number one thing my husband and I were fighting about.

I felt like we barely had enough money to get by, and was frantic in my efforts to conserve our resources — even if it meant wearing second-hand clothes from thrift stores and packing PB&J for lunch every day.

My husband, on the other hand, felt stifled, unhappy, and constrained when I attempted to squash the flow of money through our life. He felt that without having anything to enjoy or look forward to, life felt empty and burdensome.

At the time, of course, neither of us realized that we were both right, and so we fought endlessly over who’s perspective was more true and noble. I’d give him hell for spending $4 on a latte at a bookstore (or god-forbid, buying one of his fancy art-magazines), and he’d make crappy comments about how gross it was to buy used shoes.

We finally got into marriage counseling, and only then, learned how to listen and understand. We no longer have conflict around money. We have conversations about money. It’s good. You can do this too.

Marriage Counseling Around Finances

It can be hard for a couple, particularly a couple in distress, to see through their own anger, fear, and moral judgment to see the other person’s perspective about money for what it usually is: A deeply held personal value, often related to core emotional and psychological needs.

However, without a high level of understanding and empathy, it’s very hard for couples to get on the same page about money. That’s where great marriage counseling, financial therapy, and relationship coaching come in: They can all help you stay calm enough to talk through your thoughts and feelings in a way that fosters understanding and empathy about money, and what it means to each of you.

For example, when I put down my shining sword of virtue and justice long enough to hear what my husband was actually trying to communicate, I learned that his less-privileged background led him to view money as something to be pounced upon and enjoyed while it was there (before it evaporated again), as opposed to accumulating it and cultivating it. I understood him more deeply, and had empathy for what money represented to him: Pleasure and meaning in the moment, and not anything that could be counted upon.

Over time, I also came to understand that being open to his perspective was good for me, too: Because of him, I’ve had more fun, more  interesting adventures, and, frankly, better furniture and clothing than I ever would when left to my own devices.

And as the conflict between us diffused into curiosity and openness, he learned that I inherited a deep anxiety around money from my immigrant family, who fled Europe after the second world war when Stalin appeared to be the next maniac drumming on the horizon. As a first-generation-American who grew up watching her Belgian father save scraps of wire, unbend pulled nails for a second use (stored in glass baby jars he’d saved from my earliest months), and literally cut off the moldy parts of the cheese before proclaiming it perfectly fine, I had a deeply ingrained survival instinct to conserve money.

I’m pleased to report that my perspective influenced my husband too. He now tolerates my budgets and squirreling, and seems to like the fact that we have a financial buffer between us and disaster, as well as a plan for the future.

We no longer fight about money. However — and this is the important part — our alignment about finances is NOT because either of us have changed who we are. He is not exactly like me, and he never will be. He still thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to spend $900 on a BMX bike, and on the rare occasions I shop for clothes, it’s usually at consignment stores.

But he understands me, and accepts that saving money and avoiding debt as much as possible is a wise way to live. And I understand him, and have accepted the fact that it’s important to be generous, and that nice things and meaningful life experiences are worth paying for.

That level of acceptance and understanding is always my hope for the couples who come to us for help in getting on the same page around money. If fighting about money feels like it’s destroying your relationship, please know that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Particularly during this time of year — the holidays, and their aftermath — you have lots of opportunities to talk about finances. This year, I hope you consider giving each other the gift of listening with the intention to understand. Ask your partner what money means to them, and try to get on their side of the table. Don’t have a conflict. Have a conversation.

If you want to solve your financial disagreements for once and for all, the answer is not controlling or changing each other. It lies in developing empathy, understanding, and a sense of common purpose that unites you as a couple and as a family. Hard to do, but so, so worth it.

With love and respect to you both,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
Growing Self
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