How to Deal with Conflict in Marriage

When quarreling with your spouse, it’s difficult to remember any rules or courtesies about how to argue reasonably. Your emotions are taking over, and there isn’t time to think rationally. Entering a disagreement level-headed is nice in theory, but much easier said than done.

Dr. Susan Johnson says that telling couples they should follow certain rules during a fight will just set them up to fail. Instead, she offers the advice to try limiting the hurt caused during the argument, and lovingly make amends afterward.

Myths about Dealing with Conflict in Marriage

Below are three well-known myths about dealing with conflict in marriage, followed by more practical ways to handle issues.

Myth #1: Just Stay Calm

The whole reason you are fighting in the first place is because you aren’t feeling calm. Something is obviously upsetting you enough to bring it up and hash it out. During a disagreement, there are usually two levels of conflict going on. The first level is the topic you are actually fighting about (i.e., a broken promise, laundry that wasn’t done). The second level is how this disappointment makes you feel and what it means for your relationship. Something as simple as the trash not being taken out (after they said they would) brings up emotions of whether or not you can trust your partner’s word.

This contributes to the hurt emotions you are feeling, and why it is hard to remain calm during an argument with your spouse. The fight isn’t simply about chores left undone. It is also about how they have ruined your trust in them, and what that could mean for the future. If you can’t count on them with this menial task, what will happen when something more critical comes along?

Myth #2: Be Reasonable and Specific

“When the fear center of my brain is glowing red, my cortex, the seat of deliberate reasoning, is most often not online” (Johnson). More helpful advice would be to try refraining from saying something you might regret. When your feelings have been hurt, it is a natural reaction to want to hurt the other person in revenge. Do not give in to that temptation.

Johnson compares the act of making a threat to trying to rearrange your living room by throwing a grenade in there. Doing so may give you the advantage, and definitely changes the scenario. However, you have to consider if it is the best way to handle the problem. “As one of my clients told me, ‘When she uses the D word, divorce I mean, it’s like I have a pen knife and she has a nuclear weapon. I just freeze up. I can’t talk at all’” (Johnson).

Myth #3: Take a Time-Out

On the surface, it may seem like you are trying to push your spouse away when you argue with them. However, the real reason you are trying to communicate is to share your insecurities and concerns with them. This would be futile if they just walked away from you.

“I think in many of us this is just going to trigger higher levels of alarm and resentment. Aren’t we all just a little threatened by our loved one being able to turn and walk away, as if we didn’t matter at all? In my practice, the only people who can use ‘time-outs’ are those who have very mild fights and tons of love between them – that is, those who don’t really need it” (Johnson).

This doesn’t mean you should let the fight get carried away, but don’t try ending it by ignoring your partner. If things start to get out of control, say something. Tell them you value and want to hear what they have to say, but both of you are communicating unproductively.

What to Do After a Fight

Disagreements come up. Fights are going to happen. This is part of being human and the fact that we all make mistakes. Therefore, try not to avoid conflict altogether. Focus on limiting the damage and repairing it afterward.

When discussing your fight, Johnson suggests concentrating on how you feel instead of your spouse’s actions. What is it that upset you and caused the ensuing argument? How did you feel during the fight? Why did you feel that way?

“You can both assume, if it was a serious fight, that you scared each other. Our research shows that you can heal hurts and create a love that lasts by showing your partner that you care about their feelings and opening the door to what I call a Hold Me Tight conversation” (Johnson).

When Paul writes to the New Testament churches, he continually reminds them to share one another’s burdens. He also tells them to forgive those who have wronged them. The same thing is required in a marriage. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

During arguments, you will do and say harmful things out of anger or fear. Concentrating on being kind and loving will help you be less hurtful toward your partner. It will also help you focus on where they are coming from and what they are trying to communicate.

How Christian Counseling Can Help You Deal with Conflict in Marriage

There is no way to avoid conflict in marriage. In fact, Johnson says that it is unhealthy even to try. She compares it to two people trying to dance, but are so nervous about stepping on each other’s toes that they don’t put their feet anywhere.

If you are worried about the magnitude of your quarrels, you may want to make an appointment with a Christian marriage counselor Newport Beach. They are there to provide a safe space for discussing your problems. They can help you pinpoint your fears and figure out what motivates your emotional outbursts.

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Getting Over an Affair: Can Christian Marriages Survive Infidelity?

Possibly the worst betrayal you can experience is having your spouse choose to get his or her needs met outside of your marriage, whether those needs are physical or emotional. Is it possible for a Christian marriage to recover from an affair? What does forgiveness look like? Where is the hope in this situation?

The good news is that there is always hope. But this hope requires a willingness on the part of both spouses, the betrayer and the betrayed, to work through the situation with openness and honesty and a common goal of reconciliation.

Important Steps for Getting Over an Affair

This process of getting over an affair is extremely difficult to undertake, but if there is true repentance, the right form of counseling, and helpful strategies, a marriage can become even stronger than it was prior to the affair.

Ask For Forgiveness

It’s essential that the spouse who strayed asks their husband or wife to forgive them, but it’s also important to consider others who were affected by their sin. This might include one’s children or grandchildren, or other people like extended family, friends, and coworkers.

Humbling ourselves enough to admit wrongdoing is very difficult. It takes great effort and courage, but it’s so important to ask for forgiveness from those who were affected by our selfish, foolish, and sinful actions.

Seek Counseling

Everyone involved in and affected by an affair must walk through the difficult recovery process. This is a time when it’s vital to have someone else walk with us through a difficult season, so a pastor or trained Christian counselor Newport Beach should be involved.

In order to pursue the goal of getting over an affair and restoring the marriage, a mediator is helpful to facilitate conversations that are constructive and authentic. Having an outsider bring their perspective to the marriage can shed a lot of light on what contributed to the breach. This mediator can also provide accountability and guidelines for protecting the marriage going forward.

Share the Hurt Honestly

Getting over an affair requires peeling back many layers of hurt and betrayal in the betrayed spouse: in their emotions, spirit, mind, and body. All of their thoughts and hurts should be treated as important. Each layer needs to be examined so that the pain caused by the affair is evident.

It can be difficult to realize that sometimes the betraying spouse also has legitimate hurts from his or her marriage. This isn’t to justify adultery, but it’s possible that there are struggles that were taking place before the affair that should be addressed.

Listen and Admit to Personal Wrongs

It’s very hard to listen to our faults being described and be willing to admit our culpability. It’s even harder to listen to our wrongs and not respond by justifying our actions. There is a time for explanations, but this is not that time. It is very important to acknowledge that what you’ve done has caused deep pain for your spouse.

Identify Negative Patterns in the Relationship

There were probably negative patterns in the marriage before the affair started. To change these patterns and heal the marriage, the causes need to be identified. Like many marriages, yours may only have been surviving instead of thriving.

A pastor or counselor can help identify some of these negative patterns, such as lack of time spent together, lack of connection over hopes and dreams, preoccupation with daily life over developing intimacy, social media addiction, or prioritizing other relationships. Figuring out these unhealthy patterns is an important part of moving toward reconciliation.

Agree to Establish Healthy Patterns in the Relationship

Once these negative patterns have been identified, it’s time to put in place and work toward positive goals and then to ask what things need to be done in order to effect lasting change.

Establish Intentional Time Together (date night, face-time, and couch time)

For any marriage to thrive, and especially for one to heal from adultery, a couple has to intentionally set aside time to be together. This can be a weekly date night routine, having face-time twice a week in order to reconnect, or having daily “couch time” when the kids know it’s Mom and Dad’s time to spend talking.

Especially if kids are aware that an affair took place, it’s important that they see their parents spending time reconnecting and talking, and even eventually laughing together.

Establish Accountability

It’s crucial to ask a trusted friend or pastor to provide ongoing accountability. This isn’t just for the purpose of preventing another affair, but to ensure that the strategies put in place are carried out consistently. Questions such as “When are you going on a date?” or, “Did you have face-to-face time this week?” can help keep those habits in place.

Forgive, and be Willing to Move On

It’s not helpful to constantly refer to the affair going forward. Once the hurt has been shared and processed, and there’s been forgiveness and reconciliation, it’s crucial to focus on the positive to move forward.

New feelings will undoubtedly arise and can be shared and worked through, but the affair should not be used to shame or coerce the betraying spouse.

Understand that Grieving Takes a While

Even once the adultery has been forgiven, the grieving process is still happening, and each person has their own timeline for grief. Some may recover well within months, and for others, it may take years.

There needs to be an understanding that things are going to be hard and there will be some setbacks along the way, but there’s hope as long as things keep moving ahead and the marriage is being strengthened.

Abide by the Covenant of Marriage

And lastly, let’s remember that the only covenant on earth that we have, apart from God’s covenant with us, is our covenant with our spouse. This isn’t a contract you can cancel at any time; it’s a sacred vow. It’s not a relationship that’s a trap, but a context in which to thrive.

Don’t hesitate to invest time, energy, and even finances in your marriage (such as having a romantic getaway without children). Marriage isn’t an automatic success; rather, it is either invested in or it is not. Especially if you’re trying to help your marriage recover from an affair, you need to be willing to invest in it and make it a top priority.

When you are willing to seek Christian marriage counseling early on in the recovery process, you’ll prevent future heartache resulting from unresolved issues. Being married means living out the parable of Christ’s relationship with His church. So even when it’s difficult, it’s worth our time, effort, and desire.

“Let’s Sit a While,” courtesy of I’m Priscilla,, Public Domain License; “Not in Public,” courtesy of Ezra Jeffrey,, Public Domain License; “Paradise Found,” courtesy of Nathan McBride,, CC0 License; “To have and to hold,” courtesy of Jon Asato,, CC0 License

3 Strategies for Gaining Control Over Anxiety Symptoms

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, at least 6.8 million adults (3.1% of America’s population) are affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

When you are suffering from GAD, anything can get you worried. More often than not, you end up worried about things that do not even make sense. So much so that you end up feeling silly and embarrassed at acknowledging that such trivial things can nag you and keep you awake at night.

But these worries are anything but silly. Feelings of worry and dread are as real as can be and apart from leading to insomnia, you could also end up depressed.

Over time, people can get their anxiety symptoms under control more easily when they understand the neurological underpinnings behind their anxiety. Whenever anxious thoughts or feelings kick in, the natural response is to try to figure out the reason behind the anxiety.

In most cases, this is where we start thinking, “This is silly,” or “You have no justification for worrying about this.” In the process, we fail to realize that even though these things could be true, the brain is also searching for things to worry about.

An anxious mind automatically scans the surroundings for anything to worry about. As soon as a source of worry is located, the body reacts.

Granted, our bodies react differently, but worry usually makes your body experience the same signs and symptoms that you would experience if faced with a dangerous situation or threat.

Consider your reaction when watching an intense or scary movie. As your brain and senses take in the information, your body starts to respond to the chemicals being released as a result of the stimuli. You might feel your stomach tightening, your breath quickening, and your hands getting clammy. This is actually what happens to you when you are worried or anxious. If there is no relief to these symptoms, the tension becomes chronic.

Common Anxiety Symptoms

Symptoms of anxiety could be classified into three broad categories. These three categories also help define the three different ways of dealing with anxiety. The first category is the physical arousal which leads to panic. The second category is comprised of dread, tension, and stress. The last category is where ruminating and worry fall.

This article focuses on how you can use Body Management to deal with the first category of anxiety symptoms.

Use of Body Management to Deal with Panic and Physical Arousal

Anxiety symptoms refer to what you feel whenever anxiety hits. A panic attack can make your body to experience an accelerated pulse, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Anxiety and panic attacks can come out of the blue, and this can make them frustrating and terrifying in equal measure – especially if you do not understand them.

Other symptoms include tension build up in the shoulders, jaws, and neck, and stomach pains.

Taking care of your body

Getting your body under full control is the first step in dealing with the physical symptoms of anxiety. There are a number of ways to achieve this. First and foremost, you need to take good care of your body and health. This means exercising, proper diet, and lots of rest everyday.

Too much caffeine and alcohol also make your body more susceptible to anxious arousal. Sleep deprivation and lack of exercise can cause this. A healthy body is a powerful way to ensure you attain control of your body to avoid anxiety and panic attacks.

Breathing diaphragmatically

Using diaphragmatic breathing is a proven method of calming and resting the body. Practicing this type of breathing makes your body accustomed to being in this state. This comes in handy when living with anxiety because you can easily use it on a daily basis. However, it can be even more beneficial whenever you notice the symptoms of anxiety creeping in.

Diaphragmatic breathing helps by either shifting or even stopping the stress response. It is a good idea to practice diaphragmatic breathing daily because it will make it easier to use it whenever anxiety kicks in.

Mindful awareness

The practice of mindful awareness is another strategy you can use to put your body under control. Most times, the physical symptoms are so vivid that you can’t help but think about them – and this worsens the situation. Mindful awareness will help you to stop thinking about your body and instead focus your thoughts on your environment.

This strategy will help you regain control over your body. The first thing you do is to turn your attention from the symptoms of anxiety to the experiences of your body, e.g. the way breathing feels or your heart rate. After this, you should shift attention away from the body onto something that you can smell, hear, or feel, such as any sound in your immediate environment or how your clothes feel against your skin.

As you go through this back and forth, you get the experience of having control over your body. It reminds you that you can be present in the prevailing moment without becoming a slave to the feelings.

Christian Counseling for Anxiety

Gaining control over your anxiety symptoms is possible. If you would like help in overcoming your anxiety, feel free to give us a call. We would be happy to meet with you to help you experience the freedom and peace you desire.

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Can People Pleasing Lead to Marriage Problems?

People pleasing is more prevalent than you might think. At its core, it can often be viewed as a good thing. Taking responsibility for your actions, seeking to treat people with respect, kindness and generosity – these things are good, right?

The problem is, when the ultimate goal starts to become ‘keeping people happy all the time,’ you are in trouble. Indeed, the worst possible scenario any people pleaser can face is engaging with someone who is angry at them for something they did. So, where does this behavioral tendency originate, and how can we deal with it?

Well, much of this mentality is nurtured in the early years of childhood. It is likely that people pleasers had an overprotective or a hypercritical parent. Either one of these experiences has a high chance of leaving you with some residual anxiety and a propensity to want to please people.

When a parent is hypercritical, the child is likely to feel on edge most of the time. Additionally, the child will spend a lot of their time figuring out how they can satisfy the demands of their parents. Thus, they neglect their own feelings and fail to learn how to adequately manage their own emotions. Their life begins to revolve around pleasing their parents.

“Being away from the house can be stressful for these kids. That’s because they are unable to monitor the moods and atmosphere of the home environment when they are gone. Then returning home requires an assessment of the prevailing mood so these young pleasers can adjust their behavior accordingly,” write Milan and Kay Yerkovich in their brilliant book, How We Love.

People Pleasing In Marriage

When you apply this mentality to a spouse, you paint an emotional landscape that is fraught with tension, stress, and anxiety. When conflict inevitably arises, the people pleasing spouse does not possess the emotional tools to deal with it healthily.

It is likely that the spouse’s parents never taught them how to adequately manage intimidating or difficult relational situations. The response may be to flee, or to make gestures that may appear selfless, but are in fact driven by a fear over their spouse’s reaction.

Another key issue that people pleasers face is the utter inability to establish essential boundaries in their relationships. Driven by an insatiable desire to please, they end up over-burdening themselves with commitments. They possess an aversion to saying “no,” fearing the consequences or potential relational fall out of refusing to do something. It is an exhausting predicament.

What Does the Bible Say about People Pleasing?

Well, the Scriptures are pretty clear. People pleasing is rooted in fear, and the Bible speaks directly against that. The Bible instead calls us to seek boldness, and urges us to embrace the firm foundation that can only be found in Him.

When we are rooted in the truth of God, we will not feel shaken every time someone criticizes us or we fall short of high expectations. Instead, we are living for God’s glory and not the praises of man. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Christian Counseling For People Pleasers

Behavioral tendencies are notoriously difficult to break, particularly if they are rooted deep in your childhood. But with the right help, it is possible to witness great change.

A professional Christian counselor in Newport beach is trained to combine proven therapeutic methods with essential spiritual principles in order to assist you in getting free from people pleasing and enabling you to move into a greater freedom in your life. A Christian counselor has the ability to provide you with certain behavioral tools that will help you manage those scary situations and assist you in cultivating healthy relationships.

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