Summary of this Episode
In this episode of the Generous Marriage Podcast we discuss:
- The story of Lila and Oliver who never fought trying to maintain a fairytale relationship and how they learned the hard way, that it’s good to fight, when you know how to repair.
- The tool of how to reconnect after a fight and recreate emotional intimacy.
- Research by Lowell Krokoff and John Gottman that contrary to the common wisdom that fighting is a problem, certain type of fighting can actually predict long term satisfaction with the marriage.
Fruitful fights are the ones in which the partners felt free to be angry with each other, felt understood by their partner, and finally came to a resolution involving some compromise.
Bonus tips on how to repair fights
We prepared a guide for you, with tips on how to fight, how to stop a fight, and how to reconnect after a fight.
To download the guide click the button below:
The full transcript of the show:
Welcome to the Generous Marriage Podcast. Fight less, feel appreciated and have a deeper connection with your spouse. And now your host, Shachar Erez and Ziv Raviv.
Hello and welcome to the Generous Marriage Podcast. I’m Ziv Raviv and this is where we explore together how to fight less, how to have a better connection, and how to have more intimacy with your spouse and create a generous marriage. I don’t do this by myself. I have my co-host, my partner in crime. It helps to investigate what is a generous marriage and today you’re going to be surprised because we’re actually going to try and make you fight more Shachar Erez what is that all about?
Talk about fighting
Great to be here. Hi everyone. Yeah, it’s funny how today we’re going to talk about how important is to fight, which is controversial sentence to say,
Yeah, I thought we were trying to help people fight less and now we’re trying to help them fight more. People are going to get confused, but that’s why you should stay around for this episode of the generous marriage podcast. This is episode three. We are available in generousmarriage.com and today as always, we’re going to have three things for you. The first thing is a story about a couple that has had a problem with fighting. They didn’t have enough of them and then we will talk about a tool on how to recover from fights, which is actually a topic that I am really keen on going into the debate and learning, just like you guys listening, learning tools on how to recover from fight. And then we will also share a research that’s brings, a new light to the way that we see fights and the tools that are around that. So let’s start with a story. Take it away Shachar.
The Story of Laila and Oliver
So the story today is about Laila and Oliver. They came to me to repair their trust a few month earlier, she found out he was sexting with another woman and feel betrayed. And he agreed. He understood why she felt betrayed. It really didn’t fit his character. So as we were working on that, uh, they told me their story. Usually that’s how we start. They told me their story and in many ways their story was a beautiful love story, a fairytale in a sense. They met, they fell in love, they get married quickly. They had wonderful two kids. They had great jobs, great house, great lives, and they were really proud of how they never fought. They were no fighting. They were also kind of looking down about the couples around them that kept complaining about their partners and they saw them fighting and this couple light up and Oliver didn’t get it.
Why is everybody fighting so much? Then a few, more than a few years later, they had their third child and the little bit after that they found out she had breast cancer, a rare type of breast cancer that she had to go through a mastectomy, taking off one breast and then reconstructing it and it was a few years, they were fighting with the cancer and the consequences of it and it was a long and hard the struggle. She came out of it healthy and everything was okay, but in those years she was so ashamed of her body and and the scars and the whole process that she didn’t let him see her without the shirt and the and even without a wick.
A life challenge came to test them
Why is everybody fighting so much? Then a few, more than a few years later, they had their third child and a little bit after that they found out she had breast cancer, a rare type of breast cancer that she had to go through a mastectomy, taking off one breast and then reconstructing it and it was a few years, they were fighting with the cancer and the consequences of it and it was a long and hard the struggle. She came out of it healthy and everything was okay, but in those years she was so ashamed of her body and and the scars and the whole process that she didn’t let him see her without the shirt and the and even without a wick.
Wow. They had an amazing connection on the base of the foundation was that they were having two kids, lovely kids, good jobs, great house. They were in a relationship that had some problem in the past, some situation where the husband Oliver had been sexting with another lady and that was something that they worked on and had that kinda like it’s a scar too, kinda scar too. But then they had to go through breast cancer and that made the relationship go a little bit distant according to what you say.
So actually the sexting came after. Oh, okay. Okay. Let me explain that better. So there were a few years they were going through the healing from cancer and everything that’s around it. And then little by little the little, sex kind of went away because of all that shame. They still had a little sex, but it wasn’t as much as they used to have and as intimate as they, as they used to have. And she kept asking him if that’s okay. And he is a great guy and he supported her and of course it’s okay. And I understand. I understand why you’re ashamed and we can do it in your, in the pace that fits you and without being aware of the needs that weren’t met for him, the physical needs and more about the emotional needs. He started developing a gaming habit is a very successful guy. He owns the company and finds himself going to the bathroom in the middle of the work day a few times a day to play games on his phone. Weird, you know? Then he finds himself sexting with this woman, which really doesn’t fit his character, was way out of his character and in a sense when he was found out he was glad, he wanted to be caught.
What they learned from from each other
Wow. And as we started exploring that, they realized they were avoiding each other. They were hiding a lot from each other. The fairytale life they had wasn’t really real. She wasn’t ashamed, only of her scarred body. There was shame about parts of themselves. Both. Both of them had shame about parts of themself. Most of them had shame about needs and feelings and ideas that they were afraid that the other couldn’t contain or wouldn’t have approved.
So they just avoid it. And overtime, that was the price of all this avoidance, this weird gaming habits, habit is a nice word. It was an addiction or almost an addiction because it wasn’t an addiction because he stopped, the minute he realized, and usually addiction is harder to stop. It was compulsive gaming and this whole sexting and betrayal and the whole shame about that. So after we realized that and I started talking with them, that’s some fighting is actually important, especially if you know how to repair, especially if you know how to come back to each other and recreate the connection and recreate intimacy and take responsibility for your part and express that you understand the other point of view and maybe they’re hurt or pained or whatever happened in the fight. Then this kind of fighting actually strengthened the relationship. It helps you understand yourself better, understand your partner better. It helps you trust that your partner will not run away in the face of conflict, that you can be yourself, even if it’s uncomfortable for your partner and they still state it actually deepens the trust.
You know you, you explained it, you shared the story. Now. Now it makes way more sense and actually I see how their fairy tale background was an illusion in the sense of there were underlying movement inside of each of them of needs that weren’t met and off of a certain emptiness in the emotional tank. And, uh, it sounds like she’s been going through a lot with shame, with feeling bad about yourself and it sounds like it wasn’t easy for Oliver either because he, he kept being unaware of his needs on, on some level and finding out his needs being met by other devices. So I see his need for maybe four points. And for appreciation, maybe I was met by those mobile games and, and potentially also you know with being involved with sexting with another lady. And that might have been why he felt this way.
And I see Laila was, was basically not open and didn’t want to go into fights, but she actually had all sorts of situations in her life that, that made her very good reason for a fight. Really good reason. So, so what, what um, the problem is those, those couple are in such a delicate situation to get to find out that your partner betrayed you. Oh my God, that’s a very hard struggle to go and overcome in some level. In some level it’s almost you know in the same category of hardship, like, like the actual cancer, it’s really hard. It’s possible, but it’s hard. Just like she recovered from cancer, they had to now recover from betrayal with the sexting. But that was something that is even more complicated because his underlying shallowness included becoming almost addicted to mobile gaming or to getting some points form from his phone instead of his wife or life. So what happened?
A little bit about affairs
You really got it and I want to say something about affairs that affairs unfortunately are quite common. We don’t have accurate numbers, but they think that it’s between 50 to 50 percent, like half the couples to two thirds of the couples actually go through affairs. And I want to say affair is not a good reason to break up affair is a good reason to go deep. It almost always shows a need that was not met in the relationship and the person who had the affair went outside of the relationship to get that need met to get that need fulfilled, and if you go deep into that, usually there’s a way, not always of course, but usually there’s a way to make sure both of them feel like their needs are met in the relationship and they don’t have to go outside or if they go outside, maybe it’s with agreement.
Well, we definitely. We definitely, we should dig deeper on that topic in this podcast because that topic of affair is again, yeah, like you said, it’s so common, unfortunately, that people don’t get the… It’s common and so untalked about people don’t really share it with their friends.
Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of shame there too.
Right? Right. Next to Oliver, Oliver and Laila, it was just amazing to see them. First it was really funny and heartwarming to see them come back to me week after week and be proud about fighting. Of course they weren’t really proud about the fight. They were proud, of the deeper authenticity they were discovering and how they were able to express themselves more fully and it started with the relationship, but it went through all of their lives. They started to live more fully to to find what makes them come alive and go do that, not only together also individually, so it was just was really beautiful to see how they were growing, repairing the trust took about a year, maybe even more. They didn’t, at some point we stopped a meeting because they were doing well even though there was still some post trauma regarding the trust, but they were able to process it and be together in those hard moments, so they didn’t really need me and therapy for that, but I was feeling very proud to see how they change and how there’s so much more authentic and alive. That’s really beautiful.
It’s actually like every time they fought, they went through a self exploration process as well and the self definition process because why do you really fight? You fight when, when. First of all, you need to care in order to fight, but you need to not just care about the other side of the fight. You also need to care about yourself. You need to have something that you want to happen or that you want to know about yourself to be true. So like all of those fights, the sometimes there’s a there. They are very much justified. Sometimes we feel like our spouse maybe nags us on something and starts a fight. Maybe they had a bad day at work and they start a fight. All sorts of reasons why the fight might seem to us like something that is just evil and that’s it. Just a a behavior, but what if it’s not, you know, what if the fight was justified and I dare say that many of the fights are justified or at the very least an opportunity to take the fight to find out the root cause and to actually grow and get closer to one another because really it’s all about the partnership and making the partnership better and more suitable for the needs of the two partners.
Right, right. I agree. And it’s really important to take this opportunity. You know, some, some couples fight and don’t really repair. They know how to kind of move on, which, which is important. You need to know how to move on. You don’t really have to go deep in every fight, but you need to go deep in most of the fights you need to ever repair that. At the end of it, you feel close to each other. You feel understood. You feel heard, you ever. You want to touch or kiss or hug. There’s deeper intimacy.
That’s how you know that the repair was actually done. You feel it, your chest gets wider and your heart opens
The Secret for Laila and Oliver
So the secret for Laila and Oliver was not to have more fights, but to have more fights that are repaired, and through the repair comes the connection and the ability to improve and to meet the needs of your partner. So, that’s very interesting and a success story for Laila and Oliver, that through learning how to repair fights, they were able to pretty much change the direction of their partnership of their marriage. And again, make it a more generous one. So let’s go right into the tool. What is it? How can we do it? Sounds so hard. How can we repair fights?
So first I want to start with what to avoid. So fighting is okay, but don’t cross your red lines, meaning no physical violence. Of course, of course, of course. No cursing and even try to avoid contempt. Contempt is a serious poison for a relationship. So there should be an agreement that even if some contempt came out in the, in the fighting, you cannot double apologize for it later. You need to have an agreement that you want to avoid contempt. And some people that grew up with a lot of shame are more prone to contempt, but there should be in agreement of the couple that contempt should be avoided.
Contempt in marriage
I understand. Of course, physical violence is out of the question and of course I can see why cursing is counter productive and I feel you know, how, how hard it is to get contempt. But can you give a few examples of contempt?
So contempt, generally speaking, is the experience when you make the other feel less than you,
I’m better than you and a way of, uh, many ways to show that. Sometimes it’s a roll of the eyes. Sometimes it’s the tone of voice. There’s a, there’s a face to, it’s something with the lid that kind of, you know, there’s like everybody would recognize it if they see it, but generally it’s about making the other field less than me. And that’s, that’s the number one predictor of a divorce. Contempt. So I work with couples that have contempt and they don’t divorce because they have an agreement to change that. It’s changeable, but if you don’t have this agreement, it’s a predictor of bad times. It’s really hard to be generous when you are confronted with contempt. Yeah. Why would you be generous if you feel less than if someone is shaming you and making you feel so belittled and small? It’s really hard to be generous.
It’s blocker, other blocker, other things to avoid is being too defensive in the fight and not bothering to listen to the other at all and criticizing too much. And another thing to avoid is a stonewalling, is closing gap and kind of giving the silent treatment that will probably have a whole episode about this four things because they are for poisons and we want to avoid. But for now we’ll just mention them quickly. And then let’s talk about how to actually repair, so first how do we repair slowly? Because after the fight, we’re unregulated, our nervous system is disregulated and we need to take time to come back to ourselves. It takes at least 20 minutes, usually more. And in those 20 minutes you need to think about other things, not about the fight because then you’re still there. And when you feel regulated enough, start creating connection with, with small gestures, uh, eye contact, a small light touch, or maybe offer a tea or tell your partner, hey, I’m making a sandwich do you want one? Small beads for connection? And if it’s a good day, even though you had a fight, your partner will notice those bids for connection and give some in return. And then little by little you start recreating the connection. And when there’s enough connection, I say dare to apologize. It’s really about daring because apologizing can feel exposed. I say with your partner there to apologize. Take, take responsibility for your part in the fight. Express your sorrow for the hards, the hard words and the hard things that happened and show you understand your partner. Show you understand if they got hurt and they even try to explain, explain what’s happened, what got you so triggered sometimes you know, sometimes I’m hungry. I came back from work and then too hungry and because of that I’m short and my wife says something and I know… Sometimes it’s really something silly.
Yeah, I’m hungry or I’m stressed or something. Not even connected to my partner. So it’s good to explain what happened. It’s good because it helps you understand yourself better and it helps your partner understand you better. And once again, it strengthens the understanding between you and the trust between you and the connection.
The apology part
I like how the apology doesn’t come first I think that once your, after the fight and you already know you did some things that you shouldn’t, you should, you, you shouldn’t do like you want to be responsible, you were, you were talking not in a nice way or maybe you didn’t show enough appreciation or maybe you did forget to do some things that you were supposed to do. Some of the times, uh, I dare say many of the times we do have a reason why we should apologize for our side of things and take responsibility and own it. Own it. Even if we were only the trigger of the fight. Yeah. The trigger of the fight was that I didn’t put the towel in the right place and left it on the floor. Maybe that was just the trigger, but I still, you know, potentially, uh, Eh, I can own the fact that I did something wrong too.
And yes maybe the other partner use this as an opportunity to create a fight or something of that sort because she’s already aggravated. By by other needs that are not met. But that’s okay. It’s still my responsibility to own it. So, but asking for apology, it’s not easy and for me at least I see it as not easy because it’s scary, that it will not be received. So actually saying I’m sorry. That’s easy. That’s not the hard part. The hard part is overcoming the fear of what if she. What if my partner will, will be angry again, even of me just asking for apology. Like that’s the last thing we want in a fight. But, but you’re not saying start with an apology. You’re saying, Hey, first of all, go and take those 20 minutes. Obviously don’t take those 20 minutes to do some mobile gaming if that’s something that you do compulsory, uh, that will be bad for you and will make the situation worse.
But take 20 minutes to do something productive. Maybe go mow the lawn. Maybe go feed your animals, maybe go do a jog. Like just yesterday I felt so aggravated. I didn’t want to bring my hardship from a business meeting into my family and I just went on a one hour jog and when I came back with my family, waited for me and they were happy that I’m coming back and I didn’t have to fight about this when it’s not related to my wife and kids coming back after those 20 minutes or even more and starting with the small gestures and, and try to look at the I, that’s, that’s scary, but it’s not as scary as starting a conversation immediately, but just try to touch or to talk. I love it. It’s, it’s easier and it’s practical and then once you have the connection within, you can dare to do the next page to take ownership.
Yeah. Alright, it’s amazing how this little look, this little glance in the eye recreates connection and how hard it is many times to look at each other after a fight. Yeah. Ideally, both of you understand that and uh, read each other’s bits for connection and answer with another bit for connection. And that’s how do it together. It’s always about doing it together actually. And most of the times both of you will need to apologize. Most of the fights, both of the partners had some responsibility for the fight. One was triggered and did something and the other answered in a way that wasn’t seeing the first one. And from then it just escalates. And in a sense, both of them did that.
Yeah. In a sense a fight is a situation where one is triggered and then they do something or say something that triggers the other side and they keep triggering one another to the point of, of, you know, the fight just goes out of proportions that are out of control. Uh, so just the fact that you triggered first, does it mean you are all to blame and it’s not about finding who’s to blame. It’s about repairing.
The research about fighting in marriage
Exactly. And no one is to blame and usually both have responsibility. Yeah. The research we’re going to share today is the research done by doctors, Lowell Krokoff from University of Wisconsin and by the famous John Gottman. Let me say a few words about John Gottman. So John Gottman has been researching couples for, I’m not sure now, probably 35, maybe even 40 years, and he has been video recording couples and analyzing what they do and, and it’s, it has, I think is the person that has the most knowledge about couples in the world and all of couples counseling is very influenced by him. And this podcast is very influenced by his findings and we’ll mention him many times. And today we’re actually bringing, uh, research, uh, he co-authored that shows, by the way, this research is, research is from 1989. That’s what almost 30 years ago, 29 years ago. And the research found that contrary to the common wisdom that’s fighting is a problem. Certain type of fighting can actually predict long term satisfaction with the marriage. So even though after the fight they don’t feel satisfied, they don’t like it three years later, that’s the longterm that they checked in this research. Three years later they’re more satisfied than couples who didn’t fight. Wow. Or couples that fought and use those things that I mentioned earlier to avoid.
So let me get it straight about the research that was done by a Dr. Lowell Krokoff and John Goodman. Uh, so basically they studied people that has fights versus couples that don’t have fights and also types of fighting, types of communication. And they actually we’re able to find which kind of fighting is fruitful, so what, what is it, what type of fight is fruitful?
The fruitful fights
So, so the, the fruitful fights are the ones in which the partner felt free to be angry with each other, felt understood by their partner. Now we go into the repair, they felt understood by their partner and finally came to a resolution usually involving some compromise.
Hm. The topic of the fight is not the key. It’s not that you can fight on certain things and don’t fight on other things. It’s more like how do you deal with the fights and how do you feel in the fight or after the fight that you feel understood. That’s very important that you feel understood by your partner that you were able to answer, to explain your point and their partner got It. Even if they didn’t agree with it, they understood it, you know, building up your marriage in a way that is with a foundation of a generous marriage. It’s not a sprint. It’s not like we’re trying now to take this one tool. And then, uh, guess, uh, the, the relationship to work and we’re done.
It’s an ongoing process. It’s a process. It’s a marathon and creating this loop of generosity where you’re being generous to your spouse and then they get to, to become generous back and you become more generous. And none of these good things that come from, for listening to the generous marriage podcast. All of that comes with hard work. And, uh, this tool is just one of many. And I love it that. It was researched that actually, you know, repairing fights will actually make you have a better, a better marriage with your spouse. And that is just one of the many things that you should consider, uh, when you are working on building the foundation of your, of your partnership and your marriage, and that something that you will always do. Always you will walk on that. And make it deeper and stronger and improve the level of generosity.
Yeah. I call it repair artists. It’s not really about the fighting. It’s really about knowing how to repair, how to come back to each other after the fight. And it’s a lot about courage and generosity, courage to recreate the connection and to be vulnerable and generosity. Even if my partner was wrong, I love her enough to be generous with her and recreate the connection and see how we can come through this misunderstanding.
The bonus and ending
Yep. So I also prepare the bonus pdf with all the things we talked about in writing what to avoid and how to repair and what it is and how to feel at the end of the process. Yeah.
What I like about the bonus pdf that you can download on generousmarriage.com is that it also includes some text example of how to do the repair, how to apologize, how to express himself. And I feel like that makes it a more concrete, easier to implement. And guys, all you need to do is go to generousmarriage.com and go to the podcast tab, choose episode number three, and then there’s a big button there waiting for you where you can download the pdf for free and improve your readiness for the next fight. And if there is not enough fights in your life right now with your partner, then maybe you should initiate one. What do you think about that Shachar?
Yeah, initiate one but makes sure you’re courageous enough to repair,
I love it. It’s really what it’s all about. This might one day, uh, the name of the podcast might be instead of a generous marriage podcast, it should be the courageous marriage podcast because a lot of time it needs, you need to be courageous to be generous. But, to put things in perspective, you can go and download the file, you can understand exactly how to do it, and you should allow yourself to take your partner seriously, to take them as your partner for life and to allow yourself because of that, don’t be just roommates, be partners and partners. They talk about those things that are troubling them. They talk about their needs, they fight if needed, but they repair. Yeah.
Today we’ve been looking at the story of Laila and Oliver. Laila and Oliver had been going through hurdles in their marriage that were repairable and in order to repair those hurdles, they needed to also fight and through fighting. They started to get rid of the shame and get a better connection and even enjoy the bonus effect of recovering from fights, which is sometimes sex, much better sex. So, uh, we didn’t talk about that deeply today, but it wasn’t the focus, but definitely we, we hope for you guys and for you that listen to get that benefit as well.
That’s really true. They actually kind of wish we did mention it because they started having not just more sex, they start having more intimate sex, more liberated sex. They were more free to express themselves and their needs and to be whatever part wanted to show up in life and in sexual life. And that’s very nourishing, super nourishing.
Yeah, we definitely, we definitely will touch base on the topic of sex in the future. It’s a key. It’s a key element on the relationship between, uh, between the couple, so definitely we will need to revisit that, but uh, in terms of, uh, of communication and the leveraging, leveraging fights to improve the connection, I’m really happy for Laila and Oliver that’s, that worked out for them and we saw the tool with how to do the connection to reestablish the connection after the fight out to repair defied. That was something that you can learn more about in the generousmarriage.com website. And finally, uh, we mentioned the research and the link for the research is already waiting for you. Just head over to generousmarriage.com and you can see the link and read the research from 1989 by yourself and get to see the same conclusion, which is that some fights are worth having, especially the one the kind of fights that are repairable, Shachar any words of advice before we wrap up?
I think that’s it. That was beautiful. I really enjoyed talking to you. Again, I hope everybody enjoyed listening to us and the fight more but have better repair..
Yeah, and just as a final note guys, if you’re listening to this and if you’re seeing any value with us sharing with you the stories and the tools and the research, go ahead and share this podcast with someone that you care about. Maybe it’s a friend from your work, maybe it’s a family member, maybe it’s your, your sibling. Go and share it with people. People around you become a more generous marriage people and that that is the right type of people to be. Thank you guys again and see you next week on the generous marriage podcasts.
Thank you. Bye. Bye.
Weekly episodes with stories, tools and research that will help you make your marriage generous
Shachar Erez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, 12 years married, father of two
Ziv Raviv, 16 years married, father of three