What To Do When You Disagree About Parenting

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comAt last count, the internet has provided us with roughly eight million different parenting styles. You’ve probably noticed different parenting styles even among your own friends. Is it any wonder, with so many opinions and philosophies, that two people who share a home and children might also disagree on the best parenting approach?

Marriage is tricky enough without kids. As soon as you add little people to your family, the trickiness is off the charts. Now, not only are you figuring out how best to communicate with your partner and enjoy life, you also have to work together to raise these tiny utterly dependant humans! A lot of couples, including Tony and I, are unaware of the kinds of parents they will be until after the children have arrived. I always thought I’d be the strict enforcer and Tony would be the fun one. It turns out I’m the snuggler, Tony is the fun one, and we BOTH have to be the enforcers when it comes to discipline and handling behavior. Only, we don’t always agree on how to handle the kids.

What I want to share with you is less about the best way to parent and more about how your parenting affects your marriage. Let’s talk about the two of you! Because, above all, the way you treat each other and communicate about parenting can either have a positive or a negative effect on your relationship with each other. It’s your relationship with each other, not the way you parent, that will have the most profound effect on your children’s lives. These are the things Tony and I keep in mind when we disagree about parenting.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements

1. Let your partner parent.

One of the hardest things to do when you disagree about parenting is to step back and let your partner BE a parent. But, unless something terribly unsafe or abusive is happening, that is exactly what we need to do. Think back to your own childhood. Did your mom and dad handle every situation in the exact same way? Probably not. And, look at you now, handling life EVEN THOUGH your parents parented differently.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comWhen our oldest was just a toddling two and a half year old, Tony brought home some small firecrackers from a little pop-up stand around the corner from our house. Fourth of July was coming up and, since he’s the fun parent, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he showed me his loot. Of course I piped up just a little, “Honey, I don’t think this is a good idea. Claire is two. This really doesn’t seem safe.”

How did he respond? “Babe! It’s fine. I’ve got this.”

So, I was inside the house tending to our infant while Tony went out to the driveway to light off these little firecrackers. I could see a little bit from the front window, but I was really trying not to hover. I snuggled the baby and reminded myself, He’s a good dad. He’s a good dad. He’s a good dad. They’re fine.

The next thing I knew, the front door flung open and in came Tony carrying a screaming little Claire. My heart sank! She’d gotten too close and got a tiny burn on her hand. He rushed her to the bathroom. I grabbed an ice pack and followed him in where he was washing her hand and applying some cooling gel. He was handling it. She was fine. I nearly passed out from the stress, but I kept the I-told-ya-so’s to myself.

Letting your partner parent is not easy but it is vital. Practicing stepping back is about seeing parenting as a long game and not about just this one particular instance in which you would be doing things in a different way… the right way. The truth is that we need to see our differences in parenting simply as differences and not as wrong ways and right ways.

In the long game, the two of you need to be a team in all aspects of your marriage, and that includes parenting. Undermining your partner by stepping in and interrupting a parenting moment is not only disrespectful, it also communicates distrust. Nobody performs at their best when they feel that they aren’t trusted and will be undermined for their efforts anyway. So, if something is happening in a way that you don’t necessarily agree with, take a step back. Pause. Remind yourself that it’s better for the kids and for your relationship to let the situation play itself out. And if your husband burns your baby’s hand, that too will be a situation that you can handle together, hopefully without passing out.

[ctt_author author=”5873″ name=”Michelle Peterson” template=”1″ link=”_ba68″ via=”yes” ]We need to see differences in parenting simply as differences, not as wrong ways and right ways.[/ctt_author]

2. Practice the “Same Team Mentality” in front of the kids.

Smart parents know that kids will do what it takes to get their way. Pitting one parent against the other is a classic move. Kids don’t even need to be taught! They come out of the womb knowing that mom responds differently to a sweet snuggle and a smile before they ask for what they want than dad will. They know which is more likely to sneak some chocolate into their lunch (DAD!) and which is more likely to read one more little book even though it’s 20 minutes past bedtime (MOMMY!). Nobody told them. They just know.

Look, I may not like the extra sugar in her lunch and Tony may not like that bedtime should have been over by now, but in front of the kids we are on the same team. If dad says no, mom says no. So, in order to have the upper hand with these tiny master manipulators we’ve developed a new response…

“Have you already asked Daddy about that? What did Daddy say?” (and vice versa)

With the same team method, whichever parent gave the first response to the request is the parent that leads that situation. Sometimes the kids forget that their main objective is to divide and conquer, so they’ll ask one parent in front of the other. When that happens, we openly discuss in front of the kids what we each think about it and come to an agreement together.

“I really don’t like Claire to have chocolate at school.” – Mom, obviously

“I like the idea that she’s got a little treat with her lunch.” – Dad, the fun guy

“Sure, I get that. Let’s just not make it a daily lunch habit.”

“Great. Maybe once a week or so, she’ll get an extra little treat. Claire, what do you think?”

Not only does this method save a ton of arguments between the two of you, it’s a fantastic chance to model what teamwork looks like for your kids. They can see that we disagree and that we’re willing to talk it out and work toward a solution together.

3. Talk about differences away from the kids.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comIf you’re letting your partner be a parent, and practicing the same team mentality in front of the kids, you may still find yourself frustrated over something your partner has done. The best thing to do is to wait until the kids aren’t around to bring it up. Then, when you bring it up, don’t forget all of the problem solving skills you already know:

Start kindly and respectfully.
♥ Name what specifically happened.
♥ Name how you feel about it.
♥ Present what you think would have been a better method.
♥ Remain open to their perspective.
♥ Remind yourselves that you’re on the same team.

It could look something like this…

“I love that you want to do fun things and make fun memories with our kids. But, when you took Claire out there to light fireworks, I felt scared and frustrated. I was afraid something bad would happen, and I was frustrated that it seemed like you ignored me when I mentioned it. I wish you would have listened to me, or that we could have waited until I didn’t have my hands full with the baby so I could be out there to keep Claire away from the flames while you lit things on fire.”

4. Get a third-party perspective.

So far, we’re just talking about parenting instances. But, if you feel like you are having disagreements about parenting overall and not just in one situation or another, it’s time to bring in some perspective. All of those eight million different parenting styles come with eight million different websites, books, and seminars. One of the best ways to stay on the same team is to grab one of these resources, read it (or watch it or listen to it) together, and then discuss how you each feel about it.

Having an article to consider together is a great buffer because it takes the discussion out of the “me vs. you” state and puts you in an “us + new information” state. Instead of feeling attacked and criticized for the way you do things, now you can explore someone else’s thoughts and methods on parenting and make some decisions together. It’s not about your way vs. my way. Instead it’s about discovering our way.

Just remember, if this is the method you choose, you’ll still want to introduce it in a way that is kind and respectful and doesn’t make your spouse feel accused of doing something wrong.

4 Ways to Handle Parenting Disagreements - #staymarried - Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen at http://www.stacyjacobsen.comWhat I mean is… and I’ve said this on our Facebook page before… do not simply tag your spouse on an article you want them to read or send them a forward without any explanation. When you don’t include a comment to give context as to WHY you are tagging your partner or sending them an article, they could easily feel accused of having done something wrong. So, if you’re going to share something for your partner to read or listen to so that you can discuss it later, be thoughtful in how you share it with them.

Here are some quick options…

“Hey babe, let’s read this and talk about it later…”

“This article made me grateful for the way we do things in our marriage. I thought you might like it.”

“This article has some great ideas. I’d love to know what you think.”

Marriage and parenting really are a ton of work, as are most worthwhile endeavors. At the end of the day, whether you do everything exactly the same or not, the most important thing is to honor and respect each other and work out your solutions as a team. Stepping in, undermining, and rudely disagreeing with your partner in front of your kids can be really damaging to your kids and also to your own relationship. Be patient with each other, practice the same team mentality, present a united front with the kids, and #staymarried.

Special thanks to the Coleman family for letting us use their beautiful family photos to illustrate this post.
Photo credit: Stacy Jacobsen whose work can be found at http://www.stacyjacobsen.com

Now, for those parenting resources I promised you…

Brain Rules for Baby by Dr. John Medina and Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow are the two books I recommend most often. They both thoroughly changed the way I parent, giving me insight based on scientific research, and practical steps I could take right away. If I’ve been to your baby shower in the last 4 years, chances are I gave you one or both of these books. I love them!

I can’t even believe I waited until the end of this post to tell you that, for all of our email subscribers, I get to GIVE THESE BOOKS TO YOU! Both books! In audio book format, because who has time to read! Ordinarily that would be a $40 value, but the people at Libro.fm have generously offered #staymarried Subscribers FREE downloads of both!

#staymarried and Libro.fm Parenting Audio Book Giveaway

Enter your name and email address to receive both of these parenting resources, a $40 value, as our gift to you!

You'll also stay up to date with the latest from #staymarried, speaking events, meetups, and more giveaways!

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The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarriedIf you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

Season 2 Ep. 4 of The #staymarried Podcast: The Simple Romance in Staying Connected – with guest Zach Brittle

Season 2 Episode 4 of The #staymarried Podcast: The Simple Romance in Staying Connected with Zach BrittleIn marriage, it’s easy to end up in our own lanes running parallel to each other. We need to be purposeful about finding points of intersection and connection, to meet each other there, to continue to grow together. Without intersecting and connecting, you become exactly what you don’t want to become: roommates.

In today’s episode of The #staymarried Podcast we talk with Zach Brittle, a couples therapist, writer, and teacher here in the Seattle area about what it really takes to stay connected and how romance is really about trust.

Here’s Season 2, Episode 4 of The #staymarried Podcast

Continue reading “Season 2 Ep. 4 of The #staymarried Podcast: The Simple Romance in Staying Connected – with guest Zach Brittle”

Season 2 Ep. 3 of The #staymarried Podcast: How to Build Trust with The One You Love

Season 2 Episode 3 of The #staymarried Podcast: How to Build Trust with The One You LoveTrust is foundational for all relationships, but especially for our marriages. We’ve found that trust is not so easy to cultivate and, once broken, can be excruciatingly difficult to repair. Today we’re tackling a question submitted to us on Ask #staymarried: Jo wants to know how to build trust with her husband…

Here’s Episode 3 of Season 2 of The #staymarried Podcast

Continue reading “Season 2 Ep. 3 of The #staymarried Podcast: How to Build Trust with The One You Love”

Season 2 Ep. 2 of The #staymarried Podcast: How To Get Your Family To Pull Their Weight

Season 2 Episode 2 of The #staymarried Podcast: How To Get Your Family To Pull Their WeightDid you know, when we survey couples to find out what is really causing tension, chores and housework are always among the Top 5 issues that couples are fighting about. It may seem like a simple and petty issue, but there’s a lot that’s behind it.

In this episode of The #staymarried Podcast, we’re going to talk through that and hopefully bring up some ideas that we have found helpful. We’ll also talk about how to get the kids involved, check out the chore chart below…

Go ahead and have a listen…

Continue reading “Season 2 Ep. 2 of The #staymarried Podcast: How To Get Your Family To Pull Their Weight”

Ep.11 of The #staymarried Podcast: The 6 Keys to Unlocking Gridlock in Your Marriage

6 Key to Unlocking Gridlock in Your Marriage - #staymarriedWelcome to Episode 11 of The Seven Do’s and Four Don’ts for a Long and Happy Marriage. Last week we talked about solving your solvable problems. This Episode goes one step further to talk about those things that feel unsolvable. As always, it’s going to be crucial that you have an understanding of what we’ve covered in the other episodes for this to make sense. So, I’ll list them again at the bottom of this blog post if you need to catch up.

Today, in Episode 11, we’ll cover Principle #6: Overcome Gridlock. Gridlock is any problem that feels perpetual in your marriage… that thing you argue about over and over again. We’ll explain more in this episode, share with you one of our own gridlock issues, and work through the Six Keys to Unlocking Gridlock together. Check out the graphic below and feel free to Pin it so you can come back to it later.

Continue reading “Ep.11 of The #staymarried Podcast: The 6 Keys to Unlocking Gridlock in Your Marriage”

Six Conversations Every Couple Must Have

Is “Happily ever after…”6 Conversations Every Couple Must Have - #staymarried even a thing?

That’s the question that’s given me insomnia over the last three years. Sometimes I lose sleep for a week, tossing and turning going over the stats and stories of divorce over and over again in my mind. Is it possible for anyone to actually stay married? And, if they manage to stay together, can they also be happy and not just suffering through life together? Who even came up with this phrase “Happily ever after…”? Had they experienced it themselves?

Then I discovered that most couples who divorce do so within the first three years after the wedding. Newlyweds become divorcees. Isn’t it called the honeymoon phase for a reason? Why aren’t the newlyweds blissfully carrying on? Continue reading “Six Conversations Every Couple Must Have”

E is for Empathy in The Relationship Alphabet

The Relationship Alphabet by Zach Brittle on #staymarriedThis guy wrote this book and you HAVE TO get it! The guy is Zach Brittle, a Certified Gottman Therapist, and I’ve been fan-girl following his work on the Gottman Relationship Blog for the past couple of years. The book… THE BOOK!… is The Relationship Alphabet: A Practical Guide to Better Connection for Couples.

As you might imagine from the title, Brittle discusses an essential element of healthy relationships for each letter of the alphabet. I love the way the format allows you to read the book from cover to cover or choose a letter & topic and dig right into it. With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, this is the kind of resource I’ll be picking up again and again when I hit those roadblocks in my own marriage and need just a little direction and encouragement.

With this book, Zach Brittle has taken his years of experience helping couples in therapy as well as thriving in his own marriage and created something that is fun and easy to read, practical, and implementable!

You can grab your copy here, and YOU SHOULD, but I just couldn’t wait to share a bit of wisdom straight from the book. Here’s Zach with E is for Empathy… Continue reading “E is for Empathy in The Relationship Alphabet”

The Love Crumb

The Love Crumb - Bids for Affection and Missed Connections - #staymarriedI have a desk job. I am a UX Designer at Microsoft, which stands for User Experience Designer, which is the current fad-name for a web designer. I sit in a chair, at a desk, staring at a couple of monitors, from 8:30am to about 5pm Monday through Friday in Redmond, Washington. Sometimes I have meetings where I’ll have to un-dock my laptop from my two monitors and walk to a conference room where people critique my work or give me more work to do. But all the time, my computer is with me. This handy little device helps me to stay tethered to my coworkers and my projects, whether they are Microsoft projects or freelance, but also helps me stay connected to my wife and my family.

It started YEARS ago… maybe 2004… but IM-ing (instant messaging) was as cool then as texting is now. I believe Michelle and I started with Windows Messenger. Somehow, when we were still just acquaintances, Michelle or I found the other and we started chatting during the day. Sometimes just a few messages back and forth. Sometimes constant interaction for 8 hours. But there was always one and only one way to start off the day’s ration of IM-ing. A single period. Whomever noticed the other was logging in would send a single dot over once they were available.


This was our whisper. It was a very covert way of saying “I’m here, and I see that you’re at your desk now, and I’d like to talk if you’d like to talk, but no pressure.”

It was always so exciting to get that little dot. Like a trinket that someone brings back to you from their vacation. The trinket’s true meaning is I was thinking about you even when I was far away. You really treasure those gifts, not because of how they practically improve your day to day life, but how your relationship with that person is stronger than it was before. And this little dot was that to me. Day after day, I received a tiny gift from Michelle, saying, You’re on my mind, which in turn put her on my mind if she wasn’t already. This is how our friendship started, and later, how it turned into our committing our entire lives to each other.

Though we never had a name for it, we continued to use this method throughout the years as we started dating, then became engaged, and once we got married. Still to this day, I’ll be sitting at my desk, or in a conference room, and a tiny little gift will pop up and remind me that I have a friend who loves me.

Recently Michelle gave it a name that I think is perfect. Love crumb. Like a little piece of love that’s broken off and left somewhere for me to find. Michelle will never know how much these Love Crumbs mean to me, as I’m not very good with words and any attempt at using the right ones would be feeble anyway. This is our own inside way of reaching out to the other, and even though yours is probably not exactly like ours, you still have one. Continue reading “The Love Crumb”

What Every Newlywed Needs to #staymarried

What Every Newlywed Needs to #staymarriedWedding season is officially upon us! Lovebirds everywhere will be tying the knot this summer. I love seeing all of the wedding photos… it’s a super exciting time in a couple’s life.

Many couples are also celebrating anniversaries this time of year. Tony and I will be celebrating our 7th year of marriage in just a few days. It’s a season of love and beginnings and nostalgia and I can’t get enough of it!

Since I can’t possibly crash all of the weddings I’d like to, I’ve put together this short list of some of our most popular #staymarried posts. Consider this our wedding gift to you – or a wedding gift you can give! These 6 brief articles, if read and applied, could get you off to a great start on your journey toward a marriage that lasts. If you don’t have time to read them all now, pin this page and come back to it, digesting and discussing one entry at a time.

If you are celebrating an anniversary this summer, like Tony and I, use these as a refresher. Think back to when you were first married, what you thought it would be like, and what has surprised you most since then. Wherever you are on your marriage journey, we can all use these reminders…


6 Essential Articles to Get Your Marriage Started Right

Continue reading “What Every Newlywed Needs to #staymarried”

A Bad Fight or a Good Fight?

A Good Fight - a #staymarried blog featuring the difference between a good fight and a bad fight by Drs. Les and Leslie ParrottA friend and I were having coffee, catching up with each other, and talking about how much our kids seem to be paying attention and noticing. I told her about some of the random things my not-quite-two-year-old has been saying lately, like, “Oh my goodness!” and, “That’s okay.” We laughed about the silly things her elementary aged kids have gotten into and the seemingly serious conversations they appear to be having with each other. Then she told me about something a bit more heartbreaking that her seven year old son said to her after she and her husband had been fighting in their bedroom one night.

“Mom, when you and dad are arguing, why don’t you just stop? Just stop doing it.” She was so sad that her son had been so affected by what she thought had occurred behind closed doors that she started to tear up. She put her hand on his shoulder and then he said, “Or, maybe instead of fighting, you could just text each other.”

I felt for my friend. She’s navigating territory that I have yet to enter into – children old enough to understand and communicate how their parents fighting is affecting them. His words were sweet to his momma, and wise, and pretty funny. Who knows, he could be the next great marriage therapist! It got me to thinking about my own fights with Tony and I wondered, why don’t we just stop?

Maybe because if we stop, our spouse will feel like they’ve won. Or because we just have to get our point across and make sure we are being heard. Or because we are hurt and they need to hurt with us. Maybe one of us won’t overlook an offense. Maybe the other won’t admit a mistake. Maybe we both refuse to let go of our need to be right.

I think what this sweet boy was trying to say to his mom is that he hears their fighting and it makes him feel insecure. He wants to know that everything is ok, that they love each other, and that their home is safe and full of peace. He asks why they don’t just stop because, in his mind, the lack of conflict – yelling, arguing, fighting – means that there aren’t any problems. What he doesn’t understand now, but he may someday, is that all couples fight and it is not a bad thing.

The Good Fight Book, photo by Brandon Hill #staymarriedDrs. Les and Leslie Parrott, authors of The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer share that the difference between a marriage that grows happier and one that grows more miserable is not whether they fight, but how they fight. They say:

All fights are not created equal. A good fight, in contrast to a bad fight, is helpful, not hurtful. It is positive, not negative. A good fight stays clean, but a bad fight gets dirty. According to researchers at the University of Utah, 93% of couples who fight dirty will be divorced within ten years.

Do you feel like the fights you are having with your partner are good fights or bad fights? Do you think they are mostly good, with a little bad sprinkled in? Are they mostly bad? You might think these questions are just a matter of opinion; the fight is good if we say it is. However, research shows us that we can figure out exactly what makes a good fight or a bad fight. Check out this info we found in The Good Fight…

A Good Fight - a #staymarried blog featuring the difference between a good fight and a bad fight by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

It’s a daunting list. Some of these need a lot more explanation, and Les and Leslie offer great insight in their book. But, they also say that if you boil the essence of a bad fight down to a single ingredient, it would have to be pride. Look back at the Bad Fight column of the chart. Do you see it? I do, and I see now more than ever that I am guilty of it.

Most of the fights Tony and I have start when I feel like I haven’t gotten my way… pride. They escalate when I hear him say something that reveals my own selfishness… pride. I move into my classic silent-treatment mode when I see that I might be wrong, but I’m not yet willing to give in… pride.

Look again at the chart. See that last line? The benefit of a good fight is growth and intimacy. Holy crap if they didn’t just nail the very thing I want most in my marriage! I want Tony and I to grow together. I want us to experience real and vulnerable intimacy. My pride does absolutely nothing to help us get there, but laying down my selfishness might. Evaluating where I am coming from in a fight could be exactly what I need to go from escalating the tension we are having to easing that tension.

Fighting is as intrinsic to marriage as sex... quote on #staymarried blog

In marriage, we’re not going to stop fighting. We shouldn’t even think that the absence of fighting is the goal. What we should do is figure out how to get better at it. As for me, I’m going to start with one little habit that I hope will make a difference. I’m going to pause. Before I enter into the fight, I’m going to check myself for that little pride monster. I’m going to look at this chart and evaluate my motives. I’m going to take a deep breath, think about taking responsibility instead of blaming, and then decide how to bring up what’s bothering me. I’m going to try to have more good fights and less bad ones so that Tony and I can grow together and #staymarried.

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like Show Some Respect and No Yelling… and 9 Other Rules for Fighting Fair. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

Introducing Resources for Groups!

Tony and I have been fortunate to have incredible, life-giving, challenging, and encouraging community surrounding us since before we got married. When we were dating, we found a church that both of us, with our different perspectives and vastly different upbringings, could attend together without having to check our brains and personalities at the door. It has been through our experiences in this church that we’ve met some of our very best friends and learned the value of having honest conversations and living transparent lives.

One of the ways we’ve been able to have and listen to these honest conversations has been by being a part of small groups. We shared about about our small group from last fall in our post, “We Do It In Groups,” where we read and discussed John Gottman’s 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. Over the years, we’ve read and used lots of great material that have spurred insightful group conversations, and we’ve learned some great tips and tools for our own marriage. It is actually from the work we’ve done and the fun we’ve had in these groups that we get a lot of the ideas for the topics we write about here at #staymarried.

Heidi Jesse FaderSeveral months ago I was approached by a woman, Heidi, at our church. She told me that she and her husband, Jesse, had been following the #staymarried blog and had decided to start their own small group of other married couples and use the blog as their discussion topics. I was both humbled and thrilled! I’d never considered this blog could be used that way. I’ve since found out about a handful of other groups that do the same sort of thing. I’ll be honest, it’s intimidating. It’s one thing for me to imagine someone reading what Tony and I put together on their own, digesting it, and discussing it with their spouse. It’s something else entirely to imagine a group of people talking about something Tony and I have written – YIKES! But, in spite of my insecurities about how helpful this blog is or isn’t, I can’t deny the power of processing these ideas in a group setting. There is something meaningful that happens when you hear how someone else interpreted something you both read and what resonated with them. Groups are a great place to find out that you are not alone in your struggles, big or small.

So, Heidi and Jesse had this idea and they kicked it off with couples they already knew. They agreed to meet every other week and to share the responsibility of hosting. Each time they meet, a different couple hosts the group, and it’s the host couple that chooses which #staymarried blog post to discuss. They have also used other material from books and other sites, as well as taken some weeks just to go out and have a good time together. They are committed to each other and certainly committed to stay married, which I got to witness firsthand when they invited me to drop in on one of their group meetings a couple of weeks ago.

I was both nervous and excited to check out their group. So nervous, actually, that I typed the wrong address in Google Maps, got lost, and arrived 45 minutes late! I was sweaty and disheveled when I finally got there, and as I walked in, of course they were already sitting around a living room where they had saved one empty chair just for me! I looked around at this room full of gorgeous faces I’d really only ever seen in passing and each one of them was holding a printed out copy of MY BLOG! I could not have been more embarrassed.

Still, they were kind and gracious, offered me a drink, and told me they really had only just gotten started with their discussion. The hosts, Steven and Bethany, had chosen the post “7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver,” and I got to sit back and listen to them share their own stories. Introducing Resources for GroupsEvery single one of them had a story about someone they had been hurt by in their past. Some of their stories were in the distant past, some were more recent. Some of them shared about the little everyday hurts they were experiencing in their marriage and how hard it was to accept an apology sometimes. Some shared about how they want to forgive, but they just aren’t there yet. They shared about how watching their own parents argue, apologize, and ask for forgiveness has affected the way they themselves approach conflicts in their own marriages. As they poured their hearts out to one another, and joked with one another, and really listened to each other, my eyes were opened to what an incredible thing it is that they have created. This is real community. It had so much less to do with the paper print-outs they were holding, and so much more to do with their willingness to invest in their marriages and in each other.

I left that night inspired. I came home and told Tony all about it and we decided we could do more to encourage others to start groups and discussions the way Jesse and Heidi and their friends have. Whether you want to use the #staymarried blog to have just one meaningful discussion with your friends over a bonfire, or you want to organize your own group to meet regularly, we want to make it as easy as possible for you. Today, we’re introducing a new category of our resources: Resources for Groups!

#staymarried Resources for Groups

Go ahead, click on it! The link will take you to our Resources Page, pre-sorted to bring up all of the new material just for groups!

Here are some of the things you’ll find in the For Groups category:

Group Outline – One resource you’ll find is a group outline. It’s just an example, feel free to use it or change it however you like. Whenever Tony and I have led groups before, we always start the first week by passing out one of these to help set the tone for the weeks ahead. It’s kind of like a syllabus for a class, but less formal– it gives everyone a sense of what we hope the group will be like and what kinds of topics we’ll cover week-to-week.

Discussion Questions – We’ve chosen a handful of posts to get started. Some of the posts naturally lend themselves to pre-group work (like taking the 5 Love Languages Assessment) and we’ve included fun homework with others. We are hoping these work well whether you’ve got a women’s group, men’s group, or a group for married and engaged couples.

Other resources – There are authors and groups out there that are much more qualified than Tony and I to help you facilitate a great group. So, we have not limited this section to just #staymarried blog material. We’ve also included resources from people like Les and Leslie Parrot, Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, and Andy Stanley.

This is a category of the resources section of our site that we will continue to develop, so please let us know what is working and what else you might like to see here. We hope you are able to launch something meaningful with your friends this fall, a place to be real and honest with each other, and encourage each other to #staymarried.


P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read We Do It In Groups and Repair Attempts. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks!
~ Michelle




Porn vs You

If you read “Is Porn a Problem?,” our recent post in collaboration with Craig Gross, then you know by now that Tony and I do believe pornography is a problem and has caused issues in many marriages. It would be naive of us not to acknowledge that there are those of you out there who do not believe it to be a problem, those who may even indulge individually or as a couple. We have no intention of arguing about it. We simply want to bring to light anything that could be harmful and divisive in our pursuits to stay married. As a couple, we have decided to take an offensive stance toward anything that could threaten our marriage instead of a passive position- shrugging our shoulders, later wondering how we got so far away from where we wanted our marriage to be.

We believe transparency – with each other, with our friends, and on this blog – is a crucial element in guarding our marriage. So, now that we’ve pushed past the embarrassment and really talked openly about the problems posed by pornography, we want to leave you with some resources and possible next steps. We’ll start by sharing some of the startling information we’ve learned about this industry.

Porn vs You Infographic- Stats on Pornography plus a giveaway on the #staymarried blog

Is porn a problem for you?

Take this FREE online assessment – The Sexual Addiction Screening Test – which was developed in cooperation with hospitals, treatment programs, private therapists, and community groups. The SAST provides a profile of responses which help to discriminate between addictive and non-addictive behavior.

Take the SAST NOW

Guard Your Technology

Are you cool with people looking over your shoulder while you’re surfing the internet? Would you be embarrassed if your mom saw some of the things you were looking at?  x3watch is a free accountability software program helping with online integrity. Whenever you access a website that contains inappropriate or pornographic material, the program will record the website, time, and date the site was visited. A person of your choice will receive an email containing a list of all the questionable sites you have visited that week. Tony and I have this installed on our computer and it’s been a simple way for us to bring up conversation about what we’re looking at online. It’s been especially helpful during this season that we’ve been researching infidelity and pornography. The number of times I’ve clicked on something thinking it would be a research article is a little embarrassing…

Learn more and download x3watch HERE

Know You Are Not Alone

As the infographic shows, 1 in 3 porn users are women. For us it has been helpful to know that there are others who are tempted and struggling. The reason we brought this issue to #staymarried is because we are faced with temptation nearly every day, and we realize that it takes work not to succumb. Porn addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. xxxchurch.com has become a resource for thousands of men and women, parents and couples, offering a safe online community for awareness and accountability. If you think you’re the only one with this secret, we urge you to read some of the confessions sent into xxchurch.com

Confessions from Men          Confessions from Women

P.S. You are reading Porn vs. You, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the first three parts, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, or Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross, you might want to check them out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.
Thanks for reading!
~Tony and Michelle

Our Favorites and a GIVEAWAY – Sensible Singles Week

<<This Giveaway is now closed>>

The very best time to improve your marriage is when you are single. Understanding who you really are and cultivating within yourself the ability to really listen to and serve other people are things that a lot of us married people wish we’d done before we made our vows. To finish out our Sensible Singles Week, we wanted to share with you some of our very favorite resources and, of course, host a giveaway to thank you all for sticking with us this week!

:: Discovering Yourself ::

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

7 Habits of Highly Effective People - #staymarried blog

As Dr. Rachel Terrill mentioned in her post How to Find Your Soulmate in 5 Easy Steps, Self Improvement is key to finding and making yourself ready to be in a great relationship. Seven Habits is a classic, full of insight and self-discovery about what it takes to be effective in your world. Adding even one of the seven habits that you’ll learn about in this book can really change your perspective on the world around you. It was from this book that Tony and I learned the concept, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” which we shared more about in our post Same Team.
Find out more about Seven Habits of Highly Effective People here.

Strengths Finder 2.0

Strengths Finder 2.0 on the #staymarried blog

The first time I’d heard of Strengths based research was from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. While most people become aware of their weaknesses and make efforts to improve themselves, this research instead shows that if we can understand our strengths and lean into them, our efforts will produce much greater results in life- including career and family. This book not only provides insights into the research, but an access code so that you can take the self-assessment and discover your own strengths. Having this insight has truly changed and enlightened Tony and I and helped us navigate our own daily triumphs and struggles, as well as better understand each others.
Find out more about Strengths Finder 2.0 here.

 The Five Love Languages – Singles Edition

The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition on the #staymarried blog

Gary Chapman did so much for couples with his book The Five Love Languages, but Tony and I have since learned how valuable it’s been for us to know how we best express and receive love even outside of our marriage! The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition will help you better express your emotions and affection in friendships, working relationships, or in a dating environment. Rather than being hung up on the topic of being single, Dr. Chapman will help you understand how you and others communicate love in a way that can transform any relationship.
Check out the book here.
Find out YOUR Love Language by taking this FREE online assessment.


:: Discovering Your Partner ::

Boundaries in Dating

Boundaries in Dating on the #staymarried blog

When I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, I knew it was revolutionary. But they made it that much more practical and personal when they published Boundaries in Dating. This book is the full picture of rules for romance that can help you find the love of your life. Between singleness and marriage lies the journey of dating. Want to make your road as smooth as possible? Set and maintain healthy boundaries – boundaries that will help you grow in freedom, honesty, and self-control. If many of your dating experiences have been difficult, this book could revolutionize the way you handle relationships. Even if you’re doing well, the insights you’ll gain from this practical book can help you fine-tune or even completely readjust important areas of your dating life. Boundaries in Dating is your roadmap to the kind of enjoyable, rewarding dating that can take you from weekends alone to a lifetime with the soul mate you’ve longed for.
Check it out here.

Date or Soul Mate?
How to Know if Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less

Date Or Soul Mate? on the #staymarried blog

The author of this phenomenal book is none other than Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of eHarmony.com. This matchmaking site has now seen over 565,000 of their matches get married! In this practical, quick read, Dr. Warren helps men and women who want healthy and satisfying marriages identify the early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. Dr. Warren shows readers how to hold out for God’s best for their lives instead of settling for the first one to come along and outlines the factors that increase the chances for marital success. For those who want to become wiser in their relationship choices, this practical guide will help them find the love they want and avoid the pain they don’t need.
You can find Date or Soul Mate here.

For Men Only and For Women Only
What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of the Opposite Sex

For Women Only and For Men Only on the #staymarried blog

Tony and I first discovered these books on our honeymoon! We were both shocked by what we read, and our eyes were opened to the truth about the way we each think and feel and what really causes each of us the most pain. We shared some of those insights with you in our post The Truth About Tony. These books have since been revised with new research and information learned in the 10 years since their original release, including the brain science behind why men and women often feel the way they do.
You can find out more about these books by clicking on either of these links: For Men Only and For Women Only.


:: The GIVEAWAY! ::

<<This Giveaway is now closed>>

Sensible Singles Giveaway on the #staymarried blog