November 2, 2023
How To Stop Bickering: 12 Strategies
Do you want to…
- Bicker less and catch yourself before you start?
- Stay calm and empathetic during conflict?
- Feel more at ease and connected so – that you’re less inclined to fight?
Tune in for a discussion – of why we bicker and 12 simple strategies to reduce conflict in relationships as Jess and Brandon weigh in on this listener question: “We love each other madly. He’s really the love of my life, and we don’t seem to have any big, deep issues because we’re really aligned – on values, family, spirituality, and the core issues. But we bicker a lot. I don’t like – the example we’re setting for our kids. How can we cut back on the daily bickering so our household is more at ease and we have more peace – because we both work from home.”
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
How To Stop Bickering: 12 Strategies
[00:00:00] You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and relationship advice you can use tonight.
[00:00:15] Jess O’Reilly: Let’s bicker.
[00:00:16] Brandon Ware: Let’s, what are we going to bicker over?
[00:00:18] Jess O’Reilly: You splashing all over the place in the bathroom. Like you’re some sort of a hippo in the tub.
[00:00:22] Brandon Ware: Well, I can’t help it because the sink is too small.
[00:00:25] Jess O’Reilly: Cause your head’s big.
[00:00:26] Brandon Ware: I got a big face. Well, you know what? You make a mess sometimes.
[00:00:31] Jess O’Reilly: We absolutely suck. We suck at this. We’re supposed to be talking about bickering today, but when you put us on the spot, listen, when we’re in the middle of a bicker, we got it.
[00:00:39] Brandon Ware: Things are real.
[00:00:40] Jess O’Reilly: We’ve got it down, but to fake it seems really hard.
[00:00:43] Jess O’Reilly: Uh, we’re going to talk about how to stop bickering and having little daily arguments today. We have a question from, uh, from a listener, and this is a question I kind of get over and over. And over again, because life can be stressful and life can be busy. And I think that’s one of the big reasons we bicker.
[00:00:58] Jess O’Reilly: So before we dive into it, want to shout out our sponsors, Adam and Eve. com. They are offering 50 percent off almost any item plus free shipping, plus free handling, which is Brandon’s favorite part with code Dr. Jess 50. So check out Adam and Eve. com. Bildos, vibrators, butt plugs, other fun things that you can use in your body.
[00:01:19] Jess O’Reilly: Adam and Eve. com code. Dr. Jess 50. All right, let’s dive right into it.
[00:01:23] Brandon Ware: Let’s, are we going to continue bickering or is, is this where it stops?
[00:01:26] Jess O’Reilly: No, we’re going to start bickering.
[00:01:28] Brandon Ware: Let’s do it. Yeah. Amazing.
[00:01:29] Jess O’Reilly: Okay. So we have this note, uh, there’s a bit of a preamble, but the bulk of it is we love each other madly.
[00:01:35] Jess O’Reilly: He’s really the love of my life. And we don’t seem to have any big deep issues because we’re totally aligned on values, family, spirituality, and all the core issues. But we bicker. A lot. I mean, nonstop. And I don’t like the example we’re setting for our kids. How can we cut back on the daily bickering so our household is more at ease and we have more peace because we both work from home?
[00:01:59] Jess O’Reilly: [00:02:00] Yeah, I think those of us who have gone back to the workplace or, and aren’t kind of trapped in the home like most of the world was or much of the world was in a couple of years ago. we can look back and think about, Oh yeah, we were really in each other’s space. And um, you know, there is some research that suggests, and I know I’ve talked about this in the past, that small everyday arguments can help to stave off bigger fights by releasing tension and helping to cultivate understanding.
[00:02:25] Jess O’Reilly: I don’t mean every day as in daily. I mean, every day, like kind of just mundane stuff. And there’s, there’s so much research in this area. So one study found that couples who focus on resolving the smaller Solvable issues first fare better in the big picture. And that makes sense. It’s like, if I have a whole bunch of tasks on a list list, it feels good to cross one off the list and it’s that caravaning phenomenon, right?
[00:02:48] Jess O’Reilly: One good thing leads to another good thing and it makes you feel more capable. So with this study, what they found was that being able to differentiate between the issues that need to be solved at this time versus those that can be addressed at a later time is a really important. relational skill. And when you overcome or come to understanding on a small issue, it can help you to create a blueprint to think about how you’re going to better understand one another moving forward, right?
[00:03:14] Jess O’Reilly: So if we can solve this small issue in this way, maybe I learned to identify what makes you respond more positively in the face of conflict. I can apply that to the bigger, more complicated, more intense issues. And I think we do that with sort of subconscious, right? We’re always learning about how people respond, even if we don’t make a note of it.
[00:03:30] Jess O’Reilly: And so a little bickering. Could lead to improved understanding and more kind of team based problem solving, but conflict isn’t generally productive if it’s not deepening some sort of understanding or releasing some tension that helps you to feel more at ease and you’re asking for more ease. So if you’re just.
[00:03:48] Jess O’Reilly: snapping at each other about unloading the dishwasher or working late, or, you know, who’s doing, who put the kids to bed last night because you should put them to bed tonight. Thinking about our friends. You’re not really [00:04:00] conveying what you’re feeling. You’re not really expressing what you want. You’re not really sharing why you want it.
[00:04:04] Jess O’Reilly: You’re just going at each other. And we know that ongoing bickering can also take a toll. On your connection, on your nervous system and, and definitely on the family unit, as you’ve mentioned, cause you’re worried about the example you’re setting for your kids. And actually I think your capacity to show them that you can have conflict, that you can be imperfect and still be loving and still take care of one another and still come back together and resolve.
[00:04:28] Jess O’Reilly: Issues I think is, is really powerful. I don’t think many of us got to see that growing up.
[00:04:33] Brandon Ware: I was just going to say, I think that’s such a powerful lesson to convey to your children for those that have them, because I don’t feel, I don’t recall there being a lot of positive modeling in that respect growing up.
[00:04:44] Brandon Ware: And again, no one’s parents are perfect, but I think about those who I have seen try to communicate and to model that great behavior and subconsciously it’s creating, like you just said, that. Blueprint, like it would be so helpful. And also for me and our, when we get into these arguments, you’ll, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a couple of things that I do.
[00:05:03] Jess O’Reilly: Are we getting there? I thought we were going to talk about throwing plates based on childhood memories.
[00:05:09] Brandon Ware: Yeah. Well, we could go down that, that road, but maybe we’ll gloss over that for now. But, but even just in identifying what it is you’re feeling, like you were saying, like communicating and for me, it’s highlighting that, you know what?
[00:05:20] Brandon Ware: I’m bickering with you right now. I say the words out loud or, you know, I’m arguing over this. And as soon as I do that, I feel like it dismantles some of the walls in our arguments, right? Where I’m like, Hey man, I feel like we’re bickering. I’m bickering a lot right now. So I’ve said it, it’s out in the open.
[00:05:37] Brandon Ware: What do I need to do? Now I can start asking myself, what do I need to do to stop? Because otherwise I’m just going to continue. And I feel like in our relationship, when one of us says something, the other one’s more receptive. And becomes more aware and it immediately changes the dynamic in that argument.
[00:05:50] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, you’re better at that than me. Me, I’m like, I am focused on a point and I wanna get this point through, and I’m still hung up on this point. And so I think what I was thinking now is that we could talk about [00:06:00] strategies to deal with bickering when it starts so that it doesn’t get outta control. So you can shut it down so you can maybe have a positive outcome as well as, and this is super important to me, the preventative pieces.
[00:06:11] Jess O’Reilly: Because I think if we’re going to talk about bickering, we want to look at the conditions in the relationship, the conditions in our household, the conditions in our lives, obviously you’re affected by conditions at work, that lay the groundwork to make you more likely to engage. So I thought we would start with, and we’ll start with you, what you do When we start bickering to either, I guess, calm the situation or end the bickering or deal with it in a constructive way.
[00:06:36] Jess O’Reilly: Like, what is it that you do when we bicker? And we, we were talking about a couple of weeks ago, we were prepping for something, we had a whole bunch of people and this is a story of our lives. A whole bunch of people coming to live in our house every week. There’s somebody, there’s like six new people here.
[00:06:48] Jess O’Reilly: Um, we do love it. Oh my gosh. Like it’s, it’s a dream. And at the same time, sometimes it can be a lot. And we. Can be snappy like so we were preparing for something a project that required us to be on the road and there were people coming into the entire home while we were gone and we were just a little snappy at each other and I can’t even remember what it’s about but I can remember what I felt and I’m wondering if you can recall So.
[00:07:14] Jess O’Reilly: What you might’ve done effectively or what you might do next time.
[00:07:18] Brandon Ware: Man, that particular instance, I don’t know if I necessarily engaged in a productive behavior, but I don’t find we bicker a lot, but that was an instance where I felt snappy. That was a really key word. And what I’ve done in the past is just shut up.
[00:07:31] Brandon Ware: Like I just, just shut up. Like when we’re going back and forth, why am I going to contribute to the bickering? Like what is that going to accomplish?
[00:07:37] Jess O’Reilly: So is that shut up and listen or shut up and withdraw?
[00:07:40] Brandon Ware: Yeah. Well, I think the goal is shut up and listen. Because it’s easy to shut up and withdraw and just not say anything and turn the cold shoulder.
[00:07:47] Brandon Ware: But as opposed to just saying, you know what, I’m going to listen. I’m thinking, I’m going to listen to what you have to say. That’s it. My inclination is tough snap back with something to fire back, but I’m just going to listen. That’s it.
[00:07:58] Jess O’Reilly: It’s such a hard thing in the heat of the [00:08:00] moment when you have something to say, and you’re just waiting for the other person to stop so that you can say what you have to say.
[00:08:06] Jess O’Reilly: So my. Hack, just for me, cause I’m a verbal visual person is I like to picture the words, listen, cause I do struggle to listen. I do struggle to not move on to the next thing. I do struggle to not get distracted. And so I actually picture like the letters L I S T E N. And I use this a lot. You’ve probably heard me mention it in, in other areas, like a ticker.
[00:08:26] Jess O’Reilly: So I think about the stock ticker and listen is coming across it so that I can tune into what you’re saying.
[00:08:31] Brandon Ware: I have to listen. So am I listening to Fireback? Or am I listening to understand? That’s my question. Am I actively listening to understand your position, understand how you’re feeling so that once you’ve expressed that to me, I can process it and then respond back as opposed to just listen to wait until you shut up or stop speaking so that I can fire back.
[00:08:52] Brandon Ware: As you said,
[00:08:53] Jess O’Reilly: it’s so hard for me to say shut up. Even the words, ’cause my mom, when I was little would always say, shut up is uncouth. I don’t even, I didn’t even know what that meant except for I knew I was not allowed to say shut up. I could say a lot of other things, but I wasn’t allowed to say. Yeah, it was not a nice word.
[00:09:05] Jess O’Reilly: Shut up. But I do think that that’s as our number one thing is to just. Be quiet and listen. Another tactic for me that I use to listen more actively, and again, I may have spoken about this before, is I, again, I picture the ticker of all of your words because I would rather read than listen audially any, any day.
[00:09:22] Jess O’Reilly: And not everybody wants to write everything down for me. So I actually picture the words as you’re saying them. It’s the same as like, you know, I watch all my television shows with subtitles. I, I have no clue what’s happening in a show if there’s no subtitles.
[00:09:34] Brandon Ware: And when there’s subtitles, all I do is read the subtitles.
[00:09:36] Brandon Ware: Then I don’t get to enjoy turning my brain off and just listening to what’s happening.
[00:09:40] Jess O’Reilly: Funny story, we had the opportunity to go watch a film the other day. So we have not been to, I haven’t been to a theater. I think the last movie I saw in a theater was The Great No, The Great Gatsby. When was that?
[00:09:52] Brandon Ware: The Great Gatsby,
[00:09:52] Jess O’Reilly: I a decade ago? I don’t know, that’s the last movie. I have no concept of time.
[00:09:59] Jess O’Reilly: No concept [00:10:00] of time. It’s a Caribbean thing, but we went to see past lives at a screening in a very, very small theater. Great movie. Yeah, but so it’s in English and Korean. But the subtitles for the Korean parts were in Spanish,
[00:10:16] Jess O’Reilly: but it was a great way to keep learning our Spanish. Right?
[00:10:19] Brandon Ware: Yeah, it was great.
[00:10:20] Jess O’Reilly: Good film.
[00:10:20] Brandon Ware: It was a great movie about going to a grocery store and buying lemons.
[00:10:25] Jess O’Reilly: My point is that I’m used to reading subtitles. I know some people don’t like subtitles, but I picture subtitles when you’re talking, when I find myself not wanting to listen.
[00:10:33] Jess O’Reilly: So that might sound really simple. We’re going to, you know. I think I have six more in this category and then we’ll get into the preventative. But number one is to try and just take a breath and listen, right? And I know that you’re really good at that better than me. My, my second one, and I’ve talked about this before, but I think it’s super important to bickering is the 99 rule.
[00:10:52] Jess O’Reilly: Like, can you stop? And again, I picture the numbers 99. I don’t know why. It’s just the way my brain works. Will I care about this when I’m 99 years old? Will I be proud of my behavior when I’m 99 years old? Will I be glad that I gave my energy to this? When I’m 99 years old, sometimes I think thinking to the future and thinking when we’re older, cause I don’t know anyone who’s 99, right?
[00:11:16] Jess O’Reilly: I know some people in their eighties, but I don’t know. I mean, I’ve talked to people who are in their nineties. Like there’s a lady in our building. Who’s she 92 or 96?
[00:11:24] Brandon Ware: 92. Yeah. One of the two. I don’t know,
[00:11:25] Jess O’Reilly: but I think about, well, first of all, we have research showing that people argue less as they get older in relationships and they spend more time apart and they don’t engage in every little issue.
[00:11:34] Jess O’Reilly: I also think there are some generational differences in terms of trying to make relationships perfect. And it might be in reaction to what we saw with our parents. And we don’t want to go through the same things, but I also think that we’re too hyper focused on making everything perfect in understanding every little thing in getting to the root source of.
[00:11:52] Jess O’Reilly: every little thing and not trying to get preachy. I think it’s different for every person, but I don’t believe that we need to explain and understand everything. I [00:12:00] also don’t think we need to make our partners always understand every little thing we feel. Like sometimes you’re just snappy and you stop and you say, sorry, and hopefully your partner’s like, yeah, I get it.
[00:12:10] Jess O’Reilly: You had a hard day. I’m over it. Right? Like they don’t keep digging in as to why what you said wasn’t fair. Like, yeah, I just said it. What I said wasn’t fair. I suck. Mea culpa. So I think that 99 rule, I use it. Everywhere, especially when I’m stressed out, especially when I can feel my nervous system, just feeling overwhelmed.
[00:12:27] Jess O’Reilly: I’m like, does this matter in the big scheme in the big picture? Is this going to matter to me? I agree. And I think it overall helps to just reduce conflict. Okay. Number three, and we’re going to get to the preventative stuff. There’s a whole bunch here to deal with conflict or kind of bickering in the heat of the moment.
[00:12:43] Jess O’Reilly: I wonder if you can stop and just think about. What you want, what’s the resolution you’re hoping for, right? And I often suggest that people write it down. That’s my own bias, but we also have research suggesting that writing about relationship troubles reduces conflict and aggression. And I know you and I discussed this earlier in another podcast, a study that suggested that writing about conflict from a neutral third party perspective can improve relationships and conflict outcomes.
[00:13:06] Jess O’Reilly: But this is a bit of a shortcut. Can you just like open a note on your phone and write down what you want? Because sometimes we’re arguing about absolutely nothing. Sometimes you find yourselves bickering and there’s no point except perhaps power or releasing stress and frustration that actually shouldn’t be directed at this person.
[00:13:23] Jess O’Reilly: So can you write down what’s the point?
[00:13:25] Brandon Ware: I thought that was such a great experience. And if you’d like to make fun of us, please go back and listen to the Popsicle incident podcast. Because when you write down from the perspective of a third person, for me, it really changed how I saw the event. Unfold and also helped me take more responsibility for my actions in that, in the popsicle incident.
[00:13:45] Jess O’Reilly: I forgot about that incident. And then even when you described it, I’m like, what was the popsicles? I remember
[00:13:50] Brandon Ware: that back. And I felt like such a loser, but it was a great experience.
[00:13:54] Jess O’Reilly: You really were a tool bag. I was just kidding.
[00:13:56] Brandon Ware: I was a dirt bag. I was a dirt bag. I was a very useful part of a [00:14:00] vacuum.
[00:14:00] Jess O’Reilly: I was just going to say that a dirt bag is a positive thing.
[00:14:04] Jess O’Reilly: Okay. So you write down what you want. And then I do wonder. At the end of every argument, if you can just take note of the resolutions to to kind of take note of like, what’s my takeaway here? What are the resolutions? It’s easy to fight and forget about it. And that can be a really good thing because you don’t need to get hung up on it.
[00:14:21] Jess O’Reilly: But if you’re having the same fight over and over again, or if you’re bickering every day, it might be worth writing down. What you learn, what you want to do differently moving forward. And I’m not talking about an essay. I’m not even talking about a paragraph. It could be two words, like a reminder to yourself that maybe you were triggered and we’ll get to that in a moment as well.
[00:14:40] Jess O’Reilly: And then you just brought something up that is point number four, which is after you’ve bickered or preferably while you’re bickering. Please always take some responsibility. Like part of this is you, part of this is the way you engaged. Okay. Are there exceptions? Sure. But most of the time it does take two to tango.
[00:15:00] Jess O’Reilly: It’s a dynamic that you’ve created. It may be a very overwhelmingly positive dynamic, but there’s usually an underlying dynamic that exists that can lead to both harmony and conflict. And so this is a different topic altogether. We need to do one on dynamics, but we have a dynamic. Around decision making, right?
[00:15:18] Jess O’Reilly: Personally, not in business. Anything we do business together, I think is a little bit different, but personally, I make a lot of the decisions and you’re super easygoing. You’re like, go with the flow, whatever you want. And I actually love that. Cause I get what I want a lot of the time, but it also frustrates me and it does lead to conflict.
[00:15:35] Brandon Ware: And the real question is, am I really easygoing? Or am I playing into some of these existing patterns and grooves, right? Like people pleasing and the desire for validation, removing any responsibility, accountability. So when you start paying attention to these other elements, it starts to change how you feel too.
[00:15:53] Brandon Ware: Like how I feel about making decisions. I’m like, okay, well, you know what? I don’t want it to be this way. I make so many decisions when it comes to work. [00:16:00] And I know you do too, that there are times when I’m like, I just don’t want to make a decision. In this, like what we have for dinner or where we’re going tonight.
[00:16:05] Brandon Ware: But then the responsibility that that puts onto you on my partner. And I’m like, okay, you know what? I got to put on my, my, my big boy pants, my big person pants. And I got to start making some decisions here. And I got to start making, you know, being accountable and being prepared to disappoint or upset you or any of those things.
[00:16:19] Brandon Ware: And those are the negatives. I mean, it could turn out on the other way, right?
[00:16:21] Jess O’Reilly: And isn’t all bickering really about food in relationships? Or is that only for like Asians? Is that just because of me? I don’t feel, I feel like if you had a partner who was like you, you guys would just eat your salad out of a bag every day, salad and dry crackers.
[00:16:36] Brandon Ware: And I know what your favorite food is, so I can just make it every day. And it’s the easiest thing to make. It’s the easiest thing. It’s a bowl of rice. I know you love the smell of rice. I love it. So it’s like. I’m being an idiot when I’m like,
[00:16:45] Jess O’Reilly: if you didn’t know, if you don’t know that that’s true, you might think that he’s just, uh, being stereotypical, but actually it is my favorite.
[00:16:51] Jess O’Reilly: I love a bowl of plain white rice,
[00:16:54] Brandon Ware: the rice cooker on and you’re just like, Oh my gosh, the house smells so good.
[00:16:57] Jess O’Reilly: Do you know how long it took me to even admit that? Because they used to call me rice girl growing up. Cause I was Chinese. So like to even admit I’m having a moment here, but that that’s another conversation.
[00:17:06] Jess O’Reilly: Let’s go. Because I can’t get into that right now. Let’s go back to. Always take some responsibility and I brought up the dynamics because I think about like what we might bicker about like what we’re gonna have for dinner and then you’re like, I just want you to have what I want. And I’m like, okay, but in doing so it all falls on me.
[00:17:22] Jess O’Reilly: And so that’s why I started thinking about dynamics because sometimes it’s a little tiny thing and sometimes it’s an underlying issue. Or like you said, it’s some sort of a groove that we need to address, which is, I think, a bit of a different conversation. But can you take some responsibility? And here’s something for people like me who suck at this.
[00:17:38] Jess O’Reilly: Yes. No, even if I can’t admit to Brandon that I was wrong and that I, that I’m taking some responsibility, which is stage two. Okay. I’m still on stage one. Can I at least admit it to myself after, and can I maybe make a note of it? And can I maybe a day later, two days later, or 16 years later, go back and say like, okay, I, I take some [00:18:00] responsibility here.
[00:18:00] Brandon Ware: Yeah. And I mean, for me, I don’t, once the situation has been somewhat resolved. I’m not holding, I’m trying not to, and I don’t think I do hold on to that. I need you to come back and apologize or take responsibility or accountability. So when I have no ego, no, that may be the case, but it’s the bigger issue for me is I want to resolve whatever it is we’re arguing or bickering about.
[00:18:19] Brandon Ware: So I’m looking at a big picture level where I’m like. Let’s just find the root issue. Let’s resolve it. If you want to take accountability at that time for it, great. If you don’t, did we resolve it? Did I take responsibility for my part in it? Move on.
[00:18:33] Jess O’Reilly: I think the reason you may not care is because you don’t feel issues around power in this relationship.
[00:18:38] Jess O’Reilly: which is why the underlying issues actually do matter to bickering, right? And so that’s something we haven’t talked about. The fact that you may be having these little fights for many, many reasons, but one of the reasons may be that there are some underlying issues or dynamics you want to address.
[00:18:53] Brandon Ware: Mm hmm.
[00:18:54] Jess O’Reilly: Right? So like, for example, you may not care if I don’t admit I’m wrong in the moment because you’re, you don’t have issues around power and between the two of us, there aren’t issues around power. Right? Like it’s fairly egalitarian. Of course, nothing is 50 50, but we both feel pretty safe. And so if there is a deeper issue, then you definitely do want to look at that.
[00:19:12] Jess O’Reilly: If we go back to bickering, so we’ve covered four different approaches so far. Be quiet and listen. The 99 rule. Write down what you want. Write down your resolutions. And number four is take some responsibility. And we, we got to keep moving here. Number five, this is kind of a practical one. When the bickering or the tension starts, can you change something?
[00:19:31] Jess O’Reilly: Can you change positions? Can you change locations? We have a wealth of research. Showing how environment affects emotion and a lot of research in the area of creativity. And I think creativity is actually really important to conflict resolution or to just kind of calming the situation. So there’s a Stanford study that found that when you walk, it boosts creative inspiration and they looked at creative creativity levels while people were walking versus while they were seated and apparently creative output increased by an average of 60%.
[00:19:59] Jess O’Reilly: [00:20:00] When walking and other studies have found that brain activity, absorption of information, positive emotional experience, all of these things are higher when you work out outdoors versus indoors. So these are just some examples. Like, can you resolve this over a walk? Can you move around? Can you, you know, I have some clients who will lie down, down on the floor.
[00:20:18] Jess O’Reilly: To deal with conflict so that they’re just, there’s this awareness that we’re engaging in this right now. So is there something you can change to release the tension?
[00:20:27] Brandon Ware: I think you also have to be receptive to your partner’s need. Like in a lot of ways, when we first incorporated this into some of our discussions, I think I assumed that you were being rude or dismissive or aloof to what it is that was happening.
[00:20:41] Brandon Ware: Because I like to move around. Because you like to move around. Yeah. And then we were able to resolve the conflict. And I found myself in other circumstances doing the same. You know what? I’m feeling nervous. I’m feeling anxious. Whatever it is. Get up. Move around. Do three squats. Just. Kind of skip on the skip on the spot for 10 seconds.
[00:20:57] Brandon Ware: And it really did change things for me. So it’s also being receptive and understanding to your partner might need to do this to help them assuage some of that or diminish some of that anxiety that they’re feeling.
[00:21:07] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah. And I think it can sound kind of hokey, right? Like, Oh, we need to change locations, but it does something like, again, like I’m citing just a couple of studies.
[00:21:15] Jess O’Reilly: There are hundreds, probably thousands that look at how environment affects how we feel next to number six. Joke around another area where the data and research is voluminous. So when we use positive or adaptive humor, so what that’s in opposition to say negative or maladaptive humor, that’s tends to be more aggressive.
[00:21:33] Jess O’Reilly: We know that relationship satisfaction is higher and actually want to do a whole podcast on humor in relationships because I think it’s so important
[00:21:39] Brandon Ware: and because your partner is so hilarious.
[00:21:45] Jess O’Reilly: You’ll also hear this thing tossed around about five to one, the ratio of positive to negative interaction. That theory from the Gottmans, the Gottmans have their own stuff going on, whether the evidence is peer reviewed or empirical. But to me, it’s [00:22:00] not just about positive to negative interactions. I think it’s about the capacity to have some levity, have some light, have some maybe laughter, maybe some joy in the face of tension.
[00:22:09] Jess O’Reilly: I think there’s real power. Not only is it disarming. We know that laughter comes from, it was an evolutionary holdover that signaled safety, but it’s also a matter of joy. And I think in the face of any distress, joy is exactly what we need. Right. And I think again, with humor, you have to use it mindfully and sparingly.
[00:22:29] Jess O’Reilly: You can’t, you know, if your partner’s upset about something, you can’t make fun of them, which would be more maladaptive humor. But if we can laugh at ourselves lightly, like, especially for me to laugh at myself is one thing for you to laugh at yourself as another. I think that we have the capacity to laugh at ourselves as a unit where we’re like, what is wrong with us?
[00:22:46] Jess O’Reilly: Like, why are we doing this?
[00:22:48] Brandon Ware: I’m going to go back to the popsicle incident. When we took a moment just to take a beat and think about it, I’m like, you know, that we’re getting into a massive argument over popsicles and, and I’m like, this is ridiculous and I don’t know that that really, you know, made us feel any better in that moment, but probably a few seconds later, I know I felt better thinking about it.
[00:23:05] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, no, I think we’re able to calm ourselves with humor again, though. The underpinnings of that are safety and understanding and commitment and trust. And also, I think somebody asked me the other day, how much of relationships is the work you do with yourself versus the work you do with your partner?
[00:23:20] Jess O’Reilly: And of course I gave two made up answers. Cause I don’t know the answer. Like, is it 80, 20? Is it 50, 50, but it is also about healing our own childhood wounds. Right? Like if I haven’t taken care of my stuff that has to do with trauma or triggers or just even those can be very strong words. Okay. So I might just say sensitivities and experiences because it may not apply to everybody.
[00:23:41] Jess O’Reilly: Then how am I going to feel safe with you? How am I going to know that even though we’re fighting, we’re going to be fine. Even though. I’m actually being ridiculous. Like I suck right now. He’s still going to love me. And so depending on, you know, what your early relationships looked like, depending on what early attachment look like, those can all affect how we [00:24:00] respond today.
[00:24:00] Jess O’Reilly: So it’s not just coupled work. It’s also individual work.
[00:24:03] Brandon Ware: I get really, I get bothered when people are like, Oh, relationships, if it’s meant to be, you’re soulmate and it’s easy and there’s no work. And, and I often think to myself, like, what in life do you do that doesn’t require some investment of effort?
[00:24:16] Brandon Ware: Like you, you want to stay healthy, you need to go to the gym or you need to be mindful of what you eat
[00:24:20] Jess O’Reilly: and you get to,
[00:24:21] Brandon Ware: and yes,
[00:24:22] Jess O’Reilly: like you get to go to the gym, you get to move your body like these are all,
[00:24:26] Brandon Ware: but if you, you want to excel at work, you’ve, you, you put in the effort, you put in the, you know, you put in the time you put in, you work at it, so I don’t know why the relationship has to be any different and not only the relationship, but all the, also the relationship that you have with yourself.
[00:24:38] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah. And again, I think there’s this continuum or. Okay. these shades we have to be aware of, that we don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to fix everything, like, we live in this world, we do what we do, and we want to have ease every day, we’re fortunate and privileged to have joy every day, we’re fortunate to have safety, we’re fortunate to have love, we’re fortunate to have a roof over our head, and like, Brandon and I living in a In a city that’s mostly peaceful, like we’re very, very fortunate.
[00:25:04] Jess O’Reilly: Okay. I want to move on so we can get to the preventative stuff. The last piece around dealing with it in the moment involves really understanding and differentiating between conversation killers and conversation openers, right? So that involves changing your language when you bicker. So it’s so easy to say things like you always, you never, I guess we’ll just do it myself.
[00:25:22] Jess O’Reilly: No one listens to me anyway. You’re going to do it your way, no matter what. And all of those generalizations. That end a conversation because nobody can argue with that. But if we can shift the language a little too, not in a condescending way, but I feel, I struggle with, can I ask something of you? I need to take a beat.
[00:25:39] Jess O’Reilly: Would you consider, how would you feel about, like if we can train ourselves to just have those words roll off our tongue more easily, we’re going to have fewer conversation killers, more openers. And we’re probably going to be met with, with more ease, with more grace, with more thoughtfulness.
[00:25:55] Brandon Ware: Yeah, I agree.
[00:25:57] Brandon Ware: I’m thinking, Oh, excuse me, everything that [00:26:00] you said in the first, that first round of conversation killers. I’m like, yeah, I’ve said all those,
[00:26:04] Jess O’Reilly: all of us.
[00:26:05] Brandon Ware: I’ve said, Oh, for sure. I have,
[00:26:06] Jess O’Reilly: but don’t you think less now than 20 years ago, 10 years ago, we, we met this couple and it’s funny. Um, I was messaging with him.
[00:26:14] Jess O’Reilly: I can say his first name, how the other day on LinkedIn. And I remember they were a lot older than us. Yep. And I remember him saying something along the lines of, do you remember what it was? Like you, you work at it in your twenties and thirties so that you can thrive in your forties and fifties. Is that what he said?
[00:26:28] Brandon Ware: It was, you earn, learn in your learning twenties, you learn thirties, you earn something like that. Or maybe it was thirties.
[00:26:34] Jess O’Reilly: So you were talking to him about business. I think I was talking about relationships and I definitely feel, and of course. Age doesn’t matter because it’s about the stage of your relationship.
[00:26:41] Jess O’Reilly: But again, data shows that couples argue less as time goes on. They’re not engaging in conflict as much. Hopefully it’s because they haven’t given up. But I think it’s because we learn to understand ourselves and one another. And I think that when I, when we start talking about conversation killers versus conversation openers, I’m thinking that the biggest hindrance To making this shift is time and a lack thereof because everything feels shorthand, right?
[00:27:05] Jess O’Reilly: We move so quickly. We read the one pagers. We don’t slow down to make time for what matters, which is, you know, relationships, health. And for a lot of us, like the work we’re doing for many of us. Centered around justice, for example. And so if we don’t make time to really engage and we’re busy and we’re in the kitchen and I can just picture like, you know, one of you is cooking, one of you is helping the kids with homework and there’s so much to do, you probably are still getting emails in the evening.
[00:27:31] Jess O’Reilly: And so you don’t really have the time to say like, you know. How would you feel about doing it this way or sitting down and having this conversation? Instead, we say things like, whatever, you’re going to do what you want anyway. Right. And I get that. Like we are, we all have been there. We all will be there.
[00:27:45] Jess O’Reilly: We never moved fully past it, but it really does speak to the value and the challenge of time. And that takes us back for me or takes us next to the preventative piece. Because I think that part of reducing bickering involves creating [00:28:00] the conditions to prevent it from arising. Or at least reduce its occurrence.
[00:28:04] Jess O’Reilly: Like you’re not going to eliminate it all together. And I think about some of like, I, when we were talking about this, before we got started, we were saying that bickering isn’t actually something we do a lot of.
[00:28:14] Brandon Ware: I would agree. We’ve get into arguments and we have
[00:28:16] Jess O’Reilly: deep, heavy arguments, popsicles, ice cream, rice, food.
[00:28:24] Jess O’Reilly: But what I was going to say is I think part of why we maybe don’t bicker as much, part of it is that I don’t think we have particularly stressful lives. We’re very, very lucky in that respect. Agreed. Okay. So that is privilege. And then another part of it is some of the work that we’ve done, the effort, the foundation we’ve built that’s really preventative.
[00:28:41] Jess O’Reilly: And so I was thinking about a number of preventative approaches to stop bickering. So to reduce annoyances. To be more physically affectionate, to have sex, to reduce your own stressors, to know your triggers, and to know your partner’s triggers. So that’s sort of the summary of what I have in mind. But when I think about the first one, reducing annoyances, like one thing I think about is, okay, so if something I do annoys you, it’s probably going to lead to more.
[00:29:06] Jess O’Reilly: Bickering. And so I think that that’s something that I see couples who are happy together do is try and annoy their partner less. Like I’m a very annoying person. And so I have to be mindful of like, what might annoy you? Are you going to tell me what I do to you?
[00:29:23] Brandon Ware: I know I joked around about it earlier, which is why you asked me today, but I didn’t, I don’t find like you annoy me very much.
[00:29:27] Brandon Ware: There are things that again, we argue and we fight, but I don’t feel annoyed by you. Very much.
[00:29:33] Jess O’Reilly: So I feel like if you, if something you do annoys me. Is this leading up to my annoyances? Yeah, I have a list, guys. I have a big list. Sorry, 42 items. No, I actually think I speak up about it. Now my annoyances aren’t things that I get mad about.
[00:29:45] Jess O’Reilly: So I joked about you being a splashy animal in the tub. Like I don’t know what he does in the bathroom, guys.
[00:29:50] Brandon Ware: We don’t have a tub. It’s the sink and I’m shaving. And the sink is like the size of a saucer. .
[00:29:56] Jess O’Reilly: A saucer.
[00:29:57] Brandon Ware: Yes. A
[00:29:58] Jess O’Reilly: for giant, maybe
[00:29:59] Brandon Ware: for [00:30:00] tea, but it’s, it’s
[00:30:01] Jess O’Reilly: it’s not the size of a tea saucer.
[00:30:02] Brandon Ware: It’s a small sink. Man. I’m gonna splash. I’m a splashy dude.
[00:30:06] Jess O’Reilly: I go into the bathroom. And it looks like he got into the sink and splashed around. And then he went into the shower and he took cups of water and threw them on the ceiling. That’s what it looks like. And so,
[00:30:17] Brandon Ware: but hold on, what did you add? What did I say to you? So immediately I, I checked my people pleasing.
[00:30:22] Brandon Ware: I’m like, no man. I’m like, I clean. I actually do. I feel like I clean up after, but there was a spot.
[00:30:27] Jess O’Reilly: Do you rinse away your
[00:30:28] Brandon Ware: water with water? I rinse it away with water, yeah. So you get the hose out, but. I do wipe these down, but clearly, uh, my surface looking,
[00:30:35] Jess O’Reilly: I missed a few spots. Okay. So it’s, well, my point though is because it’s something, so it doesn’t generally annoy me, but if my patience is running thin from other things, if I’m in a mood, I’ll notice that something that doesn’t bother me 49 times will bother me on the 50th time.
[00:30:51] Jess O’Reilly: So I mentioned to you the other day, I’m like, what are you doing here? Like, I don’t think I was really annoyed. And so what did you do? You got yourself a cloth to clean up. And you, you, he actually moved into the other bathroom that has a bigger sink.
[00:31:02] Brandon Ware: So what did you do? I moved the bathroom.
[00:31:05] Jess O’Reilly: It’s like four steps away.
[00:31:06] Jess O’Reilly: Anyhow, I do think that reducing annoyances, like if you can just be aware, maybe this is the same as triggers, but little things I think are important to, to just kind of be thoughtful about. How you, how you move about the day with your partner.
[00:31:21] Brandon Ware: But also rather than snapping back at you, I felt like I tried to listen.
[00:31:25] Brandon Ware: And then I also felt like I tried to come up with a solution, which was I’m going to grab a cloth and I’ll just keep it tucked away. And then after I’m finished splish splashing around, I’m a wipe it down. Problem solved. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, I’m receptive to what it is you’re saying. And I’m going to find a solution.
[00:31:39] Brandon Ware: Let’s move forward.
[00:31:40] Jess O’Reilly: Well, this sort of ties in with the last item on my list. So I’m going to skip there another preventative item, which is really about knowing your partner’s triggers. And I was thinking about, you use the word pivoting around people and you don’t want to be afraid of people or walking on eggshells, but I have observed that staying out of one [00:32:00] another’s way.
[00:32:01] Jess O’Reilly: Okay. So, um, in the, in the trigger, in the more serious ways, how would, how do I say this? Staying out of each other’s way to know what the little things that really upset your partner is an important part of living together. And so I saw this with a couple we were traveling with. I don’t know if I talked about this last week, but I’ve been thinking about it.
[00:32:18] Jess O’Reilly: I think so. Something happened that was a little bit, not stressful, but annoying. Um, it had to do with The power going out where we were saying, and while he was working on fixing it, she said like, let’s stay out of his way. Cause this isn’t something that they keep basically stay out of his way. Cause this, I guess this is just something that he likes to do on his own.
[00:32:37] Jess O’Reilly: And I noticed like they’re a happily married couple. They’ve been together a long time. They have kids, they have a nice life. They seem to really love each other and get along really well. And I thought like, Oh, that’s really good that she’s just being mindful of the things that will maybe set him off.
[00:32:50] Jess O’Reilly: And I’m not saying it would set him off. I actually don’t know. Cause I don’t. know them that well, but I do think that that’s something we do is we know the things that are here. It is that our partners are sensitive about. Sorry, it took me a while to find my language there, but if we know there’s something that they’re sensitive about, if we know that there’s something that might annoy them, if we know that there’s something that when they’re dealing with this, something they’re extra stressed, can we.
[00:33:13] Jess O’Reilly: Stay out of their way or do something to make it easier. And I also thinking, I think knowing when your partner wants you to help versus move away, get out of the way is so important. And I think maybe some people wouldn’t like that. Like the idea of staying out of your partner’s way might be something negative.
[00:33:29] Jess O’Reilly: But for me, and I’m not the arbiter of truth, but for me, I think it’s important to know, like I know. When you’re upset about certain things, you don’t want me to try and help.
[00:33:40] Brandon Ware: No, sometimes I feel like a, an emotional wide receiver, do you know? And in that you talked about pivoting and sometimes there’s going to be contact.
[00:33:47] Brandon Ware: So first of all, I know what the goal is. I want to get a touchdown. I want to solve the problem, whatever it is. Sometimes I’m going to have to do a 360 spin to avoid an issue. Sometimes I’m going to hit it head on. Sometimes there’s gonna be a little bit of contact, but at the end of the day, trying to get into that end zone and resolve the [00:34:00] problem.
[00:34:00] Jess O’Reilly: I’m just going to intercept. Sorry. I’m just going to intercept. You you using all these football analogies? I’m so fast. Did you just like come up with all football.
[00:34:07] Brandon Ware: I never even played football. No. But I was just thinking about it when you talked about pivoting and I’m like, sometimes there’s contact and sometimes you get a little stuck.
[00:34:15] Brandon Ware: But ultimately, if you know, if you are able to run downfield and catch that pass, you know, you’re going to have to do some pivoting. You’re going to hurdle, you know. But you’re working towards, you know, getting to the end zone.
[00:34:26] Jess O’Reilly: Okay.
[00:34:26] Brandon Ware: So we’re sharing a three point dunk in the end zone.
[00:34:30] Jess O’Reilly: I’m just gonna get a safety.
[00:34:32] Jess O’Reilly: I’m just gonna take a seat. That’s all I’m taking. All right. So yeah, I think that piece is important to know what sets your partner off to know their sensitivities. Maybe trigger isn’t a word that everybody likes, but I also think knowing your. Own is important, right? So that’s another one here. So I know that, cause if we go back to bickering, I’m not particularly bickery, but there is a certain time of the month where I’m more bickery.
[00:34:52] Jess O’Reilly: Is that a word? Yeah, I would agree. I have a stronger proclivity toward bickering. So I have to be aware when certain things are coming on. Like I know when my period is coming on, there’s like a 48 hour period. Where everything annoys me, where yes, if that splashiness is happening in the bathroom, I’ll be like, what the, why would he do this?
[00:35:09] Jess O’Reilly: Why would he leave this water? And then the other 28 days of the month, I don’t care. I also know sometimes there are people I have to deal with not very often who can set me off and who put me on edge and put you on edge. And so to be aware of that ahead of time can be really helpful because we can stop and take a moment to.
[00:35:24] Jess O’Reilly: Find joy. We can stop and take a moment to breathe. We can stop and take a moment to reconnect. We can stop and take a moment to say like, you know what, what we are fighting about may not be about this. It may be about this other thing that we’re worried about. And so I think we can have fewer, you know, I use the word bickering, conflict, fights, whatever the word is.
[00:35:42] Jess O’Reilly: If we’re kind of aware of what those triggers and sensitivity sensitivities are, and if we prepare for them.
[00:35:47] Brandon Ware: And as your partner, I know that because we’ve had these conversations about those, you know, 48 hours where you feel a little bit more, um, you know, you’ve got some, the blood’s flowing. What’s the word I’m looking for.
[00:35:58] Brandon Ware: Right. But. I [00:36:00] also try to work around you. I’m like, okay, I know that this is how you’re feeling right now. So I’m going to be a little bit more understanding. I’m going to be a little bit more giving. I’m going to be a little bit more affectionate with you. There’s, there’s two, two, two sides here.
[00:36:12] Jess O’Reilly: I love that.
[00:36:12] Jess O’Reilly: And it takes me to my next point. Cause we need to move this along, um, which is preventative is involves being more physically affectionate. This is another. area of research that shows both the benefits and the fact that we all say we’re laughing, laughing, I wish, lacking in physical affection, right? So we know that like when you’re physically affection, there’s a release of feel good hormones, right?
[00:36:33] Jess O’Reilly: We’ve got oxytocin that boosts our mood. We’ve got a decrease in cortisol, which helps to, you know, cortisol, of course, is considered a stress hormone. We know that When you’re close to your partner physically, that the benefits aren’t just fleeting. So we know that, you know, with physical affection, we experience less stress, happier mood, not just in that moment, but the following day, we know that there are positive heart health benefits.
[00:36:55] Jess O’Reilly: Partners who receive more hugs tend to have lower blood pressure. We know that love and happiness are higher. We know that attraction increases when you express physical. affection. So when you express affection, physical affection, folks are more likely to see you as likable and trustworthy and composed.
[00:37:12] Jess O’Reilly: We know that actually relationship harmony is higher and conflict is lower when physical affection is high. Like there was a study of college students that found that those who spend more time cuddling are better equipped to resolve conflict. And when we talk about physical affection, we’re not talking about sex.
[00:37:30] Jess O’Reilly: Right? So I think it’s something like 83 percent of close physical affection in bed, even snuggles, don’t result in sexual activity for most couples. So it’s not just about getting to sex, but after physical affection, because I think you can, you can admit that, that like we feel more calm when we’re affectionate with each other.
[00:37:47] Jess O’Reilly: No,
[00:37:48] Brandon Ware: I definitely do.
[00:37:49] Jess O’Reilly: I hate being apart from you for that reason.
[00:37:51] Brandon Ware: Yeah, and I mean, it just feels good to listen to kind of tune in and to feel you because, you know, I always think about things like things change, right? Anything can change at any [00:38:00] given moment. So I’m always thinking I appreciate the opportunity to touch you, to feel you or, and to be with you.
[00:38:06] Jess O’Reilly: Absolutely. And then there is sex. That’s another point, right? So if you invest in your sex life, you’re investing in your relationship. So I guess the bottom line is if you want to reduce. Some of these little conflicts or some of the bickering just want to make sure you’re investing in the relationship overall and sex is a part of that.
[00:38:23] Jess O’Reilly: And there is some research around sexual frequency and sexual satisfaction tied to relational satisfaction. And then finally, I think another really important preventative piece, I think this is so, so important and it ties in with everything we’ve been talking about. If you want to reduce bickering and conflict in relationships, you have to reduce your own stressors because patience, tolerance.
[00:38:45] Jess O’Reilly: Empathy, all of these are like muscles and they tire out. If you arrive at your relationship or your home, drain. It makes sense that you’re more on edge and it primes you for conflict. And of course we can’t eliminate all stress because you got to go to work and that can be stressful. You have to deal with people and that can be stressful.
[00:39:05] Jess O’Reilly: But what Can you reduce? And I would like to do a podcast if I can find the right expert on burnout. And I have this strategy that I’ve been utilizing for burnout for me that has really worked that I perhaps it takes a little bit to explain. So it’s shared in a future podcast. But what can you do to reduce your own stressors?
[00:39:23] Jess O’Reilly: Because oftentimes the people that you’re taking your stress out on the people in your household, Um, are not the source, not the primary source of your stress, but it can feel like they are. It’s easy to be like, well, it’s because he left splashes in the bathroom that I’m feeling this way when in fact it’s 16 other things.
[00:39:41] Jess O’Reilly: So I think that’s a really important piece to consider. And again, you know, in doing so in listening to this and considering some of these options, not doing them all right. I think there’s about. 13 on this list or 14 on this list, but thinking about one change you can make today to reduce bickering and to just bring more harmony into your life, whether it’s with a [00:40:00] partner, whether it’s with family members, and whether it’s with kids, you’re doing this huge service to people around you by modeling that behavior because most of us didn’t get to grow up with that modeled behavior.
[00:40:09] Jess O’Reilly: And that’s why I think, man, kids today are so amazing because, and not that our parents weren’t great. Like I have the greatest. Love and appreciation for all three of my parents, deep, deep appreciation. And I see the next generation of parents, like people who are about a little bit older than us. I’m seeing their kids kind of come of age, like 18, 19, 20, and how incredible they are at communicating, at navigating relationships, at leading.
[00:40:30] Jess O’Reilly: Empathy at seeing and understanding perspectives that are not their lived experience. And I think they’re going to change the world. And I think, listen, I always say, and it’s not marketing. Like I do think we can improve the world one relationship at a time. And that’s what we’re doing here. And that’s what you’re doing because.
[00:40:45] Jess O’Reilly: You’re investing, you’re listening, and I think that’s really amazing. Agreed. Not you, Brandon. I’m talking to you, listener. You’re fine too. Sorry, I’m great. All right, cool. All right. Brandon has a call, so we got to go. Let’s do it. All right. Thanks so much, folks, for listening. If you’re in the mood for pleasure, check out adamandeve.
[00:41:01] Jess O’Reilly: com. Use code DRJESS50 to save 50 percent off almost any single item, plus free shipping and rush handling. Have a great one.
[00:41:18] Jess O’Reilly: You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.