Re-posted from Redbook magazine (Sept. 12, 2014)

1. You don’t respect each other.

When you start dating someone, you’re head over heels. But eventually, you discover their flaws, weaknesses, and the totally random stuff that drives you crazy. “You have to respect that people get to be who they are,” says Megan Hunter, author of Bait & Switch: Saving Your Relationship After Incredible Romance Turns Into Exhausting Chaos. “Remind yourself that your brains are wired differently, and asking your partner to change that is like asking someone to change their skin color.” It’s all too easy to resort to a disrespectful or condescending tone when we’re not getting our way, but research shows that speaking with contempt can be a big reason for a marriage imploding, adds Hunter. “When I see spouses begin to change their tone of voice and really pay attention when their partner is talking, I typically see that relationship become stronger again.”

2. You’ve unconsciously uncoupled.

Over the years, couples can devolve into more of a management team than a married pair, thanks to overwhelming to-do lists that include everything from managing a mortgage to caring for kids and aging parents. “By year 10, many relationships come to resemble that of two roommates,” says Debrena Gandy, author of The Love Lies. “Your communication becomes focused on the business of your lives, rather than meaningful topics related to the two of you.” The easiest solve? Date night. But making that a priority amidst other tasks can be tough. “I recommend that couples have a standing date night each month. Switch off planning, block it off on your calendar, and make a rule that if it needs to rescheduled, the other person must first agree,” says Gandy. “As time goes on, it becomes an integral part of the relationship, which both partners value and mutually support.”

3. You’re not putting in the extra effort.

Remember when you first started dating—you spent hours getting ready and he both shaved and put on cologne. “You stepped up your game to be in each other’s company,” says Gandy. “We call it the ‘honeymoon phase,’ but the fact that we identify the time when passion and interest are high as a phase suggests there is an underlying belief that these things are expected to eventually decline.” That can lead to your taking your spouse for granted and losing respect for each other, which in turn can spur emotional or physical infidelity, resentment, and frequent conflict. “The word respect is based in seeing the other again,” says Gandy. “By striving to see your partner anew each day, you’re committing to the idea that passion doesn’t need to fade, but can instead continue to grow deeper.”

4. You’re playing the blame game.

In a marriage, things happen—someone misses a credit card bill, someone forgets an anniversary, and so on. “But the more you get into that it’s-all-your-fault mentality, the more you stop taking responsibility for your own actions,” says Hunter. “When you’re not looking inward and trying to improve yourself, it can start to erode your marriage.” In a tense situation, you want to connect with your spouse on two levels, says Hunter: verbally, by saying something like, “I think I understand what you are trying to say,” and nonverbally, by using a calm voice or kind eye contact—anything that shows you’re paying attention. “The next step is to help the other person, and maybe even yourself, shift into problem-solving mode. Once you’ve dealt with the emotional aspect, you might say something like, ‘What ideas do you have to resolve this?’” suggests Hunter.

5. There’s no intimacy.

If your marriage has been reduced to an exercise in management, one of the first things to go is intimacy. “Marriage isn’t just about sharing your body, it’s about opening your heart,” says Gandy. “When those moments of closeness—both in terms of physical proximity and emotional bonding—disappear, the consequence can be accusing your partner of not meeting your needs, which can then be used to justify infidelity.” But if you’re not getting what you need in either area, the fix may be as simple as speaking up. “As women, we resist asking for what we want because our faulty gender programming tells us that our husbands should be doing it without us having to ask,” Gandy says. “Men respond well to action-based requests—even if it’s just for an extra hug or making time each night for a real conversation.”

6. Your union isn’t the centerpiece of your marriage.

Of course your children are hugely important to you. But if you’re able to make your relationship with your husband the number-one priority of your marriage, they too will benefit. “The health and vitality of that partnership creates a home environment in which kids are fed emotionally,” says Gandy. It’s easy to get caught up in the age-old societal construct, where the woman does all the work at home and the man becomes relegated to the sidelines. “As a result, the husband becomes increasingly disengaged and passive, and the wife becomes resentful from overexerting herself,” explains Gandy. “Try to ignore the instinct to constantly take on more, and instead work on building up your asking muscles. People around you—especially your husband—will feel closer to you when you let them help you out. And you’ll find you have time for your children and your relationship.”

7. Someone has control issues.

“The number-one sign of a toxic relationship is if one partner feels they have the right to check the other’s email, texts, and Facebook messages,” says Hunter. It’s a modern version of a tried-and-true-problem—the feeling that you can’t talk to friends or family, or that you must report what you’re doing and where you are at all times. “When someone feels trapped or stuck in a marriage, like they’re walking on eggshells, it’s a very toxic situation.” If that sounds familiar, it’s important to get a professional involved immediately.

8. You’re not willing to adapt.

Between years seven and 10 is when many marriages hit the rocks, according to Gandy. “That’s when a marriage is calling for a transformation, and we don’t know how to navigate it.” But really, it’s the ideal time to acknowledge that there has been a shift, and develop the skills to move forward. “The mark of a healthy, strong marriage is that you’re willing to adjust it by recognizing that there are stages where you may get bored or annoyed with each other; however, it’s at those times that you need to remind yourself why you married your husband, the ways you support each other, and the feeling you had when you first fell in love,” says Hunter. “Accepting that marriage isn’t always be rainbows and sunshine helps you keep a realistic perspective on the relationship as it progresses.”

9. There’s chronic emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is just as serious as physical abuse—and it’s unacceptable. But, as women, we sometimes disregard our inner knowing for too long in hopes of bringing things back to the way they once were. If that sounds familiar, you’re not in a good place to make the best decision for yourself—or to extricate yourself from the situation. However, if you’re in a toxic marriage and this has gone on for years, you do need the help of a trained professional and a support network that can help steer you onto a clear, safe path.

Megan Hunter is a speaker, trainer, consultant and CEO at Unhooked Media. She is co-founder of High Conflict Institute and was a Family Law & Child Support Specialist at the Arizona Supreme Court. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.



partnershipBook477-2Partnership Parenting by Kyle Pruett, MD, and Marsha Kline Pruett, PhD, is the first book review in our “All About Better Parenting Month” at Unhooked Books.

I met the Pruett’s about 15 years ago when I brought them to Arizona to train family law practitioners about the role of fathers in children’s lives, which was based on Dr. Kyle Pruett’s popular book, Fatherneed. It was a fascinating presentation delivered by two clearly passionate, educated people who have become leaders in the field of parenting. That day has always stuck in my mind. Since that time I’ve had opportunity to hear them speak at other events. They’re tops in my book!

The Pruett’s don’t offer random, anecdotally-based suggestions for better parenting – their writing is based on empirical evidence from research they’ve conducted at the Yale School of Medicine and the Smith School for Social Work combined with their many years of practical experience working with families.

Now they’ve co-authored Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently –Why It Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage. This book is for any parent who wants to improve their parenting skills. While it focuses on parents in intact marriages/relationships, the basic principles of parenting. learning about biological differences in men’s and women’s parenting styles, and partnership parenting applies to any parent. The Pruett’s research combined with many years’ practical experience working with families has given them insight into what works and doesn’t work, which they share in a digestible and easy to implement manner in the book.

They explain the differences in men’s and women’s naturally different communication styles and approaches to parenting. They’ve found that fathers tend to naturally push children toward independence while moms tend to protect and even overprotect. If you’re a parent you know how this usually ends up – tension-filled and conflicted, but it doesn’t have to be that way and they show you why and how.

What I like about their approach is that they help parents identify their own individual strengths and use them to parent effectively, even if they aren’t exactly on the same page as the other parent. Their research and practical experience shows that contradictions in parenting can, if done constructively, strengthen the whole family.

The Pruett’s recommended co-parenting team approach can only serve to strengthen the family unit, and, as they’ve proven through research and practical experience, it does indeed strengthen the marital relationship. Instead of difficult parenting situations tearing relationships apart, Partnership Parenting can improve them!
Keep reading for more information about Partnership Parenting, taken directly from the book:


Men and women not only have naturally different communication styles, but unique approaches to parenting as well. While mothers tend to overprotect their kids, fathers tend to push them toward independence. And whereas many experts tend to advocate “a united front,” Drs. Kyle and Marsha Pruett reveal how Mom and Dad not always being on exactly the same page— which, initially, may seem to cause conflict— can actually strengthen the whole family.

Informed by the Pruetts’ research and extensive experience with parents and children, Partnership Parenting offers a new outlook. In addition to fascinating biological insights, the book features strategies for negotiating common “landmine situations” from birth to age eight, from discipline and bedtime to helping kids with homework and teaching them responsibility.

With wisdom and humor, Partnership Parenting helps couples take advantage of their individual strengths to raise confident children while simultaneously improving their marriage.

All parents want to raise happy and healthy children. And all parents have opinions about the best way to do so. But what happens when two parents have opposing views on how to raise their kids? With fathers playing an increasingly active role in child-rearing, the joys and responsibilities of raising kids have evolved to include both parents. This can place strain on a marriage, with negotiations taking place not only between parent and child but between parent and parent as well. How does a couple with contrasting parenting styles maintain a healthy marriage? And should all parenting duties be split 50/50 as recent books and articles have suggested?

Through years of experience as practicing clinicians and researchers, Dr. Kyle Pruett and Dr. Marsha Kline Pruett have developed a program of co-parenting that explains not only how to maintain an intact marriage but how to strengthen it as well. In Partnership Parenting: How Men and Women Parent Differently-Why it Helps Your Kids and Can Strengthen Your Marriage , they show that by forming a parenting team, parents can put their differences to constructive uses, bringing diversity and dynamism to the family and fostering the growth and development of their children. Rather than serving as sources of conflict, inevitable contradictions in parenting can be viewed as opportunities for learning for both parents and children.

Partnership Parenting gives parents the information they need to strengthen family life at all levels, addressing the best approaches to such areas as meals, sleep, discipline, safety, and education-all in the context of mutual discussions and shared contributions. It also makes it clear that, rather than splitting parenting responsibilities down the middle or trading them off, each parent should do what he or she does best. Above all, it shows that a strong relationship between parents is an invaluable factor in raising great kids.

by Bill Eddy

I am writing this on Nov. 3rd. By the time you read this, the election may be over. I hope so. However, elections are so close these days that one “side” or the other is bound to feel ripped off. There will be outcries that it was rigged. And close to half of the country will feel that they cannot trust their President – that he is even dangerous for America.

Some people may take matters into their own hands. Perhaps with random acts of violence – all justified by the speeches and ads explaining how evil, immoral and incompetent the new (or same) President is. After all, guns sales have been up in the last few months, as well as huge spending on political attack ads. As Don Saposnek and I wrote in our book Splitting America, the effect of this campaign on the nation will be similar to that in high-conflict divorces – essentially a hate-filled atmosphere that doesn’t fade with the divorce date, and often even escalates afterward.

Congress will be filled with strong opponents who may see as their life mission blocking whatever change the other side wants. Not much is expected to happen during the next two years legislatively.

But what about our nation? What about the future for citizens who don’t want extreme make-overs of America. There’s unlikely to be a mandate – most people would prefer stability and moderation. If there’s any mandate coming from the electorate, it is probably that they are sick and tired of partisan, super-funded campaigns – that last a year or longer.

An article in today’s newspaper by the Associated Press (San Diego Union-Tribune, Nov. 3, 2012) mentioned the passing of the wife in “the longest married couple in America.” Apparently the husband had been in the Nevada state Senate in the 1970’s and 1980’s. His answer to the “key to success in politics or in marriage” was (drum roll………..): “compromise.”

However this election turns out, I think we’re going to have to re-learn their simple message and be the change we want to see in the nation: compromise.

About Bill Eddy
William A. (“Bill”) Eddy, L.C.S.W., J.D. is a family law attorney, therapist and mediator, with over thirty years’ experience working with children and families.  He is the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California.  He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare and education.  He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law and he teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law.  He is the author of several books, including:

Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything

For more information about Bill Eddy, please visit:

About Don Saposnek
Donald T. Saposnek, Ph.D. is a clinical-child psychologist, child custody mediator and family therapist in private practice for over 40 years, and is a national and international trainer of mediation and child development.  For the past 35 years, he has been teaching on the psychology faculty at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and is Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University School of Law’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.  He is the author of the classic book, Mediating Child Custody Disputes and has published extensively in the professional literature on child custody and child psychology.  He serves on the editorial boards of the Family Court Review and Conflict Resolution Quarterly journals and is the editor of the international Academy of Professional Family Mediators’ The Professional Family Mediator.  As director of Family Mediation Service of Santa Cruz, he managed the family court services for 17 years and has mediated nearly 5,000 child custody disputes in both the public and private sectors since 1977.  For more information about Don Saposnek, please visit:

What is this person showing me about myself; in what ways do I see myself as a loser; am I a loser; is that really a true remark?  Please, stop saying that. Stop judging yourself. Do you remember that judgments only serve to keep you entrenched in the painful part of your past? When you are in a responding mode, you can ask yourself, “What do I want to create for myself? Is this the way I want to see myself? What would I create instead? Write down all the answers to these questions. Go slowly and give yourself some time and put some thought into the process.

By Bill Eddy of the High Conflict Institute

This week is National Marriage week. As the website says: “February 7th to 14th every year is a collaborative effort to encourage many diverse groups to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture, which in turn helps curtail poverty and benefits children. Together we can make more impact than working alone.”

I agree with those who say that a committed partner relationship is one of the goals for human beings, if not THE top goal. We all want someone to understand us, care about us and share in our life plans. But how do we make this work in today’s society, which seems to undermine working together and reinforce individualism? I believe the key is in finding the balance of being of being an individual AND a couple – for the unique two of you. It isn’t about one “right” answer for everyone or every couple. Here’s three skills that I believe help find this balance:

Understand the difference between relationship conflict skills and adversarial conflict skills. Relationship conflict skills operate in a moderate emotional range which relationships can handle. Relationship disputes must take into account your needs as an individual AND the needs of the other person, so that you don’t blow away the relationship foundation in an effort to assert yourself – you really can have both. Unfortunately, our current entertainment-based culture reinforces the drama of adversarial conflict skills such as “looking out for number one” and blaming the other person when things go wrong. This seems to justify regularly yelling at the other person (and hitting in about 20% of couples), making disdainful remarks, giving the silent treatment, hiding important information, bad-mouthing your partner to others, etc.

But these behaviors are adversarial methods of dealing with conflict, which fail to take the relationship into account. These are the extremes that sit-coms, movies and politics demonstrate for us every day. Relationship conflict skills include saying you’re sorry, such as with repairing statements: “I’m sorry I just said that – I really do love you and respect you.” “Let’s not go to bed angry.” “I’m going to make more of an effort to fulfill the request you just made.” Listening and empathizing with the other person’s pain, even when we are feeling our own. Taking turns, turning toward the other person when they are talking, rather than away. These are relationship conflict skills. 

Build a bank of goodwill. John and Julia Gottman have studied the science of what makes a good marriage work. One of their conclusions is that happy and healthy marriages have approximately a 5 to 1 ratio of positive statements and experiences to negative ones. So happy couples that bicker a lot succeed because they have five times as many positive things to say and do together. They also found that couples that never seem to argue actually have negative interactions – but also about a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative. Don’t hesitate to make that extra positive comment out of the blue. “Did I ever tell you how much I love it when you do ________? “You’re so good at ___________.” “Thanks for just being you!”

Learn about acceptance. Another surprising result of the Gottmans’ research is that approximately a third of conflicts never get resolved in healthy, long-term marriages. This is a great surprise to many spouses, therapists and dispute resolution professionals. But, in fact, a preoccupation with chronically unresolved conflicts tends to have a negative effect on the marriage – it builds frustration rather than focusing on the positive. There will be some habits that the other person simply will not change or cannot change. Expressing our point of view and hearing the other’s different point of view may be as far as we can get on some issues. Agreeing to disagree and accepting certain conflicts seems to be essential to a good marriage.

BUT, there is the flip side to acceptance: If you have been accepting unacceptable behavior in your marriage – such as domestic violence, chronic substance abuse, verbal abuse and other unhealthy relationship problems – then learning that there are limits to acceptance can be an important lesson. There may be a healthy marriage out there for you and it might not be this one. If you aren’t sure about the difference between healthy and unhealthy acceptance, see an individual or couples counselor. Learning about both sides of acceptance is a relationship conflict skill in itself. Most marriages can work – if you can create the proper balance.

[My next blog will be on what I’ve learned about marriage from doing divorce mediation for thirty years.]


High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author ofIt’s All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don’t Alienate the Kids!. He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: