“We Have Two Big Rules in Our House”; and, “Fights” Is Free Today on Amazon

It’s the last day to get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby for free on Amazon.

Here, an excerpt from the interviews section of the book.

ZURIE: “We Have Two Big Rules in Our House”

Zurie is 40 years old and has been with her partner for eight years.

Mollie: What have some of your biggest disagreements as couple been about?

Zurie: We don’t have children, just cats, which might be why our biggest fight so far was about cats (except not really). Before that, our biggest struggle was learning to grocery shop together without murderous thoughts.

Mollie: Tell me more about that.

Zurie: It was a thing when we first moved in together. He works from home and I was working in an office. We both dislike the task, so we do it together (unless circumstances prevent it.)

I made a comment a while back about two types of people (on a spectrum): basically, planners and non-planners. My husband is squarely a planner. Lists, schedules, plan of attack. I can (and do) plan, but can also can make a quick decision just to get something done.

So basically, we had several things going wrong.

  • I’m an introvert and being at the office all day exhausts me. He works from home, so he’s excited to go out.
  • We weren’t functioning off a list, so we were buying random things that we did/didn’t need and still having to figure out dinners after.
  • We both wanted to shop how we were used to shopping.

I got mad at him for staring at stacks of American cheese for entirely too long trying to determine the best price on something that I felt didn’t matter. He challenged me when I just grabbed a gallon of milk. “Why that milk? Do you like it better? This one’s cheaper.”

After several months and lots of sit-downs and me being mad, then him being frustrated (not huge fights but intense talks), we’ve figured out and refined our system:

  • I frequently save recipes that I think we’ll enjoy that are healthy enough for me and easy enough for him. We pick two for the week and build a list off of that.
  • We grocery shop on Sundays so I’m not tired and we have a date night once a weekish so he gets out of the house. He has also finally, just this summer, gotten a laptop to give himself the ability to leave the house once in a while.
  • There are brands I’m loyal to. When it’s time to pick up those, I tell him to kick rocks off to the toilet paper aisle to find us the best deal. I give in to him on the generic canned beans because I don’t care and he lets me buy the expensive canned tomatoes without argument.

It works so much better now. We usually have as good a time as you can at the grocery store. And I even stay quiet when he asks the clerk to put the milk in bags (which is silly because the gallons have handles!).

Mollie: You seem like a pretty good problem solver. Do you use these same negotiating skills in other areas of your relationship?

Zurie: We don’t have to formally negotiate too often. We try and function as a team so if one person is doing something, the other dives in to help. We’ve got two big rules in our house:

  • Everyone gets what they need.
  • You have to ask for what you need.

Spats are usually due to me not being able to sort out what I’m feeling before I get crabby.

Mollie: I love those rules! The needs of one person can be dramatically different from the needs of another. Beautiful way to phrase this concept.

So what was the cat thing about?

Zurie: We fought about when to get a new cat after our last two girls died in the spring. I wanted to get a new one and he wasn’t ready.

Honestly, it was 100 percent me not slowing down to figure out what I was feeling so I could verbalize it. Eventually I just realized that I was in an enormous amount of pain and just wanted something to help. I was deeply disappointed that he wasn’t ready even though it was valid.

Once I worked through all that emotion, I was able to explain what was going on. I apologized and he listened and we compromised. We got new kitties sooner than he was ready for and later than I wanted, but they’re perfect.

Mollie: Is there something about your partner you have tried to change? What was your strategy? How well did it work?

Zurie: Sure, there are things we’ve tried to change about each other. He’s organized, but holy cow was his apartment filthy when he moved out. I’m clean, but completely disorganized. Before we moved in together, we talked a lot about chores and values. He sees the value in having things clean, though he just doesn’t notice it. I see the value in having things organized (being able to find my keys is amazing) but I’m not always as good about it as him.

I think we’ve both really tried to be patient with each other. There are times when I have to remind him that it’s okay if I haven’t put something back where it belongs because there’s a reason I didn’t or whatever. And I have 100 percent complained to myself after he does the dishes that he didn’t scrub down the stove. But I also know that criticizing will just make a person shut down, so I think a lot about “how much does this matter?” I’ve had to teach him how to clean the bathroom and the floors and the kitchen and the reasons behind it. He really gives it a good-faith effort, so I let go of the fact that he doesn’t see the dirt and is always surprised that it’s time to clean. It just doesn’t matter.

Mollie: Can you think of a time you became overly defensive in an argument? Tell me the story.

Zurie: When we first met, he used to tell a joke, then say, “Get it? It’s funny because …” and I used to feel like he thought I was so stupid or not funny if he felt he had to explain every joke to me. My dad was really hard on my brother and me and would ask us if we were stupid whenever we did something wrong, so he was really stepping on a land mine he didn’t know was there. I finally told him one night how much it hurt my feelings. I was angry and asked flat-out if he thought I was an idiot. He was horrified. Apparently, this was just something he had always said as part of a joke. He thought it was funny and had no idea that I took it personally.

While I was relieved that I was misinterpreting, I also made it clear that I was never going to be okay with it. He’d done it for so long that he wasn’t sure he could just stop. So we decided that he would make an honest attempt to say it less and I would make an honest attempt to let it roll off my back if he did say it. And honestly, I haven’t heard it in years.

Mollie: Do you think it’s important to apologize even when you weren’t exactly in the wrong, or do you save your apologies for the important stuff?

Zurie: We tend to apologize to each other when we feel it’s warranted. Honestly, we don’t fight dirty or often so I don’t feel that I’ve had to apologize when I wasn’t exactly wrong.

Mollie: Generally speaking, how much do you enjoy partnership? What do you like about it?

Zurie: I love being married. We haven’t reached a point yet where I’ve considered it difficult or a hardship. I really enjoy being on a team with him. I can be exactly who I am at any given moment with him. I can be ridiculous and silly or sad or a big baby and he understands and loves it. I love doing the same for him. I love hearing him sing songs to the cats or laugh at his podcasts while he works. I am so delighted and thankful to be with him and he seems to feel the same way. We married late-ish—I was thirty-seven and he was forty—so we’d gone through those mid-twenties struggles already and had started establishing our own values when we met. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Mollie: Do you have any ongoing arguments that can’t seem to be resolved, even with your great communication skills?

Zurie: Not that I can think of, so definitely nothing major. Things are tough right now for us, but not between us. I’m lucky: he’s funny, responsible, hard working, compassionate and loyal. We make a good team.

It’s the last day to get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby for free on Amazon.


			

“Finally, Our House Feels Like a Home”; and, “Fights” Is Free Today on Amazon

Right now, get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby for free on Amazon.

Here, an excerpt from the interviews section of the book.

CAL: “Finally, Our House Feels Like a Home”

Cal, age forty-four, has four children with his wife of twenty years.

Mollie: Is there an argument that just keeps coming up between you and your wife?

Cal: Many of the long-running arguments that we have seen to be centered around the lack of defined roles in our relationship. We are both products of the feminist movement—women aren’t going to be forced to be at home taking care of children and cooking dinner! So the systems of our household are perpetually left leaderless as both adults strive for success and validation outside our home.

This lack of definition has plagued us since the days we just started living together and couldn’t agree on who did what chores and who was responsible for what. It’s rather embarrassing to say that we still run across these problems twenty years later. At least a few generations ago they had one person who gathered resources and one person who saw that those resources were well managed in producing a family. Now we are both responsible for everything, and that leads to chaos and frustration for us.

Mollie: Can you give me more specifics? Which chores are still up for grabs? Which chores have you come to an agreement on?

Cal: We have written out three sheets of information for the family. One sheet gives our vision, values, expectations and measures of success. It’s funny that after being married over twenty years we are still working out what our vision for our home is. We’ve had other vision statements in the past, but they seem to have a finite life span. The vision needs to be renewed and revived periodically; for us, it seems like we can agree on one for about two years.

The next sheet shows the systems we are working on to make the household run more smoothly. We started with agreeing on twenty minutes of cleaning and that’s going really well thus far (maybe for the past two months). We’re still working on figuring out the rest.

Finally, we have a chores sheet. This is laminated (yes, we have a laminator and every family needs one!). We assign and check off the chores using a dry erase marker. There are six of us, and six people cleaning a single area isn’t going to work, so we have two or three areas separated out into five days (our goal is to clean five days per week). We schedule the cleaning via group text message at least two hours ahead of time. Then we assemble at the table, pick a day, assign the jobs, start the timer, start some music, and clean for twenty minutes. If someone finishes early, they get re-assigned to another job until we have all worked for twenty minutes. We clean with whoever is home at the time, even if it’s only a couple of us.

This cleaning system has finally gotten our house to feel like a home. We all now have clean, paired socks and vacuumed hallways.

Bedroom cleaning is handled by a different system of weekly room inspections.

Mollie: Any other ongoing arguments?

Cal: Nothing is jumping to mind. My wife and I are pretty low-key people, but we have still managed to have some pretty turbulent times in our marriage. This point isn’t one of them. Our kids are now 18, 16, 14 and 11. They are old enough that they are becoming self-sufficient, but young enough not to realize how clueless they are in the real world. It’s a frustrating time. I think we’ve been handling it well, overall, but have been far from perfect.

Mollie: Finally, how much do you enjoy your marriage? Is it worth the hardship?

Cal: I do enjoy my marriage. The sex is amazing, and that’s a large part of male happiness. Consistent access to a female is success in an evolutionary sense. Beyond just meeting physical needs, my wife is a wonderful friend who I still enjoy having dinner with or accompanying to one of our children’s events. I made a really good decision before we started dating: I had just had a mediocre dating experience with a pretty red-haired girl, who treated me like a distraction. Based on that experience, I decided that the next person I was going to spend my time with would be one who I enjoyed being with. My wife is remarkable in that I was always sorry when the evening came to an end; there never seemed to be enough time.

Twenty-three years later, I still think that was a wise decision. I haven’t had the most exciting life from the outside, but I’ve enjoyed most minutes because I made a really good choice. I married an honest friend who I really enjoyed being around. Fights come and go, but we still like having dinner, watching a movie or doing a project together. Even when we are at our worst, there has always been that underlying layer of friendship and enjoyment that we fell back on. It’s a pretty amazing connection.

Free Audiobooks Now Available: The Naked House

Meet a man who rents out his apartment to fund his world travels, a woman who got out from under a huge debt by selling her belongings, and several experienced home organizers.

Featuring ten additional interviews with experienced minimalists, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home is available on Amazon today. Get your copy here.

In addition, currently I have several Audible Audiobook versions to give away. Email me at mollie at mollieplayer.com if interested and I will try to get one of them to you.

Audible Audiobook Giveway: The Naked House

Meet a man who rents out his apartment to fund his world travels, a woman who got out from under a huge debt by selling her belongings, and several experienced home organizers.

Featuring ten additional interviews with experienced minimalists, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home is available on Amazon today. Get your copy here.

In addition, currently I have several Audible Audiobook versions to give away. Email mollie at mollieplayer.com if interested and I will try to get one of them to you.

New Cover, New Publisher and Lots of Additional Material: Get “The Naked House” Free on Amazon Today

Meet a minimalist who quit her corporate job to become a professional housesitter, a designer who uses negative space to create meaningful features and a woman whose grief led her to start fresh.

Featuring ten additional interviews with experienced minimalists, the updated version of The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home is free on Amazon today.

Get your copy here.

New Cover, New Publisher and Lots of Additional Material: Get “The Naked House” Free on Amazon Today

Meet a man who rents out his apartment to fund his world travels, a woman who got out from under a huge debt by selling her belongings, and several experienced home organizers.

Featuring ten additional interviews with experienced minimalists, the updated version of The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home is free on Amazon today.

Get your copy here.

New Cover, New Publisher and Lots of Additional Material: Get “The Naked House” Free on Amazon Today

Meet a man who rents out his apartment to fund his world travels, a woman who got out from under a huge debt by selling her belongings, and several experienced home organizers.

Featuring ten additional interviews with experienced minimalists, the updated version of The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home is free on Amazon today.

Get your copy here.

New Cover, New Publisher and Lots of Additional Material: Get “The Naked House” Free on Amazon Today

Meet a man who rents out his apartment to fund his world travels, a woman who got out from under a huge debt by selling her belongings, and several experienced home organizers.

Featuring ten additional interviews with experienced minimalists, the updated version of The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home is free on Amazon today.

Get your copy here.

New Cover, New Publisher and Lots of Additional Material: Get “The Naked House” Free on Amazon Today

Meet a minimalist who quit her corporate job to become a professional housesitter, a designer who uses negative space to create meaningful features and a woman whose grief led her to start fresh.

Featuring ten additional interviews with experienced minimalists, the updated version of The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home is free on Amazon today.

Get your copy here.

Got Self-Improvement Goals? Now Providing Low-Cost Counseling Services in Washington State

For the past two years, I’ve been attending graduate school earning my Master’s of Science in Counseling. After the massive amount of practice hours and essays I’ve completed, it’s a huge joy–and relief–to finally be practicing as a student counselor at a Seattle counseling practice. I’m helping real people! Finally!

As a new counselor, I offer low-cost counseling services to Washington residents. Currently I am only taking remote clients using a secure video platform. If you or anyone you know has immediate plans to work on their self-improvement goals, call myself or my supervisor, Brittany Steffans, at 206-535-1787.

You can also read more about Brittany’s practice at BrittanySteffenLMFT.com.

If you don’t live in Washington, I urge you to list your goals and get started, one step at a time. You only get one life. Live it well!

The Naked House: New Publisher, New Cover, New Material (That’s Awesome)

So don’t know if I mentioned this, but my book, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home has now been republished by my new publisher, Next Chapter. The cover is AWESOME and what I love best is the ELEVEN interviews I conducted with minimalists of all varieties: financial minimalists, career travelers, parenting minimalists and of course, people who just stripped their houses down to make room for life to happen more beautifully! Their stories have inspired me to live even more minimally. (More on that to come.)

Author Interview: “What’s the Right Way to Change My Partner?”; and, Get “Fights” for Free Today on Amazon

Right now, get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby for free on Amazon.

Author Interview, Part Three

Some of the advice in Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is pretty standard stuff. Some of it, however, is not. Here, a short Q and A that follows the lessons in the book that might help clarify a few of the more nuanced suggestions.

Lesson: Change Your Partner the Right Way

What about when there’s a behavior in my partner that really does need to change? In the book you show how Matthew slowly learned how to take on more responsibility for his child. In my case, I’d like to change the way my husband disciplines our kids. I want him to be more firm. Is this something that I can change about him? Are some qualities changeable, and others not?

Yes. But we don’t know which is which until we give our partner the chance to show us.

The way I see it, there are three ways to change your partner for the better. The first, and most important, is just believing the best of them and treating them well. This is the one we should always be doing.

When this isn’t enough, we have two other options. One is the major argument or discussion, which involves detailed negotiation. The other is what I call “the slow nag.” This is when you make little hints and suggestions—maybe even good-natured jokes—about the issue without ever forcing it. When done right, it’s surprisingly effective.

Are you sure this will work?

No.

Okay, fair enough. But are you sure it’s okay to try to change your partner? Everyone tells us this is a terrible idea, that we need to accept them as they come or not at all.

Yes, I am absolutely sure that over the course of your marriage, you can and will change your partner in a wide variety of significant and not-so-significant ways. It’s not only possible but nearly unavoidable; we do it every single day. Whenever we look at someone, whenever we speak to them, whenever we have any kind of interaction, we affect the way they think and feel. Think about it: How would your partner affect your behavior towards him if he did what is recommended in this book, and treated you with utmost respect and love all the time? You’d change a heck of a lot. And the changes you didn’t make in spite of his caring suggestions would probably be the ones that meant too much to you to give up. Well, it’s the same for him. There are things about himself he won’t change for you or for anyone, ever. The question is: Can you live with those things? Are they deal breakers or not? Incidentally, there’s a great book about accepting our partners for who they are called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb. I highly recommend it, even to long-time partners.

Lesson: Brush Up on Your Endocrinology

My husband is such a taker. He just takes and takes and takes, until I can’t give anymore, and I explode. Why are men like this? How can I get him to give more?

Don’t concern yourself with why. Men are simply better at getting their own needs and wants met than women are. When you can’t or don’t want to give anymore, simply don’t. Tell your husband that you need some “me” time, and take it—even if he doesn’t love the idea. The trick is to do this gently, without anger and with grace. For me, this has been one of the hardest marriage skills to learn, but now I get a nap every day. It was worth the work.

Here, it’s worth mentioning that personality differences, too—not just gender differences—affect the way your partner meets his needs. My favorite personality typing book is the (misleadingly titled) Dressing Your Truth: Discover Your Personal Beauty Profile by Carol Tuttle. The book only discusses female personality types, but in other books of hers, males fall into the same four categories. Understanding not just your unique behavior but the basic internal beliefs that give rise to that behavior is incredibly therapeutic and healing.

The bottom line: There are four main personality types: wind, water, fire and rock. Wind people are bright and animated. Their driving purpose in life is to enjoy it. Water people are subtle, caring and soft. Their driving purpose is to love and care about people. Fire people are dynamic and passionate. Their driving purpose is to accomplish their goals and change the world. Rock people are bold and striking. Their driving purpose is to seek and disseminate truth. If you want to better understand the motivations behind your partner’s quirks, read this book.

Lesson: Don’t Defend Yourself

Okay, so not defending myself. I get how doing so can be unhelpful and even counterproductive, escalating the fight even further. But self-defense is one of our primary human drives; we all want other people to acknowledge when we’re in the right, or to at least to basically understand our intentions. How can I avoid getting defensive?

Try this: Look forward with great anticipation to your next opportunity to be criticized by your partner in some way. Then, when it happens, in the moment in which it is happening, ask yourself, “What would it feel like to just not defend myself right now—to smile and say nothing committal, maybe even to agree with what my partner is saying? Would it make me proud?”

Then—just as an experiment, mind you—say something kind in response. Not necessarily an apology, if an apology feels insincere to you, but something sweet and understanding. Something like, “Okay. You might be right about this. I promise to give it some real thought.”

Now, observe how you feel about yourself in this moment and compare it to how you might have felt had you defended yourself. Do you feel more self-respect? And what about your partner’s response? Did their anger begin to dissolve?

It sounds like what you’re saying is that you should just accept whatever criticism comes your way, no matter how wrong it is. That’s not self-respectful, is it?

Yes, that’s what I’m saying, and yes, it is. You don’t have to accept the criticism as true, but you can listen to it in silence without agreeing with it in any way.

But doesn’t this just come across as a big “I don’t care what you think” attitude?

Preferably, no. At times, in an effort to be less defensive, I’ve used a superior tone of voice, responding with something like, “Okay, Honey. You have your opinion.” I’ve since come to the belief that this sort of attitude isn’t nondefensiveness—it’s ego, disguised as nondefensiveness. And it really, really doesn’t work. It doesn’t make me feel good, and it doesn’t dissolve his anger; in fact, it fuels it even more.

If you’re going to choose between being condescending and not explaining your side and being kind and asking to be given the chance to explain your side, choose the latter every time. At least you’ve shown that you are willing to truly listen, and by asking for permission first before defending yourself, you’ve put the other person in a much more receptive mode.

Lesson: Appreciate the Gift

Logically, I know that marriage is a gift—even the hard parts, the arguments. But how do I go from knowing it to really knowing it, to feeling really grateful for my partner on a day-in-day-out basis?

I have two ideas. The first is to dote on your partner—to do loving acts regularly. The second is to relentlessly question your negative thoughts about him or her.

A lot of people try to describe why it is that parenting, one of the toughest jobs on the planet, is also one of the most well-regarded and most sought-after. Here is my attempt: The beauty of parenting is that here is this perfect new person, and you have the privilege of loving them the most.

Teaching children is great. Watching them grow and admiring them and laughing with them is wonderful. But just loving someone this much, giving this much of yourself for another person every day—that is the part that really gets you.

Well, it’s the same marriage: the practice of loving another person just feels good. Making dinner for your partner, speaking gently with them when they’re in a bad mood, holding them when they’re sad—these are the things that give our lives real meaning, and the things that truly bond us.

Compliment your partner. Every single day. Say nice things, particularly when it’s unexpected. Be specific, too: something like, “I am feeling very tender and affectionate towards you today.” Genuine compliments are far too rare and far more valuable than most of us realize; whenever we get one, we really treasure it, don’t we? We remember some of them for a very long time.

My second idea is to relentlessly question your negative thoughts about your partner. In “Change Your Story” I describe the process of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I cannot recommend it more highly. The theory among some psychologists and certainly many spiritual guru-types on its effectiveness is that when you remove the negative thoughts, love simply fills the gap, since love is who we really are underneath. Sometimes I’m skeptical that this is the case with me, but the more I journal my negative thoughts and replace them with the truth, the more cheerfulness and lightheartedness I feel, which naturally flows into my attitudes about other people. Particularly people I really, really like anyway, like my husband.

There was a time when I would have paid anything for a magic wand that could, with a wave, turn off all my husband’s worst traits. The other day, though, when I was talking to my sister on the phone about relationships, it hit me: At some point, I stopped wanting my partner to be perfect. What would it look like if he had no flaws? Would he do everything I ever wanted or asked him to do? And how long would it take before I started seeing him as a robot, an automaton: “Honey, will you wash the dishes?” “Sure, my dear.” “Then go wash the car and pack the car for our trip?” “Of course.” That’s not even a relationship, is it?

Marriage is one of the biggest challenges I’ll get in this life. I’m milking it for all the self-improvement it’s worth.

Final Question

Some of your advice is strange. Are you sure it’ll work?

In my life there are very few certainties, and for the most part I like to keep it that way. One thing I do feel sure of, though, is that self-improvement efforts—no matter how small, no matter how flailing, and no matter how many times they seem to fail—are worth it almost every time. Because often, even when they seem to fail, they don’t fail all the way; somewhere inside you, something has changed. Maybe it takes a year or two for you to see the difference, but eventually you do.

Eventually, you’re glad that you tried.

Right now, get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby for free on Amazon.