How To Stop Small Fights From Turning Into Explosions

Stop Drop and Roll - Smaller

My lovely wife and I were talking pleasantly the other day in the car, enjoying its quiet freedom from children.

Then she said something that frustrated me.

It wasn’t anything big, but I made a decision to gently talk about it.  Before I knew it, this small, seemingly insignificant chat was a full blown conflict.

It felt like we both went from 0-60 faster than a Ferrari.

You know them: those ‘discussions’ that started out so calm trying to reconcile something so simple that eventually turned into a dog-eat-dog, blame-shifting, name-calling, slam-the-door firestorm.

At the end of these fights, and sometimes even during them, you and your spouse are full of regret, anger, shame, guilt, sorrow. The ashes: Loss. If only.

How do we stop these small fights from turning into full blown explosions?

I learned one of the most practical tools for resolving these types of conflicts from a firefighter in the third grade. By now, you might even be reciting those three little words:

3 Pillars Of A Great Marriage

Every Great Marriage I Know Contains These 3 Things


I’ll admit, I’m somewhat of a pyro.

My older friends can attest to my disorder.

When Star and I lived on 10 acres, we, actually I, would frequently build huge fires. When I say huge, I’m talking about ‘2 story high flames‘ huge. I’m shocked we only got 1 visit from the fire department!

What’s fascinating to me about fire is how a small spark can grow into a raging flame so quickly. As long as there’s oxygen and something for the fire to consume, such as wood, it will continue to burn and grow.

If the oxygen supply is low, such as at high altitudes, or if the wood is wet, the fire will struggle to burn. If the wood is completely removed from the fire, or if the supply of oxygen is cut off, the fire will die.

Fire thrives when good dry wood and a fresh supply of oxygen are present. The fire will continue to intensify to the degree wood and oxygen are supplied.

The same is true in marriage…

I’m Tired of Great Weddings!

How to turn a great wedding into a great marriage

George Booth and I collaborated on this post together. George is a good friend and currently serves on the Board of Marriage Revolution.

Great Mariage

I’ve been to some great weddings!

We once attended a wedding in Ireland where we traveled with a plane load of fellow Scots and celebrated for almost a week.

I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a colleague in Azerbaijan where we danced, ate, and celebrated into the wee small Azeri hours.

I’ve been to great weddings in the prettiest of Scottish Castles and great weddings in the grandest of Cathedrals – but quite frankly I’m getting tired of great weddings!

The more I think about it, I haven’t been to a bad wedding. Every wedding I’ve ever facilitated, attended, or observed has been great.

This weekend, great weddings will be happening all around the world where a beautiful bride and a handsome groom will enjoy with their fortunate guests, all the spoils and pleasure of months and often years of meticulous planning and paying! They’ll be great. People will laugh, parents will cry, and everyone will hashtag their memories to the happy couple’s Instagram tag – #greatwedding

So why with all these great weddings do we only know a handful of great marriages? Why do we pour so much time, energy, creativeness and money into great weddings but we are reluctant to invest in having a great marriage?

Lost That Lovin’ Feeling?

How To Get It Back


One of my favorite parts of my job is doing pre-marital counseling.  I’m so encouraged when a young crazy in love couple sits in my office and subjects themselves to God’s instruction for their upcoming marriage.  I love it!

Inevitably, at some point in my first session with them I’ll ask, “Why do you want to marry each other?”

Although I get a ton of different answers, one or both of them usually say something like, “He / She makes me happy.”

In fact, I have yet to encounter an exception to some form of this answer.  Most couples get engaged because of the feeling of happiness they experience when they’re with each other.

Most couples think they’ll never lose, “that lovin’ feeling”.

But then something happens.

Sometimes it happens before the wedding, sometimes after. Sometimes it happens in the first year of marriage, sometimes not until 5 or more years in. And sometimes, it lasts weeks, months, or even years. Some couples even divorce when it happens.  But, it always happens at some point to one degree or another.

Please don’t do it…

The Affair Illusion

Guest Post: Janel Breitenstein is a married mother of 4 who writes frequently for FamilyLife. Janel and her husband John currently serve with eMi in Uganda. Additionally, Janel’s husband serves on the Board of Marriage Revolution. You can visit her blog at

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Last Friday, Fox news reported that Ashley Madison—the self-proclaimed “original extramarital affairs site”—anticipated a 500% increase in applicants following Mother’s Day.

There are so many aspects of this statistic that baffle the mind. I suppose—or rather earnestly hope—that there are enough blog posts out there about the mere idea of a site dedicating itself to (how to put this politely?) willful marital annihilation. But in an effort to step beyond preaching and into understanding, there are a few observations that beg unpacking.

Finally Free (Zondervan)

Porn sucks.  I hate it.  I hate everything about it.

I hate what it does to men.  I hate what it does to women.  I hate what it does to marriages.  I hate how it affects kids.

Unfortunately, a lot of my clients struggle with porn.  I wish they didn’t.  But, they do.

But, there is HOPE!!!

If you’re struggling with porn, the Gospel is the answer.  How?  Read this book by Heath Lambert for starters:

Heath beautifully articulates the Gospel in a way that not only applies to someone’s struggle with porn, but in a way that deals with any type of habitual struggle with sin.

I highly recommend this book.

Submission isn’t Silent

The Submissive Wife—and Finding Your Voice

Guest Post: Janel Breitenstein is a married mother of 4 who writes frequently for FamilyLife. Janel and her husband John currently serve with eMi in Uganda. Additionally, Janel’s husband serves on the Board of Marriage Revolution. You can visit her blog at

Submission is not silent

A friend and I were out for a rare breakfast, our hands curled around ceramic mugs of decaf. “What’s the best way to pray for you and your husband?” I’d asked quietly. But it was her answer that surprised me—and the liquid I saw collecting around the rims of her eyes.

“Pray for me”—she paused here—“to find my voice.”

What To Do When Your Spouse Wants Out


I’ll never forget that day.

I had been out of town for about a week and I couldn’t wait to be home to see my wife and 2 year old daughter.

Things had been rough in our marriage, but while I was out of town I felt like my love for her was renewed. I was going to be different when I got home: more patient, more gentle, less angry. Our marriage was going to be different.

My excitement to share my fresh start with Star quickly turned to confusion as I pulled into the driveway to her standing outside and holding hands with our innocent, red haired, pig tailed, daughter by her side.  Next to them were two suitcases.

I got out of the car and asked what was going on.

She was noticeably distant and silent for a few moments, then she looked up and said with a cold determination, “Hans, I’m leaving”.


“I said, I’m leaving.”


“Are you kidding me? Why?”

I was in unbelief.  I felt like I was hit by a truck.  I didn’t even argue with her I was so shocked. She had begged me to go to counseling for some of our problems for months, but now I was ready. And now this?! I didn’t fully understand what was happening until she was already driving away.

It was the start of our six month separation where I fought for our marriage. Alone.

The most heartbreaking calls and emails that come into my counseling office resemble stories like this. One spouse wants out. The other doesn’t. The spouse that wants out is confused. Hopeless. Desperately searching for anything – anything – that will save the marriage.

What do you do in a situation like this or how do you help a friend walk through a situation like this?

How to Forgive After an Affair


When I discovered Star was having an affair just 18 months into our marriage I was distraught. I could barely contain the rage and anger.  The thought of my wife being with another man made me want to vomit, scream, crawl in a hole, and lash out in anger….all at the same time.

I didn’t think I, much less my marriage, would ever recover.

But, not only did God restore me, he restored my marriage as well. And, “restore” is an understatement. God made my marriage stronger than it ever was before and the intimacy and closeness my wife and I now share is almost unbelievable given what we went through.

How did this happen?  Forgiveness was a key ingredient.

Regardless of what you’ve been through in your marriage, you’ve undoubtedly been put in a position of extending forgiveness to your spouse.

Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. For the times it’s not, here are 10 thoughts to consider:

4 Keys to Finishing Strong in Your Marriage

Finish Strong

I recently heard the story of a Godly leader I respected that fell into sexual immorality.

When I first heard the story I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t think there was any way THIS guy would have fallen. He was a rock. He loved God. He taught God’s word.

But unfortunately I learned it was true. And the effects this event had on his wife and kids were devastating.