In a discussion based on her book The Argument-Free Marriage, Fawn Weaver explains how you can reduce conflict with your spouse by making small, intentional changes, timing your discussions, establishing rules of engagement, and more.
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Mrs. Fawn Weaver: But look at the arguments that most people have. It's very rarely about huge things. They're usually about very small things, compounded with other things that become these big blowout arguments. And then when you try to figure out where did it all come from, you can't even figure that out.
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John Fuller: Well, you'll be hearing more from Fawn Weaver today on "Focus on the Family" with your host, Focus president and author, Jim Daly and thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, every day here at Focus on the Family, we hear from couples that struggle in their communication. We talk about it in many of our broadcasts. Today we want to equip you through the observation and the writings of our guest, on how to communicate better in your marriage. In fact, her book is called The Argument-Free Marriage and we're gonna have fun with that today, because—
John: I think so.
Jim: --I'm not so sure (Laughter) you can do marriage without a couple of sincere discussions going on (Chuckling). But we're going to explore that idea that you in your relationship with your spouse can be argument free.
John: And you can find out more about the book and our guest, Fawn Weaver at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Fawn is a popular writer and a blogger. She founded The Happy Wives Club. That's a community of about a million women I think--
Fawn: Yeah, a little more—
John: --that you have.
Fawn: --than a million.
John: That's a lot of happy wives. (Laughter)
Fawn: There are. (Laughter)
John: So, thank you for doin' that.
Jim: Fawn, welcome back to "Focus on the Family."
Fawn: Thank you for having me.
Jim: Love your energy. I mean, you just come at this with such great sparkle.
Jim: And I so appreciate that. Your husband, Keith is the silent partner here, right?
Fawn: The silent partner.
Jim: He's not gonna participate today, but obviously, you guys have a very strong marriage. Let's start there. Really, you can have an argument-free marriage.
Fawn: You can and I think that it's important to say when you said, it's important for couples to have serious discussions, it absolutely is. And so this doesn't negate that. We are two incredibly strong-willed people. So, out of the gate, before we lose every listen here, I think (Laughter) that it's important to say, this is not some pipe dream type of thing. This is not saying, you aren't going to have conversations that are serious and it's not saying that you're going to sweep anything under the rug.
This is saying there's a different way to communicate. When Paul says and I love this and for some reason, for us as Christians we like to ignore it, when he says to do everything without arguing and complaining. How did that stop at marriage?
Fawn: There is a recipe for success in that, whether that's a business, if that's parenting, no matter what it is. And so, I take his words there very seriously and looked at it and said, "Okay, how do we do this in marriage? How do I get what I want? How does my husband, Keith, get what he want? But then we still remain solid, intact, without having regrets.
Jim: Now I want to go right to the challenge—
Jim: --as I read your book, The Argument-Free Marriage, you talk about a story in there where you and Keith agree to have your in-laws come and live with you, which is very kind of you, by the way. But there were only two conditions you had and one of them was broken.
Jim: And you ended up doing like a six-mile walk.
Fawn: It was longer than six miles.
Jim: Set that up, because I think that was as close to an argument as you may have come to, but let's get right into it.
Fawn: Well, you know what? It taught me a huge less and it's the reason why it's the closest to a huge blowout we've ever gotten.
Jim: And what happened?
Jim: Give us the circumstances.
Fawn: --it was … so there were two requests that I had when I invited them to come live with us and keeping in mind, having in-laws come to live with you—
Jim: That was bold.
Fawn: --is bold, right? (Laughter) It was my suggestion and not only was I saying, "Come live with us," but we're going to move out of the master bedroom and move into the guest bedroom, because I don't feel like our parents should be in the guest bedroom.
Jim: Wow, so that was—
Fawn: So, that—
Jim: --honoring them.
Fawn: --should set the stage, right?
Fawn: So, I had two requests. One was that Pop would not put any would not start any projects, any home—
Jim: Kind of remodeling.
Fawn: --improvement projects. (Laughter) I like our house the way it is and he's very much a hands-on fix-it guy.
Jim: Yeah, that seems reasonable.
Fawn: It does, except—
Jim: Don't put on an extension to the house without my permission.
Fawn: --yeah, right.
Fawn: So, that was one and the other was not to bring sweets into the house. Now you have to understand that I have a sweet tooth like something you've not experienced before.
Fawn: I can sit with bags of candy and just go one after the … I don't know.
Jim: 'Cause it doesn't show. You must refrain from that.
Fawn: So, here is the key. (Laughter) I don't bring it in the house. So, when I was 20, I lost a good amount of weight, slowly, systematically doing this Christian book called Weigh Down at the time was very popular. And one of the things was, you eat whatever you want. You stop when you're full, yada, yada, ya. But one of the tenets for me is, I would not bring any sweets in the house, so if I wanted a sweet, I had to out to get it.
Jim: The extra effort.
Fawn: The extra effort to go get it. And this is just something that I had done to keep the weight off for, at that point, I think 10 years.
Jim: Wow, okay.
Fawn: So, it was important to me. And my mom, my mother-in-love, one night she decided that she wanted to bake. So, in the middle of the night, it has to be, I don't know, 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock in the morning, my sweet-loving body keeps wanting to wake up because it's--
Jim: The wafting smell of pie.
Fawn: --it's coming through the air conditioning vent. And so, all night I am sitting, looking at the ceiling. And so now, by the morning, I'm sleep deprived, so that's part of the problem, right?
Fawn: And so, I go wake up, I go into the kitchen. It's pretty early and there's pies everywhere. Now I only have one request for my mom and that's no sweets in the house because it's a huge weakness for me. So, needless to say, that became sort of the, okay, everything that had ever been wrong, right?
Fawn: Anything that she had ever done that I wasn't 100 percent pleased with, all of a sudden, it got compounded into this issue. And I went back into the room and I looked at my husband and I said, "I have done everything that I could possibly do to make them comfortable." And I just started to go and then I stopped myself and I looked at him and Iike, "This could be a huge blowout argument over in-laws. I'm not going to allow it."
So, I as quickly as possible, put on my tennis shoes and bolted out the front door. And I walked and I walked until those voices in my head telling me I was right; she was wrong. I needed to give Keith a piece of my mind. I needed to give her a piece of my mind. Until those voices were covered up by voices of love saying, "This wasn't done intentionally to hurt you. This was not to push your buttons. Let's bring it down a notch and let's have this conversation." It took me, though, hours to get to that place.
Jim: So you stayed out of the house that entire time.
Fawn: I stayed out of the house. And I just kept walking until I could come back and have a conversation with the both of them. And when people look at this, I remember when I first wrote about this and I got all of these responses saying, "How silly are you? And how petty are you that this would be a big deal?" And said … well, here's the thing. Let's start again with the fact that it was my home (Laughter) that I invited them into and I made life as comfortable as I possibly could and I just had this request and I actually expected it to be honored.
But look at the arguments that most people have. It's very rarely about huge things. They're usually about very small things, compounded with other things that become these big blowout arguments and then when you try to figure out where did it all come from, you can't even figure that out.
Jim: Well, and you alluded to that when you said all the voices speaking to you, it was saying, you're not being respected. You're not … it's that compounding factor and then—
Jim: --you cut loose. Now that's what I would suggest is more typical in marriage.
Jim: I mean, that's why husbands and wives go at each other. It's not just that the garbage was not taken out.
Jim: I mean, if you think about it, it's pretty silly.
Fawn: It's absolutely silly.
Jim: So, give us a couple of those points that you direct people, you know, getting out of the situation is one that we've heard clearly.
Jim: Go for a walk—
Jim: --till you cool down. But how do you de-escalate that trigger in you when you know, your spouse is comin' at you again.
Jim: And you've gotta decide as a Christian—
Jim: --going back to your opening words about Paul—
Jim: How do we de-escalate in a healthy way to say, "Whoa, wait a minute."
Fawn: The very first thing that you do is something that Keith wrote. And he wrote one chapter here (Laughter) and I told you it was pullin' teeth to get him to write. But I said, "Honey, people are going to want to know from the male perspective what it feels like on your side of this. They don't want to just hear from me. There's two of us in this. And so, he wrote this chapter and his point and I think it's where you begin, is to presume innocence.
Jim: Of the other person.
Fawn: Of the other person.
Fawn: If you start by thinking this person isn't doing this to hurt me, this person isn't doing this because they think I'm a terrible person and they are the person who I've chosen to be with for the rest of my life because I found them to be better than all the other choices (Laughing) that I had. And when you begin with looking at them and going, "They love me. They want to be with me till the end of time. Let's try to get beneath the surface here."
Fawn: That's the very first thing. The second thing is during that time when you're pausing and you're presuming innocence, take a step back and make sure it's the right timing. It's not that the conversation shouldn't be had. That conversation, you better believe I had it as soon as I got back home. But it's that timing. Making sure that when you're saying what you're saying, the person you're speaking to is at a place of being able to receive it and you're at a place of being able to say it in such a way where they can receive it.
Fawn: And if you do those three things, if that's the only thing that you do, then you're going to be able to sort of ease into a conversation rather than crashing into an argument.
Jim: Right, why do we have that appetite in our heart to go to the argument, especially as Christians? You would think we understand the Scripture. We know those thoughts that the Lord has given us.
Jim: If we look at how we relate to God, God doesn't treat us in an argumentative way. He treats us in an authoritative way.
Jim: Here's My Word. Here's what I've said. But I don't hear in my spirit, in my heart God ever comin' after me. "What have you done, you stupid person."
Fawn: I'll tell you where it starts, where I believe that it starts, is our lack of vulnerability. We aren't comfortable with vulnerable emotions, so when you look at an argument, if you think about the last argument that you all had with your wives, okay, if you …
John: You presume.
Jim: Why do we want—
John: --you presume too much.
Jim: --to do that?
Fawn: Well, we (Laughter) I presume (Laughter) just on the start of this—
Fawn: --'cause I knew you guys were gonna come at me on this one.
Jim: We have discussions.
Fawn: When you have your … my father used to say, "We have intense fellowship." I say, call it what you want. (Laughter) I'm gonna (Laughing) … I am going to do it differently.
But when you look at it, at any intense fellowship that you've recently had with your spouse, if you just kinda go back in your mind, if you look at it, if I said, "What was it that caused you to fly off the handle?" If you say, "She made me angry." No, she didn't. She either hurt you, she exposed a fear; there was something that was an underbelly that she mistakenly maybe went after. And it's not being comfortable with saying, "What you just said hurt me." That's what causes this.
Instead we sort of cover that up with angry. We cover that up with other emotions that are aggressive. Those aren't our initial responses. Our initial emotions are always, always vulnerable ones.
Jim: That is good. What is the end of that pie story? Did you actually come back and you were able—
Jim: --to talk to Keith and …
Fawn: I came back once I was … well, halfway through I called and I said, "I can't talk right now because I still have voices in my head that are escalating this conversation. But I just wanted to let you know where I was and the path I had walked."
And when I got back home, I couldn't really say anything because as soon as he saw me, he just came over to me and wrapped me in his arms because he knew how hard it was for me as a very strong woman, not to speak my mind in that very moment and to take the time to calm down and to come back and to have a conversation. And the end result was, he wanted them to feel very comfortable in their new home, right?
Jim: It's just a pie.
Fawn: It's just a pie, I guess. And so, what we decided was, there is a designated sweets closet that I would just stay out of and—
Fawn: --yeah and it—
Jim: Okay, well, see a—
Fawn: --it was—
Jim: --little give and take.
Fawn: --it was rough, because again, this was a part of how I kept from, you know … anyway.
Jim: Adding weight.
Jim: Fawn, let me ask you this. It sounds like Keith is a very understanding person. I'm sure there's woman [sic] who are hearing this saying, "yeah, you don't know my husband."
Jim: "He wouldn't come and wrap his arms around me."
Jim: "He would be angry at me. I would be angry at him. It would continue into the night. We would sleep on the edges of the bed. We wouldn't look at each other." Speak to her heart about that compatibility issue. It sounds like you two, maybe you're the soul mate for each other.
Jim: But I didn't marry my soul mate. I married somebody else. I must have missed the boat. Talk to her.
Fawn: Well, that's indeed is a challenge, but I think one of the things that we have to consider and it's something my mother used to tell people all the time when they would come to her, because she and my father both did marriage counseling at times. And women would come to her and they would complain and say, "Bunny, you don't know my husband. You don't know this; you don't know this; and you don't know this." And she says, "You know what? I don't. I don't know your husband and he may be all those things that you say that he is. What I do know is you had a choice and you chose him, so let's start there."
Fawn: Why did you choose him? What was so wonderful about him that made you forsake all others and say, "I do" to him? And if you can begin there, then you can kind of work your way backwards, because you didn't marry a bad guy, at least I hope not. And if you did, well, then I would … I would say this book is not for you. It's counseling that's for you—
Jim: (Laughing) That's right.
Fawn: --because I can't help you if you married a bad person. But if the person you chose is a person who is loving at their core, is kind at their core, does want to be with you until the end of time, we can work something out there.
Jim and John: Hm.
John: And if you would like some starting points, if you're struggling in this matter of intense fellowship (Laughter) as you called it, Fawn—
John: --or you're just wondering, how do we even get to a point where we can have discussions and not arguments, then please know that we're a phone call away. We'd love to help out. We have great Christian counselors, caring counselors on the team here and the number is 800-A-FAMILY. When you call, also ask about Fawn's book, The Argument-Free Marriage: 28 Days to Creating the Marriage You've Always Wanted with the Spouse You Already Have. That kinda goes to your point about decide right then and there as the argument starts to spin up perhaps—
John: --I actually chose this person and reflect on some of those better qualities.
Fawn: Yeah and then decelerate from there.
Jim: Yeah, that's good. You know, in your book, Fawn, you mentioned having a Plan A and get rid of any Plan B.
Jim: What does that mean, not to have a Plan B and to concentrate on Plan A?
Fawn: Well, you don't want a Plan B, because it distracts from Plan A. So, when you look at those who are incredibly successful, whether that's in business, if that's in parenting, if that's in life, they set out to reach a specific goal and they were focused on that goal at all costs.
What happens when you begin looking at a Plan B, and I'll kind of explain what I look at as a Plan B, when you began considering Plan B, as whether that's consciously or subconsciously, you're distracted from succeeding on your Plan A.
And so, when I look at a Plan B and I'm sure you have come across a lot of people that you've interviewed where they've said, "I just fell into adultery." And it … you don't fall (Laughing)--
Jim: Right, you choose.
Fawn: --into adultery. But if you look at all of the subconscious Plan B;s that led up to that, so that friend on Facebook who is not a friend of your spouse, as well, and who is not married, now a lot of people don't agree with this and again, I think that I should point out that this book was never written for the public. That's not why it was written. My little sister was getting married and I wanted her to be able to have a marriage like the one I enjoy. And so, Keith and I sat down and we wrote down what are those things that keep our marriage peaceful and happy and loving? What are those things?
And as we began writing our lists, we realized there were all of these boundaries that we had put in place that we hadn't thought much of until we looked at this list. And one of those things were [sic], we committed to each other before we got married we would not have friends of the opposite sex.
Fawn: If you are married, we'll get together as couples. But if you and I were friends before, you and I are not … listen, we'll see each other in passing, but I don't ever want to have any conversation with my husband 20 years down the line, 30 years down the line where I feel like he is not giving me the attention that I want, but oh, there's that other friend that I've kept on Facebook for the last 10 years. No, it doesn't exist.
Jim: So, you're saying take away those temptations really.
Fawn: Take away the temptations--
Jim: Put the barrier up.
Fawn: --before they have a chance to be a temptation.
Fawn: So, none of these men on Facebook that I have said, "No, sorry, I'm not friending you," none of them are a temptation for me—
Fawn: --but that is today.
Fawn: We don't know what's going to happen 10 years from here, right? So, putting those boundaries in place. So I look at that. Those who are squirreling away a little money just in case they ever need to live on their own. Listen, I understand why you do it, but just understand that's a Plan B and it's distracting from your Plan A.
Jim: And you may not even know you're creating a Plan B. And the Plan B, what you're alluding to is the exit strategy--
Jim: --you know, that you're out of this marriage and you've set up all the stepping stones to be able to get there with greater ease.
Fawn: And for a lot of people it's completely subconscious--
Fawn: --completely. It's not something they're intending to do. But when you remove these things and you don't allow them to be a part of your marriage, all of a sudden, there is a level of honesty. There's a level of trust. There's a level of vulnerability that you have with your spouse when you don't have some other person sitting in the wings saying, "Oh, I can't believe he said that." "Oh, I can't believe that she said that." When you don't have that person there and it's just the two of you, you're able to have honest conversations with vulnerability and full of love and grace.
Jim: Hm … it reminds me of the story of burning the bridges so you can't get back. You know, you … you burn those bridges, even though you know, there's probably some healthy aspects to those relationships, but it's wise to not tempt yourself long term.
Fawn: Yeah, well and it—
Jim: And it's good.
Fawn: --there may be healthy aspects to it, but if it's not in a relationship that you and your spouse have together—
Fawn: --you just kinda have to look at it and say, "Is this going to help my Plan A? And if it isn't, then dump it.
Jim and John: Hm.
John: You know, Fawn, as I think through, you've really put some good ideas in the book, and you've expressed them here, about boundaries with sweets, with Plan B's, with words, and there is a matter of timing when it comes to words. I think early on, we wanted to try to resolve every little disagreement that we would have, you know, before the sun went down. You hear that verse, "Don't let the sun go down on your anger"--
John: --and we took that quite literally. But sometimes it seems, I think we've gotten to a point in our relationship where we can say, you know what? We need a time out here.
John: I don't like the feeling of what we have. We're still together. I'm not leaving, but I just need to sleep on it.
Fawn: And you know what? Here's the thing. So, I talk about that because when we were in premarital counseling, that was one of the things that he said. "Never let the sun set on your anger." Keep in mind, it doesn't say, "Never let the sun set on your conversation." It says, "Do not let the sun set on your anger."
And so, the way that I describe it in the book is, when I was a hotel general manager, there was a period of time where I would come in and I've have all these guests that would say, "I asked for this yesterday and I asked for this two days ago." And it really bothered me that I couldn't track which engineer was tasked with this—
Jim: Hadn't fixed—
Fawn: --particular thing.
Jim: --the television channel. (Laughing)
Fawn: I couldn't figure it out, so this is what I did, because I wanted to make sure that if anything was remaining to the next day, I knew exactly who was responsible for it. So, I had work orders written up. One engineer would have it. If they got to the end of the day and that item hadn't been completed, they had to then close it out and then write up a new work order for the next person.
So, the way that I put it in the book is, write up a new work order for the next day. Close it out that day. The conversation, everything else, because keep in mind that there are so many people that go to sleep next to that spouse thinking that they will have the ability to begin that conversation again, that same anger again in the morning and many of them wake up next to a spouse that does not wake up. No one wants to look at that. No one wants to consider it, but understand that you're not guaranteed the morning to finish that argument.
Jim: Walk that through with a practical example.
Fawn: Absolutely, so if you're taking any conversation, for instance, that I have with Keith and keep in mind, we do this all of the time. We're two strong-willed people. Sometimes we can simply agree to disagree, which is completely fine. We agree to disagree. We hug and kiss and we move on and it does not come back up.
Jim: You don't continue to—
Jim: --about it.
Fawn: Either you agree to disagree or if you're going to bed at night, you have to just say, "Listen, I love you. I love you with everything that is in me." And Keith and I have done this many times and when we go to sleep, we'll hug each other. We'll kiss each other. We tell each other, "I love you. See you in the morning." And when we wake up in the morning, after we've had our coffee (Laughter)—
Fawn: Then, and as long as both of us can speak in a loving manner and that we're presuming innocence, that's when we will have the conversation. There have been mornings where we've woken up and we've looked at each other and said, "Let's continue this conversation later, because we want to enjoy this morning together, because when you walk out that door and when I walk out that door, we hope that we will both see each other again, but that's God's plan, not ours."
Fawn: And since we aren't guaranteed to be back at this door and in this home tonight, when we leave out, we're gonna make sure we do so in love. And so, it's just looking at everything and understanding we're not given tomorrow. We're not given the morning. So, how do I make sure that I do not wake up with a regret?
And having done so many interviews, I've talked to so many widows that say, "If I could just take back that last conversation." "If I could just tell him how much I loved him." "If I could tell her what she really meant to me and that all those little things, those pie scenarios really didn't matter, if I could go back and do that."
And so, all this does is say, "How about you have that conversation now? Let this other stuff be the little stuff and let your relationship and your love be the big stuff."
Jim: Hm. That is good. What you and Keith have learned to do is, to de-escalate quickly. So, you just don't get to the argument point. You guys have done a great job of understanding each other and loving each other, presuming the best of each other and then derailing the argument and say, "Okay, let's just come back, talk about this later." It's great advice on how to manage a marriage in a way that honors the Lord—
Fawn: Well, when you—
Jim: --which is what you're saying.
Fawn: --and you want to solve the problem, right?
Jim: Yeah, don't—
Fawn: How many—
Jim: --miss that.
Fawn: --arguments actually solve the problem?
Fawn: When you have a true discussion where people are speaking from a place of vulnerability, then the problem gets solved. When you look at arguments, if you think about them, the majority of whatever you're talking about is going to come up at a later argument. And that's just because it was never resolved the first time. So, Keith and I are in the business of resolving the issue the first time.
Jim: Yeah. Fawn Weaver, author of the book, The Argument-Free Marriage: A 28-Days to Creating the Marriage You've Always Wanted with the Spouse You Already Have and Fawn, this has been such a good conversation. You've made a believer out of me (Laughter), so Jean, it's clear sailin' from here.
John: We'll look forward to the good report (Laughter) that you're gonna bring.
Jim: It will be. But listen, if you're in that spot where you have had an argument-filled, not an argument-free marriage, contact us today because we want to put this resource into your hands and we want to do that today. So, get ahold of us.
We also have caring Christian counselors who can help talk through that difficulty that you've been having. Maybe you've been in this relational desert for a long time and this has been the way you have operated in your marriage and you know it's not biblical and you know it doesn't please Christ. Let's turn it around together. And we are privileged every year to help hundreds of thousands of couples do just that. There's no secret to it and with the help of Fawn Weaver, I think this is a tool that will help you do just that.
John: And certainly I'd add to make sure that you tell a friend about the conversation that we've had with Fawn, and get the CD or the download. Resources are available at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. And when you get in touch, please make a generous financial contribution to Focus on the Family because we rely on your support to reach out and strengthen and save marriages. Today, when you make a generous contribution of any amount we'll send a copy of The Argument Free Marriage as our way of saying "Thank you."
Jim: Fawn, I want to give you the last word. So for that wife who's struggled, um … what would you say to her, that last word of hope for her?
Fawn: It gets better.
Jim: That's good. It gets better. Thanks for bein' with us.
Fawn: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
John: And again, Fawn Weaver has been our guest today and we'll invite you to join us tomorrow as Bo Mitchell shares an incredible story of leaving his family behind to face a sentence of 11 months behind bars.
Mr. Bo Mitchell: But laying in that bunk and lookin' out the window on big, barbed wire, thinkin' I did have ... I was never shaking my fist at God, but I did think, "Are you sure you're in control 'cause it doesn't quite feel like it."
End of Excerpt
John: It's a dramatic look at the many ways that God works, even in prison, as we help you and your family thrive.
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Fawn WeaverView Bio
Fawn Weaver is a New York Times bestselling author. Her blog, happywivesclub.com, has attracted more than 10 million visitors, is followed by more than a million people on social media and has been featured on numerous major media outlets including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, ABC and NBC. Fawn is a managing partner for a strategic investment company specializing in real estate, tech and lifestyle brands. She has also partnered with a celebrity chef to open one of the most successful fine dining restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Fawn is an executive board member for Slavery No More and a supporter – and former board member – of MEND Poverty. She and her husband, Keith, have been married since 2003 and reside in LA.