Category Archives: Couples

Submission in Marriage

This word usually gets folks attention. It gets my attention. Submission is something that I was both taught to do and not to do all of my life. All during the life cycle, we are expected to be able to submit in some situations and praised for those times in our lives when we courageously step out of line to bring about some positive change. So, how do we know when submission is appropriate and when it is not?

First, I guess it is fair to state that submission means many different things to people. What I am referring to here in this context is the mutual submission that is needed for a relationship to thrive. If this is to be possible, both safety and trust have to be present in the marriage. Submission must be the choice of the one who is submitting, rather than a demand from the one who is asking for it. Therefore, in my opinion, the request for one spouse to submit to another is a card to be played carefully and sparingly.

Examples of requests:

  • Please don’t take that job
  • Don’t go for a drive now when you are so angry
  • Don’t go out to lunch alone with that person who makes me uncomfortable for you to be around even though I can’t explain exactly why

If you find yourself reading this post now for the purpose of justifying making a demand for compliance from your spouse, it is a good time for you both to seek the help of a professional to make sense of how power is being used in the marriage.

A request for submission should most often come with the aim of the request being for the good of the individual for whom the request is being made and for the marriage. All too often in our work as counselors we have seen the concept of submission having been used as the tool for one partner to gain control of the relationship, to control the other partner.

And lets be honest here men, we have likely been the worst offenders in this scenario. We have used religion, cultural norms, and career achievements to justify our demands on our spouses to do what we would like them to do.

Yet, a thriving marriage requires both to be willing and able to submit to one another. Mutual submission is a process by which members of a team, both individually and corporately, make choices to advance the goals of the team above the immediate wants of the individual.

Matt Fortner has been a licensed professional counselor for over 15 years.

He specializes in couples and adults.

He joined Hurley Counseling in the fall of 2018. He previously practiced in Oxford, Mississippi.

To make an appointment with Matt Fortner, call 251-222-8880.

Tips to make arguments productive

  1. When your partner talks, LISTEN as though you are expecting to learn something new.
  2. Remember that hearing the other’s point of view or complaint does NOT mean agreeing with them. 
  3. If one person wins the argument, the relationship loses.
  4. If you find yourself coming up with rebuttals while the other is talking, you are being reactive, hostile, or defensive.  Stop!
  5. Ask for a time out (at least 45 min for men) if your pulse goes over 98-100 beats per minute.  When physiology spikes, your brain shifts the majority of it’s functioning to fight or flight.  Use app on smart watch or buy an oximeter ($30) at any drugstore, and set alarm to tell you when pulse goes over threshold. 
  6. You cannot will yourself out of a fight or flight state, but slow breathing can drop arousal.
  7. Do not attack other person’s character (‘you’re lazy”), or name call (“you’re a bitch”), or generalize (“you NEVER do x”).
  8. If one person gets defensive/hostile, try to shift discussion to what happened that set it off.  Very tough to do in real time, but possible.  The ability to communicate without those reactions is more important than the subject at hand. 
  9. Try to respond with calm, (ideally compassionate) voice/tone. 
  10. Avoid hostile/defensive body language. 
  11. Do not move tangentially into proving the other wrong by dredging up historical hurts.  Our mind stores information like a file cabinet with each drawer holding information organized by emotion.  (Ever notice that when laughing about good times with friends, more memories surface, or when feeling hurt by spouse, many, many examples of historical hurt come to mind).
  12. Try to maintain a compassionate internal state toward your partner. 
  13. Listen to learn why the other would take the action they did, nonjudgmentally.  Most of the time people make decisions, not out of malice, but out of fear/misunderstanding. 
  14. Give the benefit of the doubt, and verify assumptions (no mind-reading).
  15. Most importantly , when responding to partner, first find an understandable part of their view and acknowledge it verbally before offering your differing stance. 
Andrew Hurley

Andrew Hurley, MA, LPC has been a couples therapist for over 15 years, but more importantly, he has been happily married for over 15 years. So he knows a thing or two about productive arguing.

10 Easy ways to destroy your marriage

If you are tired of your marriage and want it to become distant and hostile so you can spend your savings or kids’ college funds on a divorce court battle, do the following:

1.  Begin every argument by yelling and accusing your spouse of being a bad person.  It’s important to  do this randomly without warning. Be sure to make your complaint as unclear as possible so they don’t know what to do.   For example:  Walk in the door and yell, “what inconsiderate, entitled person parks a car like that?”

2.  Randomly give your spouse the cold shoulder and if they ask what’s wrong, refuse to answer and tell them they should know.  Confuse them further by saying, “You do this every time and pretend you ‘didn’t mean to’.  Do I look like an idiot?”

3.  If your spouse complains about something, deny it and counter accuse them.  For example: “I’d really like it if you turned off the TV when we talk.”  Reply “I’d wouldn’t be interested in TV if you didn’t have to tell me about the daily soap opera that is your life.   And since we are talking about it,  I’d like it if you didn’t have to take 10 minutes of talking to realize that you have no point”‘

4.  Stop showing all affection.  For example:  If you pass your spouse in the hallway, be sure to exaggerate the effort it takes to avoid even brushing each other in passing, avoid eye contact by staring at the wall. 

5.  If you get sucked into an argument, only respond with “you are crazy” paired with a look of disgust.  After 5 rounds of that, begin interrupting them by saying, “I’d probably think that too, if I were insane”.

6.  If none of the above work, shut down entirely and do not speak or respond, while looking at your watch repeatedly.  It’s important to also stare about 4 feet away from your spouse while doing so.

7.  If your spouse begins speaking to you, immediately pull out your phone and pretend to start texting someone, or play a game on it.  If they tell you to stop, say “I am, hold on,” then continue until they complain, then repeat. 

8.  If your spouse is upset and wants to speak to you, mumble “whatever”, tell them you’ll be right back, and go to a bar until you know they’ll be asleep before returning.  Or just don’t come home at all.  The next morning, tell them you would love to hear them talk If it wasn’t always telling them whining about stupid things. 

9.  If your spouse is interested in sex, make a disgusted face, sigh, and walk away.  If you do find yourself having to have sex, say, “Hold for me to get my kindle, I need something to do too.”  Or begin to explain what happened the last time you went out with your friends and how hilarious it was. 

10.  If you have children, look for moments that your spouse is completely overwhelmed with them, then when they ask for help, abruptly turn and walk away after saying, “I’m the babysitter.” 

Obviously, I am making a point. You should not be doing any of these if you want a healthy, happy marriage. So, if any of these seem familiar, stop and think about your actions. Couples counseling can offer skills training to relearn behaviors and improve the relationship.

Andrew Hurley
Andrew Hurley, LPC

Andrew Hurley specializes in couples counseling. He has additional training using the John Gottman method. Andrew has been a licensed professional counselor for over 15 years.