On the Regular version of today’s show …

A conversation with Dr Claudia Grauf-Grounds about her research and work around the subject of conflict and fighting in married life.

Check out her work here https://drclaudiagg.com/

On the Xtended version …

We continue the conversation with Dr Claudia about her thought about the Marriage and Family field currently as well as Attachment Theory in therapy.

Enjoy the show!


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Or Email Us at feedback@sexymarriageradio.com.


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Transcript of Episode

Corey Allan: I love the fact Pam, that it’s the Sexy Marriage Radio nation occasionally listens to what we’re saying.

Pam Allan: Occasionally.

Corey Allan: And when we…

Pam Allan: Thank you.

Corey Allan: When we talk about this idea of, Hey, if you liked the show, jump on iTunes and rate and review it and leave a comment. And there was a guy that emailed me that said, “You know what? I’ve been listening for three years and I’ve heard you say that every single episode. And I finally figured out on the eighth birthday.” Which was a couple of weeks back.

Pam Allan: Yeah.

Corey Allan: What better time than to finally follow through with what you’ve been asking, but to jump on iTunes and leave you guys to review and how sexy marriage radio has impacted his life and his marriage.

Pam Allan: Love it, love it.

Corey Allan: By just stumbling upon it. And I love the fact that the people, when they do it just helps spread the word. It helps let other people know what’s going on and it helps us be better with what we’re trying to do here at Sexy Marriage Radio. Because what we want to do is to speak into the questions that you may have or the conversations that you want to take place to make your marriage and your sex life better. And the way you can do that as members of the Sexy Marriage Radio nation…

Pam Allan: Easy for you to say.

Corey Allan: Is to call us at 214-702-9565. Or you can jump on into the inbox at feedback at sexymarriageradio.com because those emails really do help shape listener driven radio that we got going on here at Sexy Marriage Radio.

Pam Allan: They do another way for you to get involved. We are coming out and announcing now our 2020 getaway, right?

Corey Allan: Correct.

Pam Allan: So you want to give details about the 2020 getaway?

Corey Allan: The Sexy Marriage Radio getaway in 2020 takes place. We’ve already told you to save the date it’s June 18 through 21. Here in the DFW metroplex area. Again, the Marriott Solana, which is where we’ve been the last three years, but this year we’re no holds barred. A big blowout.

Pam Allan: Have we been holding something back.

Corey Allan: I don’t know. It’s kind of just sounds fun to say that way.

Pam Allan: All right then.

Corey Allan: because it is going to be a big blowout because, in the current format of the way we do the Sexy Marriage Radio getaway. This is the last time we are offering it.

Pam Allan: Last time.

Corey Allan: So sign ups will open up for registering soon. We don’t have that date nailed down yet.

Pam Allan: Okay.

Corey Allan: You will be the first to hear as part of the nation and listeners. But this year we have one already special guest invited. And we’re trying to nail down a couple of other really cool things. But what we have already nailed down is over the history of Sexy Marriage Radio. We’ve talked about Melt, the couple’s massage courses. Led by Dennis Marcus, our Australian mate.

Pam Allan: Yes.

Corey Allan: So he is actually going to join us for part of the getaway and teach a two hour hands, on course.

Pam Allan: It’s going to be such a treat.

Corey Allan: Where you and your spouse get a chance to learn the techniques he talks about in a live format.

Pam Allan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s going to be such a treat. I mean such great skills. You can walk away with right there.

Speaker 1: Absolutely. And he actually came through here just recently took you to some good barbecue. He and I did some videos.

Pam Allan: Yeah you guys had some great conversations. You have a link posted out there for the video, don’t you?

Speaker 1: Yeah, at smrnation.com is the part one of three, of a conversation he wanted to have with me for his audience of just a lot of questions about relationships. And so in our living room and then in our backyard we recorded a lot of conversations for video. And so part one is out of three.

Pam Allan: It’s great. You guys need to check it out.

Speaker 1: So go to smrnation.com and check that out because it’s worth worth listening. It’s great info.

Pam Allan: Yeah.

Speaker 1: So coming up on today’s regular free version of Sexy Marriage Radio is a conversation that I had with Doctor Claudia Grauf-Grounds who has a book out. She’s a PhD level professor and marriage and family therapist has been in the field for a long time, has even helped. Write one of the seminal textbooks the MFT field uses.

Pam Allan: Oh gosh. Okay.

Speaker 1: So she’s very, very knowledgeable in the field. With systems and communication and the dynamics that happen in families and in marriages. And she has a book out called, We’ve Had This Fight Before where her premise is we don’t have 300 fights, we have three.

Pam Allan: They just all come back to the same thing over and over.

Speaker 1: And so it’s a fantastic conversation and the way she frames it. And so the free version of Sex Marriage Radio is our conversation about how we can fight better and how we can recognize that dynamic better. And then coming up on the extended version of Sexy Marriage Radio, which is deeper longer, and there’s no ads, you can subscribe at smrnation.com. Listen to a more in depth conversation that I get to have with Doctor Claudia about what’s the state of the marriage and family field. Plus she’s an attachment theory therapist.

Pam Allan: Okay.

Speaker 1: Which is not me.

Pam Allan: Yeah. Different, different perspective.

Speaker 1: And so I wanted to bring her on for that taste of here’s another lens through which to look at what goes on in our lives and in relationship.

Pam Allan: Okay. So maybe that lens is a more relevant or easier to see than…

Corey Allan: It might fit with the way you see life.

Pam Allan: The way that you describe it.

Corey Allan: And so we wanted, I wanted to have the opportunity for her to unpack that because I would not do it justice. Because it’s not the way I view life and relationships. So all that’s coming up on today’s show, well one of the things that’s very common in marriages then the people that write in or call in for Sexy Marriage Radio Nation is marriages are going to have conflict. And so joining me for this segment of the show today, I have Doctor Claudia Grauf-Grounds is joining me. She’s written a book called, We’ve Had This Fight Before and so I figured you know what, let’s talk about fighting. And so Claudia, I’m bringing you on board cause let’s fight. What do you think? So…

Dr Claudia: Sounds like a good plan.

Corey Allan: Perfect.

Dr Claudia: Let’s talk about fighting.

Corey Allan: Yeah. So thank you so much for joining the show today. And just to start there with the book, I know you’ve got other stuff too that we may talk about as this conversation unfolds, but I really want to land on this work you’ve got, because the way you frame the path we go through is really good. So I’m just curious, how did you start? How did you land on this?

Dr Claudia: So how I landed on the book, the premise of the book is basically couples don’t have 300 fights. They have three fights a hundred times each.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Dr Claudia: And it actually came from, it was kind of a weird traversing to get to the book, but we had a Sunday school class at our church and the Sunday school class was to work on family relationships. And we were every [inaudible 00:07:18] a family series. So every first Sunday of the month we would have a family topic and they said, Hey, we’ve run out of some of our speakers in the community. Why don’t you Claudia come in and talk about couples?

Corey Allan: Okay.

Dr Claudia: So I started kind of synthesizing what I had been doing for a long time. As a clinician. I’m licensed as a marriage and family therapist and I’m also a professor, so I’ve been teaching family therapy. So I kind of pulled that together to make it really accessible to our church group. And had just a really fun ideas and it came out with these ideas of three different fights. So okay. Since then I’ve, fine tuned it and looked at the research a little bit more to tie it all together. But that’s where it started.

Corey Allan: Right. So let’s go there because I think the succinctness of this lens is what’s so good. Is it just helps simplify stuff because I’m a person that I want to just, how do I make it as simple as possible. because that’s how it can be understandable and applicable. So, walk us through the three different aspects of this that you’ve boiled it down to.

Dr Claudia: Okay. So there are three fights instead of 300. And it comes from thinking about people holistically. So people are both, or are not both, but they are biological. They’re physical, they’re psychosocial. They learned about their emotions in their relationships and they’re also spiritual. They make meaning out of life.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Dr Claudia: So the three fights, in a sense, are those three fights. So the first fight is in a couple relationship I know people come in and I try to sort out, hey what do you, what’s going on here? And the first fight is why can’t you be more like me? And that’s actually a biological or a physical fight. Two humans when they partner are bringing in their bodies and their brains. That’s all of their biology. So some people need more sleep, some people need less sleep, some people need to eat a lot. Some people can eat very little and function really well. Some people, a lot of touch and affection with their bodies in some more distance. So that’s the biological fight. Is this kind of what you’re wanting?

Corey Allan: Yes, absolutely. Because I think this is the stuff that as I think about it, because Sexy Marriage Radio, one of the premises we’ve got is how you do sex is how you do life. And so while we go a lot in the sexual arena, it all still applies to life on just, it’s all language in my mind. And what you’re describing here is, it gives me a language to look at the conflict and the fights that we have in my marriage. And the idea of just recognizing, wait, I’m married to someone that’s not the same biology as me. Well that’s good data to know. I know it on some level but maybe not on a deeper level. So absolutely. Let’s keep going.

Dr Claudia: Yeah. And I think also as a therapist, I’m not trained in the biological side. I’ve had the privilege in my career to train physicians, to train therapists and to train clergy. So it kind of fits in the same frame. Because each of these three fights actually fit in those different demands a little bit. Sure. So the first fight is why can’t you be more like me? Which has to do with kind of fighting for doing things in a way that makes me physically more comfortable.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Dr Claudia: And couples can’t really change that. It’s like a hard wiring in a person. And so you have to kind of make room for both people. And that’s a negotiation that you have to do.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Dr Claudia: So the second fight is why can’t you be more like my family? Family in a broad sense. And it has to do with kind of the patterns that we’ve grown up learning. Like how clean is clean in the sink when you’re doing the dishes, you know?

Corey Allan: I got it.

Dr Claudia: So if you grow up in a family where it’s very like precise and every little tidbit is gone, then the fight around how clean is clean is that. If the other person’s much more casual, hey, I rinsed it off, there’s no food on on anymore, we’re good. They’re going to have a fight because of the family upbringing, the differences that they came in to the family. So there’s a lot of fights that happen in couples is you’re bringing in two different family cultures, two different family ways of doing things. And so you have to negotiate that fight in a different way than you do the physical fights.

Corey Allan: Right. I think that’s a good delineation is the fact that since they’re two different realms, the way you approach them is different. Because I can just think of, I think it’s a Rob Bell statement from Sex God, where he talked about that, marriage is thousands of conversations on how you’re going to do life. And a lot of that is the two blendings of the families of origin that we’re trying to create our own family of origin that then our kids get to fight about the way we’ve done it, as compared to whoever it is they marry and the way they did it. And all of the little nuances. Because you just think of how rampant those things get.

Dr Claudia: Huge.

Corey Allan: And, and how we think that that’s the right way when instead, no, that’s just our family’s way.

Dr Claudia: Yeah. And it also actually fits a little bit with the research. Is the, kind of the more different your family cultures have been, the more fights you’re going to have and you have to negotiate more. So for example, if you have similar education or you have, you’ve lived in a certain place all the time you’re, it’s more familiar to you. You don’t have to negotiate that quite as much. Whereas if you grew up in a different country and then you partner with somebody in this country, there’s a lot more cultural negotiations you have to go through. So if your cultures are similar, it’s actually a little easier than if your cultures are different. And that’s what the research would say too about it.

Corey Allan: Okay. And that’s a great point. Thank you.

Dr Claudia: So the third fight is why can’t you understand my pain? And in our culture, I don’t think we do this fight very well.

Corey Allan: How so?

Dr Claudia: Well. I think a lot of times we have a very kind of consumeristic culture and then we bring that even to our relationships. You give me this, I’ll bring this to the marriage, or I’ll bring this to the relationship and you bring that to the relationship. And it kind of, we’re better because we both have more stuff or more skills or more resources. And if you don’t bring as much in, I start wanting to not be around you. You know? So there’s kind of almost a quid pro quo, kind of a financial negotiation that goes on in a relationship. But I think there’s, on a spiritual meaning making level, I think there’s more that goes on, which is why we have so many romantic movies at the… Our culture kind of says then they lived happily ever after kinds of stuff and it comes from being loved fully for who you are.

Dr Claudia: And we’re not perfect. So when you’re being loved in your imperfectness, you’re getting loved in your pain or your trauma. So good coupling negotiates fights around kind of deep wounds or deep issues that each person brings to the relationship. Some people bring a lot of that and some people bring less of that. But everybody bring some pain or trauma. They weren’t parented perfectly. They’ve had past relationships that have been injurious and that gets recycled in your current relationship.

Corey Allan: Right.

Dr Claudia: And it also takes a lot of trust for that to happen. And so it takes a few years for usually for that to bubble up deeply in a relationship.

Corey Allan: Okay. I mean because isn’t there a theory out there that kind of looks at the lens of relationships as we’re trying, we’re repeatedly trying to deal with past baggage?

Dr Claudia: Yes.

Corey Allan: And in the current. And then if that doesn’t do it, then we move to the next one and we move.

Dr Claudia: Yes.

Corey Allan: And that’s where the research would show. Subsequent marriages have a higher rate of divorce.

Dr Claudia: Yes.

Corey Allan: They don’t last as long. There’s different things that can be stacking against you because it’s a pattern that’s going on rather than realizing how are we honoring? And I love the idea of how are we creating the whole element of good coupling.

Dr Claudia: Yeah. So the good coupling comes from being able to hold the pain of your partner, which is really, it’s very difficult to do because sometimes it’s, you’re attacked when it really wasn’t your fault. It really comes from the, your partner’s past history. They’re super reactive to something or they’re assuming you’re going to be a certain way. And or you’ve said a certain things and it means a certain thing. Like, I’m not important to you. The person’s thinking that you’re doing something to say, “I’m not really that important to you.”

Dr Claudia: And I grew up in a family where I wasn’t very significant. And so that’s very painful. I’m going to get reactive, I’m going to get angry, or I’m going to, I’m going to run out the door and leave you. And then it creates a lot of abandonment cycles. So that pain cycle, I call it a attachment injury or a lot of trauma from your history. Everybody brings into some extent in a couple but we don’t talk about that so much in terms of couples. It’s almost like sacrificial love. You have to hang in there with the pain of your partner, not just all their [benny’s 00:16:30] , all their good things that they’re bringing to the relationship.

Corey Allan: Right. So what is it that makes it to where you think we don’t talk about that much? Why is that one of those that’s, it’s not on the lens as much.

Dr Claudia: I don’t think we’ve known how to talk about spirituality and meaning making very well in our culture. We tend to be kind of a modernistic scientific culture. It’s got to have facts and data. And this is more philosophical. It’s more theological, it’s more kind of meaning make, existential and at least mental health doesn’t talk about, hasn’t historically talked about it very much because it’s been seen as kind of not in the medical realm of conversation, although that’s changing definitely in the last 10 or 15 years.

Corey Allan: So when you have the three different things, so you’ve got the biological, the psychosocial, and then the spiritual.

Dr Claudia: Right.

Corey Allan: And as that starts to unfold and play out in a listener’s life, what once you can kind of… Because it. To me, a lot of what we tried to do with the history of Sexy Marriage Radio is we want to frame conversations. We want to give good information to help people look at something a little different, to approach it a little different to, I’m huge in personal responsibility to own my role in this thing that if it’s, I believe in a system, if there’s a problem going on, I’m helping co-create it somehow. So it’s not just, I’m not just married to a terrorist, I am one myself. So if I can look at those things and now I’m framing the different fights we’ve got down into three.

Dr Claudia: Right.

Corey Allan: You then go on further and talk about some of these different skills of here’s what you do. So this lead us through there.

Dr Claudia: So a lot of times, at least as a counselor, as a therapist, when couples come to me, they kind of say, “Hey, let me communicate better. I think I need to figure this out.” Almost like one size fits all. And and from my experience, I think from my wisdom, clinical wisdom a little bit, I realize that you have to do actually different things depending on the fight. They’re not, all sides aren’t the same.

Corey Allan: Right. Because you alluded to that earlier if you’re dealing with a biological issue versus a family of origin issue, those are two different beasts.

Dr Claudia: Right, right. So let me give you an example of, I mean we talk about sex as an example, but let me talk about money. Because sometimes people get that one. And people would say that’s one of those big fights that people have is around money.

Corey Allan: Yep.

Dr Claudia: So say a couple’s coming in with fights around how they’re using their finances, how they’re dealing with their finances and how they’re using their money. So if it was a biological fight, one of the things I’d say, is there a biological fight around money. That sounds so weird. But actually there is, because if you have a personality, your personality is really shaped by your biologies, how your brain works. And how you feel, how you make sense of things, how you make sense of data. In fact, if you put in brain scan pictures, you can actually see different parts of the brain light up depending on the person.

Dr Claudia: So it’s in your biology, it’s in your brain. So if you have a fight, so how are we going to spend this thousand dollars. If one person might want to be super organized, their personality is there more of a judger you’re on the Myers Briggs or they’re having, kind of needing to be much more precise and they need to kind of balance their checkbook and it’s much more precise. Where they might be partnered to somebody who’s a lot more go with the flow. Let’s see what’s going on right now. And that’s actually a personality difference that comes from their biology. Fight one is best done where you can make room for both partners. What most people do is fight about do it like me. Why can’t you be more like me? So the planner and the organizer is harping on the other person to say, “You’re like a child with the money. You keep on spending it like whatever.”

Dr Claudia: And the person with the, that goes more with the flow and sees the context says, “But I spend money on people and their relationships that makes me feel better. And this was the need that I saw this week in my family and therefore I want to spend some of the money for them. Their birthday’s coming up and they really feel down right now.” So they’re much more fluid in the moment.

Dr Claudia: The person’s, no, you’re overspending, this is our budget on the thing. So they’re fighting around money because of their biological differences. So the idea in this fight, what do you do in terms of skill is appreciate that each person, we call them A skills. It’s like when have a biological fight, you get A skills. One of them is appreciation. Can you appreciate that each partner is bringing something really important to the conversation about money?

Corey Allan: Okay.

Dr Claudia: And the answer is yes. Hopefully. That rather than fighting, you want to make room for each person a little bit in the negotiation.

Corey Allan: Okay, that’s good.

Dr Claudia: So let me go to number two. Fight number two has B skills. Hint, fight number three has C skills.

Corey Allan: I see where you’re going.

Dr Claudia: So in the B skills, the fight around money is your family system. Why can’t you be more like my family? So maybe one family grew up in a culture where spending the money on things like going to trips and traveling and being exposed to the world is really, really important to do. That’s like a cultural value that family, one partner brings in from their own family. And say the other family grew up more with, limited income because of the education of their own families. And so they wanted to be very careful about how money was spent. So that first the priority really needs to be on your utilities and not too much housing costs or something like that. Really pragmatic. So the cultural fights is one kind of a pragmatic culture. Let’s be sure we’re keeping within the bounds of safety.

Dr Claudia: And then the other one’s talking about, hey, let’s be an adventurer. Let’s go out there and explore the world. So the B skill, an example of the B skills, there’s other ones, is balance. Is you really want to balance, not make room. The first one was making room for both, but this one is you want to kind of do a give and take. You want to balance and negotiate the values from both of your families. What can we take from family A, what can we take from family one and family two. Merge them together to be a better family than either one had all by themselves. So you’re trying to kind of absorb the best and make your coupling relationship, your marriage, kind of the best of both cultures.

Corey Allan: Right. Bring in the strength of both sides or bring in the nuances of both sides that just enhance the current.

Dr Claudia: Right. And then the third fight is same money. So this has to do with kind of spirituality and money. So say, in this partnership in the marriage you’ve been married before and your previous partner took all the money when they left you. They took most of the resources and really were unfair in the divorce. And they got a really high powered lawyer that just took them to the cleaners. And the other family came from a family where they were immigrants a couple generations ago and really they came from nothing. So both of them have an emotional core level around money, feelings of fear, abandonment, loss.

Dr Claudia: And that comes into financial conversation. So when they’re fighting about money, those emotions are in there. Those deep kind of hurts are in there. So the third fight you do, the first one is you do compassion, compassion is why is it so important to spend money this way or be very, very careful with money this way? I have compassion that I see how you’d be scared that this money is going to lead to abandoning me. I’m not going to have my needs met. I’m going to get left in the cold.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Dr Claudia: So we’re talking about money, but we’re talking about money, that thousand dollars in very different ways.

Corey Allan: That’s where you alluded to. Yeah, that’s where you alluded to one of the components of the spiritual realm, and this is the meanings of things. That, how have I… That’s the, one of the phrases I have is we don’t fight about things. We fight about the meanings of things. In a committed relationships and even in every relationship. But there’s that element of, okay, that’s my pain, that’s my struggle. That’s my, the deeper thing that it’s not just a dollar bill or a thousand of them. It’s what’s attached to, what does that mean? And that’s the bigger deal. So you’re talking about if I can have compassion for the way my spouse sees it and they can have it for my work, we’re creating simultaneous existence a little better.

Dr Claudia: Very much so. And it’s a spiritual practice because you actually have to kind of put your needs on hold a little bit to hear fully. Those are, those deeper meanings, often are very painful.

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Dr Claudia: And so you have to make room for that. It takes some almost like spiritual discipline. It takes some capacity to hold onto your own neediness being listened to and listen to your partner’s kind of emotional reactivity around something. And I can see that as actually kind of a way that you make meaning and a deeper level, which I think is a spiritual practice.

Corey Allan: That’s so true. Because how often do we have times when we start touching upon someone else’s pain or this is the way I see it a lot of times. I share something of my pain and what I’m greeted with is what they would do with their pain in the same situation.

Dr Claudia: Exactly.

Corey Allan: And so it’s like they’re giving me what I should do under, all dressed up as what they would do. And it’s not necessarily creating room for me. It’s projecting onto me them. Or their fear or their whatever. And I can see how man, that’s why we suck so bad at walking along side people that are really struggling as humans.

Dr Claudia: Yeah. And we often, such a good point. And we often label those a negative ways like, oh, this person’s stingy, right, or selfish or it comes out in, because it comes in such strong, powerful ways. A lot of times that pushes us away. Oftentimes those kind of fears come out wonky and harsh, so hard to hold it with compassion and then even if you can, you kind of want to get it solved the way that you want to get it solved, not the way that they need. Like you were saying.

Corey Allan: Right, right. Well Claudia, this is good. I love the framework that you’ve created with this.

Dr Claudia: Thank you.

Corey Allan: And even the way you can kind of capture it as it’s the me and the we and how is there simultaneous, of all of that, if you will. Right?

Dr Claudia: Yes. Yeah. And doing that. And so, I mean we talked about it around money, but you can see in sexuality it would actually, your physical needs and your emotional needs and your intimacy needs are going to play out differently physically from your psychosocial background, from your family background. And also from your pain, if you’ve had any trauma around your physical intimate needs being met, that’s going to play out in your own relationships. So it can, there’s parallel. Lot of times people say, “Oh they, you fight about in-laws and money and sex.” Or something like that. I say, “Yeah, but how you fight about it and what you do with them probably needs to be a little more nuanced, a little bit more broken into pieces that are a little bit different than what we usually think.”

Corey Allan: Oh that’s great. So Claudia, tell people in the Sexy Marriage Radio Nation how they can find more of you. And I’ll put all this in the show notes as well.

Dr Claudia: So you can look on Amazon, because the book, We’ve Had This Fight Before is a ebook and a regular hardcover book. So you can, or soft cover books so you can purchase it through Amazon. I also have a webpage. So it’s Doctor Claudia GG is out there so you can find me that way.

Corey Allan: Perfect.

Dr Claudia: Because I do some, I’m not doing clinical work quite so much, but I do talks and retreats and you the book. So.

Corey Allan: Perfect. Well Claudia, thank you so much for the work and the contribution towards marriages. It’s a great…

Dr Claudia: And you too.

Corey Allan: It’s a great thing.

Dr Claudia: You’re doing a lot of wonderful advocacy for having good relationships out there. So I appreciate that.

Corey Allan: Thank you. So after listening to Doctor Claudia, Pam, I’m kind of thinking we might need to fight some.

Pam Allan: Bring it on. Bring it on. I’ll fight you.

Corey Allan: We’ve got lots of experience. Yeah, she brings a great view of how to look at, boil it all down to realize there’s some other things that are going on underneath it. It’s a similar slant that I believe in that we don’t fight about things. We fight about the meanings of things. And she has a great way to capture it and then the skills. So I’m hoping that as the members of Sexy Marriage Radio Nation listen to this, it really does make a difference for them. Well this has been Sexy Marriage Radio. Thanks for taking some time out of your day to spend it with us. So wherever you are, whatever you’ve been doing, hope you have a good rest of your day. See you next time.