Courtney’s Blog

How to Fight With Your Spouse Without Dropping the “D-Word”

This marriage can’t be saved. It’s over.


If you’ve ever found yourself thinking that in the middle of a fight, you’re not alone. Marital arguments are frustrating and uncomfortable, because the person we expect to be our biggest ally in the world, suddenly becomes our adversary.


And that’s the problem. When you start seeing your partner as your enemy, you’ve entered a dangerous element of conflict known as detachment. When we detach from someone else in the middle of a conflict, we see the two sides are “my side” and “their side.” We have a hard time acknowledging any common ground or common desires.


As you start to detach, you find yourself getting your emotional needs fulfilled everywhere but your marriage. Or you may find yourself “stonewalling,” where you freeze the other person out. John Gottman, Ph.D, who coined the phrase, says that stonewalling breeds resentment in both members of the couple.


Once you’ve detached from your partner, it’s easier to fight dirty. They’re not a real person to you anymore, in a sense, because your anger makes you blind to the human being (whom you hopefully love!) standing in front of you. They’re just the enemy. And the enemy must give in or be destroyed.  And once you’ve detached from your marriage, it’s MUCH easier to throw out phrases designed to kill. Phrases like “I want a divorce.”


Dropping the d-word is so much more than just a dirty fighting tactic. Threatening divorce is a signal to your partner – and to yourself – that you don’t’ trust the relationship enough to assume that it can weather the storm. You’re indicating that you’d rather just save yourself the fight because there’s nothing worth salvaging.


Now, don’t think I’m advocating that you can never bring up divorce in a marriage. Sometimes – and I’ve been there – two incompatible people have to start the process of considering divorce. But that needs to be a very well-though out, well-prepared conversation. Not a bomb dropped in the middle of a fight for shock value or to hurt your partner.


Threatening divorce is a signal to your partner – and to yourself – that you don’t’ trust the relationship enough to assume that it can weather the storm.


Using “I want a divorce” in a typical marital argument is the ultimate sign that you’ve allowed yourself to breed an unhealthy detachment from your spouse. If you realize you’ve detached, you can fix it.


For starters, find common ground in your argument. Try to go back to the root of the issue and find some kind of common ground. Common ground has been proven by scientists to help people in conflict avoid detachment and depersonalization.


There is almost always something you both want in common, even if that thing is “to stop fighting.” Maybe you both want financial security, but you disagree on the details. Or you both want a relaxing vacation, you just disagree about whether his mother should be there. Many arguments start as task-related arguments – a disagreement about how something should be accomplished. But when the disagreement goes unsolved for too long, it turns personal, and that’s when detachment happens.


“Divorce” is a dirty word in a marriage. There are far more productive ways to fight besides dropping the d-word bomb, so don’t say it if you don’t mean it. Instead, stay attached to your partner, find common ground, and fight healthy. It’s worth it!









Do This FIRST If You Get Fired

Losing your job is a punch in the gut. If you get fired, here’s the first thing you can do to keep a positive outlook and increase your chances of getting back out there and acing the interview process.

THIS is What Mom REALLY Wants For Mother’s Day

Ask a mom what she wants for Mother’s Day, and you’re likely to get one of two answers: either she wants a fun family experience, or she wants some relaxing time by herself. Either a family fun day, or a spa day.


Those two answers seem opposite of one another: one mom wants quiet time, and the other wants quality time. One wants to be alone, the other wants to be with her spouse and kids. But the two answers aren’t really that different, if you look deeper. Both types of moms are asking for one thing: more meaning out of life.


When we all run around with the stressors of modern life hanging over our heads, we leave very little time to add meaning. Sure, we can find it in small moments, like reading bedtime stories, or once-a-month volunteer time. But in the rush of day-to-day living, stress often wins out over meaning in the battle of where we put our focus, time and attention.


The two polar opposite responses – one wanting more family time, one wanting more alone time – are in fact solutions to the same problem of not having enough meaningful moments in life.


I recently surveyed my readers, and I asked them the fill-in-the-blanks question “what would make your life easier or more enjoyable?” The top two answers were “relaxation/down time” and “time with friends and family.” (The #3 answer was along the lines of “fewer details/simplification”, just showing how much stress interferes with our life enjoyment.)


A Mom who wants quality family time doesn’t want just more hours with her family. She likely spends 18+ hours a day thinking about her spouse and kids! (even more during Science Fair season, right?) It’s not about more time, it’s about doing enjoyable things with that time. It’s about non-stressful time, where she doesn’t have to make anyone’s lunch or mediate a fight or use a plastic spoon to dig the last little chunk of stain stick out of the tube. It’s about building a meaningful memory, without stress getting in the way.


And a mom who wants quiet alone time doesn’t just want to be solitary. She is looking for space to hear herself think. She wants to hear the little voice in her head that reminds her of who she is outside of being a wife, mom, employee, daughter, sister, volunteer, boss, whatever. It’s about slowing down and remembering what’s really important to her.


When we let the stress and busy-ness of everyday life become our standard operating procedure, we don’t have a life with very much meaning. When life is one endless responsibility after the other, we don’t have a life with very much meaning. When peaceful, unstructured time (either by ourselves or with loved ones) is the best gift we can think of, we don’t have a life with very much meaning. What mom really wants for Mother’s Day this year is a little more meaning in her life. Can you find a bow big enough for that?


Is Your Kid Strong Enough to Handle Being Unpopular?

Friendships and popularity are of critical important for kids, but its equally important to be able to stand up for what’s right. Here’s the ONE key thing you can say to raise a child with strong enough self-esteem to be unpopular.

How To Build Mental Resilience in 5 Minutes With a Brain Game

Creating a strong, resilient personality seems like something you might either be born with, or else you could take a lifetime trying to build it. But it’s not true:  the strategies you can use to increase your resilience don’t have to be tedious or difficult.


Want proof? Check out this article in the Harvard Business Review by Jane McGonigal, a game designer who used gaming theories to bounce back after her traumatic brain injury. McGonigal noticed that it didn’t take much time or effort at all to take baby steps toward recovering her resilience. In fact, some of the smallest things she did had the biggest impact, like little mental counting games and other things that would usually be considered “time wasters.” Her findings back up what I experienced when I was recovering from my brain surgery: when I was laid up in bed for several weeks, I didn’t have the stamina to read (my favorite restful activity!) and my eyes weren’t even up to watching television. But I played round after round of solitaire, even when my neurons seemed to take five times as long as usual to notice the next move.


Jane and her twin sister went on to create the gaming app SuperBetter, specifically designed to help you build up your resilience and notice your already-resilient responses in everyday life. The most important payoff of these gaming activities? The McGonigal sisters say it’s a 3-to-1 positive-to-negative emotion ratio. For every negative emotion you experience in your everyday life, having three positive emotions helps your brain stay capable and your spirit stay resilient.


So what can you do in your life to keep a healthy 3-to-1 ratio? Will it be checking out fluffy animals on YouTube like the McGonigals? (if so, my personal favorite is The Dodo. You MUST check out the rescued baby goat who is only happy when she’s wearing costumes). Will it be solitaire, like me? I’m also a huge proponent of volunteering as a way of keeping a positive perspective. Research for my first book, The Giving Prescription, showed that helping someone else pays you back 5 huge benefits:

  • An increased sense of purpose
  • Deeper personal connections
  • Greater sense of personal power or ability
  • A measurable increase in endorphins dubbed “The Helper’s High”
  • Tangible payoffs like networking


Playing games may be great for your health after all. If you find yourself struggling to stay afloat, set aside 5 minutes to do something enjoyable, whatever that means to you. Try to focus on keeping a 3-to-1 positive ratio, and insert a little play in your life, and you may just find yourself better able to bounce back from life’s challenges faster.


Now that’s better than just winning a game!

How Men’s Brains Experience Stress (and Why the Difference Matters)

Everyone gets stressed out, but it turns out that when men get stressed, their brains make less of a particular hormone that helps keep us calm. Learn why men and women experience stress differently, and what men can do to beat their particular brand of stress.

5 Warning Signs of Burnout Syndrome

If the alarm goes off and you just can’t face another day, you might be a victim of burnout syndrome. While burnout is not an official medical diagnosis and has no scientifically agreed-upon definition, burnout is understood as a feeling of exhaustion and dissatisfaction with life circumstances, whether at work or at home.


Most of us know what it feels like to have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. When we’re at our best, we can handle juggling everyday life stressors. (Need a little help? My free To-Do List Makeover will help you feel less frazzled!) But if you’re suffering from burnout syndrome, it’s more than just regular stress. You’ll likely feel several of these symptoms:



Feeling exhausted even if you’ve gotten plenty of sleep is a common sign of burnout. When you are burned out, you often feel a significant decrease in your energy level, which can lead to feeling much more tired than normal.



The stress that leads to burnout syndrome can take a toll on your immune system and cause you to be prone to headaches and upset stomach. An ER doctor once told me Sunday evenings were the busiest ER times because people under severe work stress are prone to chest pains, heartburn, or gastric conditions thinking about the work week ahead.



If you are normally highly engaged at work, but find yourself unwilling to get deeply involved in conversations and problem-solving, that’s a sign of burnout. Burned-out people pull away from their family and colleagues and they also use a technique called “depersonalization” to pull away when they’re in conflict with others. (Check out this article if you want a scientific take on burnout).



Not feeling your usual levels of happiness? Or even your usual levels of sadness? By the time you reach burnout, your emotions have likely been in such overdrive that it’s common to feel numb. You may think it’s great you don’t get angry so easily, but you also won’t feel joy or peace as easily, either.


Poor Performance

Burned-out people aren’t great employees, partners, parents, or friends. Because of the other 4 factors above, you’ve lost your motivation to participate and achieve. You might be forced to admit to your burnout after a surprising performance review, or a counseling request from your spouse.



There is no single agreed-upon method for treating burnout. One of the first things you can do is manage stress levels. To get less stressed, ask yourself:


  • Am I paying attention to the difference between important and urgent?

If you don’t already know about the Eisenhower Matrix, check it out!

  • Am I doing the activities that are most important to reach my personal goals?

Download my free To-Do List Makeover to fit more into your life without being more stressed

  • Am I burned out for a reason, and can I change my circumstance?

Many of the above signs can also be symptoms of depression, so if you implement new coping strategies or               change your circumstances and STILL notice these signs, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with a health care provider in order to get to the bottom of it.

You can come back from burnout, so don’t let it ruin your career or your life. If you catch these 5 signs of burnout, you can manage your stress, change your circumstances, and get back on track.

How To Beat Stress Without Leaving Your Desk

Work stress can leave you feeling powerless, so here are two easy techniques you can use to refocus your energy and perspective if you’re feeling stressed out at work. And you can do it without ever leaving your desk! (Because I know you can’t always go for a walk or cuddle puppies in the middle of a busy work day).

3 Signs You’re In Desperate Need of A Change

How do you know if you need a change? Despite the fact that transition can be uncomfortable and uncertain, many of us know what it feels like to crave something new, or feel a push toward a different path.


While all of us can benefit from breaking our of our rut every now and then, there are three clear signs that you absolutely NEED a change, stat.


I Just Can’t Take It Anymore!


It won’t surprise you to know that a major freak-out episode is usually a good sign that something’s gotta give. If you’re feeling like life stinks and everyone around you is conspiring to behave poorly, that’s a strong indicator that you need to change your circumstances.


When you find yourself lashing out in anger, ask yourself if your response is proportional to the immediate issue at hand. If it isn’t, you may have stayed too long in a situation that needs to be addressed, and your buried frustration is bubbling up. If your anger IS justified given the situation, then that can still a good cue to make a change, because there’s no use staying in a situation that makes you angry. Long-term anger doesn’t get better with time, it just turns into resentment.


I Could Really Go For a Nap Right Now


The flipside of the freak-out is feeling UNemotional. If you feel like you’re going through life feeling numb and hazy, you’ve completely checked out. The absence of strong feelings is a lesser-known – but still important – sign that you need to make a change.


Because there’s not a lot of drama associated with this feeling, you may not even realize you’ve fallen into this trap, at first. But if you’re always tired, detached, and you just don’t care about things as much as you used to, think back to the last time you were passionate about an issue. What was it? How can you recapture that excitement and engagement? If you find yourself just wanting to check out and take a nap instead of engaging in life, it’s time for an overhaul.


No Thank You, I Don’t Feel Like a Change


This may seem counterintuitive, but one of the main signs you need a change is that you don’t want change! If you’ve gotten so comfortable that the thought of transition makes you want to cringe, then you better sign yourself up for some, stat!


Why? Why would you willingly go through change if things are just fine? Because “just fine” doesn’t stay just fine for very long. Nothing in life stays the same, just because you’re enjoying it.


In fact, being too passive about your life isn’t the same as being low-key. “Just fine” probably isn’t good enough for you, anyway. All the best success are made by going outside of your comfort zone. So maybe things are smooth sailing now, but change is likely coming. So its best if you get used to it and prepare yourself by regularly engaging in small, transformational behaviors. Reading, learning, new hobbies… all of those things are little changes that take your life from fine to excellent.


How do I know if I need a change?


We all get handed change whether we need it or not. But if you find yourself in one of these three situations, it’s a red flag that change would be good for you. So jump on board and go along for the ride.




The Shocking Reason Women Feel More Stress at Work (And It’s Not What You Think!)

According to the Harvard Business Review, there’s a surprising reason women feel more stress in the workplace than men do, and it has nothing to do with childcare, emotions, or any of the things we usually suspect. Find out what trick your mind could be playing on you that’s causing stress and getting in the way of your success.