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March 8, 2021

Holderness Family: Everybody Fights So Why Not Get Better at It?

Holderness Family

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Are you having more marriage fights lately? Kim and Penn Holderness, of Holderness Family Productions, join us to discuss their new book “Everybody Fights: So Why Not Get Better at It?“.

After more than a decade of being married and working together, Kim and Penn share how they embrace the marriage fights and the tactics they use to resolve them. They also share the pros and cons of working together while living together and raising children.

Episode Overview: Meet the Holderness Family

Kim, Penn, Nicole and I review the following:

  • Why marriage fights happen and why it's natural
  • How to deescalate marriage fights and improve communication in your relationship
  • What it's like to work together daily as a couple (both the pros and the cons)

Kim and Penn Holderness are a dynamic, funny, and brilliant duo who are helping couples lead with empathy. Everybody Fights So Why Not Get Better At It, is their new book that serves as a practical and actionable guide for partners who want to communicate better. If you're looking to strengthen your marriage, check out this interview!

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Why Marriage Fights Happen

It’s true that marriage fights happen, and no relationship is ever fully free from conflict. Rather than simply accepting fights, it’s important to examine why marriage fights happen.

By understanding the causes behind your fights, you can communicate more effectively, fight better, and resolve conflict. 

Expecting a Fairytale

One thing Kim and Penn emphasize over and over again is to make sure that the narrative you are imagining for your relationship makes sense. They are quick to call BS on that scene from Jerry Maguire about needing someone else to be complete. 

In fact, Penn cautions against feeling like you need to rescue your partner and do everything for them. Understand that your partner is a whole person on their own. Instead of working to change them–or changing yourself for them–decide how you can best complement each other.

The Holderness family is quick to point out that while they don’t subscribe to all these fairytale portrayals of relationships, they really feel like they’ve found their favorite person in one another. 

Skipping Routine Maintenance

Kim says that she made it a point to be very vocal about the fact that she and Penn decided to go to marriage counseling. Why? Because they both credit counseling with dramatically improving their relationship. 

She likens their marriage to a car. They drove it longer than they should without any routine maintenance, but thankfully, it was fairly straight forward to tune up. 

Both Kim and Penn stress that getting outside support can be a game changer in a relationship.  In fact, the Holderness family compares it to getting a coach or a trainer. There’s no judgement. Instead, counselors simply offer strategies to help you and your partner have a better relationship.

Not Seeing the Value in Fights

Penn says that one of the biggest mistakes couples make is not finding the value in fights. Fights reveal vulnerabilities and priorities. If your partner is willing to fight over something, ask yourself what they are fighting for. There’s a good chance that you can learn something about what they value and who they are as a person. 

While fights will never be enjoyable and you shouldn’t go out of your way to start fights, giving yourself time to reflect on the conflict is something people rarely do. Because of that, those fights tend to bubble up again and again. 

Tactics to Resolve Marriage Fights

No one enjoys fighting. At its simplest, it wastes time and can ruin someone’s day. At its worst, it can really strain a relationship. So what does the Holderness family suggest to resolve these fights?

One thing they point out is the importance of listening. Penn says that no one is listening when both people are shouting or when someone walks away. To truly succeed at communicating in a relationship, it’s important to be the best listener that we can be to our partner. This helps them feel heard and allows us to celebrate their victories.

Using Magic Words to Communicate More Clearly

One tool that the Holderness family took from counseling was to implement magic words when talking to–and even arguing with–one another. Here are some examples of the magic words that can help you resolve communication issues and prevent fights.

Tell Me More

Do you feel like you and your partner are on totally different pages? Maybe you only get short explanations, making it hard to understand their perspective. One of the magic words that the Holderness family uses as a couple and with their kids is “Tell me more”. 

This phrase signals to the other person that you value what they think and that you are ready to receive their ideas. It also doesn’t feel like nagging or prodding. While it might not unlock a full conversation every time you use it, it is an effective way to signal that the lines of communication are open. 

I Feel

If you’ve ever found yourself starting a sentence with “You always…”, it’s time to reframe the way you talk. Kim and Penn stress that no one does anything all the time. Yet, when we approach our partner with this kind of language, it seems objective and unwavering. 

Using phrases like “I feel…” are much more helpful because they invite your partner to consider your perspective. They also show your partner that while they might not see anything wrong with what they did or said, it made you feel bad or sad or frustrated. After all, the point of a partnership is to consider the other person. That means that setting up our conversations in a way that allows us to hear the impact of our words and actions is important. 

Give Each Other Space

Another thing that Kim and Penn invite couples to reconsider is the advice about never going to bed angry. While this adage, like so many others, comes from a well-intentioned place, it may not be supported by science.

Some people need more space and time to process than other people. Kim says that she’s definitely someone who used to cut off fights quickly and go for drives. While she admits that was taking things too far, it is important to understand a bit of biology when it comes to giving each other space.

We normally activate our cortex when we are thinking logically and explaining ourselves. However, flashes of anger and frustration put us back into “fight or flight” mode. That means that we are relying on our limbic system. For many people, that actually renders them speechless. So trying to have a conversation when someone is that upset is absolutely futile. 

That’s why the Holderness family says it is important to give each other space. It allows for processing time and it gives your brain and body the ability to have a rational conversation. 

What It’s Like Working with your Spouse

The Holderness family works together now. Of course, this poses challenges any time. But during a pandemic, it takes on a whole new meaning. 

When you spend so much time together, it’s really important to establish boundaries and allow each other time and space. 

Kim and Penn are on slightly different sleep schedules, so that means making sure that they’re both ready to communicate effectively at the same time. 

Another strategy that they use is to hold a hard line between work and the rest of their lives. This is especially complicated when so much of their work seems like real life. Still, they say that they make it a point to leave work alone at set times. Otherwise, the tendency might be to mix work with the rest of their life all the time.

Kim and Penn have different personalities and strengths. Being a couple allows them to really know each other’s strong suits, so they make sure that the work they do is well suited for each person.  

Closing Thoughts on The Holderness Family and Everybody Fights

There are bumps in every relationship, and there likely always will be. The key is making sure that you take time to understand the source behind the conflict and try to implement different strategies to make the conflict and conversations more productive. As the Holderness family says, everybody fights…so why not get better at it?

Guest Bio – Kim and Penn Holderness

Kim and Penn Holderness have been married for 16 years. For seven of those years, they have chronicled their marriage and their family with funny music videos, vlogs, skits, and a podcast.

Their videos have garnered over a billion views worldwide. Penn and Kim honed their storytelling skills with 25 combined years in the TV news business. When the wonderful worlds of YouTube and Facebook appeared, Kim had the idea to ditch the traditional broadcast world and start making content in the digital space.

When they aren’t dancing around like crazy people on the internet, Penn and Kim help international companies make videos of their own. Penn and Kim live in Raleigh with their two children and dog.

The Holderness Family Resources

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Carpe Diem Quote

“Marriage doesn’t make you happy–you make your marriage happy.”

 Dr. Les & Leslie Parrott

What do you think of the advice from the Holderness Family? How do you handle marriage fights?

Please let us know in the comments below.


Andy Hill

Andy Hill is the award-winning writer, speaker and podcaster behind Marriage, Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping young families build wealth and thrive. Andy's advice and personal finance experience has been featured in major media outlets like Business Insider, MarketWatch, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and NBC News. Trusted as a personal finance influencer and corporate financial wellness speaker by global brands like JLL, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys wrestling with his two kids, singing karaoke with his wife and watching Marvel movies.

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