Good Communication in Marriage

I had two very different experiences last weekend that gave me a very valuable reminder of the importance of good communication.  As you will see, neither unfortunate event had anything to do with marriage, but I think they both hold lessons that we should keep in mind in our married lives.

Swan Attack!

After enjoying a wonderful day of free family activities, we decided to close things out by stopping at a local park to feed the ducks.  We had some old bread and two eager little kids.

Things started off well enough.  As we approached the pond, we had a couple of geese, some white ducks and some gorgeous mallard ducks swimming eagerly in our direction.  And then there was the big swan.

In hindsight, I should have been a bit more cautious about that damn swan.  This thing was big, and it quickly made its way to the front of the breadline, hanging out just on the edge of the water.  We made sure the big bird was well-fed, not that we had much choice as he was aggressively snatching every piece of bread that he could gobble up.

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In the blink of an eye (and seemingly in slow motion), the swan was charging out the water and ran into my 3-year-old daughter.  It knocked her to the ground and hissed in her face like she had just talked bad about its swan-mother.  She was terrified, my wife was freaking out a bit, my 5-year-old son was already running back toward the car, and I was instantly caught up in a primal flight-or-fight response.

I started beating this swan in the head with my bread bag while my pregnant wife was carrying my screaming daughter back up the hill.  It was not amused or intimidated by my actions.  I eventually threw the bag at its big, ugly face and joined my family back at the minivan.

Fortunately, my daughter was fine, although “big ducks” are not on her favorites list at the moment.  And everyone had a great laugh at my expense when I went back to the pond to get the plastic bread bag that I had left behind (I didn’t want the non-evil birds to choke on it).  After a long stare-down and some aggressive posturing by both of us, I eventually emerged (running) with the plastic bag in hand.

Lesson Learned: Always carry a video camera.  I have no doubt that my retrieval would have made me a star on YouTube even without the footage of the initial swan attack/defense.

Marriage Lesson Learned: Pay attention to non-verbal communication.  In hindsight, I should have picked up on the devil-swan’s bad attitude and kept my family away.  Tune in to your spouse’s non-spoken cues and you’ll greatly improve your interactions.  But don’t hit them with bread bags.

If You Support Organized Religion, You Are Ignorant (Apparently)

I usually have nothing but awesome conversations on Twitter, and people are generally very helpful and supportive of each other there.  Well, over the weekend, I had my first really negative experience.

An “A-list” blogger and respected internet business person decided to use his platform of 40,000+ Twitter followers to attack first the Catholic Church and then organized religion in general.  I let his first tweet go by and just gritted my teeth a bit.  But after his second asinine statement, I just had to reply to express my disgust.

He responded to me with more barbs and a heated discussion followed.  I let my temper flare a bit and used some choice words that I now regret (a little).  The end result was that this self-professed social media maven blocked me from his account and deleted all of the tweets from our little discussion.  Apparently, he didn’t want his vitriol thoughts to be seen by the world…

I hope you can tell from this blog, my comment responses and my usual interactions in social media that I usually take the high road.  This guy really got me riled, and I lost my head a bit in the process.  I also doubt I’ll be allowed to guest post on his big blog anytime soon. 🙂

Lesson Learned:  When you peer into a crack on the surface, you may just find that those you respect are not who you thought they were.  Religious beliefs aside, this guy obviously has a massive ego to feel like he has a right and a platform to talk down to his “followers” and blast their beliefs with the idea that he is going to change their religious convictions.  And it seems to me that a true social media mogul wouldn’t need to hide from his statements by blocking users and deleting his messages.

Marriage Lesson Learned:  Don’t get dragged into the mud when a pig wants to wrestle.  I let this guy push my buttons, and I ended up losing my cool and behaving poorly.  As much as he wasn’t going to change my mind, I wasn’t going to change his either so our entire exchange was futile.  In your marriage, remember that the point of conflict resolution (fighting) isn’t to hurt each other or to “win” but to resolve the issue at hand.

A Final Thought on Sadistic Swans and Blogger Bullies

When you pay attention to the interactions you have each day, I’d bet that you can find all kinds of valuable lessons that you can apply to your marriage .  I am a firm believer that we can take what we learn from a bad situation and use it to improve our lives.

Please remember not to get too close to hateful, mean-spirited animals that think they own the place in which they stand.  And watch out for those swans, too.

Photo by by aussiegall


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. One thing about the Internet…the pseudo-anonymity can bring out the worst in people. It seems that you learned a few life lessons here. Keep your head up, we all make some decisions we regret later. All you can do when it is over is learn from the past and move on.
    .-= Tim´s last blog ..Would You Let Your Child Play Football? =-.

    1. Thanks, Tim. I really don’t regret standing up for my beliefs, but I did lose my cool in the process. I’ll be much more cognizant of that slippery slope in the future.

  2. Dustin, this is probably one of my favorite posts of yours in recent memory….except the one about how you wiped out your debt. It’s honest, hilarious, and I love how you were able to turn these events into lessons on how we can related to one another and to our spouses. Bravo, sir.

    P.S. I left another shout out to you on my blog…officially starting the Ramsey Baby Steps!
    .-= Sarah K´s last blog ..A Big Decision =-.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I really enjoy writing these kind of posts where I can let my personality come through a bit more, and readers generally seem to like reading stories.

      And congrats on starting your journey to Debt Freedom! I’m really excited for you and left you a comment on your blog.

  3. Excellent post Dustin. I love how you take your daily life experiences and apply that to how it can relate to marriage. This is a lesson learned for me. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I appreciate your kind words, Angie! I love sharing experiences like this with you all, and it’s cool that we can all learn a bit from them.

  4. Great post Dustin – hilarious and insightful. Yes, I’d have loved to see the video!

    Sometimes I wish tweets and blog posts and email all worked on a ten minute delay, during which you could recall the thing without anyone seeing what you wrote.
    .-= Scott´s last blog ..Naked Without Shame – A Last Look =-.

    1. Thanks, Scott. This was definitely one of those times where my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Did that really just happen?”

      In the understatement of the year, my son said on the way home from the pond, “That was not a good idea.” 🙂

  5. Hi Dustin,
    Great post! Glad you guys escaped the swans and that would have been some good video.

    I witnessed your twitter exchange with the A-lister and I must say, I was very disappointed with that person. Well, there is a saying that if you give people enough time, their true colors will come out and sometimes it can be quite ugly.

    Thanks for sharing this post. You also have great marriage tips/advice weaved throughout this post. Very clever! 🙂

    Take care!

    .-= Evelyn´s last blog ..Does Divine Healing Exist? =-.

  6. Hi Dustin,

    Ugh – swans are notorious for being surly. I am so glad your little one is ok. As for the rest, well I’m sorry that you got so upset.

    Best, Wendy
    .-= Wendy Maynard´s last blog ..How to Effectively Market Your Business Online =-.

    1. Thanks, Wendy. It’s easy to look back now and laugh at the swan incident, but if my little girl had been hurt it would be a much different story. All’s well that end well, I suppose. 😉

  7. Great anecdotes for illustrating how useful lessons can turn up in all sorts of day to day encounters, especially regarding the Ill-Fated Twitter Discussion. Having watched that from a distance, said A-list blogger’s behavior was certainly a lesson on how NOT to interact and share lessons/info in social media spaces.

    Swans are surprisingly scary birds. Graceful and beautiful when viewed on the water from afar; huge and aggressive when they turn up next to you on shore. When I was younger, I thought they were kind of fun to chase (waddling waterfowl, inherently funny), but you tend to change your mind when the swan starts chasing you.

    1. Thanks for your insights, Teri. I appreciate your support, and I wish I had possessed your knowledge of swans a few days ago. 🙂 I have (obviously) not interacted much with swans, but I can definitely see how a chase would seem fun at first, until…

  8. Pingback: Fight Fair! 6 Simple Conflict Resolution Skills for Your Marriage
  9. I will admit I kinda want to know who the A lister was – just so I can make sure I don’t support his blog.

    Unfortunately people seem to lose their manners online. As a fellow Catholic, I can understand your anger at the twitter comments. It is hard to keep your cool when something so personal and important to you is being attacked. Don’t beat yourself up too much. Good for you for speaking up. More of us should in those situations.

    By the way, I live near a park with peacocks. They also should be avoided. Pretty but not nice!

    1. I figured that may be the case with some folks, Elizabeth. I suppose there’s really no harm in sharing his name, but I’m really trying to take the high road not be petty by making a public statement.

      I have heard peacocks and their shrill calls from a distance, and it just made me think that they’re probably not too friendly up-close….thanks for confirming that so we don’t have another nasty run-in! 🙂

  10. I say, whoever blocks the other person, blinked first. You win. 🙂

    Okay, I know that’s not how you want to come across. People who don’t buy into religion are not ready for religion and shouldn’t be forced to accept it, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and let them speak untruths about yours. *sigh* How intolerant. 🙂

    I like the swan story recap. Reading people and knowing when to back down is definitely important. Some of us walk away from a needless confrontation more easily than others, and some of us like to stick around until we feel like we’ve won no matter the cost. I feel like I’m in the latter category more often than I should be. Love is important across all kinds of relationships, not just marriage.

    1. Dang, you are always so good with your comments, Wendy. I’ll go ahead and agree with you that I won. 🙂

      And I totally agree that we need to exhibit love in many situations, and not just in our marriages.

  11. I’m glad no one was hurt with the swan incident. I grew up on a farm, and that could have turned nasty. I was concerned when I started to read that! Whew!

    I witnessed that exchange as well, and was EXTREMELY surprised and disappointed in the A list blogger. I am even more shocked at his follow-up reaction you describe. Sad.

    Thanks for sharing with us what you learned from those situations! That’s the most important thing! Learn from experience!

    1. Thanks so much, Shawna! I am surprised by how many people said they witnessed our little spat. I hope others have told him to chill out on the vulgar insults…since I can’t now. 🙂

      I do try to learn from every experience, and I certainly won’t be approaching any swans without my boxing gloves on. 😉

  12. All I can say is that guy is a real jerk!

    Social media (according to the experts) is best utilised when you are not asking for something, or trying to get something out of people. “Jerk” broke all the rules, and alienated a stack of people. What a fool!

    Dustin, just keep doing your thing, and you’ll make a difference anyway!
    .-= Gerry Faehrmann – YourLawnAndGarden´s last blog ..101 Tips To Improve Your Business – Tips 71 to 75 (training, pride, motivation, treat staff well, trade shows, customer acquisition) =-.

    1. Thanks, Gerry! I really do appreciate your support and wise words. Unfortunately, I’m sure the drop from 40,900 followers to 40,880 followers won’t register on his radar, but it does seem that a considerable number of people witnessed the exchange and lost respect for him.

  13. dustin im a new blogger and i really want to learn all about marriages.
    pls welcome me.

    Have you heard about is a website where anyone can get an international blog and every entry, email and group is translated into 28 different languages for free. It’s awesome, finally a world without language barriers!

  14. I did see part of your twitter exchange, and it’s kind of sad, because that was a person that I had previously admired. I am not Catholic myself, but I thought it was pretty disrespectful of him. I think I read somewhere that swans are powerful enough to break an adult’s arm so it doesn’t surprise me that one tried to attack your kids.
    .-= Carolyn´s last blog ..Spring Bulbs =-.

    1. Wow, Carolyn, I can’t believe how many people witnessed that exchange! I am Catholic, but I would have been offended by his remarks even if I was not (and I’m not easily offended).

      You are scaring me with your swan information! 🙂

  15. The swan would have been stuffed and mounted! I am a fierce protector (and maybe little crazy) when it comes to my children. I am glad your children were not hurt.

    1. If I had my bow and arrow, it could have been time for some archery practice. 😉

      Had my daughter been harmed, the end result may have (unfortunately) been much worse for all…especially the bird.

  16. Dustin, fantastic post! I loved that you saw the humor in both situations and helped us to see not only the humor but the lessons as well. Especially loved the twist in your last paragraph about watching out for mean spirited animals and swans, too.

    I enjoyed this post so much that I decided to subscribe to your RSS feed, but for some reason the only posts that appear in my RSS are 6 months old. It doesn’t show your latest post or any others that are more recent than the family planning one. I tried subscribing through your orange block in the upper right corner and through the “Get Free Updates RSS” link in your header. Same result. Just thought I’d let you know in case others have the same experience.

    Thanks for the inspiration to build a better marriage. Your site is terrific.

    1. Thank you so much, Wendy! I’m glad you enjoyed the last line…I’ve had several people tell me it wrapped things up well.

      I really appreciate you subscribing to the RSS feed! I suspect the issue is just something temporary with Feedburner since it is showing up fine in my own Google Reader. Please let me know if the problem persists because I definitely want to be sure you are getting the new posts as soon as they are available!

      Thanks again for being part of our community! 🙂

  17. Oddly enough, I completely relate to your swan situation. My daughter was attacked (and scratched in the face) by a chicken once, so I can understand wanting to exact some revenge on a feathered nemesis. Bravo for going back and getting the bag… I probably would have sought a way to entice the swan to consume it.

    As for the other issue, I saw the exchange and sadly, I wasn’t shocked. It was disappointing but not surprising to me. “A List” bloggers are just people, and people do dumb things all the time. You’d think that someone broadcasting their thoughts to so many people would have a better filter, but…

    Anyway, your translation of the event into a marriage principle was excellent. One of the things I remind myself frequently is that while initial emotional reactions are visceral, our responses don’t have to be. Will this action get me closer to where I want to be? That’s the key question. If I want harmony with my wife, I need to forgive quickly when offended… even if she’s still trying to push my buttons.

    Great stuff (as always).

    1. Thanks so much, Eppie! Yeah, if I could have put some Swan poison or fashioned a swan-noose with that bag…just kidding. 🙂

      I continue to be surprised by the number of people who witnessed our exchange. Don’t you guys have better things to do on a Friday afternoon? 😉

      Fortunately, I do (usually) keep my head much better when my wife is involved. I really appreciate your comments regarding our responses and how they can (and often should) differ from our initial visceral emotions. My marriage has certainly taught me a lot about forgiveness, while my “Daddy-hood” has taught me SO much about patience.

      Thanks again for the great comment, and I love what you’re doing with Better Parenting, my friend.

  18. Wow, Sounds like a tough week, Dustin! Your poor little girl! I hope it doesn’t scar her for life…she’ll never want to see “The Swan Princess!”

    I was following the comments between you and that “A list” blogger. I follow his blogs because their so insightful, but when I heard of the grief he was giving you, not to mention the swear words he was throwing around, my respect level for him certainly went down a number of notches. I’m glad that you had the guts to say what you did…someone had to. Needless to say, my respect level for YOU went UP a number of notches! Well done Dustin 🙂
    .-= Esther @a´s last blog ..10 Ways to Change His Answer from “Yes, Dear” to “Sure Dear!” Part III =-.

    1. Thanks so much, Esther! It’s so funny to hear that you too were witnessing our little “exchange,” and I’m relieved to hear that you think I did the right thing. My reputation (both online and offline) means a lot to me, and I always want to be an example of someone who stands up for the right things in life. Thanks for your support!

  19. Opps, hit the enter butter before changing my identity! This is the correct one…
    .-= Esther @Add a Spoonful of Sugar´s last blog ..The Top 10 Best Comfort Foods Ever! =-.

  20. Swans and geese can be pretty aggressive – I’m always wary of them when children are involved. I saw a group/flock of four geese chase after this little kid on a bike across a lake once just cause he got too close to them.

    I too, saw the Twitter exchange. I actually thought at first the person you were interacting with had their Twitter account hacked, because I hadn’t seen him tweet much, and it didn’t seem like the kind of conversation he would have on such a public platform.

    I have know some people who are amazing on a personal level, but absolute jerks on a professional level and vice versa, so I have learned to separate respecting someone’s business expertise from actually respecting them personally. I hope that makes sense.

    As far as your reaction, you were passionate about what was being discussed, and that can’t be held against you. You can’t worry about how you reacted – you defended your beliefs, and that is really all you can do, no matter how popular the person on the other end of the conversation is.
    .-= Kristi´s last blog ..HootSuite for Blogging – Twitter Management for Bloggers =-.

    1. Thanks, Kristi! I could have used your insight about the swans (I knew about cranky geese) about two weeks ago. 🙂

      I definitely understand what you are saying about the personal vs. professional persona, and I deal with that a lot in my career and even socially. I can’t help but value the keen business/blogging advice given by “the blogger who shall remain nameless” but I sure won’t hold much respect for him personally moving forward.

      I appreciate your support, and thanks for being a reader!

      1. I just recently started photographing the ducks / geese / swans at a nearby lake, and that is where I’ve seen the major difference in attitude. If I see anything larger than a duck coming toward me, I back off because they are super mean, although I think it may be more about defending their territory and self-protection than intentionally just trying to kick people’s butt.

        I have interacted with people who have been great at business but downright evil in their personal lives, and also people who I absolutely dreaded working with but would ask for personal advice outside of business hours. For me, it’s about trying to find the best in people wherever I can and learning how to get to those good sides without getting crushed on by their bad “alter egos” so to speak.
        .-= Kristi´s last blog ..Latest WordPress Hack – Symptoms, Solutions & Resources =-.

  21. Thank you for being my personal mentor on this theme. I enjoyed your current article quite definitely and most of all favored the way you handled the aspect I considered to be controversial. You are always rather kind towards readers much like me and assist me in my living. Thank you.

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