Robin and Glenn let us put cameras in their home, and also spoke candidly about their relationship. Following are excerpts:
"Glenn has a temper."
"Robin pisses me off. She complains about everything and anything."
"Glenn always thinks that he's right."
"Robin has never admitted that she was wrong."
"I'm so fed up with her nagging."
"I can't believe he internalizes every little thing I say."
"I feel like I'm living in some sort of Hitler regime where I can't say what I want to say."
When they watched the footage of themselves fighting, they were shocked by what they saw.
"You can't believe that it gets to be that bad," says Robin, who got another look at her husband calling her a "bitch."
Glenn says it's her fault. "She was what I felt was one person when we were dating, and when we got married, she turned into another," he says.
Dr. Phil tells them to stop "taking inventory" of the other person, and to start looking inward at their own actions.
"What is your objective when you call your wife a bitch?" Dr. Phil asks Glenn. "What is it you're hoping to accomplish when you do that?"
"To get out of the argument, to end it, to finish it," says Glenn.
"How's that working for you?" asks Dr. Phil.
Dr. Phil asks Glenn to think about how Robin may feel when the man she married, and the father of her child, calls her disgusting names. Glenn says he's never thought about it before.
Rule #1 for fighting fair: Avoid character assassination. Don't let the fight degenerate into name-calling.
Rule #2: Be proportional in your intensity.
You don't have to be mad every time you have a right to be. "Make the level of your reaction appropriate to the circumstance," explains Dr. Phil.
Also, when you fight about everything, you're fighting about nothing.
Rule #3: Keep it relevant: Know what you're fighting about.
"Have you noticed that the stupid things you're fighting about are the same things over and over? You know why? You've got to take a subject and see it through to the end," Dr. Phil advises. "The end may be that you agree to disagree. Most things that couples argue about in marriage are not resolvable."
"I guess, I'm hoping that he'll change and see my side, and say 'OK, you're right,'" says Robin.
Dr. Phil points out that this strategy is just not working, and that seven-and-a-half years into their marriage, she ought to have figured that out!
"Something you're getting out of this makes you come back to this. This is a sick addiction. You are addicted to yelling and screaming. You wouldn't do it if there wasn't a payoff," says Dr. Phil. "The payoff you're getting out of this is you are venting frustration," he adds, calling them "arguing addicts."
Dr. Phil concludes: "You simply aren't holding yourselves to a high enough standard. You're allowing yourselves to get down in the gutter in an immature way and you don't have the right to do that. You made a commitment to each other, you have a child involved, and you've got to overcome the addiction. You've got to deny yourself the fix. You can get the same relaxation and release by problem solving instead of frustration venting."
Hoping Dr. Phil can help them keep their marriage intact, Karen and Mike allowed cameras into their home. In interviews, they expressed their frustrations with each other. Following are excerpts:
"Mike and I argue all the time ... We can't be in the same room without a war breaking out."
"Karen starts the fights. She always questions me more than she needs to."
"I start the arguments because I resent Mike a lot. I yell at Mike to be heard."
"As soon as I feel like she's attacking me ... I attack back."
"Mike has brought out the worst in me."
"I push Karen's buttons."
"I guess I'm upset that I'm spending my life alone. That my marriage is mostly about me and my children," says Karen.
"You feel rejected?" asks Dr. Phil.
"Absolutely," she answers.
"Since you're the only person you control, I'm wondering why you aren't making that the quintessential issue that needs to be resolved in this marriage instead of fighting about these daily things that come up," says Dr. Phil.
Rule #6: Keep it real. Talk about what really is bothering you. Discuss the real topic, not a general issue.
Dr. Phil asks Mike if he's really married. He answers yes. "Really," Dr. Phil responds. "So you're plugged in, meeting your responsibilities, attending to your children, being attentive to your wife, being a responsible leader of this family?"
With that as the criteria, Mike says he's only about 40 percent plugged in.
He tells Mike: "You need to wake up every day and say 'What can I do today to make my marriage better? What can I do today to make my family better? What can I do today to make my wife feel like the most important person in the world?'"
Likewise, Karen needs to do the same. "You don't have to have your partner actively involved to make huge changes in your relationship," says Dr. Phil. "You're not a victim. You can stimulate and inspire, but you can't control and change. So maximize your own involvement." Karen and Mike also need to know when a fight is over.
Rule #7: Remain Task-Oriented. You've got to know your end goal. If you're after an apology, then shut up when you get it!
Dr. Phil says to Mike: "Do you realize that as a husband you aren't doing a very good job?" He suggests that Mike spend a little less time playing video games with his friends, and use that time to read Relationship Rescue.
Dr. Phil tells both couples that if their kids were able to, they would say: "Would you people please just shut up?" He asks: "At what point did you just say, 'There is no personal standard. I can do anything I want to do. I don't have to be responsible. I can yell, scream, be ugly, call names.' At what point did you dip below the level of any personal requirements or standards?"
Dr. Phil concludes: "You guys are both in serious jeopardy. What I'm telling you is that there's a point at which you have to say 'I'm going to be a leader in this situation. If he's going to yell and scream, then he's going to do it by himself. Because I refuse to participate in this.'"
It's a matter of personal integrity and dignity, explains Dr. Phil, so be a good mother, father, wife or husband before worrying about someone else's behavior.