Getting Past The Same Old Fights
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No-Fight Club1 of 13
By Woman's Day
Couples typically revisit the same old arguments because usually they are never totally resolved, says Scott Wetzler, Ph.D., executive director of the Supporting Healthy Marriage program at Montefiore Hospital in New York. Yet, you can break repetitive fighting patterns by learning what’s behind them, and solving those issues.
Chores2 of 13
Wait just a second if you’re thinking that those tiresome marital spats over housework — who always mops the floors, who always shovels the snow — can be “fixed” by instituting a fair and equitable division of labor, because there is no one correct answer, says Susan Dutton Freund, executive director of ThinkMarriage.org. The division of labor at home is, at root, about the perception of unfairness.
Get Past It3 of 13
The key here is to try to understand that both of you bring assumptions (usually from your family of origin) about who should do what, which get complicated by modern life (two working parents, never enough time, etc.). Don’t let resentments simmer by avoiding the topic, or come in with attacking language — both types of communication can, over time, erode a marriage.
Time4 of 13
You’re always working late. You spend too much time with your girlfriends ... Arguments about time spent (or not spent) together boil down to an elemental worry plaguing many relationships: “Do you really care about me? Do you still love me?” says Wetzler. “When you’re upset at your spouse for working long hours, what you’re really saying is, ‘I’m not sure you care anymore.’”
Get Past It5 of 13
Realize that there are plenty of healthy marriages in which one spouse or the other works long hours, or where the couple is not joined at the hip. If you think about what happens when you are together — one of you works late, but then you sit and have a late dinner together, or save up DVR’d episodes of Mad Men to share — you’ll begin, hopefully, to see that it’s quality, not quantity, that matters.
Money6 of 13
Opposites may have attracted to create this marriage, so chances are pretty good you two have divergent money styles, which can trigger repeated fights, says Freund. “If you have an ingrained money-style difference — one’s a saver, one’s a spender — you may never fully resolve the issue.”
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Get Past It7 of 13
Try to see your partner’s point of view, which you can only do by talking about it. Why is he a diligent saver, reluctant to put that new couch on credit? “Once you can both articulate your positions, and understand each other’s position, the fights are less likely to devolve into insults and disrespect,” says Wetzler. That’s the point at which you can start working toward compromise.
The Kids8 of 13
Many times, says Freund, conflicts over raising children boil down to one parent (stereotypically the mother, but not always) being more of a softie, and the other being more strict. Serious problems arise when fights about the kids (whether or not to compel them to eat their vegetables or let them drive the car at night) lead to attacks on the other parent’s character, says Wetzler.
Get Past It9 of 13
The key is to present a united front on the major stuff, so your child doesn’t learn to play the two of you off each other. Next time you want to battle it out over the children, remember what Freund says: “You’re better off putting your energy into your marriage than into your children, because kids from harmonious marriages fare better overall.”
Sex10 of 13
Conflict about sex in marriage usually comes down to a mismatch in level of desire (you want more, he’s fine with less, or vice versa). Bad feelings arise because, says Freund, “the one with the higher sex drive feels he or she is being neglected, while the one with the lower drive feels pressured.”
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Get Past It11 of 13
Meet in the middle. Talk about what you each really need; “simply having that conversation can help the partner who’s feeling pressured to have more sex see that it’s not just about sex, but about closeness.” Figure out ways to feel closer so that you both get a little more of what you need.
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Your Families12 of 13
There’s natural conflict of interest here, and often no consensus. You each have loyalties, and arguing about it isn’t going to make your husband enjoy your family’s weird tradition of, for example, eating pumpkin pie for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving; nor will it make you love the fact that his family thinks weekly get-togethers are perfectly normal.
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Get Past It13 of 13
First, be sure you’re not guilty of putting your family of origin ahead of your married-life family; “for the long-term health of your marriage, that has to be your priority.” And work on mutual respect. You have to go to his family’s for Thanksgiving and endure the dry turkey and store-bought pies? Suck it up; it’s what you do for the one you love.