Some of the couples we’re friends with appear to bicker all the time. Every time we see them, there’s some fighting in their marriage.
My husband and I will exchange a mildly confused look whenever we see such couples, because we can’t imagine it being a lot of fun. We argue as well, I guess a vast majority of couples do, but it’s usually limited to only a handful times a year (if that). And more often than not, it could be qualified as a heated debate, rather than an actual argument.
It wasn’t always like that. When we first met we used to argue a lot more. Things were still new and more insecure, we still had to get to know each other. Figure out how the other one communicates. Learn why certain things trigger an argument.
Through the years we’ve come to argue less and less. Not because we care less (quite the contrary) but because we’ve learned to communicate and understand each other better. Usually, an argument means miscommunication or misunderstanding. From both parties. That, and the fact that sometimes it’s just really pleasing to pick a fight.
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Less fighting in your marriage? Play like a team
One thing we’ve learned to do as a couple, is to play to our strengths. Yes, we’ll have discussions about who does more in the household, but we always concede that probably the division is something close to fair and overall we put in equal amounts of energy and focus. Overall meaning the household, finances, our relationship and the kids. It’s an age old discussion, in which it’s very difficult to get the facts out on the table.
We all think we do more than our partners
One major reason people become unsatisfied, is because both partners have a tendency to think they do more than the other. This could be a cause to fighting in your marriage.
But, unless you diligently clock the time spent on things, it’s going to be very difficult to to actually measure this objectively. Besides, what about effort? Does a chore that takes more effort count heavier? I know I’d rather spend twice the time hanging up laundry outside in the sun, then cleaning the toilet. So, if your partner cleans the toilet, he or she may very well think they do more based on effort rather than time.
This discussion becomes even more complicated if you count in things that are less tangible. Planning, for instance, is something that I put a lot of energy in so that I know that everybody will be where they need to be, on time, fed and with clean clothes on. Should I be scoring points for that?
And if we’re factoring in less tangible things, how do you count in stress?
My point is, that is extremely difficult to find an answer to the question of who does the most (in whatever terms) and additionally, it may not be worth trying to find the answer in the first place.
Play like a team
Remember that you’re in a partnership together. That’s what a relationship is: you are partners together and if you ought to be in that relationship then it also means that the sum is greater than it’s parts.
In other words, you both gain more by being in the relationship than you would individually.
That means behaving like what you say you are: behave like a partner. Obviously, this goes for both parties. If you want less fighting in your marriage, next time you get annoyed stop and think of whether you have each other’s backs.
How to do that? Here are some things that are working for us.
Think of what you can do for the other person
Often small things are the best. Make the your other half a cup of coffee. Take the kids off their hands for a couple of minutes. Often, when I’m cooking dinner I let the kids do little chores around the kitchen, or I send them outside where I can see them play from the kitchen window. This gives my husband some time to wind down when he comes home, without two enthusiastic, loving, but tired kids crawling all over him. Sometimes a little moment of peace is the best gift.
Focus on the goal, less on the steps
Say that the goal is to get the garbage bin emptied. In our case, my husband always does that. That also means that I don’t fuss over it. I might notify him that the bin is full, but other than that I leave it entirely up to him (unless he completely forgets, of course, but that’s rare). Whether he wants to do that inside, or take the bin outside first, whether he wants to do that before or after dinner…entirely up to him. I don’t comment and I don’t hover. Whatever trash I have goes in a small bag in the corner of the kitchen counter (I guess that if you wanted to, you could count that as a hint, but that’s not how it’s meant. I’m just being practical there).
If you insist on it being done right, do it yourself
This is one of the few outspoken rules in our marriage and one important way to lessen the fighting in your marriage: if you want something done in a specific way, then do it yourself. That’s the only way you can be sure it’s done your way and as a consequence it’s also the only way you can ensure you won’t be criticizing your partner for getting it “wrong”.
You can’t do everything, so choose what’s important
The previous “rule” leads to this one: you won’t be able to do everything yourself. So you’ll need to prioritize. Ask yourself what is really important.
For me, I want to decide what we eat. It’s a big thing for me and I absolutely don’t like not having a choice in the matter. As a child I was a difficult eater (sorry mom!) and to this day I still very much prefer being in control of what comes onto the table. As a result, I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking.
I don’t mind, because I also see the benefit of doing it myself. And that’s exactly the crux. If you can figure out a way where you and your partner are both largely doing the stuff that’s a priority to you, you’ll be less focussed on whether things are fair. You can focus on things being as you like them to be instead.
Not everything can be a priority
As a side note: if everything is a priority, then there are no priorities. If there is a lot of fighting in your marriage, ask yourself whether all this stuff is really all that important.
There must be things that are more important to you than others. Acknowledging that will make your life so much more pleasant and easier. It means you can scratch things of your “I need to worry and fuss over this” – list.
Talk about it
Once you figure out what is truly important and what is less so, talk about it with your partner. Have them figure out the same. Chances are, your priorities in the household won’t be the same. Or maybe there are things that you hate to do (like taking out the garbage in my case) that he doesn’t mind so much. Presto, a division that works for both and a lot less fighting in your marriage. Not because I ask myself whether it’s fair, but because I don’t have to worry about the garbage. A relief.
Appreciation is more important than perfection
It’s more important to appreciate that things got done, rather than to comment on small flaws. Things don’t need to be perfect. I used to worry about whether all the laundry was folded the same way so that it could be stacked nicely in the wardrobes. Nowadays, my mother-in-law sometimes does some of the folding and she does it differently from me. And you know what? I’m grateful for it. I thank her, I smile and I’m glad it’s one chore less.
People enjoy what they’re good at
So play to everyone’s strengths. Trying to get your partner and yourself to do what you hate or are bad at, is one great way to start fighting in your marriage. So, my tip here is to see if you can shuffle the household chores around in such a way that you’ll both play to your strengths.
One of the reasons I hate ironing is because I don’t have the patience for it. My husband, on the other hand, has more patience with this chore and is good at it. So he doesn’t get all worked up when he has to iron some shirts. Contrary to mine, his heart rate stays at a normal level when he irons some clothes. So I don’t iron, he does and it pleases us both.
You can’t change people
If you want less fighting in your marriage, remember that you can’t change people.
And you definitely can’t change men. If you have plans in that direction, ditch them now.
I’ve pushed my husband to stop taking sugar in his coffee. Did it work? Well, after a decade he indeed stopped. Whether that was because of my efforts (doubtful) or because of the bad rep sugar’s been getting (more likely), we don’t need to get into here. Suffice to say, you’ll both be a lot happier, relaxed and enjoy each other more if you just take each other the way you are. As a bonus, there will be a lot less fighting in your marriage.
Turn it around: how much do you like being changed? My husband’s never tried to change me (except for his advice to me to be less emotional, but he doesn’t expect me to actually follow that advice) and I’m really very pleased with that. Makes me feel good, that I don’t have to change to be loved. He thinks I’m good enough the way I am.
You can give that back to your partner as well. Take them as they are.
Taking each other as you are also means you have to be practical. If I leave the planning to my husband, we’ll never get anywhere on time (with full bellies and clean clothes). And after he shrunk one of my woolen sweaters, he’s no longer allowed to do the laundry. I don’t like doing the laundry, but I’m just being practical: someone needs to do it.
I hope these tips on how to have less fighting in your marriage have been useful!
Want more tips on how to improve your marriage? Read my post on 15 awesome tips to improve your marriage right now!