Why You and Your Spouse Fight

Couple Talking
  Tony Anderson / Getty Images

All spouses have disagreements. In fact, any two people will inevitably disagree with each other eventually when they've known each other for a period of time, even if they're not married. We're not all intellectual and emotional clones. We have differences of opinion. 

But you don't want disagreements with your spouse to escalate into fights, and you don't want frequent fights to create hostility and hurt your marriage. If you're arguing a lot, try to understand why you're fighting and learn how to fight fair. Above all, learn to forgive each other. 

Three Important Questions 

If you and your spouse have fallen into a pattern of fighting frequently, ask yourselves three questions:

  • Why do you fight?
  • Do you even know what you're fighting about?
  • Are you fighting over an issue that will never be resolved?

Here's some food for thought as you identify the answers. 

What Married Couples Fight About

Some topics tend to be hot buttons in any marriage and they can easily escalate into arguments, including: 

  • Chores: Maybe one of you is primarily the doer when it comes to household responsibilities. Try to figure out why this is. Does the other work long hours and just doesn't have time to load the dishwasher? Or do they prefer to socialize or watch television rather than clean while the other spouse does double duty, bringing home the bacon and frying it, too? 
  • Money: Whether you don't have enough or you just can't seem to agree on how to spend what you do have, Psychology Today says money problems are a leading cause of divorce. 
  • Kids: The argument might be whether to have kids or how many, or maybe it's how to discipline and parent the ones you have. In any case, diverging views about the kids can cause friction in a marriage. 
  • Sex: This includes when you have it, how you have it, and how often you have it, as well as issues like enjoyment of pornography. Were you on the same page about all this before you got married? Has something changed? 
  • Infidelity: This goes hand-in-hand with sex, but it's also a matter of trust, a big hurdle to overcome after it's been broken. Jealousy may raise its ugly head even when it's unwarranted, causing problems. 
  • Time: How are you spending yours when you're home? Are you busy doing the chores your spouse didn't see to or are you vegging out in front of the computer or television by yourself? Quality time together is vital in a marriage. 
  • Jobs: Do you leave your work at the office or do you bring it home with you? 
  • Annoying habits: Does this sound silly? Think about it. My friend's ex had a habit of washing his hands exactly three and a half times under scalding hot water every time he came home. At first, it irritated her, then she reached the point where she automatically vacated any room with a faucet as soon as he came over the threshold. She just didn't want to witness it — again. Habits can be quirky or funny, or they can become the root of arguments when neither spouse is willing to alter his or hers. 
  • Substance abuse: This is right up there with money issues, but it may be even more destructive and problematic. If you or your spouse has a substance abuse problem that you can't or won't recognize, you may be putting it first, before your partner or your kids. This is bound to cause problems. 
  • In-laws: You can't choose your family and you don't really choose your in-laws, either. They're part of a package deal. But that doesn't mean you have to like them, and if your spouse absolutely loves his kin and thinks they can do no wrong, this can cause arguments. 

Why Married Couples Fight

These reasons behind the fighting are somewhat universal as well, but some are more destructive than others. 

If you fight because you like to win or get your way, this is a bad reason, as is becoming angry because you like to have control and your spouse isn't saluting to your rules. Criticizing — such as over one of those annoying habits that set your teeth on edge — is a bad reason to fight. Mentioning the habit is one thing. Ridiculing it is another. 

Fighting to vent is not so bad. It lets off steam and can be productive if it brings to light things neither of you has realized before. It might bring problems to a resolution. 

Unfair Fights 

How does a fight leave you feeling afterward? What's your response? Do you withdrawal and avoid your spouse? Do you prolong the ugliness by pouting or being petty, mean or demanding? Or do you resort to giving the silent treatment? 

Moving on is integral to a sturdy marriage. Yes, fights are inevitable, but when they're done, they're done. Try to move on. The alternative may allow negative feelings to fester. Your spouse might feel ignored, unloved, angry, insulted or unwanted. If it happens often enough, they may begin to feel abused. 

So What You Can Do?

First, take responsibility for your own actions, even if you only do it internally. Of course, it's better to share your feelings, but at least examine the possibility that your spouse may be right about your crazy habit or your substance abuse. 

Fight fair. This means no below-the-belt shots. It means stopping to take a breath and to listen. Try to understand where your spouse is coming from and don't put words in his mouth. You may think you know why they do what they do, but until they tell you what they thinks, you're just guessing. 

Remember that compromise doesn't necessarily mean you're giving in. It should mean that you both take something affirmative away from the issue. Pick your fights. Is the subject you're at odds over really worth all the damage it could cause to your marriage? Above all, don't fight to win. Fight for your marriage. 

If it seems insurmountable, if the fights just keep coming despite all your efforts at common sense and common ground, it may be time to seek outside help. Consider marital counseling. Talk things out with a mediator. You may not want to admit your problem is that bad, but the alternative could be worse — it could be giving up. 

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