Unproductive Arguing

Cecilia from Rochester, NY

Q: My husband & I have been together for over 11 years and married for 2. We have two lovely boys age 10 & 7. We first moved in together about one year after our first child was born (both being teenagers) so we have experienced major “ups & downs” but after we started planning our wedding every time we have a little ‘pow-wow’ it escalates to this major fiasco and my husband threatens to leave. He has gotten to the point of packing his stuff and then I hold him back. I know that I am still very much in love with him, and I think he still loves me very much. One example of something small escalating to a major problem would be the other night I wanted to watch something on tv, but he didn’t want to see the same thing so we got into a huge argument and he broke our tv remote in half. I wouldn’t want to leave my husband but I know that if we continue this way it will get to the point that one of us will do or say something that we won’t be able to fix with “I’m sorry I didn’t mean that”. I am also afraid that this attitude WE have will affect our children. I admit that I also have a very bad attitude sometimes it’s as if we just clash!!! Please any advice you give would be greatly appreciated. I have tried counseling and we went to 2 sessions and my husband just thought it was a huge joke.

A: Cecilia. It sounds as if both of you may be really fighting to avoid feeling “less than”, symbolically unimportant, or afraid that you will somehow fall into a victim role. I would suggest you go to the section of the Marital First Aid Kit that discusses unproductive conflict. Both of you need to agree to ground rules for leaving the scene of unproductive fighting and planning on when and where to reconvene negotiations if it is an enduring matter. If the two of you cannot agree on the ground rules, I would suggest then meeting with a male counselor for a couple of sessions so you can use him as a mediator while you get the ground rules negotiated.- Bryce Kaye

Kimberly from Kansas City, Mo

Q: My husband and I are separated. He is living with another woman. He claims he does not care for her, but he can’t be with me now because we fight too much and he was becoming violent towards me. He claims he loves me and wants to make things work, but they fight a lot too and he has not left her house yet. I am trying very hard to save my marriage. I am a strong Christian and I believe marriage is forever. I also believe God can do anything. Is there really hope for my marriage and how can I fix it.

A: Kimberly. Unfortunately, most of us don’t completely know the mind of God and why he/she lets some misfortunes happen. While some believe in miracles, I wouldn’t bet that you alone can lift up your car. Similarly, I don’t think that you stand good odds working on a marriage in a triangle. Your husband’s words say one thing but his behavior says another. You have strong faith but you need to be judicious about where you place it. Maybe if your husband let in some spiritual help, he might gain the strength to work with you in a clean setting without third party influences. He might also gain the strength to face the underlying vulnerability that is the basis for his violence. – Bryce Kaye

Orpha from Sugarland, Tx 

Q: What do you do when a man refuses to talk about personal issues where his actions bring unhappiness? Married 39 years but lonely. I cannot tell him anything that he does to make me unhappy because he flies into a rage and threatens to leave. For instance, he got angry with me for suggesting how he cut down a large envelope to a smaller one to mail an article. Said I was “telling him what to do”. It is so difficult walking on eggshells. Thanks for any suggestions. This has taken its toll on me trying to maintain a facade of happiness while I am lonely inside.

A: Dear Orpha, this would be a good reason to use an objective third party such as a marriage counselor. From what you have said, it sounds as if your husband may feel underpowered in the relationship. The fights and raging about the little issues are probably because your husband is already feeling pain in this relationship (and may not know why). I suggest you explore it with a marriage counselor who can help your husband to clarify his feelings. – Bryce Kaye